Body Image Issues: Do Men really care about their Looks?

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Most women are obsessed with looking ‘hot’. Most men? Well that’s up for debate. You’re more likely to see a big belly man take off his jersey without a second thought, than a woman with hardly a few inches of extra belly fat rocking a midriff.

Still, I wanted to know whether behind closed doors, men are just as self-conscious as we ladies are. I’ve met the metro-sexual man, the body builder, and the laid back dude, and they all seem to sing the same song… a man’s concern about his body image is nowhere near as high as it is for women. However, do we really believe that men aren’t that bothered? I went to the guys on this one.

“Most guys like looking fresh,” says Wayne*. “Some can’t be bothered. It depends because everybody wants to look decent. No one could tell me they doh care how they look.”

Marlon*, on the other hand, says, “Societal pressure is there, but we jus doh take it on. Most men are happy in their skin.”

Ok. They’re happy in their skin, he says, but this is well worth debating. It’s hardly ever advertised that men have body image issues. Some of the guys I spoke with agree that men do have less societal pressure to look a certain way. There’s less pressure from the media to look good, and there are less ads and magazines pushing images of the perfect male body to them, compared to women.

Still, with songs about Clarks by Vybz Kartel blazing the airwaves, we can tell that some men (maybe most) do think about their looks, and that they do get fancied up wearing the best of the best. Being ‘ramfled’ is off their list, and they make sure they’re looking clean and crisp. Some guys, like Damien*, don’t mind looking scruffy every now and then, as long as they know they can turn on the “neat, clean and sexy” look when they want to.

 

“Some men, however, are more obsessive about their looks.”

 

Some men, however, are more obsessive about their looks. We call them the metrosexuals. They aren’t afraid to step into a salon to keep up their appearances, and get their mani and pedi. Yet, some men won’t be caught doing that, like my friend D who says “there is a thin line between vanity and having pride in one’s appearance”, while admitting that though he’s “far from an ogre”, he acknowledges his flaws, but doesn’t obsess about them.

Aside from the non-obsessive male, there are those who eat, sleep and shit… the gym. From the well-proportioned guy to the guy with the buff chest and chicken legs, who grunts his way through reps, these fellas base a good part of their confidence on their looks. Each muscle must be perfect, and a six-pack is a must. I have a brother who lives in the gym. He wouldn’t class himself as obsessed though. To him, it’s a release from a stressful day at work, the health benefits are obvious, and well, it doesn’t hurt to look good too. So not every guy at the gym is there for the same reason.

Tony*, a young entrepreneur, says that while not every man will obsess about his looks, men generally have at least one part of their body they obsess about, whether it’s their abs, arms, chest or legs. There’s always that one body part they want to improve. Kind of like how we ladies may focus on the boobs, hips, or butt I guess.

Self-love talk aside, most people take pride in their looks to seem attractive to the opposite sex. So does it all come down to image and how that image is defined? Is it that because men and women may hold each other to difference measuring sticks that men aren’t as bothered about their looks?

 

“A man must portray an image of success to attract a woman, and we don’t need our bodies to do this.”

 

“I think that an equal number of men and women are obsessed about ‘looking good’,” says Andre*. “Back in my school days (he was a QRC boy), I remember my school mates and I walking around with at least one brush in our school bag. Optimally we would have two. One for the suede shoes and one for the head ’cause the shoe hadda look as sharp as the mark. And this was back in the 90s! We would also have a little splash of deodorant or cologne for the afternoon trek down to the maxi stand where we would pose for a couple hours before actually jumping into a maxi to head home.

“I think the same situation applies today as it did back then. Honestly, I’d say I’m as self-conscious now as I was back then and I don’t believe that it’s a class thing or a pretty boy thing. I believe it’s a man thing. I recall some pardnas from the ghetto going to great lengths to ensure that their shirts were crisp, their marks were straight and their shoes were clean. It all boils down to image. A man must portray an image of success to attract a woman, and we don’t need our bodies to do this. A man doesn’t need a flat stomach to ‘look good’. Of course a six-pack would be the icing on the cake, but I don’t think it beats some fly wheels in portraying an image of success.”

