It’s Not Just a Girl Thing: 3 Reasons Men Should Care About Body Image Issues

By Katie, 5:35 am

Admittedly, the majority of my blog’s readers are female. But there are a few male eyes out there, some of which probably glaze over when I launch into a discussion on body image.

That, however, does not need to be the case. Although I deal with a lot of “women’s issues” – indeed, I have a master’s in Women’s Studies – I firmly believe that many of these supposedly female-only issues actually affect all of us, regardless of gender. The fight for more positive body images is not confined to women; we’re all in this together.

Here’s what I mean.

Three Reasons Men Should Care About Body Image Issues

1. Men aren’t immune.

Granted, the majority of people who struggle with body image are women. Culturally there’s a lot more pressure on them to look a certain way, to fit a certain physical standard. But that definitely doesn’t mean that men are totally immune from body insecurities, and it also doesn’t mean there aren’t societal ideals weighing on them as well.

(Abercrombie and Fitch advertisement)

I actually believe that there are many more men who struggle with body image than we realize. It’s a lot more socially acceptable for women to speak openly about their physical insecurities, but there aren’t as many spaces for men to express their struggles. So, sadly, those struggles often get ignored or go unnoticed.

2. Men care about women.

While Dave himself doesn’t face a ton of body hang-ups, he is a strong supporter of positive body image messages because he cares a whole lot about me. Because he loves me – and his mom, his sisters, etc. – he wants to see a world that builds us women up more than it tears us down. I bet every man, whether he knows it or not, cares deeply about a woman who is struggling with insecurities. By extension, then, body image issues relate to him too.

3. The effect on men’s view of women.

I’ve talked before about how the supposedly “ideal” woman has become normalized in our society. We’re bombarded with image after image of the same body until we’re immune to it. Eventually we start thinking that body is the norm, that we should have that body.

The problem, of course, is that men see most of these images too. This isn’t to say that most men think all women should look like models; indeed, most men aren’t nearly as critical of women’s bodies as women are. However, as boys grow into men while being subjected to the onslaught of the idealized female image, it becomes more and more likely that their realities and expectations will be skewed.

In other words, men have good reason to call for a greater diversity of women’s bodies to be represented in the media, just like women do.


What do you think? Should men care about body image issues?

How do you think men are affected by body image issues and/or how women are represented in the media?

21 Responses to “It’s Not Just a Girl Thing: 3 Reasons Men Should Care About Body Image Issues”

  1. Great blog and badly needed to add more power and volume to the support men need around body image and eating disorders. One in four sufferers of eating disorders is male, but I see far less than that in my practice, because men feel they cannot come forward with this perceived “female only” issue.
    Thanks for this article.
    Emma Murphy

  2. I definitely think men deal with body image issues too. They just don’t speak out about it as much as women. Great points!

  3. McKella says:

    I think the media shapes men’s ideas of what women should (or shouldn’t) look like, and that’s not ok.

  4. Nicole., RD says:

    I think men deal with image issues more than we’re sensitive to or recognize. While I think men may not worry about their “weight” as much as women tend to, I think their musculature, hair line, and proportions are important to them.

  5. Meg says:

    Oh, I think that many men are concerned about their bodies. Especially those in the military who are required to pass physical tests as well as keep their weight at a certain place.

    Also, my eyes were recently opened up to the world of wrestling and it’s RIDICULOUS and SICKENING what these boys do to themselves to wrestle at a certain weight. And this was only high school wrestling.

    • Katie says:

      I know what you mean! I knew some wrestlers in high school, and they were really beating themselves up trying to reach a certain weight. Not healthy at all!

  6. Courtney says:

    I just stumbled across your blog from Monica at Run, Eat, Repeat. I have to say.. I LOVE this post! There are a hundred reasons why men should care about body image issues. I know, for sure, that it’s something men struggle with, but I think their struggle is more internal and masked as “healthier” habits or for external purposes (i.e., meeting weight, getting muscular for a sport, etc.) I also agree that the media representation of women (and men!) can hurt not only women, but men and our relationships with one another.

    Such a thought-provoking post. Well done!

    • Katie says:

      Thank you, Courtney! I’m so glad you stopped by my blog! I like your point about men’s struggles being masked as healthier, to the point that they often go unnoticed. I really think that men’s issues with body image deserve to be brought to light more.

  7. Totally agree that it’s sad that men grow up thinking women’s bodies should look like media images, but I also agree that men, at least many I know, have a more realistic idea of women’s bodies than we do. I almost think that is because they have seen more of them than we have! I mean, I have only seen my own naked body and a few old ladies in the gym locker room.

    I think media images of men fuel a steroid/supplement use issue with men that can be really dangerous.

  8. I think that women and men need to stand up to society and say enough is enough. What the media portrays as “beauty” isn’t real. Like it shows in the Dove commercial. They fix her up, do her hair, makeup, etc. Then they digitally change her. The girl isn’t even as pretty as the girl!

  9. Sarah says:

    Great post! There was an episode of Glee (The Rocky Horror Picture show episode)where the boys were struggling with body image issues. Two of the characters had to wear underwear with no shirts on stage and both boys were completely self conscious and worked out extra hard to lose weight and tone up. Even my 16 year old brother told me he didn’t want to be fat. I think that pressure has begun spreading the both sexes especially with shows like the Biggest Loser, Queer Eye For The Gay Guy, What Not To Wear, etc.

  10. Joob says:

    I think you are really on to something with this post… thank you so much for sharing it. Honestly, this is something I have been considering a lot as of late as well. Being a competitive bodybuilder, I surround myself with a group of friends at the gym and in general who are highly concerned with fitness and well being and I have DEFINITELY seen body image issues amongst some of my male friends. I think they go unrecognized by most people because men don’t look in the mirror, pout, and be cranky/whiney all day like we do, but they voice it in their own way.

    I have more than one male friend right now in fact, who have come to me saying they want to put on muscle but down right refuse to eat more when I tell them to because they’re afraid of getting fat.

    • Katie says:

      It sounds like you’ve seen a lot of this firsthand. Thank you for sharing; the more we bring the issue to light, the better we can help EVERYONE who is struggling, not just women.

  11. This is great–you’ve distilled complex arguments into such an accessible way, Katie, and as I’ve commented before, I think your blog should be required reading for everyone!

  12. Rhonda says:

    My husband struggles with two “body image” issues:

    1) his height (he’s short)

    2) his hair loss (at a relatively young age)

    As far as I can tell, these two issues impact him as much as my struggles over my weight, with the exception that there are no accompanying food issues. But the self-esteem problem, and the excessive self-consciousness and worry about what others think of one’s body is still the same.

    • Katie says:

      Thank you for sharing this, Rhonda! It’s a perfect example of why we shouldn’t assume women are the only ones who have insecurities about their appearance.

  13. [...] few weeks ago I wrote a post claiming that our society holds men’s bodies up to an unrealistic standard the same way it does women’s. Turns out I was more right than I even [...]

  14. [...] about little boys? While we know that society’s pressures on girls and boys are different, that doesn’t mean that boys are immune. It also doesn’t mean that the realm of appearances is the only one through which we [...]

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