Men can struggle with their body image too

Julia Hanson, A&E Editor

In today’s society, we too often throw around the phrase “I hate men.” In the constant expectations that surround us, we forget that we are all more alike than not. With November unofficially being mens’ mental health awareness month, it is important to remember that society’s painful expectations of a desirable body can go both ways. For men, it can be a lonely, personal conflict.

My first idea of a masculine, attractive man was Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. As a little girl, I could recognize his selfish personality, but knew Gaston was a true man. “For there’s no one as burly and broady,” sang the three identical blondes as Gaston picked them all up with one arm. Even as a cartoon character, Gaston was huge with bulging muscles, thick hair, and a deep voice. His sidekick, LeFou, was short, chubby, and acted as comedic relief. I knew when I grew up, I wanted to marry a strong man like Gaston, and my brother, David, wanted to be Gaston. David and I could both laugh at LeFou.

Growing up, we quickly learn what physique we are supposed to pursue and conform accordingly in the ways we possibly can. However, most girls genetically can not obtain the hourglass figure and most boys will never grow to be 6’3 like Gaston. While eating four thousand calories and going to lift weights everyday is a respectable hobby that improves sports performance, it shouldn’t be a coping strategy for insecurities, and its physical effects shouldn’t define masculinity. No matter how much muscle you are building, that level of restrictive and obsessive eating creates a negative relationship with food. Guidance with mentally healthy exercise for men is not accessible enough. 

Podcasts or videos on the internet regarding self-confidence almost always address their listeners as female. You’ll hear “Ladies! You need to…,” as cheesy, self-love tips are listed to the audience. When it comes to self-help content for men, it’s all about doing: being motivated, protein intake, and effectiveness. What everyone needs to hear is that step one in your fitness journey is to identify why you want to change your body. The second we start letting others control what we eat and how we exercise is the second we will lose ourselves to society’s standards. You will never be fulfilled or satisfied until you live in your own best interest. 

Although we are so quick to criticize women’s bodies, we are so careless in the way we comment on men’s bodies. We excuse joking about a man’s skinny figure or short stature is okay, because he isn’t sensitive. This is something many people, including myself, are at fault for. I cannot speak for men, but I know that in the world we live in, we are told how we are supposed to look everyday on our social media feeds. No matter who you are, what you’ve been taught, or how you deal with your emotions, insults hurt. 

I am not a man and my point is not to speak for men, but to men. It’s okay to be short, like even really short. It’s okay to be skinny or big, and it’s okay to reach out. As women, we need to acknowledge that although men have privilege, they also have an incredible amount of pressure to be someone impossible, and to never, ever break character in front of others. We all have imperfect bodies, so it’s time to stop putting our insecurities onto others and just get over ourselves. After all, Gaston didn’t get the girl.