Boys and Body Image

Not too long ago I posted about BFAR and body image for the Body Image Carnival hosted by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and MamanADroit. It was such a wonderful experience to share my story, and to read the stories of other women & their body image experiences.

The issue of body image plagues all women it seams. Not surprising in a society that equates beauty & sexuality with worth, and then defines that beauty & sexuality with an airbrush.

But what about men?

My little man is barely aware that he and I are two separate people, so I doubt that he's overly concerned with how he measures up to the rolly-polly blond haired blue eyed happy squealing babies on TV. But the experience of reflecting on my body image lead me to thinking about what body image will mean to my son in the future.

Naturally I asked my partner. 'When young boys see pictures of hulking muscle men with shiny abs and bulging pecks, does it make them feel not good enough?'

He doesn't seam to think so. Or at least, he doesn't remember having those kinds of feelings, or comparing himself to any masculine ideals as a child.

I am a little skeptical. Women aren't the only ones whose bodies are idealized, skewed, and misrepresented in the media. So why would women be the only ones feeling shamed and pressured by those images?

I don't believe that we are the only ones, so why isn't their more talk about the ideal of masculinity that is being marketed to our boys, and the effects that these images have on them?

I am well aware of the behaviour that will be modeled to my son by the media. I find myself determined, if a little daunted, to raise a peaceful and respectful boy who treats women and all beings with kindness and mindfulness despite the fact that every TV show, album, toy, and game marketed to him will be working against me. Even so, until recently I hadn't really thought about how the marketing of masculinity would effect how he feels about his body.

Will he see the barrel chested and over-muscled features of super heroes and action figures as something to aspire to? Will he compare himself with eerily hairless square jawed billboard models?

I expect that he might, and I am unsure of how to prevent, or deal with any self image problems that may arise from the media's version of what it is to be male.

Is guiding a son through all of these unrealistic messages about body and behaviour the same as guiding a daughter?

How does one help any child, male or female, find their way through the muddied waters of gender and body image?


BloomyMommy said...

I think parents have an uphill battle against the media. I am going to do my best to let him know he is amazing no matter how he looks and work on feeling that for myself.

Side note-DS has talked about being more "ripped" or this or that, but I don't believe it has effected his self esteem negatively.

Plus there is a double standard when it comes to men and women in the media. Women are always beautiful and flawless, but even the fat ugly guys have hot wives (ie. King of Queens, etc).

Accustomed Chaos said...

You raise a very interesting point. I know there is little to no attention being brought to self esteem and media input for your boys and men. very little is know about body mismorphia/"manorexia" issues affecting our males and i know that it does have some impact.

Like what BloomyMommy said there is a lot more acceptance of different bodies in the media for males. Yes, the 'fat' once seem to always be the funny one - but they are also most times paired with an idealized female. You rarely ever see the same but in reverse for women.

I think the best way we can help any child is to not ignore it - to be open to talk about the media and listen to our sons and daughters concerns.

Thanks for posting your views on my site!

Devan @ Accustomed Chaos

CaneWife said...

What an interesting post. As the mother of a little boy, it's something I'm going to keep an eye on.

I do believe that there is more of an acceptance towards most male body types (ripped, heavy, hairy, not hairy, tall, short, etc) which does not exist for women. In movies, actors like Ricky Gervais and Seth Rogan get the pretty girl, but you never see a kind of average looking actress getting the guy.

A sad double standard.