Andre’s point is interesting. Is image what counts for men, as opposed to looks? If you’re driving an Audi, but you’re not as ‘hot’ as the guy who still treks to City Gate, are you more desirable, and thus what really counts are your possessions, and not your looks? Playing devil’s advocate, one could say that the reason men have less pressure about their body image is because while they respond to visual cues more, and may first judge a woman on her looks before giving her a chance at romance, women are much more willing to let a man’s ‘inner beauty’ compensate for what he may be lacking in the looks department. My friend Nic*, however, insists “woman like a man who lookin’ wet”, so effort is still required.

Sex also pops up in the conversation about male body image. Some of the people I spoke to say that men don’t really care that much about their flaws, as long as their package (and I’m not talking about the one from FedEx) can deliver. Do men really care about how their bellies hang, or whether or not their thighs are flabby? These are just a few minor details we women gag over when it comes to doing the horizontal polka.

According to John*: “Some men do care about their bodies, but most don’t. It depends on whether it’s sex in a relationship, or just sex. If you’re in a relationship, you’d want to look good for your boo because the lights must be on.”

There go those visual cues again.

Still, while we’re on the topic of sex, is it that the one thing men possibly obsess over is their ‘magic stick’? Everything else could be out of shape, but not that. I can’t tell you from what age this realization emerges eh, but from past experience and being around enough male friends, if they can’t cast a spell on the ladies with their ‘magical’ abilities, then it’s all downhill for their confidence. So, is it safe to say that their performance and their manhood constitute “the body”… their body?

Male body image is something we hardly talk about, and for some, it’s easy to say that men aren’t as bothered about their looks as women are. What’s your take? Should we believe that men aren’t as obsessed about their looks as women are? Behind closed doors, are men just as self-conscious about their bodies?

* Names have been changed.

by Onika Pascal and Karel Mc Intosh.

 

Onika Pascal

Onika Pascal is a Trini living in New York, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She is a single mom, author of two published collections of poetry, aspiring novelist ,and lover of all things purposeful.

10 Comments

  1. A guy

    March 3, 2013 at 7:34 am

    I think men are self conscious about their bodies too. Men face expectations and pressure to look a certain way too, also from women. However, it doesn’t stand out too clearly and the pressure on men is often exercised in more subtle ways.

  2. ART

    April 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    I agree there is not as much pressure on men to conform to certain societal standards of beauty, the way women are pressured. But lets face it, men face a different set of pressure to be a certain way, and are subject to ridicule if they do not conform to that expectation. For the example, the pressure to be masculine, and to act in a uber macho/masculine way, the pressure to be successful and make lots of money, have a nice car, etc.

    • Jean

      June 21, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      That’s not true. Men are not expected to act masculine any more that women are expected to act feminine. Where did you get that info? There are no pressures on men. All the pressures are on the woman. Lookatthe articleson the Internet and look at the models on the runway and look at all the fashion shows.

      Men have no pressures. There are some ugly and anti woman articles floating around the internet that scold women that they have to keep up their appearance for their husbands. Women get this scolding all the time and we are so stupid that we accept the scolding and go crazy tryingto look glamorous for men while men are not pressures

      • ART

        June 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm

        Where did I get that info? Umm well to begin with I am a man, and secondly, I live on this planet. I “get the info” through simple observation and my own experiences.

        I never said men have more pressures than women, or men are expected to act more masculine than women are expected to act feminine. I completely agree that women face more pressures form society to act and look a certain way. And I agree that in the midst of all these pressures, women have it harder than men is many ways. But to say that men have no pressures is ridiculous. Try being a man, who, for whatever reason, does not conform to typical gender masculine roles, see how easy you have it. Or try being a man, who, for whatever reason, cannot support/provide for his family (illness, disability, etc.) and see how society invalidates your masculinity because a man who is supposed to be able to work and provide.

