Some of the feedback that my last post garnered on reddit has gotten me thinking a lot – but, since reddit doesn’t seem to like me and keeps eating my comments, I’ve decided to make the points I want to make here. What follows are responses to two of the comments made on my last blog post.
“I hate to jump in with “What about the menz?!” but that paragraph diminishing men’s body issues was unnecessary.”
I wish my response to this hadn’t disappeared! Oh well, let’s start with the “diminishing” paragraph in question…
Don’t get me wrong: plenty of men have body image issues… but, it’s different. These men are the minority, it’s seen as weird when it happens to them, as a problem that needs fixing rather than simply the way things are. Men are encouraged to own their bodies and care for them, strengthen them, use them to fix and protect and live. They’re not expected to shave and pluck and diet and primp and paint, to cover and reveal just enough to please the endless sea of ever watching eyes. They just have to be and do. They are granted ownership of their bodies and when they lose that ownership it is a problem that no one quite knows how to fix just yet.
Women, on the other hand, have their ownership stripped away earlier and earlier in this modern society and if they try to take it back? That’s when we have a “problem.” [Emphasis from original post.]
I am very sorry if this post comes off as belittling men’s body image issues in any way. The point I was trying to make was not that men never have body image issues, nor was it that men’s body image issues are less serious/important than women’s. (As supported by the fact that, I never said any of that nor did I say anything diminishing, for that matter.)
The point I was trying to make was that, in American society at least, women are heavily socialized to feel insecure about our bodies to the point where it seems natural and normal for a woman to feel bad about her body and be constantly trying to change it. Men, on the other hand, are not subject to the same socialization as women – for instance, men of all different sizes and levels of attractiveness are seen on television, in movies, in magazines and so on; men are not publicly criticized for their bodies nearly as often as women; and men are not passed over for opportunities as a result of their bodies as often.
Some empirical evidence to support my claim that more women feel the need to alter their bodies than men: Here’s a study on dieting and some statistics about the sex divide with eating disorders to get you started.
This does not mean that men don’t have body image issues, but since they are not socialized to have them society does not view men’s body image issues as the norm. This can be good for men, because it means that their insecurity is less likely to be encouraged, and people are more likely to notice any self-destructive behaviors (like an eating disorder.) It can also be bad for men, because less visibility can mean that men with body image issues feel too embarrassed to seek help, and people may have less of an idea how to help them even if they do.
In making the point that men, in general, are allowed more ownership over their bodies by Western society I was not seeking to minimize men’s body image issues; I was only seeking to explain how differing gender expectations tend to lead to a culture where almost all women (and plenty of men) feel insecure about their bodies. A culture that, in part, exists because women’s bodies are so often treated as public property, thus, stripping women’s sense of “ownership” of their bodies away.
The other comment I wanted to respond to is this one:
The mainstream cult of beauty is just another religion. Like religion, they’ll tell you you’re either with them or against them. The truth is you don’t need to pick sides. You don’t even need to play the game. All of the monsters that you think are out to get are perceived, not real. The sooner you realize you’ve been tilting windmills the better off you will be.
Nothing irks me more than being told that the issue of body image is made up, something that I should just be able to “get over” in an instant. I mean, what do you expect me to say? Oh, well now that you’ve pointed out that I shouldn’t feel bad about my body, I don’t anymore. Hooray, I’m cured!