The Male Body Image and Toxic Masculinity

Growing up, as a kid I have always been told things like “boys don’t cry” and “that’s so gay” and “are you a girl” or even “don’t be a pussy”. Kids never really think about these things when they are told to them. As a kid you never really question these kinds things that are told to you, you just go with it. A lot of the time kids grow up hearing these things and it actually has a pretty drastic impact on the way they view certain thigs as they grow into an adult. Those phrases I mentioned earlier are things that are said without thinking, those kinds of phrases are engrained in our society’s very roots. The problem not only resides in things people say but also in the things that society expects from males and their stature. Society has a negative stigma set for the male body image that has a negative psychological effect on males. As kids grow up they start to learn from these things that they have learned from society. Not only is it things that males have heard or been taught that affect them, media and advertising has a big part in the negative enforcement of the male body image.

Toxic masculinity and the male body image have many negative effects in today’s society. One of the major contributors of this issue is the role that advertising plays in this problem. “ nearly 18 percent of boys are highly concerned about their weight and physique. They are also at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes: Boys in the study who were extremely concerned about weight were more likely to be depressed, and more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking and drug use.” Says Jamie cruz, author of “ Body Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys”. While doing my research for this paper I asked 8 of my friends here on campus what came the their mind when I said the phrase “body image”. I was surprised to find that 6 out of 8 of them gave me the same general answer. The people I asked were students of eastern Kentucky who were in a age range of 18-20. The answers I got were all along the line of weight shaming. One of the students even said she thought of body dysmorphia. People generally think that only females struggle with major body issues, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. males struggle with the same insecurities that females do, the only difference is, society has made it to where males aren’t allowed to show or talk about these things openly like females can without being subject to being called “pussy” or a “sissy” or even “gay”. Recently in America there has been an uproar in the modeling industries. People have made it very clear the they want to start seeing “plus size” models appear more often, yet only recently has there been one plus size male model. If you pick up a fashion magazine and you scroll through the pages you will mostly likely find the majority of models in the magazine to be skinny, blonde or brunet, and trying to sexualize what ever modeling situation their picture is of. Many of us aren’t in perfect shape. It is safe to say that being in perfect shape with a six pack and being ripped isn’t at the top of the priorities list for many. A lot of that reason that it isn’t at the top is because it’s just impractical for a lot of people to go to the gym daily, and eat healthy. Many people cant afford to buy the food that is necessary to eat a healthy diet. When young impressionable teenagers see these images of guys who might be close to their age look “sexy” it can really have a negative effect on their self-esteem. People often don’t realize that the models in these different magazines don’t always naturally look like that in person. Many businesses use computer programs to enhance the way the models look on camera. So people should never use models they see in magazines as a valid image to compare themselves to, not that anyone should compare them selves to another person anyways.

“In a culture where one version of feminism has become an obligatory moral norm, pointing out that men fare much worse than women in many indicators of well-being is likely to be interpreted as ‘misogynist.’ This is a quote from Samuel veissiere, Ph.D. In simple terms he is saying that in today’s society there seems To be a double standard that females are able to the things that males can’t without it being looked at as degrading or backwards. So many people in today’s society are pressed about issues concerning gender and specific “conforming gender rolls” that people loose sight of what really matters. So many double standards are set that things don’t really make sense. Young boys are told that it is not okay for them to play with girls toys or get them to “act” the way a girl does, but my question is what or who decides on what makes those things gender specific? Something that has always puzzled me is why can little girls play with boys toys and it be seen as okay, or even “adorable”, yet little boys can’t play with little girls toys without is being seen as emasculated or without people assuming there is something wrong with the child, a lot of these problems stem from generational issues. These kinds of standards were set along time ago and are still being held up simply out of habit. These issues stem from conforming gender rolls that go back hundreds of years. Things like women belong in the kitchen, men go to war, and even moms need to stay at home with the kids because they are “naturally” more nurturing. These standard were set into place along time ago and the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” actually has some credibility here. Older generations are less willing to open their eyes and see that things aren’t what they use to be. It is very hard to make older generations change their mind because they are typically set in their was and not much is going to change that. It is pretty obvious however that times are changing. As time goes on society is becoming more accepting of things that are considered opposite from the “social norms”.

