This study contributes to two theory streams by examining magazine use among males, along dimensions of age and ethnicity. First, social comparison theory (SCT) is invoked to examine how males use magazine images to benchmark the "ideal" male. Second, a developing theory of magazines as standard bearers for "the ideal woman" is modified to suggest that magazines also set standards for "the ideal man." Findings of focus groups and interviews with two generations of males-Generation X and Baby Boomers (BBs)-posit that such images tend to fuel males' eventual ambivalence toward their body. Two significant patterns were identified among the data: (1) authority of magazine standards and (2) competition.
Male identity is morphing in profound ways in this era of changing gender norms,1 and body image plays a major role in self-esteem.2 The "ideal" male body concept reflects a socially-constructed equation of beauty and goodness,3 with consequences for those considered ugly and unworthy of happiness, success, and control that comes "naturally" to attractive males. For every ten-fifteen females diagnosed with an eating disorder twenty years ago, there was one male-but now that gap has closed significantly, with one male for every four females.4 Health professionals are less likely to properly diagnose symptoms in males.5 Also, males increasingly resort to excessive exercise, plastic surgery, and steroids.
Magazines reflect changing tastes and interests across U.S. society, but our research agenda has not kept pace with the growth in men's magazines or mirrored the same attention to women's magazines. Until the late 1980s, U.S. and U.K. publishers believed that men did not really identify with magazines.6 By the end of the 1990s, men's general interest magazines were among the fastest-growing consumer magazine markets. Today they are segmented according to lifestyles-with a common theme of "constructed certitude" affirming male identity throughout.7 Specifically, gaps exist in our understanding of magazines and body image with regard to age and ethnicity. Americans fear aging and it is prophesied that men's media-induced insecurities are "the next great big juicy market."8 Among males of color, the body also bears "the inscription of societally based inequalities" that hardly are "ideal."9
Two theories undergird the current study. Mass media impact the social construction of reality, with frequent exposure to mediated images cultivating our beliefs and expectations.10 Social comparison theory (SCT) helps to explain group uniformity pressures and feelings of uncertainty associated with comparing individual perceptions and behaviors with idealized, mediated standards"-especially among women.12 Also invoked here is a theory developing around how specific media (magazines) establish the "ideal" body image.13 We build upon SCT and a developing theory of magazines as standard bearers in order to examine males' "ideal" body image perceptions and magazine use along age and ethnicity dimensions.
Ideal Male Body Image and Standard Bearers. Body image is one's internal representation of her/his outer physical appearance.14 "Ideal" body image origins may lie in distinct biological functions,15 but forms such as "Adonis" or the eighteenth-century Greek revival classical male beauty have represented the ideal over time. Today, male celebrities tend to set the ideal standard.16 For most males, the ideal body and high self-esteem equate with potency, dominance, power, and contrast with the physically ugly who are considered deformed, powerless, and impotent.17
Body image research began around the 1970s, with a focus on women's desire for thinness18 and far less attention to how men experience body image.19 Men report that the ideal male body type is the triangular or V-shaped20 muscular mesomorph or the ecto-mesomorph, a man with a well-proportioned build-in sharp contrast to the thin, weak-looking ectomorph or the fat endomorph.21 Muscularity is a key component of male body image22 and some go to harmful lengths to achieve it. Male bodybuilders' and athletes' fantasy bodies accentuate the value of muscularity in the United States and Europe,23 becoming fetishized in ads since the 1980s.24 Females' voyeuristic response causes anxiety among males trying to live up to the ideal through binge eating; compulsive exercise; and use of steroids, prohormones, and ephedrine. "Muscle dysmorphia" or "bigorexia" disorders occur when the sufferer sees his muscles as never massive enough. Male body dissatisfaction may occur as early as age 6,25 and body areas that males across age groups tend to be most dissatisfied with are the chest, stomach, and shoulders.26 Older males also are concerned with losing weight.27
Media and popular culture are widely regarded as standard bearers for the idealized male body, with studies revealing increased muscularity in representations over time.28 Ironically, the degree of muscularity that women find most desirable often is overestimated by men.29 In addition to advertising images, the concept of the "supermale" appears in television programs and films with heroes ranging from John Wayne to Arnold Schwarzenegger.30 Boys emulate comic book superheroes like Batman and Superman31 and their male action figure toys preserve the ideal male body in doll form,32 featuring greater and more unrealistic muscularity over time.33 Even researchers of Playgirl centerfolds from 1973-1997 discovered that male models' bodies clearly have become more muscular in recent decades.34
Masculinity. Men's studies and related masculinity research still may be in their infancy,35 but from them we have learned much about shaping of and resistance to male body imagery. In fact, a single concept "masculinity" has been replaced by multiple and evolving masculinisms36 that examine the weakening of male privilege and males' oppression by objectification.37 Scholars critically distinguish between masculinity -as experienced, -as enacted, and -as represented; culturally constructed within contexts of ethnicity, age, and other variables.38 For example, Clatterbaugh39 describes "adjectival masculinities" associated with distinct groups of individuals' attitudes and behaviors shaped by such identities as Chicano, Jew, gay, and middle class.
