Kind is the new Tough
Last summer I wrote regarding my concern that the message to have a healthy body image is more aimed at girls than boys. Since then I have done more research about boys and body image and as a mother of boys I have paid attention to how the message of body image is sent to them. This fall I saw the book pictured below “Strong is the new Pretty” by Kate T. Parker, and I thought why not have a parallel campaign for boys that helps debunk the stereotype that boys need to be strong and tough.
That is what led me to research this more, because I wondered, what is the impact of having highly muscled and attractive men advertising many products? Also, how is giving attention to men that do not always make kind decisions affect our young men? The following are some facts I have found in reviewing articles related to males and body image:
Boys that have a positive relationship with their father and a positive relationship with peers have a lower incidence of body image discrepancy. Body image discrepancy is when a youth is dissatisfied with their actual body size because it does not meet what they believe to be their ideal size (1).
Fear of negative attention from peers about body type causes boys to have a higher incidence of body image discrepancy (1).
If boys have positive physical self-worth there is less chance of body image discrepancy (1).
When young men have nurturing parents this leads to better body satisfaction (2).
Prevalence of extreme dietary restriction and purging behaviors are increasing at a faster rate in males (3).
Binge eating disorders are the most common type of eating disorders in men (4).
Males desire bodies that are lean and muscular (5).
Muscle dysmorphia is a condition where men obsess about achieving an overly muscular physique, which can lead to obsessive exercise and varied eating patterns (4).
The above are facts that I have found from various studies and organizations that support eating disorder awareness. Given these above statistics I have noticed that there is not as much body diversity in advertising to boys and men as there is to females (and that is only my opinion from what I have observed). I have also noticed that there seems to be a double standard. I have heard female newscasters overly commenting on how attractive a male is, when as a society it would not be acceptable for a male newscaster to make the same comment about a woman’s body. I say to be equal we stop commenting on others bodies and start talking about the positive qualities they show. Do they help people? Do they have a unique talent? Are they smart? Are they kind?
Are these images really what we want to encourage our boys to live a healthy life? Is this realistic? Is this the only picture of health?
Evidence supports how important it is to have positive nurturing relationships to improve self esteem and body acceptance. I say it is time we stop emphasizing the need for boys to be strong and tough, but start teaching them to be kind! This will lead them to become better friends, better fathers, better life partners, and better humans and that will benefit everyone.
Micheal S, Wentzel K, Elliot M, et al. Parental and Peer Factors Associated with Body Image Discrepancy among Fifth-Grade Boys and Girls. J Youth Adolesc. 2014 January: 43 (1): 15-29
Holsen I, Jones DC, Birkeland MS. Body image satisfaction among Norwegian adolescents and young adults: A longitudinal study of the influence of interpersonal relationships and BMI. Body Image. 2012; 9:201–208.
Mitchison, D.; Hay, P.; Slewa-Younan, S.; Mond, J. The changing demographic profile of eating disorder behaviors in the community. BMC Public Health 2014; 14:943.
Research on males and eating disorders. National Eating Disorder Association website. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/research-on-males. Accessed January 3, 2018.
The silent victim: More men have eating disorders than ever before. The Atlantic website. 2012 April 5. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/the-silent-victims-more-men-have-eating-disorders-than-ever-before/255171/, Accessed January 3, 2018.