Body confidence (#effyourbeautystandards) emerged as a female oriented social movement, and for good reason. Today’s media is partially responsible for unrealistic beauty standards, but the societal spotlight of the male gaze stretches back for centuries. Try as we might, it’s hard to imagine the recent ‘dad bod’ obsession – with Leonardo DiCaprio and other male celebs lauded in the mainstream media for being both chubby and sexy – ever having a female equivalent.
That being said, about one in three people who struggle with eating disorders are male. Disordered food behaviour such as binging, purging or fasting are just as common in men as in women. There is undoubtedly an increased awareness of the ‘ideal’ of the masculine man – typified by gym culture and steroid abuse – yet due to societal concepts of manhood, males find it a lot more difficult to open up about body dysmorphia than women. Male suicide rates remain three times higher than female suicide rates in the UK, a lingering and chilling statistic. As the body positivity movement expands, its important to acknowledge the positive impact it can have on men as well as women, as it pushes against society’s pressures and promoting feelings of self worth.
At the moment social media is home of the body confidence conversation – demonstrated by wildly popular hashtags such as #effyourbeautystandards and#allbodiesaregoodbodies – and a whole host of female influencers trying to change the way we perceive beauty.
But now men are starting to get in on the conversation. Instagram celebrities such as Mina Gerges have began to talk about their weight and the unrealistic standards that they have set for themselves throughout their lives.
In his blog Confessions of a Binge Eater, Ryan Sheldon gives a fascinating insight into eating disorders from a male perspective. He started a campaign #noshame, that aims to take the stigma out of eating habits.
Kelvin Davis is a self-styled tour de force imploring men and women to love their bodies. He also wants to promote fashion as something for everyone, not just “the elfin, emaciated elite who walk the catwalks of Milan.” As he states repeatedly and demonstrates through his dapper garbs: “Style.Has.No.Size”
These guys, and many more, are doing a lot for the male side of the body confidence movement, but it’s a conversation that has to continue. The typical response to male body anxieties is: ‘bro, just exercise.’ Exercise and weight lifting can be enormously beneficial to our mental and physical health, but shouldn’t be an endless pursuit to reach an artificial vision of perfection constructed by mass media.
In my opinion, the concept of ‘manning up’ does more damage than we could possibly imagine. The devastating suicide statistics reflect a culture of suppressed misery and vulnerability. If men can keep taking the message forwards – that society now puts the male body under scrutiny, too; that a lot of the insecurities in our heads are illusions and not genuine inadequacies; that our sense of self worth can be improved through a simple change of perspective – maybe we can begin to turn the tide.