Stereotypically, the male body is perceived as an arena of exercise and sexual performance where males bond in non-effeminate ways.40 Weight training, exercise, and sports serve as a metaphor for the male in contradiction-free arenas "where a man can test himself and be tested."41 Moreover, the mass media produce masculinity-especially advertising and motion pictures where masculinity is something that can/should be (re)captured.42 Masculinists argue that living up to such standards is unhealthy and inconsistent with notions that males enjoy greater power than females-because, statistically, males experience loneliness and abuse, endure anxiety and depression without seeking treatment, and die earlier.43
Magazines in Men's Lives. Beginning around junior high school, people begin reading magazines according to gender and continue doing so throughout adulthood.44 Magazines' gender-segmentation trend has escalated in recent years.45 While the interplay of magazines and female audiences has captured wide scholarly attention, the male experience remains under-examined during this period of shifting dominant cultural meanings.46
Magazines' influence on "how to be a man" has been linked to the spread of capitalism during the seventeenth century when pamphlets prescribed "proper manly conduct."47 During the twentieth century in the United States, magazines were constructed around males' assumed interests in motoring, hobbies, and pornography.48 Esquire and GQ, historically, had always been for men but rarely about men (beyond male celebrities).49 By the twentieth century's end, however, magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, GQ, and Esquire were considered too sexually blatant, fashion-oriented, or literary (respectively)-especially among young males.
British publishers in the 1980s may have changed the face of men's magazines forever with men's magazines bearing "lifestyle" titles rather than "interest" titles.50 U.S. import of the working-class "lad" worldview in the 1990s saw a series of new magazines speaking with a frathouse style tone,51 such as Maxim, FHM, and Stuff. Maxim quickly became the number-one general interest men's lifestyle magazine in the United States and Men's Health celebrates physical strength, men's relationships, fashion, and health.52 Moreover, it is suggested that processes producing "femaleness" to encourage women to consume now also are hard at work producing "maleness"-with magazine editors consulting fashion and advertising experts.53 Perhaps Calvin Klein's 1980s male underwear ads have set the "aesthetic norm" for males everywhere54 while the marketplace has seen a surge in men's personal care products.55
Age and Body Image. Youth remains a "socially acceptable form of bragging," so that the American male norm traditionally has been the "young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports."56 What then of the huge U.S. population of Baby Boomer males?
To be sure, consumerism drives a youth-oriented master narrative so that generational difference ranks among the central variables affecting ideal male body standards.57 This means that aging anxiety has become "a unisex problem," with males in their twenties encountering messages that they need help against aging."58 Mediated images and medical science suggest that a man can compete well into his senior years. The "body-sculpting" movement is the fastest-growing market for plastic surgeriesmales having silicone implants in their chests and calves. Also, the pharmaceutical industry's promotion of erectile dysfunction and sex enhancement drugs, testosterone injections, and supplements for hair loss tap into the aging male's declining self-esteem and fears of economic decline (downsizing, unemployment), as well.59
Ethnicity and Body Image. Multiple conceptions of gender and masculinity offer subcultural definitions according to ethnicity, yet this area ranks among the most understudied of body image work.60 Social theorists decry lack of attention to male identity and ethnicity.61 Perhaps males of color are less vulnerable to negative body image perceptions over time because they associate aging with wisdom and authority.62 Maybe stereotypes of non-European descendants as "naturally hotter" with "primitive sexuality" contribute to positive self-esteem.63 In the physical sciences, comparative studies of body (dis)satisfaction and eating disorder symptoms according to ethnicity also are few, and findings are inconsistent. Hypotheses suggesting that ethnic minorities experience the drive for thinness less than whites have not been proven.64
The black male body is highly politicized, for it has been "used and abused in a world of labor based on brute force."65 Black males simultaneously have been revered and despised in the United States, represented as "animalistic," "overendowed," and "hypersexual."66 Some black males use fashion to display their bodies in defiance; a means for reclaiming their body.67 Moreover, media representations of black male athleticism are conflicting and confusing.68 For example, black athletes routinely are portrayed as "dumb jocks"69-an assessment based more on race than achievement.70 Neal's71 concept, NewBlackMan, situates the black male body as one of "myriad identities" able to resist a wide ranee of forces.
Hispanics/Latinos72 have endured exclusion, negative stereotypes, and subordination in the United States, but perhaps machismo, virility, and breadwinning have restored feelings of power and control.73 In the 1990s, some scholars examined Latin males' identity struggles characterized by confusion about authority and tradition on the one hand, and a desire to construct a unique self-image on the other.74 For example, the macho template leaves no room for affective behaviors such as crying when the male identity is "embodied in the genitals."75
Scant little is known about identity formation among Asian American76 males and their body image perceptions. The literature does include, however, a study of Japanese male identity with regard to magazines which underscores a drive to please the female since the young Japanese male is "unashamedly preoccupied with what his girlfriend thinks of him."77
This literature review has examined several key issues that logically lead to our research questions: (1) male body image is an underexamined arena-particularly with regard to age and ethnicity, (2) the "ideal" male is highly muscular, and males sometimes resort to unhealthful behaviors in order to achieve it, and (3) consumer-driven, mediated messages routinely promote masculinity and an "ideal" male body. Hence, six research questions were posed:
RQ1: What do males perceive to be the "ideal" male body?
RQ2: To what degree are males satisfied with their body?
RQ3: How (if) do males strive to achieve an ideal body?
RQ4: How often do males read magazines, and which magazines do they read?
RQ5: How does males' regard for magazine standards of ideal body image vary according to ethnicity?
RQ6: How does males' regard for magazine standards of ideal body image change over time?
