Nice Piece on Male Body Image Issues

A fashion blog calls out the fact that men are starting to feel as much pressure to have the “perfect body” as women do.

I’m always confused when I hear certain people complain that feminists don’t care about men’s issues, because I keep coming across heartfelt pieces like this one, a frank look at the body image issues men face, on a body-positive feminist fashion blog. My absolute favorite bit, from one of the comments:

The irony is: I don’t even like bodies like that, which makes me believe men might be telling the truth when they say they don’t care about perfect bodies on women, either.

There’s something so sweet about that, the admission of her own insecurities and the realization that yes, maybe she’s judging herself more harshly than others are, and maybe they’re are doing the same. It’s a tough realization for any of us to come to, that we are as beautiful in other people’s eyes as they are in ours.

 

Photo— mikebaird/Flickr

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. Only way you can know you’re beautiful in other peoples’ eyes is by getting affirmation that you are. Some have never experienced that.

  2. I like this person already. I’ve already known for a long time that there are men that don’t care about perfect bodies on women. Frankly if anyone that’s ever noticed the message that males get in regard to sexuality where we are supposedly so full of lust that we will hit, flirt with, and sleep with any and all women would probably have already noticed this.

    However in the post itself I noticed something. The writer of this post seems to think that when it comes to men and body image issues we create them in some sort of male only vacuum where women apparently play no hand in the body image issues that men have. The closest he got to implicating women was:

    It can also be triggered by a fear that we might not “measure up” to other partners that our girlfriend/ wife has been with.

    And even then it was a fear of not measuring up. No mention of how this fear can be and is at times actually verified by women who body shame men (and its not always a partner like a wife/girlfriend).

    All in all its good stuff to be sure but I’m not digging the seeming lack of calling out female responsibility in this (if for no other reason that when talking about the body image issues that women have there is no shortage of calling out men that contribute to the shame).

    • Danny–thank you for such a thoughtful comment! I appreciated this part: “t I’m not digging the seeming lack of calling out female responsibility in this (if for no other reason that when talking about the body image issues that women have there is no shortage of calling out men that contribute to the shame).” While I’m the site’s owner, I’m not the author of the post, so I’m not sure WHY Thomas didn’t mention it as much. Maybe because it’s another post in and of itself? I know in my home life, I try to be very careful about how I approach my own partner and his body image issues, so that he has a place that he feels safe and comfortable. I also try to avoid, “MAN HIS BODY IS HOT” talk– or to talk about it in a constructive way (ie. when boyfriend gets all, “I want Ryan Reynold’s body”). But I do agree that women have a share in this, and I’d love to hear ways that women can approach male’s bodies and body issues without being irresponsible? Or ways for both sexes to have an open discourse that isn’t filled with shaming the other (If what I’m saying makes sense! Basically– I agree, and I wish to know more.)

      Thank you, Noah, and The Good Men Project, for sharing Thomas’s piece. I was thrilled when he wrote it, and I’m excited to open up that new wave of discussion. I also was really moved by the comment you mentioned in your post, The irony is: I don’t even like bodies like that… it was eye-opening and truth for me to read.

      • But I do agree that women have a share in this, and I’d love to hear ways that women can approach male’s bodies and body issues without being irresponsible? Or ways for both sexes to have an open discourse that isn’t filled with shaming the other (If what I’m saying makes sense! Basically– I agree, and I wish to know more.)
        1. By all that is holy if you’re going to talk about male bodies and body issues skip the “but remember women have it worse” style disclaimer. This is one thing that has kept me from wanting to talk about my own issues for a long time (and still keeps me from wanting to talk about them in many spaces). (Just as a counter example if the topic was about women and suicide would you spend time focusing on how men commit it more often?)

        2. Remember that when it comes to male body image issues this is stacked on top of the already existing problem that men don’t often get open praise about their bodies. So its a matter of not hearing validation because we’re men IN ADDITION to the body image issues. (In other words, “Even if I had a great body I would still not get much praise about it but seeing as I don’t I’m even more doomed.”)

