There is a slow but steady movement regarding awareness of body image issues in women. The internet is spanned with discussions about media’s portrayal of the ‘perfect body’ in women. Through the use of beauty products women are made to think good about themselves. These ad campaigns also depict women being unhappy with about her body and looks. The issue is stirring minds and creating awareness.
Black is Beautiful
Body image also transcends to attitudes and beliefs as well as emotional expressions around one’s body and looks. One particularly visible campaign is the ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign spearheaded by Nandita Das. However, with regards to beauty products for men, even this little awareness is missing. Even academically, there are few studies on the body image issues of Indian men (Cavale and Singh, 2014).
Worldwide numbers and research indicate that about 4 to 10% of college going men report eating disorders connected with how they feel about their body (Eisenburg, Nicklett, Roeder, & Kirz, 2011). Although women still report more body image issues, men with these concerns are also rising.
How Does India Look At Men’s Body
Within the Indian context, society and media play a huge role in adding to the negative body image ideal. Due to a patriarchal conservative society, men’s body image is seen to be tied up with concepts of masculinity, strength, and even virility. Therefore, straight men feel the need to have a built body in order to look and feel ‘normal’ and even powerful. This explains why gay men struggle with the notions of normality and masculinity. They report higher incidence of negative body image and eating disorders.
Role of Beauty Products
This conditioning starts with parental cues of what it means to be ‘strong’ and how it is taught to be associated with a built body. The presence of sculpted super heroes and movie actors, to physically strong student bullying the thinner one in school. Media portrays this through the way our film-stars look and to the way fairness and body building products are promoted. Film stars and celebrities do not shy from promoting fairness products or other beauty products.
Effect of This Stereotyping
This is a serious issue because negative body image in men is linked to taking steroids to pump the body, extreme dieting and exercising, drug abuse and depression.
What do we do to tackle this? We have to start by understanding that how we look is not tied up with our worth as humans. Nobody should discredit people because they look a certain way. We should strive to be healthy – which means eating well, getting routine exercise and loving your body. There are limits to how much we can change the way we look. Instead, we should focus on changing the way we feel about our body, and gear towards self acceptance and self love.
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