Much attention is given to issues of female self-perception, but the pressure that men feel to look a certain way is far less commonly discussed.
Like women, however, men feel the need to fit a certain mold, a pressure that is projected in subtle ways.
The media conveys a very particular ideal image for men to obtain — tall, lean and athletic — which have become the popularized conception of male beauty.
These qualities are exemplified by Hollywood actors and professional athletes whose bodies, more similar to those of a Grecian God, are portrayed as the norm to be desired.
According to Michael Addis, psychology professor at Clark University, "men base self-esteem on body image and weight," CNN reported. The ideals of male attractiveness are also intricately connected with notions of masculinity and self-esteem, and men who do not fit the mold often feel inadequate and inferior. Men have been conditioned to believe that women desire a man who fits traditional gender roles — while women are traditionally fragile, men should be strong, powerful and able to protect them. A man's desire to fit the stereotypical male mold boils down to a survival of the fittest mentality.
Moreover, the male preoccupation with the body — his quest for sculpted arms and washboard abs — is bolstered by pop culture. Consider Parks and Recreation star, Chris Pratt, who took to Instagram to publicize his physical transformation from an average guy to chiseled action figure to play a superhero in the film Guardians of the Galaxy. Pratt's new persona went viral, and the star even showcased his six pack abs during a live appearance on Conan. The Hollywood actor whose name was unrecognizable to many before the transformation quickly skyrocketed to popularity.
Source: The Huffington Post
Men face a double standard. On the one hand, the media suggests that men should be fit and toned, but on the other hand a man who eats healthfully and watches his figure is often ridiculed and labeled feminine by women and men alike. We often hear women complaining that while they must diligently watch their figures, men can eat all they want without gaining weight.
What is often unacknowledged is that men, too, must work to achieve the unrealistic physical standards reinforced by media and pop culture. While it is perfectly acceptable,and perhaps even encouraged, for a woman to opt for a low-fat or lite option, a man who makes the same dietary choices feels ashamed. Similarly, while many men care about their appearances, those who take the time to groom themselves with skin care and hair care projects are often labeled as metro sexual.
CNN labeled this double standard "the real ideal," wherein men want to look good, and are aware of what they need to do, but don't want to look as though they spent too much time on the effort.
According to an article in the Guardian, many men who diet do so in secret because it is not socially acceptable for men to publicly admit dissatisfaction with their weight. Men's conceptions of weight and body image "have been largely swept under theambiguous rug of masculinity."
Huffington Post relayed the sense of shame associated with male dieting that often leads many men to develop eating disorders. While eating disorders are commonly considered strictly female issues, the reality is that men face a similar, more discreet pressure to appear in shape, and like women, they go to extreme lengths to do so.
Male body image is one issue that deserves more attention. We must overturn the assumption that dissatisfaction over appearance and the struggle to maintain an idealized image are feelings that are unique to women. Such an attitude goes hand in hand with traditional gendered stereotypes that are damaging to both men and women alike. The pressure for males to achieve a certain appearance is projected in subtler ways than the blatant cultural representations that influence female self-perception, but those pressure are extremely damaging for all sexes.