        3. As a result of those first two things remember one last thing. Despite whether or not you ultimately believe that men and women are not all that different that belief has no bearing on the fact that due to the fact that men and women have been raised differently male body image issues cannot necessarily be addressed in the same way that female body image issue can be.

        • To go back point by point:
          1) Did I post a place somewhere that women have it worse? (I’m really not certain– I re-read my comment above and I didn’t see anything that mentioned it, so I’m wondering if I gave that impression across somewhere and if so where.) I know Thomas mentioned that women make up most of his clients and that women are more often to talk about it, but I don’t believe I ever personally said women have it worse. The only thing I could see is, “But I do agree that women have a share in this,” which I meant as women have a share of the blame in male body image, not women have a share of their own in their own body image issues.

          2) I have never at any point thought about praising male body images. Mostly because, and I imagine a lot of women feel this way– we get so innundated ourselves with ONLY being praised for our body/looks, that we don’t want to put that feelings attached to that on another person. A lot of female body issues come from the value derived from praise, and it sucks. So I can only know that I personally try not to do that because of that. That being said– if my partner wanted me to praise his body more, I would be happy to! I try to tell him how attractive I find his arms, his eyes, etc., but try not to be excessive about it. Body praise is a double-edged sword that can easily go from being just enough to make you feel good to being enough to give you more issues.

          3) Funny you say that– because in the comment you left on my site (that I replied to prior to this one) I actually said the same thing in my response! That was the goal of Thomas’s post, to share with WOMEN male body image, where it’s rooted and what you can do to help. I actually went back and asked Thomas if he could put a bullet point list in there for women on how to respectfully handle any body image issues the men in their lives may have.

        • In hindsight (and after finishing my coffee), I realized that all of your points may actually have been in response to the questions I asked at the end of my first reply– where I asked what women can do to be less irresponsible/where both can be less shaming.

          In realizing this– thank you! It gives me good fodder, at the very least, of how I can interact with my fiance and male friends. I’m so sorry I didn’t catch that– but it makes your comment all the more valuable. I still admit I have worries about praise, how much to dole out, what are the better kinds, but I now know at the very least to include it more often in our interactions with each other.

          • I appreciate the kind words and your asking for a male opinion on this.

            But Thomas does make one good point near the end about how guys can have a very hard time talking about this. Hell I didn’t start considering my own body image issues until about 2 years ago. If you are interested in talking about these issues with your male friends bear this in mind because depending on the males in question they may clam up and not want to talk about it, they may pour their hearts out to you, or they may get angry (like SteveS did over at the original post).

  3. I’m of the opinion that such pressure has been there for a while. I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to the first half of the twentieth century here, but I’ll say guys have been equally worried about looking “good enough” for the opposite gender for about a good 62 years now.

    And to concur with the blog that the author cited, I don’t think either gender is nearly as strict on that as we think they are. I think we usually just get scared by one bad experience with a hyper-critical person on whom we once set our sights. Someone who was physically attractive (the rest, probably not so much) and sneered at the thought of being with *us.*

    • I’m not sure that men have been quite as worried about looking “good enough” as women. I think that may be a tad of an over-exaggeration. I only say this because much of our culture (at least the parts represented by much of the media) place a lot of value on the outward appearance of women. Not to say the same isn’t for men, but I feel like the physical appearance of men is “meant” to be more reflective of their lifestyle or traits. For example: “I say! That gent has has rather large, muscular arms. He must enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle. How grand.” As opposed to: “My goodness! What large breasts she has! She must… um… Breasts!”
      So really, (if I’ve followed my brain properly), I think any “image” men are trying to capture has more to do with a lifestyle than merely a purely visual appearance.

      • You make a very good point, however you must realize that men are judged by what they do for a living whereas women are not. Granted, it’s not always an accurate assumption. (Most body builders don’t in fact do physical work, they ‘save it for the gym’) I can tell you however, while at my age I’m just trying to stay healthy, most of the young men at the gym I go to are there trying to ‘get ripped’ for one reason, THE LADIES!

      • I agree with you, but the sticking point here is that for men it is only getting worse. As long as our collective body anxiety can be milked by advertisers, I don’t see an end in sight.