Focus groups and interviews (one-on-one and telephone) were conducted to discover body image perceptions and magazine use among two male generations. Although these methods provide rich, qualitative data that facilitate opinion-sharing, in-depth responses, and further hypothesis testing, findings may not be generalized to the general male population. "Generation" refers to the average span between the birth of parents and their offspring, and comprises a body of living beings that represent a single step in the line of descent from an ancestor.78
All respondents were Florida residents: (1) Generation X respondents were male students attending one of two large north Florida universities, and (2) Baby Boomer (BB) respondents were father/uncle to a male Florida college/university student. Ethnic diversity was achieved: (1) focus group respondents (17 Asian,79 18 African American/ black,80 27 Caucasian/white, 17 Hispanic/Latino,81 2 mixed ethnicities); (2) interviews (4 African American/black, 17 Caucasian/white, 6 Hispanic/Latino). No BB respondents were Asian or Asian American. Among Generation X respondents, ethnic exclusivity was achieved in 3 focus groups of African American/black respondents, 3 of Asian respondents, 3 of Caucasian/white respondents, 6 of Hispanic/Latino respondents. Four Generation X focus groups were ethnically diverse (see Table 1).
Generation X focus group respondents were recruited at a large north Florida university's international center (61 respondents) and in a large-lecture mass media class and in a journalism class at two large north Florida universities (20 respondents). Focus groups were conducted in a comfortable university conference room and audiotaped during January-April 2006 until little new information was obtained. This technique is consistent with the goal of theoretical saturation necessary to obtain relevant information.82 Each focus group lasted about two hours. Refreshments were provided. Extra credit was offered to respondents recruited from mass media classes, and a financial incentive ($20) was offered to Asian male respondents because no volunteers were forthcoming among this comparatively small population within the sampled domain. Focus group data were derived from 199 pages of verbatim transcribed audiotapes.
BB respondents were interviewed via telephone or one-on-one and recruited by asking Generation X respondents to provide contact information for their father/uncles, or by intercept interview at a north Florida university's new-student orientation event. Interviews were conducted April-May 2006 until little new information was obtained. Each interview lasted about thirty minutes. No financial incentives were provided. Data for analysis from interviews were derived from fifty-three pages of verbatim transcribed audiotapes.
Two formal instruments were tested with slight modifications before use. Both age groups completed a three-page questionnaire of twenty-one items minutes prior to the focus group or interview. Questions probed demographics, magazine use behaviors, diet/exercise regimens, and perceptions of body image and the ideal. Also, a focus group/interview topic guide of fifteen items queried respondents on their perceptions of the ideal male body, if/how they strive for the ideal, media use behaviors, and perceptions of magazines' male body images.
Respondents also were presented with the same set of labeled stimulus materials in a three-ring binder to probe respondents' male body "ideal." For some BB respondents, a packet of stimulus materials was mailed to them approximately one week prior to the scheduled telephone interview. This stimulus technique is comparable to one used in an earlier study of female body image.83 For the current study, six images were selected from 2005 and 2006 issues of widely circulated magazines-using both editorial and advertising content (Men's Health, Muscle Mag International, Muscle & Fitness Old School Training, Out Magazine, People Weekly). Each color full-page image featured one male, bare-chested, with two exceptions-one wore a tight-fitted black short-sleeved pullover sriirt and another wore a white button-down dress shirt. Images were selected to offer a variety of body types: Figure A (ectomesomorph)-toned / muscular body, an average but well-proportioned build; Figures B and F (mesomorph)-hard, muscular body, rectangular shaped; Figures C and D (endomorph)-soft body, round physique, overweight; and Figure E (ectomorph)-delicate-built, small-shouldered lean body. Ethnic diversity also was represented in the photographs: Figures A and D-African American/black, Figure C-Asian, Figures B and E-Caucasian/white, and Figure F-Hispanic/Latino.
Three male graduate students were trained by the senior principal researcher to gather qualitative data: (1) a Hispanic/Latino male (also a principal researcher) conducted all BB interviews and for Generation X data gathering, conducted three focus groups of Caucasian/white males, six of Hispanic /Latino males, and four of mixed ethnicities; (2) an African American/black male conducted three focus group meetings with Generation X African American/black males; and (3) a Korean male conducted three Generation X focus groups with Asian males.
While analyzing data, the study's three principal researchers regarded males' voices-experiences and perceptions in their own words-as the unit of analysis. Researchers carefully scrutinized raw data by reading all transcripts several times independently and at four data analysis meetings. During these multiple-hour sessions, researchers categorized emergent patterns/themes by writing them on index cards that were categorized and reshuffled, as needed, with anomalies noted.84 The patterns/themes were discussed extensively, with some collapsing of categories, until researchers agreed that data were adequately organized and explicated for responding to the study's research questions.
Nineteen focus group sessions were conducted among college males (Generation X, N=81, mean age 24.9) and 27 one-on-one or telephone interviews were conducted with Baby Boomer fathers/uncles of college males (BBs, N=27, mean age 52.5).
RQ1: What do males perceive to be the "ideal" male body?
Generation X: College males characterized the "ideal" male body as tall, muscular (cut, sixpack abs, large biceps), broad-shouldered, strong, energetic, healthy/fit, handsome, well-proportioned, good/ tanned skin, V-shape, and good weight/zero fat/no beer gut. Most college males selected Figure F (mesomorph) as "ideal." A distant second was Figure A (ecto-mesomorph). Figure D (endomorph) inspired pot belly jokes, with some African American/black respondents quipping, "I'll probably end up looking like that." The only comments directed toward Figure E (ectomorph) were to suggest that he "get to the gym."
BBs: The "ideal" male body was characterized as tall, lean, healthy, fit, muscular, tanned, healthy, good hair, and well groomed. Figure A (ecto-mesomorph) was most selected as "ideal." A Caucasian/white respondent said he selected Figure A because he looks "like he'll live longer." Figure E was called a "geek [who could] use 40 pounds." Some respondents identified with Figures C and D (endomorphs), saying: "[That's] what I look like."
