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Body Positivity: Where Do Men Stand?

The fight for body positivity has become increasingly successful since 1969 and has grown to one multinational move. Interestingly, the fat rights movement, the grandmother of these campaigns, was initially spearheaded by a man defending how society treated his wife. Fast-forward to years later, various groups and women established and fostered a community that accepts bodies of all sizes and is unfettered of harmful social messages, criticisms, and one-sided opinions about physical beauty.

Being confident in one’s skin is a lifestyle that grants you the freedom to appreciate, care for, accept, and enjoy your body as it is. This intention has undoubtedly aided millions of women worldwide in embracing their shapes. Yet, it lacks a key component in the population: males.

Yes. Men have emotions, too. 

Although men are underrepresented in the positive body image revolution, reports and research have consistently demonstrated that boys suffer from the repercussions of poor self-esteem as well as much as their female counterparts. This includes depression, insecurities, and eating disorders, among other things. Therefore, males must be represented equally in this cause to aid in the reversal of these adverse effects.

Over the last several years, body acceptance has grown exponentially as companies, organizations, and celebrities like Anne Hathaway, Demi Lovato, and Lizzo campaign and urge women to embrace their bodies and resist social expectations to appear a particular way. Men, on the other hand, are disproportionately excluded from this expansion. For example, if you google “body positivity” right now, the results will provide you information that is nearly geared toward women alone, with significantly less content devoted to and written for males.

Living up to the superhero image.

The exclusion of males from the campaign towards body acceptance is partly detrimental since men are also susceptible to beauty standards as much as women are. Females may be more preoccupied with reducing weight and being as slim as possible. At the same time, males are more focused on increasing muscular strength, fitting that superhero image painted by the media. 

They frequently reach this target by extreme measures like excessive exercise, accurate nutrition tracking, and even through steroids. Unfortunately, this desire is perceived as enthusiasm for fitness, leading to the dismissal of potential harm, further leading to health issues and even death.

Environmental factors including unrealistic expectations and judgment from the media can have a detrimental impact on a person’s self-image, starting at an early age. If only men could see the importance and get the same support regarding loving and accepting their bodies as much as women do, they would be less focused on improving a physical appearance one could only achieve if they were a character in any Marvel universe.

Instead, they can improve themselves and gain the confidence to eat and wear what they want without judgment. It could be sporting the latest denim jeans for men, colorful summer shirts, or simply letting that beer belly loose while enjoying a good backyard barbecue.

The cost of fitting with society.

According to studies, females favor plus-sized models more in commercials compared to slimmer ones. Seeing these bodies all over media platforms is more realistic for most of them, giving them the confidence to see someone representing their demographics. They feel more seen. However, it’s interesting to know how the media lacks representation when portraying the masculine counterpart.

Apart from concerns regarding physical attractiveness, heavier boys are also subjected to various body shaming and bullying, particularly throughout childhood and puberty, resulting in depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, which they carry out as they grow old. Some even develop eating disorders to modify their bodies and fit society’s ideal image. And because boys are taught to man up from the time they uttered their first words, most of them build a rigid shell and suppress their emotions resulting in years and years of mental health and physical issues not addressed. 

While men have this mental illness at a far higher rate, only a few seek treatment and medical help for their condition. Moreover, men with eating disorders may be more difficult to identify since the disease manifests differently.

In reality, men are excluded from the body acceptance discourse because participation in such a campaign requires vulnerability — something this particular gender lacks. Society raised men to be problem-solvers; therefore, seeking help is strongly frowned upon. 

The desire to have that perfect figure can be significantly reduced if these campaigns on body acceptance included more diverse representation of various body types across genders. Additionally, body positivity should represent the diversity of our culture, which should be mirrored in the campaign. Growing the inclusion of males will undoubtedly be a long, drawn-out process. However, the advantages to their self-esteem and acceptance are going to be worth it. 

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