Day Five: Routine

Avoiding my reflection has started to become second nature, though I am starting to miss the familiarity of my own face in the mirror, whether polished or crusted with morning exhaustion. I’ve been thinking about beauty rituals and the positive side of image-consciousness, but that’s a post for another day. Today I want to discuss something else:

I realize my last few posts (referring to Boyfriend’s laissez-faire approach to self-presentation and gender disparities in general) are a bit dismissive of men’s experiences with body image, looks, etc. While I think women are certainly subject to more pressure than men when it comes to these things, that very prevalence means we have a myriad of outlets for our insecurities that men lack. If a man can’t just naturally embody the buff, tan, thick-haired ideal, he’s certainly not supposed to angst about it like a girl or something. Eating disorders, for example, are even more taboo for men to discuss than women. But that doesn’t mean that guys don’t worry about this stuff. I think the pervasiveness of female objectification makes talking about the problems that arise from it — low self esteem, disordered eating, even sexual assault — familiar territory, part and parcel of the gender binary. But if the social construction of “victim” is female, what happens to men who are hurting?

Would love to hear from any dudes reading this.


3 thoughts on “Day Five: Routine

  1. As a dude reading this, I feel pretty comfortable talking to most people about these issues on a certain level, but I have to frame them carefully. For example, if I frame my concerns about weight in terms of “These are my fitness goals, I want to lose X pounds by Y date, blah blah blah” then most people would find that acceptable, and I probably wouldn’t get any awkward looks. On the other hand, if I complain to someone about how my hair looks, I get made fun of and/or shut down immediately. One woman even told me I didn’t have “the right to complain to women about these things.” She may have been half-joking, but her statement indicated she didn’t want to hear any more from me on the subject. After all, men shouldn’t be concerned about these things, right? And women usually have more hair to deal with, so we men should just shut up about it entirely.

    Aside from framing these issues in various superficial ways, there are very few people in my life with whom I would feel comfortable talking about how these issues actually make me feel. I tell people I go to the gym and maintain a healthy weight so that I will live longer and be healther; this is true. But there are many other reasons I wouldn’t share with most people, because it’s not “acceptable” for a guy to be unhappy with the way he looks, to feel ashamed for skipping the gym occasionally, or to feel guilty over allowing a few pounds to sneak back on every now and then. Thankfully, I have a few close friends with whom I can talk about these issues, but I imagine it would be very difficult for another man (or a woman) if they didn’t have that same luxury.

  2. It’s interesting to hear a guy’s opinion! I mean, really, I’m assuming you would not want to be burdened with the imposed expectation that women tend to experience (e.g., you must be concerned about your appearance because your value to society is in how pretty you are), but the attitude we have toward men and their appearance isn’t healthy either. In some ways, women are kind of lucky to be able to talk about these things and not be judged too harshly for being completely obsessed with weight, make-up, hair, etc., as unhealthy as such obsessions may be. At least we get to admit that we think about them.

  3. Thank you both for your comments! Shimopy, you make an interesting point about men having to frame body image issues in the context of fitness/specific weight goals, etc. as opposed to going “Man, I wish my ___ were bigger/smaller/less wobbly/etc.” It makes me think of how even men in “sexy” poses on magazines, etc. are rarely just lying there passively as decorative objects: they’re always doing something (chopping wood, for example) or at the very least, looking the camera dead-on. ‘Cause a real man is a man of action, not someone who would ever admit to wanting to be looked at, right? I think it’s kind of sad that there is so little room culturally for straight guys to be vain and show themselves off, if they want to. And that it isn’t an acceptable conversation topic for them, either.

    (In short: patriarchy hurts men, too!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s