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Male Beauty Standards: History, Influences & Impact

Societies have long been influenced by beauty standards in how they see and idealize physical appearances. These norms are arbitrary and can fluctuate widely between societies and eras. They can be shaped by media representation, popular culture, historical tendencies, and even scientific research. They are shaped by sociological, cultural, and historical elements. Despite being arbitrary and ever-changing, beauty standards can have a profound effect on both individuals and society as a whole. They can alter our sense of self, our sense of confidence, our sense of self-worth, and even our physical health.

The Relationship Between Gender and Beauty Standards

The relationship between gender and beauty standards is one subject that has received a lot of attention recently. Men and women are subjected to distinct standards of beauty in many countries, with women frequently being under more pressure to adhere to rigid beauty ideals. This does not imply that guys are not affected by beauty standards, either. In reality, men's mental health and self-image can be greatly impacted by male beauty standards. We must look at the cultural, societal, and economic influences that have influenced male beauty standards across time in order to understand where they came from. These are the actions to think about:

Factors That Influence Male Beauty Standards

  1. Historical context: Cultural and societal standards of beauty are fluid and vary throughout time. For instance, a well-defined, muscular body was ideal for men in ancient Greece. In contrast, a chubby figure and a rounded tummy were regarded as symbols of riches and prestige throughout the European Renaissance. 
  2. Cultural influences: Cultural elements have a big impact on how men view beauty. A beard may be regarded as untidy or unprofessional in some cultures and a sign of manhood and virility in others. In contrast to the Middle East, where a thick beard is frequently regarded as a mark of religious devotion and cultural identity, Japan is one country where a clean-shaven face is the standard. 
  3. Media and advertising: Advertising in particular, which is prevalent in mass media, is very important in influencing beauty standards. Images of appealing, muscular guys have long been used in advertising to promote goods, from cologne to underwear. These pictures are frequently edited and airbrushed to produce idealized masculine attractiveness, which can be challenging for actual men to achieve. 
  4. Economical considerations: The beauty sector is a multi-billion dollar industry that includes goods and services targeted at males. Businesses that sell hair loss treatments and other products linked to male grooming and beauty standards have a vested interest in pushing particular beauty ideals to sell their products. 
  5. Societal pressures: Social acceptance and prestige are frequently tied to male attractiveness standards. In order to be deemed handsome or successful in their personal and professional life, men may feel pressure to live up to these ideals. To be perceived as fit and healthy, for instance, a man would feel pressure to have a well-toned body, which could affect his confidence and self-esteem. 

In the past, hyper-masculine characteristics like muscularity, roughness, and a golden tan have been the focus of the male beauty standard in some western nations. This norm has been reinforced by media and advertising, which can make males feel under pressure to live up to these standards in order to be considered desirable or handsome. The male beauty standard has, however, been gradually shifting more in favor of role models who are pushing gender norms, like Timothée Chalamet and Harry Styles. Since personality and individuality are becoming more important than high-end luxury clothing, most clothing in some communities is second-hand.

Men's ideals of beauty have fluctuated and changed just as much as those for women.

Men's mental and physical health may be seriously harmed by the pressure to meet male attractiveness standards. Guys could have unhealthy ties with eating, or they might extreme exercise and dieting to look a certain way. If individuals believe they fall short of the marketed beauty standards, they could also feel unpleasant feelings like embarrassment or fear.

Notwithstanding the harm that beauty standards cause to males, the subject has long gone unnoticed and unspoken about. Depending on the era, location, or culture, many things are considered beautiful. For instance, whereas the male beauty ideal in some parts of the western and latin culture emphasizes masculinity, it does not exist in Korean societies. These expectations are reinforced by social media sites like Instagram and Tiktok, which expose kids to "the ideal" and what grabs their attention. The popularity of fitness and beauty postings reinforces the idea that males should have a specific body type. Strong, muscular guys are almost always cast as the main heroes of films by entertainment firms like Marvel. Characters with varied body types, however, typically play supporting or comic relief roles or have minor parts.

In the past, men's ideals of beauty have fluctuated and changed just as much as those for women. The following are a few things that have affected how male attractiveness standards have changed over time:

  1. Culture values: Cultural values and beliefs frequently have an impact on how people see beauty. For instance, in Ancient Greece, men were prized for having strong, toned bodies, whereas in the 18th century, a more slender, effeminate look was in fashion. 
  2. Media representation: The media has a significant impact on how men see beauty. Advertising and media campaigns frequently feature images of chiseled and toned male models and celebrities, maintaining a limited and frequently unachievable standard of male beauty. Particularly social media has had a significant impact on the evolution of beauty standards. 
  3. Social norms: Social norms might influence male beauty standards as well. For instance, body hair is regarded as hot in several cultures yet unsightly and unsanitary in others. 
  4. Globalization: As the world has gotten more interconnected, men's beauty standards have become more homogenized, with a particular "ideal" body type and appearance becoming more widely acknowledged and coveted. 

