Males struggle to maintain body image

Elizabeth Ramirez

When you type the word “women” in the Bing images search engine, photos of women in bikinis showing their flat stomachs and overly made faces appear. When you type in the word “men” in Bing images, photos of shirtless men showing their abs and model-perfect faces appear.

Society has placed a beauty standard ideal for men to strive for. Men need to be tall, well groomed, have a rigid jaw and big muscles.

But we need to look beyond the Ken body image. We need to start looking at ourselves in the mirror and liking what we see. There is no need for men to conform to a beauty standard that society tries to shove down their throats in order to advance in life and be socially viewed as “real men.”

It is sad to say but we live in a world where we judge each other constantly, both physically and mentally. We judge an individual before he or she opens his or her mouth. For some individuals, this idea has become second nature. They judge as if it is normal to do so.

We see it when employers hire individuals based solely on looks and not on what the individual can bring to the table. For example, clothing stores like Abercrombie and Fitch hire individuals purely on looks.

A person’s physique should not speak for the individual. Institutions shouldn’t rely only on a person’s physical beauty to fill job positions because the person will age one way or another. Botox doesn’t last very long.

Magazines and books are not helping male beauty standards either.

With magazine covers like “Men’s Fitness,” “Men’s Health” and “Muscle and Fitness” it’s no wonder men want to have huge muscles. These magazines tell men around the world that they need to look like the models just like those in these magazines.

Men need to realize that achieving the ideal body standard is not possible. Just because one man can get muscles doesn’t mean every man can do it.

Just like magazines, books with titles like “I’ll Cover You in $20 Bills: The Male Body Beauty Business,” “Male Power: The Young Man’s Guide to Good Grooming” and “Testosterone: Wimp to Hunk in 90 days” say it all. Men are wimps, but they can become a hunk in 90 days if they take testosterone because it is totally healthy.

Similarly the film industry depicts the attractive big muscle man who dates and eventually marries the equally attractive woman. Characters playing geeks are rarely linked to a woman and get pushed around by the attractive man. Films like “Hitch” and “Just Friends” depict characters who were once unattractive men and had to change their looks in order to be gazed by women.

However, there are individuals who need to gain muscle for medical purposes.

Take Sacramento Bee’s story of 15-year-old Cole Odenweller who needed a bicycle as a therapeutic object to help him cope with an illness that caused his body serious nerve and muscle damage. Since Odenweller had outgrown his bicycle, he had lost leg muscle causing his legs to buckle when he tries to stand up. His story was a good example of an individual needing to develop muscle for health reasons and not for show.

Unlike the story of Odenweller, New York City native Justin Jedlica has had 90 plastic surgeries in the span of 10 years costing him $100,000 to carve out his muscles. He calls himself the “Human Ken Doll” and told ABC News that working out is not “glamorous.” So, he is saying there is no need to work out, the common way to get the perfect male body, when you can cheat your way to it.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the top five surgical procedures for men in 2011 were liposuction, rhinoplasty, eyelid surgery, breast reduction and face lift. The institution also claimed cosmetic procedures for men increased over 121 percent from 1997.

Since men are trying to achieve a big muscle physique with the use of pills, steroids, protein shakes and plastic surgeries, some have increased their chances of developing liver cancer as well as the potential of having a heart attack, according to Bradley University’s women’s studies program website titled “The Body Project.”

Associate professor of sociology Todd Migliaccio, who teaches a course on men, masculinity and society, agrees that there is an increase in men having health issues because of body image standards and the bombardment of ads emphasizing beauty standards.

“We (men) have historically used (our bodies) as active tools,” said Migliaccio. “But now, we are starting to use them as women, as passive tools-to be looked at.”

A step we can all take in order to stop beauty standards is to consume less beauty enhancing products. If we keep buying products to lose weight, to gain muscle or having plastic surgeries, we are keeping the beauty standard alive. We are telling pharmaceutical companies to keep creating shakes and pills because we want them not matter the consequences.

So, it is perfectly fine to be short, overweight and hairy. Let’s try not to strive to be perfect and just be our fatty selves.