Men and their bodies
It is not difficult to make the case that, compared to women, men have a much easier time when it comes to body image. Patriarchal societies position men as important and valuable in their own right, but value women in terms of their relationships with, and value to, men (Millett 1970). Women are implicitly positioned as 'other', as objects to be looked at rather than as individuals whose subjectivity is of equal value to that of men (Wooley 1994). Thus, one might assume that appearance-related issues will be particularly concerning for women but unproblematic for men. This chapter challenges this assumption, illustrating that men's relationships with their bodies are far from simple and far from unproblematic.
Women, to a much greater degree than men, are bombarded with an assortment of idealized images of what their bodies should look like. Many, if not most, women's magazines will contain pictures of women whose appearance (implicitly or explicitly) the readers are expected to aspire to. Similar images abound in TV programmes, films, advertising and other media (Rothblum 1994). By contrast, men's magazines, advertising directed at men, and other media designed for men are likely to show, not idealized men's bodies, but yet more of the idealized woman. The message is, apparently, simple: men look, and women are looked at. One might expect, therefore, that body image would be less of an issue for men, and that by and large men might not show the same kinds of concerns about their bodies as women do.
The evidence, however, suggests a more complex relationship between men, their bodies, and sociocultural expectations. Body image issues cannot be ignored when considering the male population. This chapter addresses a number of questions. What concerns do men have about their body image? To what extent do men see themselves as falling short of some particular ideal, and if they do so, how (if at all) does this impact upon their physical and emotional health? What factors produce body image concerns