Monday, May 31, 2010

Body image for men. Why is no one upset?

Ok, so my roommate (the loving and wonderful Amanda, without whom I probably would have starved to death long ago) spends a lot of time ranting about the media's and social pressure on female body image. This is a good thing to rant about and I give her kudos.

But, just as importantly, if not more so because it applies to me, is the almost Nazi-era devotion to the perfectly sculpted male in the media and society. Everywhere you look any picture of a man modeling clothes, a product of some kind, or even just appearing in an advertisement for insurance is a tall, sculpted Adonis reminiscent of the idealized masculine of early 20th century fascist ideologues. He has to have that chiseled jaw line, a full head of hair, ZERO body fat (this is more demanding than what the media wants out of women, mind you), and be absolutely ripped. Not overly so, but definite musculature must show through. Can I tell you a secret? Unless you are at the gym every day or at least four or five times a week for a couple hours, you'll never have that Adonis like body. These people have devoted their lives to beauty and being physically perfect. And strangely, quite often, especially in car ads and investment ads, physical perfection in men is equivalent to financial success. And now, thanks to Braun, it also equals sexual prowess.

This handy little gadget will trim, shape, shave, slice, dice, masticate, and even fraternize with your body hair. And it has a handy little attachment for "sensitive" areas (the ad shows arm pits. We ALL know what sensitive area it's discussing). The model is trim, not too bad looking (I'd like to go on a date with him), well dressed, and apparently the most successful thing to hit the meat market since...well, meat. He even turns all of those easily-objectifiable women into minxes who are all over him.

There is nothing in this ad to suggest that he even has a job (except that he just bought the new Bodycruzer by Braun), let alone a personality. He just walks around looking dopey as all get out and suddenly is covered in women who WANT him. And the website says that body hair is out and that men must buy their product to be beautiful. Well...I don't know about you, but I don't go around the street with my shirt off or even open. Unless you're picking up guys at the gym or going out and sleeping with everyone, I can't imagine what activity this product is designed to enhance. Oh. Right. Remember that "sensitive areas" attachment?

MEN! Without this product, you will never get laid ever again. Ever.

As a gay man, I am especially sensitive to overly promoted standards of beauty. The sheer level of shallowness within the gay community would make the stereotypical 1950's greaser look like a desperate puppy. You're in a relationship? Oh, that's fine. Seven minutes later you'll be single because a hotter piece of ass just walked by and your boyfriend went off with him, instead. Stable relationships are rare in the gay community and usually reserved for the newly outed who are two young for the club scene or the older gentlemen who have had their fill of the shallow assholes that fill the bars and clubs. This product is a god-send for those who have bought into this mythicized standard of masculine beauty because, as gay men, in order to be happy, they have to be hotter than everything else. And, unfortunately, I think this mindset is much more pervasive and much more accurate than the similar mindset cultivated for women. Gay men have been condititioned to believe that love is sexual, not emotional, so physical attraction trumps anything else. Body grooming products, while their ads may be predominantly heterotic, are designed to entice the homosexual crowd. For once, the virtues and attributes of a product trump the visual. Oh. Wait. The man was mostly naked for most of the ad and the women's faces were pretty much all you saw of them. Yeah. This ad is totally geared for the homosexual crowd.

Anyway, at the end of the day, I have to ask myself: why are people so eager to buy into the mythicized masculine ideal while at the same time shouting from the mountain top about how women need to be shown there are alternatives to Barbie? Why is Axe allowed to come up with ridiculous stunts as the "Double-pits to Chestie" that ALWAYS show a ripped young man (usually between 18 and 25 by his appearance) tearing his shirt off and performing a rather difficult physical feat successfully and earning the admiration of all the girls?

My question is: Why is NO ONE up in arms about male body image?

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