Something that I’ve been quite vocal and passionate about in the past has been the objectification of females. I’ve always felt strongly about this topic because I think it is unjust that we are treated like things rather than people. The standards of beauty, especially in America, are literally unattainable and make people feel lesser-than and unworthy when they can’t get the look of the impossible standard, which is created digitally by companies who want us to find our worth in their products. I digress, there’s another side of this which is generally overlooked: men are victims of unattainable ideals, too. And not enough people are talking about it.
I’ve read infinite articles about toxic masculinity, which is a commonly discussed topic on the digital world. The stereotypes that ‘boys can’t cry’, ‘boys don’t play with dolls!’, and, perhapsy most horrifying, ‘men need to be aggressive and forceful!’ have been christened as unjust within the world, and it’s about time! However, according to several additional articles that I’ve read, male objectification is completely fair game. Which I find, needless to say, ridiculous. Can you say ‘double standard’?
People are starting to call out the trope of a woman being objectified when physical looks have nothing to do with her role in movies and shows (that is, if she even has a true role in the plot). Unfortunately, they fail to call out the opposite: men are held to the same types of physical standards as women every time a male character takes off his shirt for no reason (which happens way more than we realize). Women think the same things when they see an objectified male as men do when they see an objectified female.
When women see ads, films, and other media with these impossible ideals, they feel insecure and as if they need to starve themselves, work out 24/7, and spend three hours every day primping in order to feel worthy. Men feel the same way but in a different extent. When guys see perfectly chiseled abs, biceps, and shoulders on the same generic 6’2” white man, they feel unworthy, too. Guys suddenly feel the need to hit the gym for hours a day in order to hit this impossible ideal, just like girls do. The representation of this unrealistic standard in the media also creates issues with regards to males’ height- the messages convey that if a guy isn’t at least six feet tall, he isn’t desirable to women or masculine enough. The average US male is five feet and nine inches, leaving the vast majority of men feeling inadequate and deficient.
Another important part of this issue to mention is the negative effect on children. Both young girls and young boys see their favorite movie and show characters portrayed as one set of “ideal shapes” and unconsciously correlate saving the day, building a relationship with a significant other, and succeeding with that set of body images. These thought pathways continue into adolescence and adulthood, creating severe problems as time passes.
Usually, when I write out something like this, I have an answer to the problem, or at least some Quick Tips to Help The Issue. I don’t have anything like that today. I wish I did, but there’s nothing that I can say to fix the problem within 24 hours. It’s a mindset change that our society has to adopt. What I can say, however, is that we need to start calling out the impossible ideals of beauty in men as well as women. When we start addressing this problem for both males and females, it will raise awareness and become a catalyst for change.