By Tony Espinal
When I was younger and had started to grow chest hair, I didn’t think anything of it.
However, one day I was at a water park. On my way to the water slide, I heard girl about my age say to her friend standing next to her, “Oh my God! That is so gross. Why can’t he just only grow hair on his head?”
I was still in middle school when that happened.
Recently, my wife and I went to see the new Thor film about a week ago. Of course, the handsome and muscular Thor had a scene with his shirt off. When I looked at my wife, she was grinning from ear-to-ear.
Of course, I am not jealous or threatened by a fictional character in a movie, and you are probably wondering why I told you that story from my youth.
Well after watching Thor, it got me thinking about a debate that my wife and I have had for many years and still have today.
Do men suffer from the same media pressure about their bodies as women do?
Of course many would disagree with me. The standard argument has been for some time that women suffer pressure to be thin and beautiful that men simply cannot understand. But I couldn’t disagree more.
This is not to discount the plight of women. But for years I have seen people come after the media for the unnecessary pressure they put on women. But no one ever seems to talk about what men go through.
Men suffer the same struggles to stay fit, muscular, stylish or as cut as women. The media suffocates society on what a man should look like.
Think back to any Ryan Reynolds movie you have ever seen and tell me if you can think of one where he didn’t have his shirt off? Or look at the cover of GQ magazine or Men’s Health. What do you see? Celebrities wearing high priced stylish clothing or shirtless men with the physique of an Adonis that we wish we had.
In fact, in 2006, the Washington Post reported on a study done by researcher Deborah Schooler about men and the effect of media on their self-esteem. She found the more media they consumed, the worse they felt about their bodies.
Two weeks ago, New York Daily News reported that eating disorders are appearing in young men as we become more obsessed with our body image.
So why do we tend to suffer in silence?
To me, men just tend to be less vocal about it because we are supposed to personify confidence, strength and sophistication. As men, we tend to make fun of other men who complain about their body image, mocking their masculinity.
I have been told to “turn in my man card and pick up a dress” because of making a comment about myself. We develop a need to meet the expectations of a body image-obsessed society while covering our own insecurities.
In June, the Dallas News reported on disorders that men are developing as a result of being obsessed with their bodies. The have been nicknamed “bigorexia” or “manorexia.” The former disorder is a man’s obsession to become bigger, like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the latter is the obsession to become leaner like Michael Phelps. Yet, like women, we try and keep these issues hidden from our peers.
I was fortunate. I hit a point in my life where I stopped caring so much about sculpting the perfect body. But that doesn’t mean that the pressure no longer gets to me. Even today, I wish I were thinner and more muscular. I hate that my belt size went up and my muscles went down. I just don’t obsess over it.
Just remember, we all suffer in different ways. When you are teasing another man or woman for their physical features, just think about the emotional damage you could be causing. Try and put yourself in that person’s shoes and imagine if you were the one getting mocked for not being a Chris Hemsworth or a Kate Upton. If you are one of those people who are suffering in silence, talk to someone —you are not alone in this.