Men in the Media

Many people suffer with body image issues due to our perfectionist, media-driven society where unrealistic beauty standards reign supreme. With the recent push towards promoting self-love and positive body image among young girls and women, it is important not to forget that men often struggle with self-image too. With a largely male student population here at GA Tech, it is essential to address this issue and help young men feel comfortable and confident with who they are as an individual.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association and an AOL Body Image Survey, 43% of men are dissatisfied with their body, 63% of men “always feel like they could lose weight,” 53% of men don’t like having their picture taken, and 41% of men said they worry that people judge their appearance. These are staggering numbers that highlight the gendered discussion of body image and dismissive atmosphere surrounding men’s body insecurities in the U.S. Furthermore, transgender individuals are almost always left out of the conversation.

While we know that the “ideal” women is portrayed as tall, thin, and perhaps blonde, what is the “ideal” man as depicted by popular culture? First, he is extremely masculine and almost always portrayed with a “hot body” meaning strong and muscular – just think of how all the super heroes and movie stars look like today. The loveable yet schlumpy male icon is no more. The pressure men now feel to be lean yet muscular is synonymous with the pressure women feel to be thin. That’s a lot! Second, he is confident and stoic – i.e. men don’t show emotion. How many times have you heard the phrase “Man Up,” “Be a Man!” or “Grow some balls!” to encourage young boys and men to toughen up, hide their feelings, and soldier on. This can greatly affect a man’s self-worth and create deep feelings of inadequacy and shame for showing or even having emotions. Finally, he is portrayed as tidy, groomed, and well-dressed – he must be the best to get the ladies, right? This is highlighted by the more than 70% increase in the men’s beauty and skin product industry globally between 2012 and 2014. Ultimately, men are supposed to be protectors, providers, warriors – just manly all around.

So what does this mean? The body image conversation in the U.S. needs to expand to include men’s issues and to create an open environment where men are encouraged to share and where they feel comfortable voicing their opinions about topics not generally viewed as “manly.” Ultimately, we must break through the hypermasculinity ideal rampant throughout society and embrace the diversity of shape, personality, and manner of all men.

By Sarah London

Guys remember…
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8 thoughts on “Men in the Media

  1. I completely agree- the recent staggering rise of media influence affects both males and females, from the double standards they promote to refining and defining the “ideal man” persona. I think that everyone, no matter which gender they identify with, has to remember that they are more than what the media or society normalizes them out to be.

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  2. This post brings up some interesting points that are often overlooked in relation to modern masculinity. While I see the point that body image is more of a pressure on modern men, I’d also add that traditional masculinity is arguably seeing a decrease now more than ever. It seems like the first time in modern memory that men are encouraged to express their emotions in healthy ways. Like the article states, men are now able to dress well and be called “metro” or “trendy” instead of being seen as an outcast. This is great (I personally am a fan of good fitting clothes and a therapeutic cry every once in awhile), but honestly I’m more worried about a swing too far in the opposite direction.

    With the negative connotations in modern thought about what it means to be a man (e.g. the dumb dads/guys in almost every sitcom on TV; the implied connection between being male and being a testosterone-fueled animal), I think that it also needs to be pointed out that men maintain a unique identity that we can be proud of. What does it mean to be a man? That question is loaded in so many ways, but I think that our society needs to do a better job of not making light of the importance of masculinity (and femininity for that matter). A healthy society values masculinity and identifies the term with positive character & personality traits more often than body image and sex drive.

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  3. The post really does a good job highlighting the growing issue of body image and unrealistic expectations that pop culture has generated in recent years. While the issue is noticeably gendered, there is a certain distinction between the male versus the female body image issue. With women, there have been numerous campaigns that support this so called “ideal image” while at the same instance stating no matter how hard you wish to conform to this image, you will never actually attain it. Campaigns directed toward males have never explicitly stated that these altered images are a definition of beauty that is unattainable to the masses. While both sides of the issue are completely valid and need to be addressed, this difference in the presentation of both the ideal male image and the ideal female image, suggest that each have to be approached in a slightly different way.

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  4. This article holds a lot of great advice. Body image isn’t just something women are insecure about. I cannot count all the times I have heard from my male friends, “I am too skinny”, “I need to lose weight”, or I wish I was taller”. Being able to accept yourself as you are is such a difficult task, especially when the environment you grow up in is telling you that what you are or who you want to be is not acceptable or beautiful. When people begin to focus more on their overall health, I think it opens up the idea of loving yourself. Instead of focusing on what it is you don’t like about yourself, we should focus on why that aspect about your image bothers you. If it’s because of how you think others will perceive you, making changes based on a negative image of yourself may not fix the problem. When we learn to be more accepting of those around us, I think it will have an impact on how we see ourselves.

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  5. I completely agree with this article. Often body image and masculinity beliefs can be more of a problem for men than even women, when people claim that the person should be “manly enough” to step up to the challenge of perfection. The topic of perfectionism with men in the media is a great focal point to see that perfectionism to the extent of feeling bad about yourself with respect to body image is unacceptable no matter who the person may be or what the stance of society on their ability to look different. Basically I like the way this article highlights not only the importance of self-image acceptance, but also the importance of self-image acceptance for everyone.

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  6. I agree with the article in that the conversation about body image shouldn’t just be limited to women. Propaganda plays a big role in setting a certain standard for what is deemed attractive by society. The images that are portrayed by the media sets an unrealistic standard that men often compare themselves to. Even though these unrealistic standards create problems with self-esteem, it is important to accept your body image with a positive attitude.

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  7. This article brought up such a good point! Body image discussion often focuses on women but men have similar struggles as well created by the pressure of media. Just like women, men are feeling the pressure as well to meet medias picture perfect standard. Dialogue about both genders and body positivity should increase greatly!

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    • I agree with this article. For men it can even be more difficult to open up about fears and issues with body image due to the “Be a Man!” kind of culture we have where men don’t typically open up with friends or family as often as women and if they do show vulnerability can be judged for that as well. I love seeing this topic being discussed in a positive way!

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