I was reading TJ’s article about Portia de Rossi’s autobiography and it got me thinking about body image. Specifically men’s body image. I’ve heard about women’s body image issues for several years. People talking about how the fashion and beauty industry sets this impossible standard. How Hollywood only values youth and beauty. How damaging this all is to female self esteem. I don’t disagree with any of that and I don’t want to diminish the female experience in any way. I acknowledge that woman have gotten the short end of stick in most things in this patriarchal society of ours. I still can’t help thinking, “what about the guys?”
In the past 10 to 15 years, a similar standard of unattainable beauty exists for men. Go to the men’s department of a department store. Look at the underwear packaging for Calvin Klein, Diesel, Polo and 2xist. Take a gander at all those flat, smooth perfectly tanned, air brushed abs. Hit the news stand and look at Men’s Fitness, Men’s Heath, Reps, Fitness Rx.
Tune into to Teen Wolf (a reboot with little to do with the movie from the 80s), The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and Strike Back.
The CW is launching a new show called Arrow, based on the DC character Green Arrow. At this years’ Comic Con the very first question asked of the actor was about his abs and his workout routine.
The pressure is on. Hit the gym. Look like these guys. I understand these images can be inspiring to some. They can push us to pursue our full potential, which is great. The conflict arises when we realize these goals are largely unattainable. These actors/models are paid, in part, to work out. They hit the gym for 3 to 4 hours a day with a trainer. They have nutritionists and dietitians helping with meal plans. They have photo editing and lighting. In its own way, it’s an illusion the average guy can never live up to.
The problem is we can’t discuss it. It’s a dirty little secret. We can’t admit to feeling insecure about our appearance. We’re men dammit. We can’t discuss the pressure of working out 10 to 15 hours every week. Or the hundreds of dollars we spend every month on supplements, protein shakes, gym memberships and personal training. We’re dudes. We just suck it up.
So we just watch the shows and buy the underwear. Muddling through, hoping no one will notice how we wince a little when we see Alcide running around shirtless on True Blood. Note to self: hit the gym a little harder. Change up my supplement regiment.
I just watched a segment on Good Afternoon America where a panel was discussing the sexual exploitation of men and if it was even possible. The segment was played entirely for laughs and the topic was completely belittled. Men can’t even get people to take any of this seriously. How can we open about this when it's all just a big joke to most people?
Again let me state I understand women have had it much harder for much longer. The difference is they can talk about it. Even bitch about it. How it’s unfair and unreasonable. Women can watch Oprah and Portia have a frank and honest discussion about how demoralizing it is. How it tears at self-esteem. Men? We have nothing. We don’t have a brave Portia willing to share the pain, let alone acknowledge it’s existence.
Women have found their voice on the issue of body image (Portia, Oprah, Tyra...). When will the men find ours?
As they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step.
So here goes. Hi my name Michael Milano and I have body image issues. I spend over $320 a month in gym memberships, personal training and yoga. I spend an average of 10 to 15 hours a week working out in some for or another. Even if I sustain an injury, I don’t stop working out. I just work around the injury.