RQ2: To what degree are males satisfied with their body?
Generation X: College males failed to identify something about their body that needs no change at all; nearly all desired larger muscles. College males called physical appearance "somewhat important" (62%) or "extremely important" (37%). Most frequently selected categories describing "perfect body attributes" were "muscular build" (48%) and "good health" (43%). Seventy-one percent said that they are "somewhat satisfied" with their body and 17% said they were "somewhat dissatisfied" (see Table 2). Many esteemed "ideal" bodies of Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, George Clooney, Taye Diggs, 50-Cent, Lance Armstrong, Tito Trinidad, Terrell Owens, Mike Tyson, Cho-O-Ryun (Korean Olympic swimmer), Andre Agasi, and Pele.
BBs: Most fathers/uncles described the "ideal" male as 20-30 years younger than themselves, mourning their aging bodies' hair loss, weight gain, and low stamina. Several confessed resolving to be dissatisfied with their body. They characterized physical appearance as "somewhat important" (67%) or "extremely important" (22%). "Good health" (79%) was the most frequently selected category used to describe "perfect body attributes," with "muscular build" at 14%. Fifty-nine percent reported that they are "somewhat satisfied" with their body, and 26% said they were "somewhat dissatisfied." "Ideal" male figures cited were Bernie Mack, Denzel Washington, Adonis, "a Greek God," and Fabio.
RQ3: How (if) do males strive to achieve an ideal body?
Generation X: About half (48%) said that they are "somewhat satisfied" with their current weight, and 27% said that they are "extremely satisfied." Sixty percent said that they "never" diet and 29% said they dieted "1-2 times" within the past year. Fifty-one percent reported exercising "at least 2 times per week," 20% said they exercise "less than once per week," and 17% reported exercising "every day." In terms of potentially harmful behaviors, 32% reported "using Hydroxycut or Creatine," 14% reported "compulsive exercise to counterbalance caloric intake," 11% reported "taking diet pills to lose weight or reduce fat," and 11% "stopped eating to lose weight" (see Table 3). Many Generation X respondents see physical exercise as the primary means for achieving the "ideal" male body. Some also try to avoid "fatty" foods.
BBs: Nearly half (45%) described themselves as "somewhat satisfied" with their current weight and 37% were "somewhat dissatisfied." Sixty-three percent said they "never" diet and 37% said they dieted "1-2 times" within the past year. Fifty-six percent said they exercise "less than once per week" and 22% reported exercising "at least twice per week." In terms of potentially harmful behaviors, 22% reported they "restrict daily calories to 1,200 or less."
RQ4: How often do males read magazines, and which magazines do they read?
Generation X: Sixty-two percent categorized themselves as heavy users, reading magazines "weekly" or "several times weekly." Sports magazines such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN were cited three times more often than news/current events magazines, followed by health/fitness magazines. However, when respondents used an open-ended probe to identify their favorite magazines, Maxim and FHM were listed more often than sports magazines.85
BBs: Sixty-three percent also categorized themselves as heavy users, reading magazines "weekly" or "several times weekly." They mostly read news/current events magazines like Time, Newsweek, Forbes, and Fortune, slightly more often than sports magazines, and read more trade magazines and special interest/hobby magazines than their sons/ nephews.
RQ5: How does males' regard for magazine standards of ideal body image vary according to ethnicity?
Generation X: Asians seemed least prone to defining the male "ideal" in terms of appearance or muscles-using instead terms such as "respected," "serious," and "business oriented." Most reported regularly reading Korean, Chinese and U.S. magazines-articles about grooming, developing the mind, and making money.
Among Caucasian/whites, magazines' promotion of bodybuilding and athleticism resonated. Several cited African American athletes, such as Terrell Owns, as possessing the "ideal" male body. Many characterized men's magazines as offering a wider variety of "ideal" male body shapes (as compared to women's magazines). Said one: "It seems like with girls, there is like the ideal body type and that's it, and you strive for that. But socially there's not so much pressure on men to be one specific body type, just as long as you look like you take care of yourself."
To African Americans/blacks, the "ideal" male has either "dark" or "brown" skin, and they regularly read sports magazines and those considered for their ethnic group, like Vibe, Jet, Ebony, XXL, and Essence. They were most critical of men's fashion/style magazines, regularly calling images "unrealistic" and vehicles for advertisers. One said: "Metrosexuals try too hard to be pretty and I really don't agree with that."
Several Hispanic /Latinos criticized men's magazines for lack of Latino images (other than baseball players)-particularly anyone with a hairy chest. Many reported pressure to be athletically fit, or face ridicule of friends and family members. Several reported scanning magazines for Burberry suits, but one complained: "Since magazines started coming out, guys are worrying more about the way they look. They go to the gym; they get facials."
BBs: Across ethnicity lines, fathers/uncles clearly perceived magazine images and their potential influences negatively. Caucasian/whites lambasted use of models to "showcase" products. Said one: "I think that they (magazine images) are fantasy; the majority of them are illusions." To African American/blacks, many magazines idolize "perfect" male athletes' bodies: "I think that some of them have taken drugs and are overtrained with steroids, and I think that the magazines have influenced that a lot." Several Hispanic/Latinos read both English- and Spanish-language newspapers and magazines and also indict magazines' promotion of "unrealistic" images: "It's why you see people today are spending more time in gyms. This shows the influence of the magazines and the media."
RQ6: How does males' regard for magazine standards of ideal body image change over time?
Generation X: Regardless of ethnic background, most predicted regarding their body image increasingly less as they grow older. A Caucasian/white explained: "Like you're older, married, and established with your profession. You have other things to worry about, as opposed to when you're younger, you're trying to establish yourself." A Hispanic/Latino said: "When I'm older and I'm married and have my kids, I just want to keep healthy."
