We’ve been having a great time doing the Suit Urself Swimsuit Challenge this summer! It’s a great time for women to start accepting themselves in general…with so many body-positive movements and powerful women speaking out against the media and championing the individual woman’s right to love whatever body she has. There’s so much momentum in this healthier way of living and thinking. I can’t wait to see where it takes us in a few years’ time! However, I wish things were moving as quickly for men. Body image isn’t just a female issue anymore. Over the past few years, there has been a substantial increase in sexualization and pressure being placed upon men and adolescent boys to reflect a standard. Honestly, it’s not being talked about enough. That’s why I was especially thrilled to receive our FIRST male submission last week from Lauren’s fiance (thanks, Luis)! Males are generally less comfortable asking for help and support than females are. Earlier this month, Brian Cuban released “Shattered Image,” which is his self-published account of drug and alcohol abuse, a near-suicide attempt and three unsuccessful marriages. Brian says that these issues were rooted in negative self-image, which was caused by being bullied due to his weight. Now the Executive Director of the Mark Cuban Foundation, 52-year-old Brian reached recovery six years ago and now fields emails from young people who are facing the same demons. Most of these emails are coming from girls struggling with broken self-images. However, Brian wishes there were more boys reaching out. He says:
“Even in 2013, the stigma is just huge for boys. You don’t want to out yourself. I’ve had men come to me and say they’re hiding eating disorders from their wives. They’re afraid of losing their jobs. They’re afraid of being thought of as gay. Not much has changed for men.
On why he chose to write his book so fresh out of recovery, Brian says:
I just felt that there was a lack of understanding of male self-image and male eating disorders, especially body dysmorphic disorder. It is overwhelmingly thought of and portrayed in the media — and in research — as a predominantly female disorder. I wanted to be one of the ones stepping forward to help change that conversation. Nobody else seems to be. The process of writing was a big part of my recovery. Not just the book but on my blog. I came out as a bulimic on my blog. That was the first my family even knew of it.
Brian has made it his goal to reach out to college students to educate them about male body image issues, and to teach parents how to talk to children and how fat-shaming can be damaging. This is a conversation we NEED to be having! Recently, a Capital Investigation has found that some men in the East Midlands are spending 20+ hours in the gym PER WEEK because they’re feeling more pressure to get the perfect body. Sixty-six percent admitted that the main reason they worked out was because of body image, versus health. Joe Hicks, a 34 year old profession actor and fitness model, says there is too much pressure on men these days to look a certain way: “The idea of the masculine male who takes about ten minutes to get ready is well and truly gone, I always go back to the James Bond scene where Daniel Craig walks out of the ocean in very tight shorts, women swoon, and young lads think ‘wow I want that reaction’..'” Last year, a new body disorder was formed called Musclerexia – which applies to the extreme cases men will go to the gym three times a day, calorie count and still not be satisfied with their body. Lauren Benton, the Chief Executive of body dysmorphia charity BODY in Derby, she says they’ve seen an 82% rise in the number of men asking them for help. Lauren stated, “A lot of guys I’m seeing at the minute are really trying to put on as much muscle as possible. So many guys are getting addicted to the gym, they’re eating protein as well as drinking protein and still they are not as big as they want which leads on to a disorder.” It seems that there is more pressure than ever on men to look a certain way, but not enough support in the community for them to talk about it. Many of them feel like they can’t even talk to their friends about their insecurities. On our Beutiful Tumblr blog, I track “male body image” so I can ensure that I post content on it when it’s available (unfortunately, it’s scarce). However, I’ve found a few honest and insightful posts that reflect the need for our society to take male body image more seriously. From comicsins:
I feel a lot of pressure to lose weight and to look ‘hot’ as a 22 year old guy. It’s weird because when I was younger (16-19) I didn’t feel like that. It’s almost like now that I’m older I’ve been comparing myself to a different menagerie of men. And this new crop of guys that in my mind are my peers and competition are seemingly much more handsome than me. I wonder if other guys grow up to feel this way?
And from gonzalezsimon:
Body image issues: we have those too. You think we don’t notice that women FAWN over muscles and there are male models and athletes too.
Worst of all… we are told to feel inept, inadequate, lost is unnatural. To show pain.. or worse -self-doubt- is not manly. Its not stoic.
Men grow up wanting to be Superman, the unstoppable force like James Bond or Bruce Wayne. We WANT to be stoic! But here is the trap that leads to invalidated feelings -nobody is talking about it and you think its not happening- and feeling like you’re the only guy who is plagued with self-doubt and really questions if he will ever amount to that amazing father/defender/leader/professional we dream of being.
It’s clear that males feel alienated and alone. Here’s one more post, from top-of-the-summit, which is a really passionate and detailed view of what society’s expectations are like for men:
When was the last time you saw a dude that doesn’t spend half his fucking week in a gym in an ad? We’re supposed to be tall, ruggedly handsome, and have perfectly chiselled chest and 8-pack abs. And then we have some things that say we should have stubble all over our faces and some that say we should always be clean shaven and some things say that a real man has hair on his chest and some say that you should be totally hairless. Who the fuck came up with all that? Not to mention that we’re told we shouldn’t even be worrying about body image or fashion or hairstyles because then we’re gay. And seriously what’s wrong with being gay? If a guy ever wants to talk about penises, it’s assumed that either he’s gay or has a small dick. How the hell are we even supposed to know if we have a small dick? Watching porn won’t fucking help cuz all of those guys take pills and use penis pumps and god knows what else to make their dicks unnaturally large. So then guys are left not knowing what an average dick size is, cuz no guy with an “average” sized dick is going to tell their size to their friends to compare and see what’s normal. All guys are going to tell that their dick is bigger than it actually is. Guaranteed. And then guys get self concious about something that NOBODY CAN SEE most of the time and their self-esteem goes down. Some to the point that they can’t even get a goddamn erection anymore. Guys are actually scared that another guy might have a bigger penis than him. Not jealous, scared. How fucked up is that?
It’s rather eye-opening when you read things like the posts above. As a female, I’m used to the support from my girlfriends if I’m having a bad body image day, and vice a versa. We might not all have good body image, but we’re at least having a conversation about it that shows we’re not alone. The same emotional support should be offered to men by not only their social circles, but by the educational and medical communities. We need to stop labeling eating disorders and body image as a “female problem” – because it’s not. If you’re a male and you’ve read this, how do you feel about it? Do you agree or disagree with any of these statements? What makes you feel insecure? I want to make it clear that men should be just as much a part of the body image discussion as women are. So, we’re going to make a larger effort to balance our body image content. In the meantime, I would love if more men would join our Swimsuit Challenge and talk about how they feel about their bodies! We’ve already got one male submission – let’s add more!
Join us next week for our next body image-building post: “Getting comfortable with body confidence” And don’t forget to follow our campaign on Twitter using the #suiturself tag, check out our submission gallery, or send us your own submission to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Related posts from the Suit Urself series: Meet the fat-shionistas How to deal with body-snarking and judgmental comments It’s not just about size The Beach Body Tutorial If you like it, wear it! Work what you’ve got! Body acceptance tips Why are body image challenges important? Suit Urself! Choose your attitude this summer with our body-positive swimsuit challenge!