Dani Paradis grew up thinking men didn’t have body image issues, and that they just didn’t get their feelings hurt the same way women do. Boy, was she wrong.
Stay with me now, I know. Men are people and people have feelings.
But I grew up in a house full of men who didn’t talk about feelings. We’d talk about cars maybe. But feelings? They weren’t generally on the table. My household was pretty traditional and during holidays. We’d frequently split off with the men in the living room eating snacks and watching TV while the women gathered in the kitchen to help make dinner, clean and talk. I’d hang out in both rooms because I talk a lot and need an audience. But the conversations would change tone as I moved from the women’s kitchen to the men’s den. It was just normal. And I am beginning to realize that somewhere along the line I seem to have picked up the idea that men don’t respond emotionally to things. Growing up in a traditional household blinded me to a lot of ways that men and women are the same.
I’ve discovered this by way of acting like a total jerk. I know, for example, that it is wrong to poke fun at a woman for gaining weight. What an awful thing to do! What kind of horrible person would do that? And yet I found myself not all that long ago making body-shaming jokes to someone I love. I’ve seen it happen a lot in a family setting—some dudes joke about their beer bellies, and even shake them, while the women roll their eyes and talk about how hard it is to get their husbands and children to eat their vegetables. I saw this happen so much that I joined in myself, we were just teasing after all, and when my partner was later upset with me, I was honestly a little surprised.
Here’s where me acting like a jerk came in. I called him sensitive. I don’t think I meant to be offensive it was more like an “ah-ha!” moment. The trouble is, this isn’t the first time my behavior has ever been pointed out. There was a gap in my understanding that, in hindsight, is awful! I presumed, sure…it’s painful for me to be called fat, or for me to be called sensitive but a man? That would never hurt a man—they just don’t care about those things like women do.
I can’t wag my finger at all women for doing this because I don’t know if it is common, but I do think that we underestimate the affect that messages about their body have on men and boys. For a long time, eating disorders of men were ignored because they looked different. We live in a society so negative towards people with any extra padding that of course men internalise it. At the same time the man box doesn’t allow space to talk about these things. Worrying about calories? That’s acting like a woman! (And a woman is, you know, weaker!) Even when men watch what they eat, we feel compelled to put a manly spin on
In this video we meet Doug, who jogs. He does this so he can eat burgers and drink (diet) beer and bacon. This isn’t some “diet” the narrator exclaims dismissively. This is a “guyet”.
It may be that the men in my family just don’t have the same body concerns as women so, or it may be that they have learned to cover up these concerns to appear less feminine. Either way, fatness and body issues are not only a feminine problem and it isn’t only that women are sensitive to these things.
I’ve been trying to unlearn these behaviors and improve my understanding of the ways that men face insecurities that don’t differ from mine as much as I thought. I’ve been wondering what other painfully obvious things we ‘re missing that would help bridge the gender gap rather than keeping our defenses up and emotions bottled in.
Photo Credit: Morgue Files