By Jefferey Spivey
I’m a champion for men of all sizes. We should all love our bodies and not feel forced to succumb to the unrealistic pressures that mainstream media has placed on us. There’s no reason for all of us to look like cookie cutter model factory output. Because, when you want the “perfect” body, the amount of nutritional scrutiny you have to exercise in your everyday life is just too intense. And pizza and French fries are part of life’s delicacies that no one should have to miss out on. As long as you ingest the bad things in moderation, it’s all good, right?
Well, apparently not. We often hear stories about female celebrities clapping back at body shamers on Twitter, but we don’t hear the male side of the story. Male body shaming is happening every day, and it’s happening way more than you think.
TMZ very publicly fat shames male celebs in its Livin’ Large series. From Rob Kardashian’s massive weight gain to Chris Brown’s more relaxed, between-album physique, stepping out in public as anything other than a fitness superstar made these guys fair game for ridicule. Gay men are regularly shunned by other gay men if they don’t have their six pack in check. And even short guys get shamed by women. They’re often referred to as ‘cute’ or compared to famously short movie characters like Lord of the Rings’ Frodo. There’s no limit to the schoolyard name-calling, and it seems to be reaching a fever pitch.
"Male body shaming is happening every day, and it’s happening way more than you think."
But why now? What’s shifting in our society that’s making male body shaming such a common practice?
One could argue that Hollywood and mainstream media have always focused on an unattainable physical standard for men. The difference now is the access. Our culture is all about the exclusive details. It’s not just about how fit this male celeb looks in a candid paparazzi shot from his vacation. Now, he’s sharing tips on how he built that body on Instagram. His trainer is providing workout and nutrition tips on Extra. And Men’s Health is detailing a 35-step guide on how to build this male celeb’s body. In the past, it was one thing to simply see a photo of fit celebrity and think to yourself, “Man, I wish I was that fit.” Then you’d go on and finish your hot dog. Now our level of access and obsession is different. If you want to be as fit as Chris Hemsworth, there’s a how-to guide and a behind-the-scenes video. And because of all this access, it’s expected that you deliver results. If you don’t take advantage of what’s available to you, then you’re a fat slob. Period.
There’s also been a huge shift in the ideal body type. Long gone are the days where people worshipped bodybuilder types like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bodybuilding as a whole is a rather dated concept that only has a small dedicated fanbase these days. The perfect male physique is that of an athlete: extremely lean and chiseled. This body looks great naked and fully clothed. It’s about a near-impossible level of definition that requires intense dedication to the gym and counting of every calorie. It’s one thing to work toward this physique because you compete or just genuinely enjoy this level of fitness. But it’s another to slave away in the gym for hours because you feel like it’s a requirement.
With many gay men, this ideal physique is even more prevalent than it is for straight men. A lot of gay men don’t have the luxury of learning about gay sex in school. Sex ed is still a largely heterosexual affair. So the first real taste of gay sex comes from watching gay porn. Clearly, in the gay porn fantasy world, there’s a desired physical image. When your first sexual experiences are tied to a form of media that perpetuates one body type, you start to expect that this is a reality. This has led many gay men to not only pursue this physique for themselves but also expect this physique from their partners. The body shaming reaches an unprecedented level of mean in these instances.
The change in dating and communication culture hasn’t helped either. A large part of our daily interactions with other people happen digitally. It’s much easier to launch an insult or cozy up with ignorance from behind the guise of a computer screen. Many people feel 100% comfortable insulting others’ bodies when there’s no real perceived consequence. The inability to see the other person’s reaction removes the guilt and responsibility. They’re not rejecting or shaming a person. They’re working their way through thumbnails. Thumbnails don’t have emotions. Thumbnails aren’t people.
But not everyone is in agreement that all body types should be accepted. Some have even argued that using terms like body diversity promotes a lack of health for men. But body diversity isn’t a call for men to live their lives in unhealthy ways. It’s a call for the media to embrace more than one body type. Being healthy doesn’t mean being ripped. Unfortunately, that’s message that’s communicated all too often these days.
"Poking fun at someone because of their body type is no different than making fun of someone because of their ethnicity or religion or a disability."
Body shaming is just wrong. Plain and simple. Poking fun at someone because of their body type is no different than making fun of someone because of their ethnicity or religion or a disability. To feel comfortable shaming someone that isn’t “perfect” in your eyes is to feel comfortable in your ignorance. Sure, we’re guys, and we’re supposed to have tougher skin. We’re supposed to let insults bounce off with no problem. But the truth is, whether you’re a tough guy or a sensitive dude, your body is a highly personal matter. And any time a person makes fun of your body or expects you to change it to be more attractive, it’s hurtful.
So let’s help shift the culture. Accept that every guy will look different. Accept that attractive has a multitude of definitions. Let go of what Hollywood tells us is sexy and find your personal meaning of sexy. Let’s put an end to body shaming because no one deserves it.