Month: April 2012

It’s a Man’s World

My previous posts have been focusing on the representation of female body image in the media. Now I’d like to look at male body image. We are seeing an increase in images of shirtless men, who appear to have no flaws. Generally, this image is of a physically strong, muscular man, who is tanned and toned.

Here is a classic example of this man. I found it extremely difficult to find an alternative to this generic image, and my search was full of glistening sculpted men. It seems that although the media is exploring different shapes in women, men don’t have so much leeway, which could possibly cause pressure for men to look like the men they see in magazines or on billboards. The Australian Psychological Society writes that “it is believed that men’s body image dissatisfaction has tripled in the previous 25 years, from 15 per cent to 45 per cent (of all western men).” As well as this The Better Health Channel published that “around one in four Australian men in the healthy weight range believe themselves to be fat, while 17 per cent of men are on a weight loss diet at any given time. Men also worry about being muscular. A desire to fit the ideal masculine image of lean muscularity means that over-exercising and the use of dangerous and illegal drugs (like steroids) are on the rise.” This is not surprising due the standard today’s media is setting. Images like these send the message than one must adopt a certain appearance in order to appear strong and sexually desirable.


It’s common knowledge that most women aren’t happy with their bodies and it can be argued that this is due to the unrealistic expectations created by the media. But why is the media presenting these women in this way? Wouldn’t they gain more support if women feel they can relate to the images in front of them? That might not be the case. The Media Awareness blog suggests that the slim bodies are a selling technique. “By presenting an ideal difficult to achieve and maintain, the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. And it’s no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as an essential criterion of beauty. If not all women need to lose weight, for sure they’re all aging, says the Quebec Action Network for Women’s Health in its 2001 report Changements sociaux en faveur de la diversité des images corporelles. And, according to the industry, age is a disaster that needs to be dealt with.” Although women might buy products from campaigns that relate to them, it seems that the more effective strategy is to make readers feel bad about themselves. Women are constantly trying to improve themselves, and when they see an image of what they want to be they are more likely to buy into the product that body is selling. The media is using women’s insecurities and their idea that if they look good enough, their life will be perfect. Although it seems outrageous that the media is making women feel inadequate in order to make money, the reality is it works. I for one wouldn’t buy a dieting product from a woman who looked like me. What’s the point in that? The idea behind advertisements is to sell us something that supposedly improves our life.

This isn’t the only thing that tempts us to buy products. The media is constantly presenting stories about obesity and type two diabetes. We’re scared into trying to be healthy because, let’s face it, Australia is one of the most obese countries in the developed world. News articles and reports throw facts at us and warn us to live a healthy lifestyle. This links back to the pictures in magazines, and they are the supposed image of “health.” Does that mean we have to look like them in order to be healthy? That’s what a lot of people think. Their fear of being overweight might be what drives them to buy into products that represent a better body.

Are you letting the media scare or tempt you into buying into the current idea of “beauty” and “health”?