It's critical to advance a pluralistic, inclusive notion of male attractiveness in order to counter the damaging effects of unattainable beauty standards on men. This can entail valuing individuality, accepting diversity in the body, and rejecting the unrealistically high ideals of beauty promoted by the media. Encourage males to prioritize their total well-being over achieving a certain body type in order to move the emphasis away from appearance-based goals and towards health and wellness. In the end, understanding that there is no one "perfect" body type and that beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms will be the key to improving male beauty standards.

It's critical to advance a pluralistic definition of beauty that appreciates the diversity of appearances and bodies, that doesn't perpetuate harmful gender norms and standards.

Beauty Standards and Mental Health

Male beauty ideals cause adolescent boys to feel unworthy, lose confidence, and frequently result in major health issues including disordered eating. The body neutrality and body positivity movements have taken over social media platforms, particularly Tiktok. Nonetheless, almost all "body positivity" content producers are female and target female audiences with their themes. Regrettably, not many content producers cater to male audiences in the same way.

The idea of beauty is complicated and always evolving, especially for men. "The property of being attractive, especially to look at, or someone or something that offers considerable pleasure, especially when you gaze at it," according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Beauty has been defined in various ways throughout history and across diverse cultures. A more feminine version of male beauty that stresses clear skin, enlarging eyes, and androgynous figures is promoted in Korean society.

Guys could have unhealthy ties with eating, or they might extreme exercise and dieting to look a certain way. If individuals believe they fall short of the marketed beauty standards, they could also feel unpleasant feelings like embarrassment or fear.

The development of social media in recent years has significantly altered how men's beauty standards are developed and maintained. The following are a few ways that social media has impacted male beauty standards:

  1. More visibility of "perfect" bodies: On social media sites like Instagram and TikTok, people with supposedly ideal bodies can amass huge followings. As a result, a certain body type that is frequently out of reach for most guys has become normalized. 
  2. The emergence of influencers: Social media has spawned a new type of influencer, one that has grown popular due to their appealing appearance. This has produced a culture in which being physically appealing is regarded as crucial to success. 
  3. The pressure to offer a perfect image: Social media has created a culture where people feel under pressure to provide a perfect image of themselves. This can make people believe that in order to be deemed attractive or successful, they must adhere to certain beauty standards. 
  4. Using filters and photo editing tools: A variety of filters and editing tools are available on social media sites, allowing users to change photographs. Because of the artificial beauty standards that have resulted, it is difficult for males to feel confident about their appearance. 

People must be aware of the unrealistic standards being promoted and actively seek out media that encourages body positivity and self-acceptance in order to fight the damaging effects of social media on body image and self-esteem. This can involve participating in activities that encourage self-care and a positive body image, as well as following accounts that challenge conventional beauty standards and exhibit various bodies.

Factors That Shape Male Beauty Standards Over Time

We need to employ a multifaceted strategy that tackles both individual and systemic issues in order to counteract the detrimental effects of social media on body image and self-esteem. Following are some actions we can take:

  1. Education: The cornerstone of any strategy to address self-esteem and negative body image issues is education. People need to be made aware of the damaging effects that social media has on their self-esteem and body image, as well as given the skills and knowledge they need to reject these unfavorable messages. Programs in schools, workshops, and internet resources can all help with this. 
  2. Regulation: Social media sites must be accountable for the content they host and the effects it has on users. Controls could entail mandating warning labels on material that fosters a negative body image or low self-esteem, as well as algorithms that favor messages that are constructive and healthy over those that are destructive. 
  3. Representation: It matters who is represented. We need to see a wider range of body types, skin tones, and gender identities in the media. This can be done by actively seeking out varied voices and viewpoints and by supporting media that supports positive body image and self-esteem. 
  4. Support: Those who struggle with low self-esteem and a poor body image require assistance. Counseling programs, support groups, and online tools can all help with this. 
  5. Advocacy: We must press for structural reform, including legislation to safeguard users from harmful content and to advance diversity and media representation. Campaigns at the local level, petitions, and advocacy groups can accomplish this. 
  6. Self-Care: Lastly, we must give self-care and self-compassion first priority. This entails practicing self-acceptance and self-love as well as taking the time to look after our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These can involve practices like meditation, exercise, and counseling. 

We can counteract the damaging effects of social media on body image and self-esteem by adopting a multifaceted strategy that targets both individual and systemic concerns, and we can advance a society where everyone is at ease and confident in their own skin.

Young people's body image can be positively influenced by parents, teachers, and other role models, among other people. They can promote candid discussions on media literacy and body image while also offering tools and assistance to those who might be experiencing low self-esteem or body dissatisfaction.

It's also critical that social media companies and advertisers accept responsibility for the effects they have on the mental health and body image of young people. This can involve encouraging diversity and inclusivity in their content, restricting the use of filters and photo-editing software, and offering help and resources to people who might be experiencing problems with their body image.

Therefore, people, communities, and society as a whole must work together to develop a more positive and inclusive attitude around body image. We can build a society where everyone is at ease and confident in their own skin by opposing excessive beauty standards and encouraging self-acceptance and body positivity.

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