In a culture full of women attempting to empower one another and evolve our standards of beauty, it has come across my mind: do we do the same for men?
I know I have been so excited to see all types of women portrayed in ads for companies such as Aerie and Target. Women with “imperfections” like me. No retouching. All natural and all beautiful.
Society is (slowly) but surely coming to terms with the fact that not all women are a size two with big breasts. Women have cellulite. And stretch marks. Companies like Aerie have acknowledged this and stopped retouching their models. This is to empower women everywhere to be more comfortable in their own skin and to start loving themselves. After reading “Stylish Hard Bodies: Branded Masculinity in Men’s Health Magazine,” I came to the realization that men may not be afforded the same luxury of being comfortable in their own skin the way women are now empowering each other to be. So I asked my cousin for his thoughts on the way society portrays masculinity.
Meet Matt, age 20, from Allentown, Pennsylvania. Matt is a part of the Air Force Reserves and is beginning his first year at Temple University this fall as an English major.
Q: What is your definition of a “real man?”
A: A breathing male over the age of 18.
Q: What do you think society’s definition of a “real man” is?
A: A strong figure who shows little to no emotions.
“The hegemonic masculine gender role as identified by Brannon, notes that a ‘real man’ must never, never resemble women, or display strongly stereotyped feminine characteristics,” says Susan M. Alexander. She says “physically REAL men have deeper voices, use little to no cosmetics, and give minimal attention to clothes and hygiene. Emotionally, REAL men are never vulnerable. Behaviorally, REAL men do not value feminine activities, from child care to poetry.” As Alexander states, Matt also agrees with the notion men are not to be emotional. I then asked him what activities he believes to be unfeminine.
Q: What are some activities you participate in that may be considered “feminine?” Why do you think these things are considered “feminine?”
A: Cooking, because it is a domestic duty; Writing, because it is a creative outlet for emotions, and reading poetry, for similar reasons to writing.
Not only are men stigmatized for their emotions, but they must also maintain a certain physical appearance as well.
Q: Some stores such as American Eagle and Target have begun to use a wide range of different types of women as models. Do you think the male fashion industry has taken the same initiative?
Q: Why not?
A: The fashion industry caters to women more than men.
Q: What types of male models do you usually see?
A: Guys with washboard abs, tall, etc.
Q: How does that make you feel?
A: It only represents a miniscule number of men.
Alexander states that most men featured on covers of magazines are white, between
25and 35 years old, defined and muscular, and pictured shirtless from the waist up.
So if the women’s fashion industry is undergoing a “make over” why isn’t the men’s? Is it a societal problem? I asked Matt for more thoughts on the male societal standards.
Q: What standards do you think society thinks men must have? What qualities must men have (physically and emotionally)?
A: Muscular and fit, emotionally confident, stoic
Q: How can we develop as a society to change these standards?
A: Use male models that represent the average man, display more men in advertisements and awareness being raised for mental health, destigmatize typically feminist activities (domestic duties and emotions)
Q: Any other thoughts?
A: Our society is screwed up in the idea that cooking is a more feminine activity, but in the food industry, it is predominantly male. Why do we associate domestic cooking as feminine but not when it is done by a professional chef. I don’t know, there are double standards for everything.
Right he is. I think Alexander summed it up best when she said “In postmodern society, both femininity and masculinity are shaped by the images incorporated in popular culture.” With companies like Aerie and Target featuring women of all shapes, colors, and sizes, maybe it’s time for companies to do the same for men.