BBs: While a few fathers/uncles (across ethnicity lines) reported attempts to maintain an attractive body, several confessed that the emphasis now is more on "health" and "feeling good" in order to enjoy the retirement years or to continue providing for the family. When a Caucasian/white was asked if he strives to achieve the "ideal" body image, he said: "No, not at all. I'm an old man. I don't think about that shit anymore... Nowadays I think it's more about who you are inside as a man." An African American/black seemed an exception when he said: "I lift weights, I run, and I practice and play sports... All my family were athletes."
Findings of two male generations' appraisals of magazine standards for the "ideal" male body contribute to two theory streams. Whereas women's magazines promote the "thin" ideal, findings here suggest that males perceive men's magazines as promoting ideals of muscularity and a healthy youthful look. Therefore, results further support Kitch's86 developing theory of magazines as standard bearers. Moreover, social comparison theory (SCT) is expanded by examining male gender according to age and ethnicity. Most respondents were cynical of magazine images of male bodies-but few were "extremely satisfied" with their bodies and explained how magazine images constantly remind them that they may not measure up.
Young men seemed to be acutely aware of magazine standards while their fathers/uncles dismiss them offhand. The "typical" collegeage male respondent reads lad and sports magazines several times weekly. He regards physical appearance highly and works out for muscle tone and good health, sometimes using supplements. He expects lesser satisfaction with his body over time. The "typical" father/uncle of a college male respondent reads news and sports magazines several times weekly and regards good health highly. He is less satisfied with his own body and weight than when he was younger (or than his son/nephew)-but is ambivalent about it. He is indifferent about magazines' male body images, rarely diets, and exercises only occasionally.
Goffman may have considered the American male norm to be white, but forty years later, today's male will not hesitate to identify a man of color as "ideal." This was evidenced time and again during data gathering across ethnicities and ages. Regarding age, all respondents seemed to accept the eventual death knell of aging / decline of the male body. Young males fear hair loss, growth of a pot belly, and less stamina. Their fathers /uncles admit defeat in trying to fit the "ideal"; they simply want to be healthy enough to feel good.
We conclude that magazines' male body images fuel feelings of ambivalence over time. These points are underscored in two central themes: authority of magazine standards and competition.
Authority of Magazine Standards. All ethnic and both age groups acknowledged the power of magazine standards in setting their own, peers', and the opposite sex's perceptions of the "ideal" male-especially in terms of muscularity and emphasis on grooming and fashion. Asian males criticized American magazines' preoccupation with body image-whereas their culture emphasizes good grooming and internal qualities that contribute to high socio-economic status. Caucasian/white males criticized women's magazines for promoting unattainable ideal images, but did not seem to draw the same parallel with men's magazines-casually accepting them as the "norm." Young Asian, African American/black and Hispanic/Latino respondents emphatically acknowledged the persuasive pull of magazine images encouraging them to dress well in smart suits no matter what their body shape. Nearly all pointed out the "unrealistic" qualities of magazine images of the male body-so that perhaps resistance is possible.
Competition. Most respondents couched the "ideal" male body image in terms that suggest competition. In all human societies, the body is an arena for prestige competition.87 Males considered muscle-deficient, overweight (especially with a pot belly), possessing disproportionately shaped body parts (head too big or legs too skinny), too hairy (eyebrows), or having too little hair (head) were routinely offered as the antithesis of the socially acceptable "ideal." Perhaps most disconcerting was Gen Xers' feelings of insecurity; needing to compete (sometimes resorting to supplement and steroid use). Males across age groups routinely ridiculed those who fail to compete or measure up. We argue that magazine images set romanticized standards that inspire feelings of inadequacy-even though males may consciously view the images as unrealistic. This is in direct contrast to earlier findings of magazines' male-identity-affirming "constructed certitude."88 Finally, respondents' fear of aging and a diminished ability to compete is particularly alarming for it suggests that mediated images' emphasis on youth and muscularity, as well as commercial messages for pharmaceutical products, are doing their job all too well. As a final point, Abrahamson and his colleagues concluded that magazines continue to reflect sociocultural reality of American society,89 so we endorse ongoing work on men's magazines-the fastest growing consumer magazine market.
Limitations and Future Study. This study's findings, while not generalizeable to the larger population, are a solid foundation for further hypothesis testing in the area of cross-cultural-generational body image research. Data-gathering limitations must be considered. Future studies could strive for greater ethnic diversity among Baby Boomer respondents. All Generation X respondents were college students and results may have varied considerably among respondents of other socio-economic groups. Also, some of the Generation X respondents who were recruited in mass media and journalism classes may have been sensitized to some of the issues addressed in the current study (even though instruments were constructed to avoid leading questions). Future researchers also could explore other geographic regions beyond the U.S. south.
1. Susan M. Alexander, "Stylish Hard Bodies: Branded Masculinity in Men's Health Magazine," Sociological Perspectives 46 (summer 2003): 535-54.
2. See Robert Worthington, "Research Review: Magazine Management and Economics," in The American Magazine, ed. David Abrahamson (Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1995), 84-97; Barbara B. Stern, "Masculinism(s) and the Male Image: What Does It Mean to Be a Man?" in Sex in Advertising: Perspectives on the Erotic Appeal, ed. Tom Reichert and Jacqueline Lambiase (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2003), 215-28.
