International Men's Day
The word ‘beauty’ has highly-gendered connotations as it is overwhelmingly associated with women; “I was struck by her beauty,” reads one example sentence about beauty in Oxford Dictionaries; “She was considered a great beauty in her youth,” reads another.
It should be noted that there was one reference to a ‘he’: “He arrived with a blonde beauty on his arm.”
As beauty is generally associated with women, so too are beauty insecurities. A quick online search of ‘beauty insecurity’ leads to result after result about women, focused on understanding insecurity, opening up about it and overcoming it – all from a female perspective.
As such, the insecurity that many men feel about their appearance too often gets overlooked.
It is thought that up to a quarter of sufferers of eating disorders are male; with the strong links between eating disorders and body image disturbance, it is clear that general ideas that beauty and appearance are female preoccupations, and female issues, need to be adjusted.
Body image issues affect a lot more men than may often be assumed. Particularly regarding men with disordered eating, male body image can be complicated by a societal pressure to be seen as masculine and ‘strong’.
This was highlighted in a 2013 study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders which found that young men were more stigmatizing than young women about eating disorders; it was suggested that this could be as thinness can be perceived as less masculine and therefore weaker (in every sense of the word) than muscular bodies.
This damaging notion that a certain body type is more ‘manly’ than others is further heightened by the saturation of hyper-muscular male bodies on social media and TV.
Love Island, a show focused on attractive young people looking for love, presents a hyper-muscular male body as a restricted presentation of male appearance, beyond the already limited understandings of male beauty within society.
Given that beauty, and any personal issues or thoughts related to it, are generally associated with women, it is therefore no surprise that the majority of consumers of the multi-billion-pound beauty industry are female.
Beauty products have an incredible potential to empower people, with make-up allowing wearers the opportunity to heighten or cover any physical aspects that they so wish. Yet, as the option to choose whether to wear make-up is generally assumed to be almost exclusively open to women, many men are lacking potential tools of self-expression and confidence building, based on outdated notions of masculinity and femininity.
With the rise of male beauty bloggers/vloggers, this seems to be slowly changing, but there is still a long way to go for society to accept and address the extent of body image issues among men.
One step to improving the issue is recognising that interests and desires of beauty are human, rather than solely female. A second is recognising that beauty products can, should, and hopefully one day will be as socially acceptable for men to utilise as women. This can be done by introducing more male employees into the industry to create a more representative body of people.