I’ve recently spent a lot of time thinking about body image. Yes, I’m female and yes, we often are the punchline of many “does this dress make me look fat?” jokes for thinking about this far too much. What I can’t stop thinking about lately is that I’ve never had any of my male friends sit down with me and open the conversation by saying they need to start working out, or that lately they feel fat. Not one. And that’s a great thing. Congratulations, dudes. You’ve got me beat in the self-confidence and self-assurance departments.
Maybe you think I’m ridiculous for hyping this stereotypical divide when it comes to body image issues. To clarify, I’m not denying that many men, if not all men, have at least some insecurities about their bodies and they way they look. I’m fully aware of that. I also do not mean to make the claim that men do not fall victim to the pressure to look fit and I certainly know that guys have no special powers making them more likely to lead healthier lifestyles than women. The thing that bugs me is this: I have talked to my guy friends about things they want to improve about themselves physically, but it’s curious to me that the conversation always begins with my complaints about not working out enough or eating like I’m solely supporting the fast food and packaged snack markets. They rarely open the gate to the garden where their insecurities grow, whereas I find myself opening the floodgates and asking others if they have any Miracle Grow to spare.
Look at Tumblr, for example. If you type “healthy”, “diet”, “exercise” or the worst of them all, “thinspiration” into the tags search, I challenge you to find one picture of a male in the first eighty or so results. I think the difference here is the pressure we create within the female community to be skinny as opposed to healthy.
Sure, maybe more females have Tumblrs, but enough more than guys to create such a gross bias in the fitness realm of the posts. I think that guys pressure each other much more to be healthy than skinny, which to me is a really positive difference. Guys try to lift together and eat more protein to gain muscle, from what I’ve witnessed in my guy friends. They don’t criticize each other for eating in general or the way they look in a certain outfit. The worst part is that I’m guilty of saying that a girl “shouldn’t be eating that” or “that much” or “shouldn’t be wearing that”. I’ve spent far too much time on Tumblr looking at photos of skinny, photoshopped celebrities and emaciated hipsters, envying the way they look instead of actually changing my lifestyle. We pressure each other to be skinny instead of healthy, both in the virtual and real world. I’ve seen so many of my close friends eat an unhealthy and restrictive diet just to get skinny and the worst part is that they get results. In the end, however, they end up looking sick, while guys who get in shape look strong, fit and healthy.
I think it’s time for us to bro down, ladies. I’d love to search the tag “healthy” or “diet” on Tumblr and actually see more pictures of healthy girls and tips on how to eat and live healthy, rather than so many antique color filtered shots of models who are too skinny to wear anything but their Ray-Bans. From now on, I’m pressuring myself to actually get off my ass and move weight, rather than pressuring myself to avoid my kitchen. Although the whole “pressure to be skinny” thing among girls drama is a played out thing to harp on, I feel we need to stop placing the bulk of the blame on the media and the opposite sex and start changing how we treat ourselves and each other. How can we expect our society to treat us with respect that we don’t even show each other?