Advertising does not make it easy.
Men are targeted by body-image messaging too.
And I think maybe it starts with toys.
Like millions of other young boys in the '80s, I had He-Man, G.I. Joe, "Star Wars," and Superman dolls. They were all white men with trim bodies, thick hair, and strong jawlines. Their jobs were to stand tall and keep everyone safe in the respective worlds they lived in (aka my bedroom).
Toys were setting the "man body ideal" in the '80s. But some of them actually looked pretty average.
...that is, for men who ran around fighting crime, because crime fighting is probably great exercise.
See, this original Batman doll looks pretty average:
But holy Crossfit, Batman! What happened to you in the 2000s?
I mean, I'm glad they did something with the outfit 'cause it looks totally badass.
But why did you become an unrealistically *ripped* Batman?
You were perfectly good at fighting crime before (even with your silly spray-can weapon).
Toy companies (and advertising) are good at telling a story they believe you'll want to be a part of so you'll buy their product and, for a moment, pretend to be that thing you bought. Who doesn't want to live in Batman's house with cool technology, a support staff that makes said cool technology, and a car that'll do just about anything you want (even fly)?
The Batman franchise was not the only body-changing switcheroo. Check out the "Star Wars" dolls of yesterday vs. today.
Above is a screen shot of a search for male dolls. You can search for most any toy and see the differences of a male body standard through the years. Boys of yesterday are now men of today, and I'll stand up to say "these toys affected the way I see myself."
Today's toys seem to reflect our obsession with a new and almost impossible "ideal."
Chris Thompson agrees with me.
His video is below. He talks about how we are bombarded with advertising and messaging that is prone to make us feel "less than" what we would like to be.
I'm ashamed to admit this, but when I originally watched Chris' video, I thought: "Why is he saying these things about his body? He's not fat."
So I called Chris up to ask why he made this video. He said: "Matt, I've never really felt good about how I look. It's not about what you think of my body, it's about how I feel. I didn't feel good about my body for a long time."
This video is a response to one of his subscribers, who wrote him about his own issues:
"As men, society expects us to be confident while it allows girls to express their insecurities. I have had body image issues since about second grade. ... Just how girls are bombarded with media with images of how they should look, guys are bombarded with that too."
Chris' video makes some really clear points about how he overcomes feeling "less than."
At 1:00, hear how he responds to what women go through. He explains how he reacted to feeling insecure at 2:00. And at 2:45, he takes off his shirt to prove he's ready to embrace his imperfections.