It’s that time of the year again, that time when pizza is replaced by salads and people start prioritizing the gym over happy hour. Beach season is around the corner and that means our friends, colleagues, and the media are saying you have to be in tip-top shape for the summer.
The definition of the ideal beach body, for men and women, is (finally!) being challenged and the body positivity movement has slowly infiltrated mainstream culture. Supermodel Ashley Graham has been leading the way for the women, but it wasn’t until recently that there was a counterpart for men. Zach Miko recently signed with IMG Models as the world’s first plus-size male model, signifying a huge change in how we, and the media, perceive the male body.
Believe it or not, women aren’t the only ones being held to ridiculous beauty standards. From a young age, men are taught they have to look a certain way to be considered attractive. From six-packs on action figures to idolized athletes and actors, only one body type is ingrained in our heads and it’s one that is tall, strong and athletic. The consequence of instilling this idea at a such a young age can lead to low self-esteem and a variety of disorders such as body dysmorphia and ‘manorexia’.
From a young age, men are taught they have to look a certain way to be considered attractive.
The reality is, men come in all shapes and sizes, and one body isn’t better than another. Personally, I have always been super slim and have just recently come to terms with the fact that I’ll never look like a superhero (except for my boy, Stretch). Since high school, I’ve personally tracked my workouts & diet in preparation for summer. I’m a hard gainer, which means I can’t put on weight, and I’ve always beat myself up over the fact that I never got to the point where I could happily take my shirt off at the beach.
But it’s not just how men perceive themselves, it’s how the world perceives the ideal man. Sayings like, ‘tall, dark and handsome,’ and ‘little man syndrome’ are often used in the media and the ‘manliest,’ most heroic jobs are often ones associated with strength. A man’s identity; his power, status, and health, are constantly tied to his body image, and that needs to stop. Our bodies, male or female, don’t define our identities.
A man’s identity; his power, status, and health, are constantly tied to his body image
Even though the body positivity movement has begun to grow in popularity, men have just recently entered the equation. We’re living in a social media age where we’re bombarded with gym selfies and #fitspo that say otherwise. It is about time society starts acknowledging that the traditional definition of beauty and health is outdated, and needs to be changed. Being healthy is great, however, there isn’t just one single measure of well-being – we shouldn’t shame others just because they don’t fit a mold society has unrealistically built for them.
I hope that with leaders like Zach Miko standing at the forefront, one day all men, no matter their background, shape or size, can accept their bodies and be embraced for who they are.
Do you think society has carved an unrealistic path for men? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.