from dad bods to plus-size male models, average dudes are getting some love
Are we overdue for a male body revolution?
Image via Aerie Man
Even the most jaded among us would have to admit that the media is finally waking up to its responsibilities when it comes to body image. Sure, maybe that's because #realbodies sell more deodorant—whatever the motivation, in the past couple of years we've witnessed an avalanche of positive body messages. Barbie had a make over (or under), the modelling industry took on more responsibility for model's health, and we've made heroes out of troll-fighting Insta-legends. Plus, anyone that didn't get the body-posi memo has been taken to task.
All these good vibes have had something in common: they're almost exclusively aimed at women. That's cool, because women needed some relief from media pressure most. But if ladies are the only focus of the media evolution and men keep on feeling the pressure, that's less okay. Men have body image issue too, so it's encouraging that almost four months in to 2016 it appears the boys are slowly getting their own body revolution. Hey, better late than never.
While organisations like Top Bloke and Youth Central have been addressing issues around male body image for a while now, the movement really kicked off when Dad Bods started trending. As the loveable, tubby archetype gained momentum, the conversation around encouraging guys to feel good about what they see in the mirror grew louder. Earlier this month, IMG announced they would be highlight regular dude's rigs with a men's plus-size division. Titled Brawn—obviously—it came two years after their plus-sized women's division launched. No matter your opinions of the contentious term, it's hard to deny that the news sent a positive message to guys who don't exactly pass for Channing Tatum in the dark.
The latest company to push the plus-sized men's message is AerieMan. Their recent campaign looks at a range of different male body types across four videos. Each profiles a guy with a different body, and captures their reflections on feeling comfortable with their appearance. While the casting is noticeably cis, nothing is retouched and the sweet result has been well received.
Disordered eating and body dysmorphia are often seen as conditions that singularly impact women; but studies have shown that up to up to a quarter of people suffering with anorexia or bulimia are male. Eating disorders doubled among males between 1995 and 2005, and that growth hasn't abated. Presently, one in ten adolescents diagnosed with eating disorders are male; and 30 percent of teenage boys use dangerous methods like smoking, vomiting, fasting or abusing laxatives to manage their weight.
For the record: those numbers are widely considered to be under-representative as the stigma around males with body image issues means most sufferers don't seek help. Additionally, the parameters of what's an acceptable body are arguably just as restrictive to young men as they are to young women. Guys aren't just pressured to be slim, they are also expected to be muscular and strong. As the The National Eating Disorders Collaboration observed, "Males should only have one body type—the ideal physical body shape for men is now more prescribed with lean, muscular body types in fashion to the exclusion of other male body types." In other words: it can be hard out there for young boys coming to terms with their bodies.
It's worth noting that the need for this dialog is somewhat lessened by the presence of guys like Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill in pop culture, who have made millions playing dorky, round men who manage to hook up with model-types like Emma Stone and Michelle Williams. There is no doubt that men aren't met with the same amount of scrutiny and judgement as women, but looking in the mirror everyone can feel like they don't measure up, and nobody—man or women—should be left hating their body. So here's to hoping the increased visibility of different types of hot bods isn't just another way to sell undies to dudes: because skepticism aside, we're buying the positive changes.
Text Wendy Syfret
Image via Aerie Man