Deccan Chronicle

Male body shaming, a growing reality

Deccan Chronicle.| Smitha N

Published on: February 16, 2022 | Updated on: February 16, 2022

Men too, despite being the privileged gender compared to others, face social pressure when it comes to looks

Body shaping procedure (Photo by arrangement)

Body shaping procedure (Photo by arrangement)

It’s a known truth that people are judged by looks. In this age of social media and beauty filters, it is now almost impossible to escape the scrutiny. If an individual doesn’t have the specifications of beauty and desirability, they will be judged and looked down upon. While much has been talked about how society’s narrow-minded scrutiny objectifies and harms women, we are yet to venture into the growing reality of male body shaming.

Body dissatisfaction or shame about one’s appearance has similar psychological impacts on men as well. An article published in the American Journal of Men’s health titled ‘Men Respond Too: The Effects of a Social-Evaluative Body Image Threat on Shame and Cortisol in University Men’ clearly mentions the negative impacts of body shaming on men.

Understanding male body shaming

Men too, despite being the privileged gender compared to others, face social pressure when it comes to looks. The hyped terms of masculinity and manliness leave little or no space for nuances, and anyone who looks different is vulnerable to body shaming and the consequent harms that come with it.

Men are often targeted for being skinny, or plus size, or for not having enough facial hair, or sometimes even for not having a "manly" voice - whatever that means. Jokes about ‘size of private parts’ is a go-to remedy people rely on when they don’t have the capacity for better humour.

In an attempt to escape this scrutiny, many opt to seek medical help to alter how they look.

Dr. Joseph Thomas, a practising aesthetic physician based in Thiruvalla, Kerala, says that 50 per cent of the patients who consult him are men, out of which 70 per cent have been subjected to social or psychological trauma at various points of their life.

Dr Joseph Thomas

"More than 50 per cent of the patients visiting our hospital for body shaping or body contouring procedures are men. Apart from the health reasons, most of them opt for such procedures due to social stigmatisation," says Dr. Joseph.

The growth of India’s multi-million aesthetic industry is a clear indication of how people are becoming conscious of their looks. The aesthetic industry in states like Kerala, where it is still in the initial stage, is worth Rs.75 crore to Rs.100 crore per year, according to stakeholders.

Apart from "just wanting to look good", there are other concerns that make them consider body shaping and body contouring. As Dr. Joseph says, body shaming has more side effects

"Low libido caused by depression due to body shaming is a major reason for male infertility. Effective psychological support is crucial to boost the confidence of patients as they are too conscious of their bodies and feel ashamed of their looks. Individuals facing body shaming will start to avoid outdoor activities, exercise and functions. They prefer to be secluded at home and will gradually dip into depression. Some of them even show suicide tendency," Dr. Joseph adds.

Positive changes after undergoing body shaping procedures can bring immense transformation to an individual’s mental health. "Earlier, I couldn’t even think of going to the gym where well-toned people come to work out. I was too conscious of my appearance and often felt ashamed. After the body shaping procedure, my entire lifestyle has changed. I am now regularly going to the gym and confident of my looks. This is actually a rebirth for me," said one of the patients of Dr. Joseph.

As the concept of ‘body inclusivity’ has been widely debated to counter the ‘ideal body image’ of women, such campaigns should also cater to men. Because like women, men are also deeply affected by body shaming though with slight differences.

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