Let’s find out how Males are affected by Beauty Standards and Stereotypes!
If you think that men are not affected by unrealistic beauty standards, then think again. Or maybe switch on your T.V. There is a considerable increase in the number of beauty products for men; from acne-reducing creams to body-building tonics, you will find the entire range in your average 22-minute daily soap advertisement.
Ask a typical woman about the appearance of her dream man and there’s a good chance that she will want a ‘tall-dark-handsome’ man, with probably a beard (Bollywood has set up some unrealistic standards). I am not saying that being attracted to a particular type of physique is bad; I want to talk about how bad it is to marginalize other body types and treat males with such bodies with contempt. Okay, contempt might be a wrong word to use here; people don’t hate them. They generally comment on the bodies of men and use them as ‘material’ for stand-up comedies. And this, people, is unacceptable!
Such is the effect of these societal standards that even studies have revealed how men have self-deprecating double standards for the thin, average-weight and hypermuscular bodies, but evaluate the athletic body as more attractive and with a higher positive feeling. It makes me wonder where we are going as a society where people are uncomfortable with their bodies.
Just like female gender stereotypes result in mental health issues in women, male body stereotypes similarly affect men. While we think that the concept of ‘macho’ man is old news, I cannot help but think of the harm this stereotype has done already. Now ‘chocolate boys’ are trending, which is again very offensive. Who decides if a man should be sinewy, bearded, or ‘sweet’ to be attractive and accepted by society? Can’t we just let them be?
I have come across some male friends who have been body-shamed for their weight, height, hair loss, and even the texture of their voice. Some of them went into their reserves and started isolating themselves, while others joined gyms to prove that they were a ‘man’- classic cases of FOMO. The gym-goers who had enough will-power to finish what they started were seen boasting about their masculinity, and one of them sent their female friends shirtless pictures of their newly acquired ‘bodies’. I don’t know what made them do that, but I know that such behavior is not healthy. Frankly, it is offensive and amounts to online harassment (unsolicited biceps and abs pictures are as bad as unsolicited you-know-what!)
Talking of healthy behavior, these notions of a ‘healthy and desirable’ body often lead to mental health disorders among men. From anxiety relating to public appearances to depression when the desired body type cannot be achieved, there are a lot of issues that men can and do come across. It can also extend to eating disorders and unhealthy consumption of artificial food supplements for muscle growth. Such steps not only affect the physical health of men, but it can extend to hormonal imbalances resulting in impotence, thereby leading to more mental health disorders. The list is long, but it generally leads to a vicious cycle with low self-esteem, mental, and physical disorders as its components.
What is the solution to this? If I would’ve been living in an ideal world, I would’ve said that it is more of a social concern than a personal one. But the world is not ideal, so I won’t plan big. The only thing that can help is self-awareness and a sense of positive body image among people. One must maintain one’s physical and mental health, not a specific body image that is nothing but a projection of the patriarchal notions of the society.
I have given my personal opinions about the issue in this blog, but there have been studies on the topic. You can refer to one such study here.