3. George L. Mosse, The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity (NY: Oxford University Press, 1996).
4. D. Blake Woodside, Paul E. Garfinkel, Elizabeth Lin, Paula Goering, and Allan S. Kaplan, "Comparisons of Men with Full or Partial Eating Disorders, Men Without Eating Disorders, and Women with Eating Disorders in the Community," American Journal of Psychiatry 158 (April 2001): 570-74.
5. Eating Disorders Association, "Men Get Eating Disorders Too," 2007, http://www.edauk.com / AboutEatingDisorders / Mengeteating disorderstoo.html, January 11, 2007.
6. Nick Stevenson, Peter Jackson, and Kate Brooks, "Ambivalence in Men's Lifestyle Magazines" in Commercial Cultures: Economies, Practices, Spaces, ed. Peter Jackson, Michelle Lowe, Daniel Miller, and Frank Mort (Oxford: Berg, 2000), 189-212.
7. Nick Stevenson, Peter Jackson, and Kate Brooks, "Reading Men's Lifestyle Magazines: Cultural Power and the Information Society" in Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines, ed. Bethan Benwell (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Sociological Review, 2003), 112-31.
8. Margaret M. Gullette, Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1997), 144.
9. Mara Viveros Vigoya, "Contemporary Latin American Perspectives on Masculinity," in Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America, ed. Matthew C. Gutmann (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 27-57, 10.
10. See Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality (NY: Anchor Books Doubleday, 1966); Nancy Signorielli and Michael Morgan, Cultivation Analysis: New Directions in Media Effects Research (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1990); George Gerbner, Larry Gross, Michael Morgan, and Nancy Signorielli, "The 'Mainstreaming' of America: Violence Profile No. 11," Journal of Communication 30 (summer 1980): 10-29; Nancy Signorielli, Mass Media Images and Impact on Health: A Sourcebook (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993).
11. Leon Festinger, "A Theory of Social Comparison Processes," Human Relations 7 (May 1954): 117-40. Even though Festinger's study was published in the 1950s, it wasn't until 1984 that SCT was celebrated at the American Psychological Association convention. SCT's linkage to attribution theory resulted in renewed interest in comparison processes. see George R. Goethals, "Social Comparison Theory: Psychology from the Lost and Found," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 12 (September 1986): 261-78.
12. See Kimberly L. Bissell and Peiqin Zhou, "Must See TV or ESPN: Entertainment and Sports Media Exposure and Body Image Distortion in College Women," Journal of Communication 54 (March 2004): 5-22; Renee A. Botta, "Television Images and Adolescent Girls' Body Image Disturbance," Journal of Communication 49 (spring 1999): 22-41; Renee A. Botta, "The Mirror of Television: A Social Comparison of Black and White Adolescents' Body Image," Journal of Communication 50 (summer 2000): 144-59; Arie W Kruglanski and Ofra Mayseless, "Classic and Current Social Comparison Research. Expanding the Perspective," Psychological Bulletin 42 (September 1990): 108-33.
13. Carolyn Kitch, Pages from the Past: History & Memory in American Magazines (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press), 2005.
14. J. Kevin Thompson, Leslie J. Heinberg, Madeline Altabe, and Stacey Tantleff-Dunn, Exacting Beauty: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment of Body Image Disturbance (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999).
15. Stern, "Masculinism(s) and the Male Image: What Does It Mean to Be a Man?"
16. See Seymour Fisher, "The Evolution of Psychological Concepts about the Body," in Body Images, ed. Thomas F. Cash and Thomas Pruzinsky (NY: The Guilford Press, 1990), 3-20.
17. See Marc E. Mishkind, Judith Rodin, Lisa R. Silberstein, and Ruth H. Striegel-Moore, "The Embodiment of Masculinity: Cultural, Psychological, and Behavioral Dimensions," American Behavioral Scientist 29 (May/June 1986): 545-62; Harrison G. Pope, Katharine A. Phillips, and Roberto Olivardia, The Adonis Complex: The secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession (NY: The Free Press, 2000).
18. Thomas Pruzinsky and Thomas F. Cash, "Understanding Body Images: Historical and Contemporary Approaches," in Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice, ed. Thomas F. Cash and Thomas Pruzinsky (NY: Guilford Press, 2002), 3-12.
19. Arnold Andersen, Leigh Cohn, and Tom Holbrook, Making Weight (Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books, 2000).
20. Marita P. McCabe and Lina A. Ricciardelli, "Parent, Peer and Media Influences on Body Image and Strategies to Both Increase and Decrease Body Size among Adolescent Boys and Girls," Adolescence 36 (summer 2001): 225-40; Pamela S. McKay-Parks and Marsha H. Read, "Adolescent Male Athletes: Body Image, Diet and Exercise," Adolescence 32 (fall 1997): 593-603; Pope, Phillips, and Olivardia, The Adonis Complex: The secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession.
21. See William H. Sheldon, Stanley S. Stevens, and William B. Tucker, Varieties of Human Physique: An Introduction to Constitutional Psychology (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1940).
22. See Joseph Henrich and Francisco Gil-White, "The Evolution of Prestige: Freely Conferred Status as a Mechanism for Enhancing the Benefits of Cultural Transmission," Evolution and Human Behavior 22 (May 2001): 1-32.
23. See Harrison G. Pope, Amanda J. Gruber, Barbara Mangweth, Benjamin Bureau, Christine deCole, Roland Jouvent, and James I. Hudson, "Body Image Perception among Men in Three Countries," American Journal of Psychiatry 157 (August 2000): 1297-1301.
24. Roger Horrocks, Masculinity in Crisis: Myths, Fantasies, and Realities (NY: St. Martin's Press, 1994).
25. Marita P. McCabe and Lina A. Ricciardelli, "Body Image Dissatisfaction among Males across the Lifespan: A Review of Past Literature," Journal of Psychosomatic Research 56 (June 2004): 675-85.
