A Brief Discussion on Body Positivity
This isn’t going to be a discussion that tells you to “feel better” because that’s just not how it works; one cannot just magically feel better about themselves. It is a process that takes time and sometimes it can take a long time, sometimes it might not happen at all and you’re just trying to get by as best as you can.
With these thoughts in mind, I reflected on the fact that we don’t focus as much on male body positivity as we do female body positivity. And, while obviously all forms of body positivity are important, I decided it would be informative to shine a light on those who knowingly identify as male and how they feel about what they think society expects of them as men, how often they feel pressured to look a certain way, and if they are generally happy with the way they look.
I spoke with sixteen young men ranging from the ages of 18 to 30, who will remain anonymous, and asked them relatively personal questions about how they see themselves in the society we live in. They all had responses that were unique to their own experiences in life, some feeling little to no pressure and others feeling as though they aren’t good enough.
“I think there is a stigma that men need to come off as confident, strong, protector like individuals. This notion is shifting slightly now but is still a big factor of the societal pressure I feel.” One young man began, “I feel there is less pressure for men to look at a certain standard than women but part of our image requirements are often large muscles, in shape, and universally good looking. I do think there is pressure for men to find a way to appear strong without coming off as intimidating, which is more difficult for minorities.”
The experience of online dating for men of color has always been a strained situation on sites that encourage diversity more than one specific group of people. This can be especially disheartening to the younger population struggling to discover some sort of place in society, constantly being denied and rejected in the dating universe. “Non-white men are still at a disadvantage no matter how many people say otherwise. Ask any man of color with a Tinder.” orrne individual stated on the topic of online dating and men of color.
Everyone goes through different experiences in life and everyone sees themselves differently, one of the men I spoke to felt somewhat positively about his experience with masculinity in today’s society; “I don’t feel pressured to look anyway, I look the way I want because I don’t really give a damn what people think of me and I enjoy dressing up nicely when the occasion calls…I’m happy with my appearance because the only opinion that matters is my significant other’s. She’s satisfied with my appearance so I’m not really pressured to change it.”
It is unfortunate when people are self conscious of the way they look because of the society we live in. Our bodies are our bodies; there are many cases of undiagnosed body dysmorphia, which is is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America; 1 in 50 people suffer from BDD, it is rare yet it affects men and women almost equally. Because of the low amount of diagnosed individuals treatment processes are low, especially in men. “I don’t like the way I look, I think for a bit I’ve been struggling with body dysmorphia, which I didn’t know was a thing until a couple of weeks ago and, honestly, it makes a lot of sense to me.”
Many of these men felt as though they are pressured to repress their negative emotions so they do not appear weak. One of the words I kept hearing was “protector” when the men were mentioning how they feel they need to fit a particular role in society; this is an overwhelming amount of pressure to put on young individuals so early in life. My opinion is that, no matter what you identify as, you do not deserve to feel pressured to fit a societal mold that you don’t want to be in.