Men, too, are being held to unrealistic expectations of beauty.
As women, we're bombarded with images, both in print and the media, of what an "ideal" woman is supposed to look like. In the majority of cases that woman is tall, thin, and has features that don’t really identity with any specific ethnicity. In other words, in a world where we’re all becoming more and more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, defining the “perfect” beauty as being "one thing" isn’t just unfair but also irrelevant. Still, that doesn’t stop the media from hanging on to one type of beauty and shoving it down our throats.
Far too often we think of beauty standards as being something to which only women are held, but if we take a moment to look around us we’ll notice that men, too, are being held to unrealistic expectations of beauty.
While women still corner the market on body dissatisfaction thanks, in part, to the media, men aren’t too far behind. More and more men are struggling with eating disorders and shame that comes from not being “perfect,” and similarly to how these ideals affect women and girls, it’s also young boys who are getting the brunt of this pressure.
Between 2012 and 2014 the number of beauty products for men increased by 70 percent worldwide and in 2013 alone, that global industry was raking in $3.3 billion. Whether we totally place blame on the media or just concede to the possibility that men want in on the beauty care action, the result is still the same: Men, more than ever, are truly concerned about their appearance. That ideal also changes from country to country.
According to BuzzFeed, in the United States they found that “hottest” male celebrities were Chris Evans, Channing Tatum, and Chris Pratt; all of whom are fairly masculine men, a quality with which most men struggle.
Also in the United States, white, or at least light skin, seems to reign supreme. The most attractive men are white, over 80 percent of male actors in Hollywood are white, and in all the years that People has been doing their ridiculous “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, only once did a non-white man win. That winner was Denzel Washington. (I guess People hasn’t heard of Idris Elba, because OMG WOW.) In 2014, the U.S. alone dropped $4.1 billion on men’s personal products, and considering the current beard trend we know that wasn’t on razors or aftershave.
Once we step out of the beauty standards for men in the U.S. things don’t change all that much. In countries like Brazil and South Africa that have a considerable amount of blacks (79.6 percent in South Africa, to be exact), being white is still considered ideal and skin lightening cream is a popular way for both men and women to attain that beauty. Men in both South Korea and India are also on the skin lightening bandwagon.
In both Turkey and Italy masculinity doesn’t have as much importance as it does in countries like Nigeria and Mexico, where being macho is all the rage. In fact, in Turkey and Italy the ideal man is one who’s really into grooming their body hair (in Turkey they wax it; in Italy they style it), and in Italy men will wear pinks and purples without batting an eye at how un-macho it might appear. The Western European countries account for 21 percent of sales in men’s skin care worldwide… if you’ve ever been to Italy, you know that’s that no joke. Those men really know how to put themselves together.
In Australia, many men go under the knife to procure perfection. The most common plastic surgeries for Aussie men are nose jobs, eyelid lifts, penis enlargements, liposuction, ear correction (because you’re not anything without perfect ears!), and facelifts. Australian men also want to be more muscular and spend hours upon hours trying to achieve it.
Although this is just a look into a handful of the 196 countries in the world, the sentiment is the same in each one: Men are also under pressure to achieve perfection, too; no one is immune.
While we may not be able to stop the media from spoonfeeding us their thoughts on the subject, we can at least try to educate ourselves about how unrealistic these standards are. Brown eyes don’t turn blue over night, some people will never be a size four, and wrinkles are not a bad thing, but rather proof of a life well-lived and years of laughter. I realize that’s easier to say than believe, but if we can, at least, say it hopefully in time we can convince ourselves of it. Life is too short to hate your body for not being someone else’s vision of perfection.