26. Mishkind et al., "The Embodiment of Masculinity: Cultural, Psychological, and Behavioral Dimensions."
27. McCabe and Ricciardelli, "Body Image Dissatisfaction among Males across the Lifespan: A Review of Past Literature."
28. Richard A. Leit, Harrison G. Pope, and James J. Gray, "Cultural Expectations of Muscularity in Men: The Evolution of Playgirl Centerfolds," International Journal of Eating Disorders 29 (January 2001): 9093; Harrison G. Pope, Roberto Olivardia, John J. Borowiecki, and Geoffrey H. Cohane, "The Growing Commercial Value of the Male Body: A Longitudinal Survey of Advertising in Women's Magazines," Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 70 (July-August 2001): 189-92; Harrison G. Pope, Roberto Olivardia, Amanda J. Gruber, and John J. Borowiecki, "Evolving Ideals of Male Body Image as seen Through Action Toys," International Journal of Eating Disorders 26 (July 1999): 65-72; Brenda L. Spitzer, Katherine A. Henderson, and Marilyn T. Zivian, "Gender Differences in Population Versus Media Body Sizes: A Comparison over Four Decades," Sex Roles 40 (April 1999): 545-65.
29. David A. Frederick, Daniel M. T. Fessler, and Martie G. Haselton, "Do Representations of Male Muscularity Differ in Men's and Women's Magazines?" Body Image 2 (March 2005): 81-86.
30. See Kenneth MacKinnon, Representing Men: Maleness and Masculinity in the Media (NY: Oxford University Press Inc., 2003).
31. Norma Pecora, "Superman/Superboys/Supermen: The Comic Book Hero as Socializing Agent," in Men, Masculinity, and the Media, ed. Steve Craig (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992), 61-77; Marjorie J. Kostelnik, Alice Phipps Whiren, and Laura C. Stein, "Living with He-Man," Young Children 41 (May 1986): 3-9.
32. John F. Morgan, "From Charles Atlas to Adonis Complex: Fat Is More Than a Feminist Issue," Lancet 356 (October 2000): 1372-74.
33. Pope et al., "Evolving Ideals of Male Body Image as seen Through Action Toys"; Kelly D. Brownell and Melissa A. Napolitano, "Distorting Reality for Children: Body Size Proportions of Barbie and Ken Dolls," International Journal of Eating Disorders 18 (November 1995): 295-98.
34. Leit, Pope, and Gray, "Cultural Expectations of Muscularity in Men: The Evolution of Playgirl Centerfolds."
35. Stern, "Masculinism(s) and the Male Image: What Does It Mean to Be a Man?" 226.
36. Victor Jeleniewski Seidler, Man Enough: Embodying Masculinities (London: Sage, 1997); Dick Hebdidge, "After the Masses" in New Times, ed. Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1989), 76-93.
37. Herb Goldberg, The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege (NY: New American Library, 1977); John Machines, 77ze End of Masculinity (Buckingham/Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1998); Stern, "Masculinism(s) and the Male Image: What Does It Mean to Be a Man?"
38. John Beynon, Masculinities and Culture (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 2002); Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne, Dislocating Masculinity: Comparative Ethnographies (London: Routledge, 1994).
39. Kenneth Clatterbaugh, Contemporary Perspectives on Masculinity: Men, Women, and Politics in Modern Society (NY: Westview Press, 1996), 25.
40. Susan Bordo, The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999).
41. Diane Barthel, "When Men Put on Appearances: Advertising and the Social Construction of Masculinity," in Men, Masculinity, and the Media, ed. Steve Craig (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992), 137-53,150; MacKinnon, Representing Men: Maleness and Masculinity in the Media.
42. Nicholas Lemann, "The Battle over Boys: Will Feminists or Their Foes Win the Teenage Soul?" New Yorker, July 10, 2000, 79-83.
43. Roger Horrocks and Jo Campling, Masculinity in Crisis: Myths, Fantasies, and Realities (NY: St. Martin's Press, 1994); Sidney M. Jourard, The Transparent Self (Princeton: Van Nostrand Press, 1971).
44. Teruko Inoue, "Gender to Media (Gender and Media)," in Media Literacy No Genzai to Mirai (The Present and the Future of Media Literacy), ed. Midori Suzuki (Tokyo: Sekai Shisoo-sha, 2001), 118-39.
45. Tim Edwards, "Sex, Booze and Fags: Masculinity, Style and Men's Magazines," in Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines, ed. Bethan Benwell (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Sociological Review, 2003), 132-46.
46. Bethan Benwell, "Introduction: Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines," in Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines, ed. Bethan Benwell (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Sociological Review, 2003), 6-29.
47. Jonathan Rutherford, "Preface," in Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines, ed. Bethan Benwell (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd /The Sociological Review, 2003), 1-5, 4.
48. Bill Osgerby, Playboys in Paradise: Masculinity, Youth and LeisureStyle in Modern America (Oxford: Berg, 2001).
49. Edwards, "Sex, Booze and Fags: Masculinity, Style and Men's Magazines."
50. Benwell, "Introduction: Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines."
51. John Robb, The Nineties (London: Ebury, 1999).
52. Stevenson, Jackson, and Brooks, "Reading Men's Lifestyle Magazines: Cultural Power and the Information Society."
53. Peter Jackson, Nick Stevenson, and Kate Brooks, Making Sense of Men's Magazines (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001); Jonathan E. Schroeder and Detlev Zwick, "Mirrors of Masculinity: Representation and Identity in Advertising Images," Consumption, Markets and Culture 7 (March 2004): 21-52.