        The point of this is in no way to mitigate the pressures women face, but simply to point out not every man’s life is necessarily a bed of roses.

    • Jean

      June 23, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Art,
      I didn’t intend to go back and forth with you, I am trying to avoid ranting but feel the need to get some things out there, and since I am a straight up female, I feel strongly about revealing truth in order to heal relationships. I speak and write what most females experience, but are afraid to say. I don’t see where men are expected to or pressured to act masculine, but have so many issue where they are scolded to act feminine.

      Men hardly have any expectations about being masculine, but females do and have a myriad of things. Also, keep in mind, that you all, men have always had the power and money and strength, and as human kind evolved, the male controlled media and world catered to you all for so long and so you wrote all the rules, including rules for females.

  3. Jean

    June 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Art, you said;

    “Or try being a man, who, for whatever reason, cannot support/provide for his family (illness, disability, etc.) and see how society invalidates your masculinity because a man who is supposed to be able to work and provide.”

    I, along with a few other women, have been working hard to get men to stop saying and writing this statement …..that the “husband is the one who provides for the family”. That is so far from the truth and is such a worn out tired, old, myth or notion.

    Where are you finding your married couples and where do you live and travel to? Here in my city and state, wives work too. I have not one female buddy that works inside of the home. I’ve traveled to other places, and the women here and there, that I meet, are employed. The wife’s salary, provides for their family too. This notion has begun to be seen as a bit sexist, since some are ignoring and denying the existence of the idea of wifely financial contribution to the family.

    . Everything is not about what a husband does, because the husband is not the only responsible parent in the family. We have got to stop placing all the importance of parenthood, soley on the dad. An additional notion to this is that the dad gives the children their strength and well being. Oh so Wrong! !.

    Anyway Art, in the families that you know of where only the man brings in a salary, you must keep in mind that in those few family settings, the wife and mother contributes things that are just as important, necessary, and oh so valuable.

    • ART

      June 22, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      I am afraid you may have misinterpreted my comment.

      I never said the man should be the provider. If you examine my comment or read it again, I say that when a man is unable to work and provide, he may be looked at as “less of a man” by many in society. That is a fact, whether we like it or not. In what way does this invalidate anything that women do or women’s contributions? Did I ever say anything a women does is not important? I live in Canada, one of the most liberal societies on the planet, where tons of married women and mother’s work, have careers, contribute etc. I am well aware of the importance of the wife’s/mother’s financial and emotional contributions etc. But the issue is about men, and the fact they may be looked down on if they are not in a position to work and contribute.

  4. Jean

    June 23, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Forgot to address the issue of husband and wife’s financial contributions.

    Simple as this, men are not the sole financial contributor in a family. We know that. Wives have always worked outside of the home, just more so these days. I can’t understand why this society is still having this conversation. It we would just tell the truth, that men are not expected to provide on his salary only, and the times you may be referring to where a man gets scolded, is where the husband/dad is one of those dads who gives and does nothing fir the family and the household.

  5. ART

    June 23, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Jean,

    I am not intending to make this into an argument, I can see that is really not going to anywhere.

    I will say, however, that perhaps the reason why you do not see the pressure for men to act masculine is because you are not a man. Its always hard to appreciate the struggles of someone else if you are not in there shoes, aint it? The same way, I quite admittedly, cannot appreciate or fully understand all the hardships and struggles that women and girls have to face, although I would never deny they exist. Just because you do not fully understand or experience something does not mean it is none existent.

    Anyways, I am going to leave it at that. Perhaps we can just agree to disagree. At the end of the day, we are all human beings on this earth and we all have our own unique set of struggles, regardless of our gender, religion, ethnicity, etc.

    Take care. I wish you all the best

  6. Jean

    June 23, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Same good wishes to you Art, and thank you, for your polite, “gentlemanly” conversation.

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