Men feeling bad about themselves isn’t the only side effect of toxic masculinity. It actually goes much farther than that. Suicide, yes that’s correct men actually commit suicide because of the awful things that they are taught/hear growing up and the things that are pushed upon them as adults. This just goes to show that “toxic masculinity” isn’t a joke and is in fact a real thing that can cause REAL problems for men. Toxic masculinity isn’t just something that is made up, it may be an abstract concept but it most certainly isn’t fake. Makes actually represent 77.9%, almost 80% of all suicides in America alone. Suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for males. This can be especially dangerous to young preteens/teens who might be experiencing more changes in their life that subject them to more of a risk of suicide. Teens are very fragile creatures if you will. They need to be treated like a puppy that is being raised and learning behaviors, because it is no doubt that teens are susceptible to picking up certain tendency’s that are displayed around them. Many teens and pre teens are displaying what they have learned from their home life or life outside of social events. If you teach a “dog” that it is okay to attack then that dog will be sure to attack every chance it gets. Rather, if you teach a dog that attacking is not okay and there will be repercussions to its actions, then and only then will that dog see that it can not act the way it does. “Kids” can be very mean sometimes, granted most of it is learned behavior, however kids can be brutal. Bullying is a leading cause in teen suicide. A lot of the bullying that takes place between teen boys is centered around attacking where is hurts most, or where is supposedly is supposed to hurt most”, masculinity. Young teens are able to do this by calling out the ones who act less conforming to social norms. By calling out the ones who don’t enjoy sport, or who prefer hanging out with girls, or who like to do makeup, or even the ones who like other guys. Society has made it “okay” to degrade and call out so called “nonconforming male behavior and beat it to the ground. Which is something that needs to be changed only for the better.

Everyone would like to think that as people get older they learn how to deal with their issues and stresses better, for many this is true, yet there is still a percentage out there that don’t know the proper way to deal with theirs issues/feelings. This can lead to major psychological and physical problems. As males grow into adults they start to learn how to act, what to do and what not to do, and even the social norms that help them “fit in”. And for many people this can be a great solution, to just go with it and live your life without question, but for many this can cause them to run into some pretty serious issues later on down the road. With age comes experience, but this phrase isn’t true to all. A lot of people joke about this thing called a “mid-life crisis”. And yes it can be. Very funny and humorous topic to talk about, but it’s actually a very real and scary thing. This phrase refers to “something that happens to many of us at some point during our lives (usually, at about 40, give or take 20 years). … Questioning the meaning of life, and the validity of decisions clearly and easily made years before. Confusion about who you are, or where your life is going.” Men who suppress their true feelings and views about things are increasingly more subject to going through a mid-life crisis. People who go through mid-life crises are not generally not in their right state of mind. This can cause irrational behaviors such as: drug use, reckless behavior, financial carelessness, and even suicide. These things are all very real and very serious outcomes to mid life crises. Males can also develop serious mental illnesses from this. Anxiety and depression can become eminent. Another “Social norm” that society had so “kindly” given is, is the stigma that MEN don’t cry or express feelings. This is a big reason that males are more prone to suicide and certain mental illnesses. Apparently men talking about or expressing feelings or emotions is just so completely unfathomable to so many that it is a societal monstrosity in a sense.

The male body image and toxic masculinity play suck a huge tool in determining so many things in a males life. Sometimes it can even determine the quality of life that person may end up with. Many people don’t see the issues of toxic masculinity and male body image as really issues, many see them as abstract things that don’t exist, but they most certainly are real things. Many negative effects come along with the issues as well. Issues such as self harm, carelessness, financial problems, and even suicide, just because you can’t see the problem directly doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. These issues need to be brought into the light and given more thought, it might actually save lives. If these issues are researched and brought to attention, maybe, just maybe we can eliminate toxic masculinity or at least the majority of it.

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