The Essential Conversation Around Male Body Image Is Picking Up Steam
The controversial but influential ideals of body image have been a major part of the cultural sphere ever since we were all little babies. We have battled against society’s fluctuating expectations for women’s bodies for years, with incredible women often speaking out about their own experiences with body image. But when it comes to body image issues surrounding men, the topic is still considered somewhat taboo. Although the exploitation of men’s bodies in society and the media has risen rapidly, men are less inclined to open up about their body image issues. But that pattern is slowly starting to change.
Years & Years’ lead singer Olly Alexander recently spoke out about his personal struggles with body image during a Facebook Live event with Buzzfeed. He says his struggles began at only ten years old when he started doing gymnastics and began to notice the muscular frames of the older boys.
“It was the first time I was starting to have an awareness of my body and strength,” Alexander said. “I was stuck between this place of being really, really, really skinny and hating it–because I wanted to be muscly like other boys–but at the same time didn’t want to put on weight because that was bad as well. I struggled with it for a really long time actually.”
Alexander’s battles with body image issues lasted for a decade and involved “skipping meals and constantly thinking about food and…obsessing over what I ate and what was going into my body and hating my body in the mirror.” He developed a better relationship with eating through a “good support network” and “years of therapy,” but emphasized that it is a lifelong process that he will undergo. “It’s not something that just goes away,” he said.
Alexander’s experiences have helped facilitate a worldwide conversation about male body image that has gained momentum in recent weeks. To move the body positive movement forward, IMG Models opened a new division entitled Brawn, which will represent plus-size men, a typically underrepresented group in the media and modeling worlds. Their first Brawn model, Zach Miko, has a 6’6” stature and a 40-inch waist, and has already appeared in Target campaigns. Good for you, IMG.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Aerie, the lingerie retailer owned by American Eagle, which announced an #AerieMen campaign that purported to celebrate men with different body types. We applauded the company for focusing on male body positivity and inserting men into a movement that they were not initially the face of—that is, until they revealed that the campaign and its accompanying video was just part of an elaborate April Fool’s joke. Lol?
Male body positivity and diversity is something to be taken seriously, not joked about. It’s exciting to see men break the taboo and speak out about body image, and it’s even more exciting to see agencies and retail stores being more inclusive with male models. Not all men come pre-packaged with defined six-packs and perfect V-lines, and it would be nice to see even more representations of male bodies in the public sphere. The conversation about body positivity shows no signs of slowing down soon, and thanks to men like Alexander and Miko, it seems that men will only become more apart of it as time goes on.
Images via Olly Alexander’s Instagram and IMG.
Stay tuned to Milk for more developments in body positivity.