  4. “I say! That gent has has rather large, muscular arms. He must enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle. How grand.”

    I don’t believe a significant portion of people have this thought process. Even if they did, it would be incorrect anyways. If a man has rather large arms it’s either because of genetics or bodybuilding, not because he leads a healthy, active lifestyle. If I maintained the most perfectly healthy lifestyle possible, I would have lean, very narrow limbs, which is far from the male ideal, because I’m naturally ectomorphic and have a very small frame.

    It’s annoying when people try to downplay men’s body issues because they incorrectly believe that achieving the ideal male body is at least healthy, when often it certainly is not. Bodybuilding (which is necessary to achieve that idea for someone as skinny as I am) is far from the healthiest activity. It required consuming an enormous amount of processed protein which taxes your digestive system and leaves most people feeling nauseated, gassy, and lethargic.

  5. Peter Houlihan says:

    “I’m always confused when I hear certain people complain that feminists don’t care about men’s issues, ”

    Stuff like the above is very encouraging. And this site alone is evidence that some feminists do, very much, care about men’s issues. But I just got out of a massive facebook row with a friend of mine who objected to me linking to an article about men’s issues. She claimed that while she recognised that men’s rights issues existed, referring to them or addressing them was an example of male privilege and derailing the conversation from where it belonged (women’s rights).

    She’s not the only feminist of my generation I’ve seen to express this opinion. In fact, most of the feminists I’ve personally met seem to think that men’s issues are some kind of joke played by the kind of person that thinks white people have it bad.

    So by all means keep posting the feminist voices aiming for a path that includes men, but don’t be surprised when the men who’ve met the other kind of feminist are a bit sceptical of the whole thing.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Sorry, *former friend, she isn’t speaking to me right now because I think male rape is an issue (no exaduration)

  6. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard someone state that a bodybuilding is at all healthy! If anything, it’s genuinely disturbing.
    I was just trying to make a statement about the implied thought patterns behind the physical appearances of men and women and my examples weren’t necessarily intended to be realistic.
    You make a point about body building, however. That’s definitely a lifestyle where men are valued purely for their bodies…

  7. hunter85 says:

    Of all the men’s issues, body image is taking a front seat by feminists?? Huh.

  8. That may be because MRAs are ignoring it in favor of incarceration rate disparities, Male Genital Mutilation, workplace death rate disparities, child custody discrimination, false rape accusations, indifference to DV against men, educational discrimination against boys, fatherhood issues such as bigoted stereotypes of men as inept, as pedophiles, as secondary parents or babysitters; and similar issues, all of which may make body image seem a little less than a life and death concern.

    But the MRAs are wrong to ignore the problem becuase it is still a men’s issue. Bless the feminists for picking up on it.

  9. A fashion blog calls out the fact that men are starting to feel as much pressure to have the “perfect body” as women do.
    One more thing. Why is it that when talking about how men on body image issues its often done in the context of how it compares to women and body image issues?

    So men are speaking up on our body image issues, many of us dealing with them for many many years. And when we do it gets framed as we are starting to feel as much pressure as women feel. (We also see male victims of rape and DV framed in a simlar way.). The pressure has been there for a long time. There is a difference between when we started to feel the pressure and when we started speaking up about it. Don’t mistake the latter for the former.

    I really don’t want to sound mean about this but I’m betting I speak for at least some portion of guys with body image issues when I say this. Quit acting like these feelings that men have had about our bodies just started last year or something. To say that they are now starting to get to the point that women have them really comes off sounding like people are saying “now that we see they are at an substantial level we can now acknowledge them”.

    A lot of us have been feeling this way for longer than some of the girls and women who have similar issues have been alive. I wonder how many men and boys went to their graves over stuff like this or for unrelated reason while having issues like this but never had the chance to speak up. But we’re going to pretend that this stuff just started recently?

    I’m sure you mean well but by all that is holy please, at a time when people regularly say that “the two don’t compare” in the gender disourse, stop the “…….women have for a long time…..” comparison when talking about male body image issues (or at the least stop using it as an opening or closing remark as if you’re trying use the comparison as some sort of clever exclamation point).

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