If you thought women were the only creatures on earth to be the targets of negative body image messaging you’d be wrong. While women are most definitely seen as the overwhelming majority when it comes to the fashion, advertising, beauty and fitness industry’s successful marketing based off of insecurities and low self-esteem, just a quick flip through many men’s fitness magazines or clothing brand campaign materials shows that men unfortunately do not escape unscathed.
The way in which women DO have an advantage over men, is that we are becoming a lot more comfortable speaking out about the negative and narrow body image standards forced on us, and there are many many campaigns and movements directed at lifting the self-esteem of women to accept themselves just the way they are.
The thing is, men need this too, but in a world where gender stereotypes often dictate to them that to share their feelings and insecurities makes them “weak” or “girly” in any way, it doesn’t exactly create a friendly environment for them to encourage each other. Well men, we and many of your female allies are here to take a stand with you and let you know A) you are not alone in this fight, and B) you should no longer remain silent about your struggles.
With any new movement or societal change, it takes a few with courage and bravery to speak out and be vulnerable in order to allow others to follow, which we have seen with model Shaun Ross and his ‘In My Skin I Win’ movement, celebrities such as Sam Smith, Chris Pratt and Ed Sheeran, and a handful of vloggers and bloggers.
Here’s why men’s body image is a serious health issue, not just a cosmetic concern. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) estimates that there are 20 million women in the US who struggle with an eating disorder, and 10 million men. It may be considerably lower than women, but that amount of men struggling cannot be ignored.
Just like women, the more men see a diverse range of body types represented in fashion and the media, the less intimidating it will be to speak out about self-love and confidence. Which is why Norwegian underwear brand Dressmann’s new ‘Underwear for Perfect Men’ campaign is brilliant, and a major step forward on this issue.
They want men to accept themselves “just the way you are” and are using #justthewayyouare as their hashtag. In the campaign description, they speak directly about the standards they are trying to work against, and as a team of women, to us it sounds eerily familiar.
“For decades people have been struggling with distorted body ideals. Ideals where someone else has decided what’s beautiful and what’s not. Who is normal and who’s not. Statistics show that 80% of all men are unsatisfied with their bodies. The fact is that many men worry more about how they look than their economy and the wellbeing of their families,” says the Dressmann website.
A study by the University of West England showed that 80.7% of men (more than 4 in 5) talked in ways that promoted anxiety toward their bodies, compared with 75% of women. Have the tables started to turn because of all the resources available to women to boost their self esteem?
“Historically, conversation about your body has been perceived as something women do, but it is clear from this research that men are also guilty of commenting on one another’s bodies, and in many cases this is having a damaging effect,” said a British YMCA executive about the findings.
We do believe there has been a lot of focus on helping women battle the damaging messages aimed at tearing down their self-esteem, but it’s clear from emerging data that we need to emphasize the struggles men have as well, in order to help them combat it. It’s a great opportunity for women and men to unite and fight against something that affects all people. One of the industries they need to fight is advertising, which is something Dressmann identifies in their campaign.
“The majority of people think that our unhealthy obsession with the body is a result of what’s presented in advertising. That’s why we will do what we can to change this. We want to take responsibility. We can’t change the world in a day, but we have to start somewhere,” they said.
It is a welcome change in the world of men’s fashion to see men look like normal everyday adults being positioned as an “ideal”, rather than a ridiculously photoshopped image that no one can attain, not even the model himself. This isn’t a nod to the “dad bod” craze, it is a much-welcome change in the portrayal of men’s bodies in an industry that has gotten away with profiting off body bullying for way too long.
Here’s hoping more brands and designers will wake up to reality and start showing it in their campaigns. Take a look at the Dressmann ‘Underwear for Perfect Men’ campaign video below: