While on the whole I use this blog space as an attempt to excise bits of rubbishy information from my head, on occasion I do think it’s necessary to try and write about something with a bit of meaning and gravitas, or at least attempt to. Today’s topic is something which has gained increasing attention over the past couple of years, particularly concerned with the way in which young people today are encouraged to expose as much of their ‘souls’ on the internet and social media – as somebody who falls square in the middle of this category and also is affected by it, I’d thought I’d add my tuppence to the debate.
So yeah male body image…
For years if not decades the subject of female body image has been a bone of contention for much intellectual debate, especially from those with a feminist leaning. The way which the media portrays the ‘ideal’ woman has differed quite considerably over time as trends and fashions have changed, but on the whole the modern obsession with feeling comfortable in your own skin has finally brought a lot of these issues to the forefront to make a stand against the seemingly never ending magazine covers which have been nipped and tucked to oblivion using the surgeon’s scalpel or increasingly now Photoshop and it’s ilk. Understandably it is hard for a lot of women to conform to these ideals and indeed why should they – I don’t think anyone should be encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle but as long as you are comfortable in your own skin then so be it.
But in these last 5 years where anoxeric models and unrealistic photoshop efforts have been made public issues, there has been a very clear shift in the way in which men are portrayed in the media and the way in which sexuality is used in adverts. Go into any newsagent or supermarket and alongside the TV magazines, glossy celebrity weeklies and ever decreasing number of ‘Lad’s Mags’ you will now see rows and rows of shirtless men with rippling abs and bulging biceps. These fitness mags have seen a massive growth particularly in the UK, and the quest for body beautiful seems to now have shifted towards men as opposed to women, to a degree anyway.
I could go on and on about the ways in which these images are infiltrating society, but let’s be honest you probably see them all and it’s now pretty common practice for the average man to squirm uncomfortably at the TV when the latest hunk pops up on screen topless, whilst his wife or girlfriend coos over the same image…reverse the situation and the guy will be called a perve or more than likely have a cushion thrown at him, but the feelings of inferiority seem to be more aggressive in the former situation anyway.
I’ve already stated how I fall smack in the middle of the group which is going to be most exposed to this, and as somebody who has long had serious issues with their body image I find it increasingly hard to remain positive about the way I look, or even neutral if I’m honest! A 25 year old male with a relatively active lifestyle and a marathon under his belt, in years gone by I would not have thought twice about accepting my slim but relatively toned body – but today when I let slip to people that I havn’t been to a gym since finishing University I am greeted with shock and borderline disgust from some of my peer group.
The obsession with the gym is not one I’ve been immune to over the years, and in some ways it is only my lack of self confidence (and decent salary) which has stopped me joining a local one, but it seems that without the aforementioned six pack, full arms and chest plus an optional set of tattoos, you aren’t really worth knowing. It’s not only me who seems to think this either, as social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are full of average looking men in their early 20’s who are besieged with followers, re-tweets, likes and comments simply because they take several (dozen) selfies a day and smear themselves all over the internet. OK so good for them that they are confident enough to be able to do that, and a lot of these people did start off slim and weedy like me, but I’m not quite sure it’s a good idea to base your self worth and confidence on being accepted and loved by a bunch of total strangers.
I’m going to end this post here because I’m not sure it’s really making the points I wanted it to, and to merely list the pressures that the modern young male has to deal with seems a little churlish and overall pointless. But I would like to think that sooner or later society’s values will change yet again and that maybe the focus will be a little less on who has the most ripped abs or can eat the most Nandos, although I am sure any new yardsticks will be as equally frustrating and hilarious after a few years.