It is extremely well known that body image is a huge issue for females in the current age, but what is less talked about is the effect images in the media have on male’s body image and self-esteem. Although many women upon hearing this seem to think; “Yeah, welcome to our world”, or “So what? We deal with that every day, get over it”, men don’t get the same recognition surrounding this problem.
Among the commotion and drama surrounding sexualisation and fat shaming of women, we forget that this is extremely present with men too. What’s worse is that whenever they try to speak up about it they’re told to ‘man up’ because these problems are seen as feminine or ‘gay’, therefore the issue is rarely heard.
A huge problem that stems from body image issues is eating disorders- once again seen as a female issue; however studies for the “Epidemiology of eating disorders” (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011) showed that in the United States, 10 million men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder in their life time. Although this number is half that of women that suffer from an eating disorder, it is believed that the reason for this is that males tend to be under or undiagnosed. One of the causes of this has already been mentioned; the stigma around eating disorders being a female problem, therefore men not wanting to come forward about these problems under the fear of being considered less of a ‘man’. Another cause is very similar to this, but caused more by the researchers themselves rather than societal ‘norms’. This preconceived notion that eating disorders only affect women have caused the diagnosing assessments to be gender biased leading to these assessments letting many men slip under the eating disorder radar (Darcy, 2014).
Along with the more well-known eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, a huge issue when it comes to male body issue is a desire for increased muscularity. Women constantly complain about thin, flawless, busty, tanned, blond, big eyed, pouty lipped super models in media- and quite rightly- but have you seen the male models for big companies such as Calvin Klein?
Lean, tanned, tall, muscly and perfectly toned, chiselled faces with manly stubble and piercing dark eyes; what you can expect to see from any one of these models. With images like this all over social media and fashion advertising, it’s no wonder that 25% of normal weight males perceive themselves to be underweight (Atlantic, 2014), 90% of teenaged boys exercise in attempt to bulk up (Eisenberg, 2012) and 68% of college aged men think they have too little muscle (AOL body image survey). This muscly body portrayed in fashion is seen as the ‘ideal male body type’ and this has been increasing since 1970 (Labre, 2005). What’s more, much like women’s ‘ideal body image’ portrayed in fashion advertising and photography, in almost every case it’s been hugely photo-shopped and retouched on top of professional hair, make up, wardrobe, lighting and photography; literally unachievable by the everyday person.
Although this is a huge issue for both men and women, I feel it has become a lot better for women in recent years with fashion labels slowly bringing in plus sized models and diversity in models but when you think about it, how many male plus sized models do you see in fashion? I can’t think one. It’s time to end the stigma around male body image and stop putting mental and physical health second to ‘manhood’, eating disorders and body dysmorphia do not have genders.
Atlantic Magazine blog, “Body-image pressure increasing affects boys.” March 10, 2014
Darcy, A., Lin, I.H. (2012) “Are we asking the right questions? A review of assessment of males with eating disorders.” Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention
Eisenberg, M, Wall, M., & Neumark-Sztainer. (2012) “Muscle-enhancing behaviors among adolescent girls and boys.” Pediatrics.
Huffington Post 2014, “Body Image Issues Are Not Just For Women”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/body-image-issues-are-not-just-for-women_b_5034285
Labre, M. (2005) “Burn fat, build muscle: a content analysis of Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness.” International Journal of Men’s Health.
National Eating Disorders, “Research on Males and Eating Disorders”, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/research-males-and-eating-disorders
Wade, T. D., Keski-Rahkonen A., & Hudson J. (2011).”Epidemiology of eating disorders.” In M. Tsuang and M. Tohen (Eds.), Textbook in Psychiatric Epidemiology (3rd ed.)