54. Bordo, The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private, 185.
55. Barthel, "When Men Put on Appearances: Advertising and the Social Construction of Masculinity."
56. Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963), 128.
57. See Ian M. Harris, Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities (London: Taylor & Francis, 1995); Kenneth MacKinnon, Representing Men: Maleness and Masculinity in the Media (NY: Oxford University Press Inc., 2003)
58. Gullette, Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife, 139.
59. Gullette, Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife; Beynon, Masculinities and Culture; Michael S. Kimmel, "Foreword" in Men, Masculinity, and the Media, ed. Steven Craig (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992), xi-xii.
60. Matthew C. Gutmann, "Introduction: Discarding Manly Dichotomies in Latin America," in Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America, ed. Matthew C. Gutmann (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 1-26.
61. See Kobena Mercer and Isaac Julien, "Race, Sexual Politics and Black Masculinity: A Dossier," in Male Order: Unwrapping Masculinity, ed. Rowena Chapman and Jonathan Rutherford (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1988), 97-164.
62. Gullette, Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife.
63. Bordo, The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private, 248.
64. For a review, see Eric Stice, "A Review of the Evidence for a Sociocultural Model of Bulimia Nervosa and an Exploration of the Mechanisms of Action," Clinical Psychology Review 14 Ouly 1994): 633-61; Heather Shaw, Lisa Ramirez, Ariel Trost, Pat Randall, and Eric Stice, "Body Image and Eating Disturbances across Ethnic Groups: More Similarities than Differences," Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 18 (March 2004): 12-18.
65. bell hooks, We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity (NY: Routledge, 2004), 21.
66. See hooks, We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity; Bordo, The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private, 60.
67. See Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson, Cool Poise: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America (NY: Lexington Books, 1992); Shane White and Graham White, Stylin' (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998).
68. Robert A. Nye, "Locating Masculinity: Some Recent Work on Men," Signs 30 (2005): 1937-63; Donald Sabo and Sue Curry Jansen, "Images of Men in Sport Media: The Social Reproduction of Gender Order," in Men, Masculinity, and the Media, ed. Steven Craig (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992), 169-84.
69. Sabo and Jansen, "Images of Men in Sport Media: The Social Reproduction of Gender Order," 180.
70. James A. Rada and K. Tim Wulfemeyer, "Calling Class: Sports Announcers and the Culture of Poverty," in Class and News, ed. Don Heider (NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004), 150-64.
71. Mark Anthony Neal, New Black Man (NY: Routledge, 2005), 29.
72. Terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" are used interchangeably. These terms are used at the risk of over-generalizing identities of various ethnicities that are culture-specific. This is to say that there are a myriad number of differences between and among Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, etc.
73. See Nye, "Locating Masculinity: Some Recent Work on Men"; Gutmann, "Introduction: Discarding Manly Dichotomies in Latin America."
74. Socrates Nolasco, O Mito de Masculinidade (Rio de Janeiro: Editorial Rocco, 1993).
75. Rafael L. Ramirez, What It Means to Be a Man: Reflections on Puerto Rican Masculinity (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1999), 31.
76. Again, we acknowledge that there are numerous cultures and ethnicities associated with the term, "Asian."
77. Keiko Tanaka, "The Language of Japanese Men's Magazines: Young Men Who Don't Want to Get Hurt," in Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines, ed. Bethan Benwell (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Sociological Review, 2003), 222-42, 222.
78. MEDLINEplus Health Information, 2003, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/ medlineplus/ mplusdictionary.html, September 11, 2006.
79. Asian respondents described their ethnic heritage as rooted in China and Korea.
80. One respondent identified himself as Nigerian.
81. Hispanic/Latino respondents described their ethnic heritage as rooted in Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Philippines, and Puerto Rico.
82. Richard A. Krueger, Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1988).
83. Claire V. Wiseman, James J. Gray, James E. Mosimann, and Anthony H. Ahrens, "Cultural Expectations of Thinness in Women: An Update," International Journal of Eating Disorders 11 (January 1992): 85-89.
84. Barney G. Glaser and Anselm L. Strauss, The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1967).
85. The pre-focus group/interview questionnaire listed five magazine categories: news/general interest, health/fitness, fashion/style, sports, special interest/hobby. We believe that because Maxim and FHM were the most frequently cited magazines in a different probe, that respondents may have been unsure of how to categorize these magazines.
86. Kitch, Pages from the Past: History & Memory in American Magazines.
87. Henrich and Gil-White, "The Evolution of Prestige: Freely Conferred Status as a Mechanism for Enhancing the Benefits of Cultural Transmission."
88. Stevenson, Jackson, and Brooks, "Reading Men's Lifestyle Magazines: Cultural Power and the Information Society," 128.
89. David Abrahamson, Rebecca Lynn Bowman, Mark Richard Greer, and William Brian Yeado, "A Quantitative Analysis of U.S. Consumer Magazines: A Ten-Year Longitudinal Study," 77ie Journal of Magazine and New Media Research 5 (spring 2003), retrieved December 15, 2006, from http://aejmcmagazine.bsu.edu/journal/archive/Spring_2003/ Abrahamson.htm
Donnalyn Pompper is an associate professor in the Department of Strategic and Organizational Communication, School of Communications and Theater, Temple University; Jorge Soto is an M.A. alumnus and Lauren Piel is a B.S. alumna of Florida State University. This study was awarded the Caroline Dow Faculty Research Prize, Top Faculty Paper, Magazine Division, AEJMC, Washington, D.C., 2007.…