Person Explains How Toxic Hollywood’s Male Beauty Standards Are, Others Join In With Examples
Pop culture can fill our vulnerable minds with all kinds of incorrect and unhealthy ideas about how we and our lives are supposed to look.
But when actress Natalie Dormer made a statement on the issue saying that men are objectified as much as women, even she probably didn’t know the stir she was about to cause online.
Take this particular Tumblr thread for example. Drawing on the point Dormer made, it calls out movies and TV shows for the stereotypes that they perpetuate when it comes to unrealistic male standards, especially their physicality.
The people who participated in it perfectly explained why looks are not the most important thing in the world and why it’s much more important to focus on your health instead.
You could say this discussion started during an interview Dormer did with Radio Times, where the actress responded to Emma Thompson’s previous comments about ageism and sexism in film. Thompson initially said that “some forms of sexism and unpleasantness to women have become more entrenched and indeed more prevalent,” and that overall, opportunities for women are “still completely s**t.”
Dormer added that, from what she has seen, male actors face just as much objectification as women. “My personal experience has been to work on phenomenal jobs in which the men are objectified as much as the women. Actors suffer from it, too,” Dormer told Radio Times.
And while it’s up for debate if men and women have it equally bad, you can’t deny that society demands that men have an unrealistic physique. I mean, the looks men are chasing are literally named after gods and superheroes.
Which brings us to the conversation Bored Panda had with Dr. Esther De Dauw, a scholar working on superheroes, gender, race, and anti-hegemonic narratives. She has no doubt that men are objectified in mainstream media but thinks there actually is a difference between the ways movies and TV shows shape the image of a man and a woman. “Compared to the very narrow definition of beauty and femininity that women are pressured into, mainstream media still provides some variety of masculinity,” the co-authored of Toxic Masculinity: Mapping the Monstrous in Our Heroes said. “Think about the idea of the ‘dad bod’ – there’s no equivalent ‘mom bod.'”
De Dauw believes it’s also important to think about how men are objectified and how that’s different from the way women are objectified. “Mainstream media, especially blockbusters, portray men as physically powerful and to be in command of space at all time. Women are required to be small and pretty. Mainstream media reduces women to beauty objects, but it requires its men to more like action dolls. Women are a sex fantasy, men are a power fantasy – and actors are expected to look like that.”
“Is the pressure on men as intense as it is on women? Not yet – but it’s definitely getting there,” De Dauw said. “Increasingly, the ideal male standard is extremely buff and muscular. The Adonis Complex (Pope, Phillips, and Olivardia), discusses how there’s been a steady rise in eating disorders, abuse of steroids, and gym addiction in young men who are obsessed with being as big as possible and the negative impact this has on their lives.”
De Dauw said that male beauty standards are a huge part of toxic masculinity. “We still very often think of our identity as being grounded in our body. The way we look reflects who we are and in terms of gender identity; we consider our bodies to say something about who we are as women (including trans women), men (including trans men), non-binary, or other gender identities,” she explained. “The push towards the powerful, muscular body is all about establishing masculinity that is based on strength, endurance, and its ability to be violent – all those qualities that, taken to their extremes, can be very toxic to men and the people in their environments. The pressure to fit this very specific standard is leading to an increase in eating disorders and steroid abuse amongst young men because they’re afraid of not being manly enough – and the fear of not being manly enough pushing you to do unhealthy things is a cornerstone of toxic masculinity.”
If you want to read more on the subject, Toxic Masculinity has various chapters on the body and how it impacts toxic masculinity as a whole, plus De Dauw has written about this in her own book Hot Pants and Spandex Suits.
Rob Ledonne wrote in GQ that pretty much every issue of any fitness magazine has some variation of the words “Get” and “Abs” and “Now.” Fire up a Zac Efron movie, he said, and Zac will take off his shirt in at least one scene, even in the trailer for a movie in which he plays the serial killer Ted Bundy.
And even if we try to escape all of these images and go, for example, to the beach, we sit down and our reptilian brain adjusts our bodies so that our bellies don’t appear too big.
“There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting our body to reflect who we are as people. Many of us experience a positive sense of self-expression when we cut our hair, get a piercing, a tattoo, or even just picking an outfit,” De Dauw said. “There’s also nothing wrong with working out, becoming stronger, and using that to get some self-confidence. Having respect for your body and its strength is a healthy thing.”
But your body is just a part of you. “Your worth isn’t determined by whether or not you have a six-pack or fit into that size 8,” De Dauw stressed. “You are not defined by the beauty ideals that you see all around you. And that is true for both men and women.”
Image credits: brunhiddensmusings