Patience: The He-Man Hurts All Men

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When you hear the world “masculine,” what do you think? Do you think of Thor, the God of Thunder? Do you think of professional wrestlers who make it their jobs to be strong? Does Clark Kent take off his glasses and jacket and fly through your frontal lobe?

The traditional male body image is just as dangerous to men as the traditional female body image is for women. Men shouldn’t feel confined to the square, large, muscular body that has been set as the standard in the advertisements and fantasy worlds they see every day.

The traditional male figure is a problem for several reasons, including the fact that it’s unrealistic, can be physically harmful to those who try to accomplish that sort of physique, and it creates insecurities that create even more problems.

Little boys grow up watching movies that feature characters like the Hulk, Wolverine, He-Man and
Batman, and later on they watch action movies like “Transformers” and “The Fast and The Furious.” It’s there that they start to develop an idea of what a “man” is supposed to be. They are taught that a real man doesn’t cry, knows how to drive everything and, most of all, has a large, muscular body. In the Disney classic “Hercules,” the protagonist isn’t beloved by his community until his body physically shows his true strength.

What we need to clarify is that most of these images are created by men who want to live vicariously through these characters.

The problem created by these fictional images is that they are difficult to accomplish and motivate men to go to dangerous lengths in an attempt to accomplish them, including lifting weights too heavy for them and tearing muscle tissue, developing eating disorders and steroid addictions.

If these dangerous attempts to reach the nearly impossible happen to fail, insecurities are created. Even the men who accept their body types — tall, short, scrawny, husky — may still feel insecure early on, because the girls in beer commercials never run in slow motion to men who look like them.

Men of various shapes and sizes, just like women, deserve to be comfortable in their bodies and know that if they’re being rejected or loved, it’s because of who they are, not how much they can bench.

Insecurities can fester and become dangerous. Men with insecurities can get into fights with other men who challenge their “manliness.” They can completely give up on being physically healthy (which creates health problems that last for years), play the nice guy card, become possessive over the people in their lives or feel the need to compensate.

My boyfriend is rather skinny even though he eats like a pig. He has been labeled a live skeleton, accused of being anorexic and once a teacher even told him,“It looks like you just got out of a concentration camp,” which is a terrible thing to say to anyone. Honestly, it hurts to hear people take cheap shots at him, even though he has learned to laugh about it.

Depending on your metabolism, your body may never look how you think it should look.

Muscular bodies are not what make a real man. All you need to call yourself a “real” man is to believe that you are one and have a good heart.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

@TheChrony

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