Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Men, appearance, and cosmetic surgery: The role of confidence, self-esteem, and comfort with the body

Interesting article from The Canadian Journal of Sociology, but I am forced to ask: Why is so much of the interesting writing about men and men's issues being done by women? Seriously.

This article points to a serious change in the culture - this may in part be responsible for the dramatic rise in male eating disorders over the last twenty years.

In trying to be more like men, women are getting more heart disease and high blood pressure - and in holding ourselves to the same standards to which we have long held women, men are getting more eating disorders and more plastic surgery. Hmmmm . . . .

Men, appearance, and cosmetic surgery: The role of confidence, self-esteem, and comfort with the body

Rosemary Ricciardelli, Kimberley Ann Clow


Recent research has suggested that perceptions of the body are important to men’s sense of confidence and that men see the body as a vehicle for personal improvement. To build on this research, an online survey investigated Canadian men’s perspectives on their appearance and their attitudes toward cosmetic surgery. Low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and comfort with one’s body uniquely predicted different aspects of men’s experiences, including attitudes about body shape, perceptions of others, pressures to lose weight, and perspectives regarding cosmetic surgery. For example, participants who were more comfortable with their bodies and higher in self-esteem were happier with their current body shape and features, whereas participants who were less comfortable with their bodies and lower in confidence put more pressure on themselves to lose weight. In addition, lower confidence significantly predicted willingness to undergo cosmetic surgery. Men’s perspectives on cosmetic surgery were thematically analyzed. These findings are situated within identity theory and sociology of the body.

Full Text: PDF
Here are the opening paragraphs of the paper (click the PDF link above to read the article).
Images of the Body

Bordo (1993) and Bartky (1990) argued that the body, particularly the female body, is dominated or oppressed through the practices and bodily habits of everyday life. Bordo (1993:16) explains that “culture’s grip on the body is a constant, intimate fact of everyday life.” This is evident historically, as objectified and sexualized portrayals in advertisements, magazines, and other media primarily portrayed images of women which perpetuated a culture of sexuality and physical appearance (Archer et al. 1983; Courtney and Whipple 1983; Goffman 1979; Lueptow et al. 2001). Images of men, in contrast, were restricted to athletic portrayals and “action shots” or facial photos, where men were individualized agents rather than sexualized marketing tools (Davis 2002; Hall and Crum 1994; Sullivan and O’Conner 1988). Thus, the portrayal of the male body tended to perpetuate more traditional images of masculinity.

Furthermore, Connell (1983:18) examined the social construction of the male body, focusing on “the physical sense of maleness.” According to Connell, the male body is athletic, developed, skilled, large, powerful, forceful, and strong. It occupies space (whereas the female body does not) and is inherently heterosexual. Boys, starting in primary school, are expected to participate in sports. As adults, men are expected to be strong, athletic, and skilled in diverse realms of their life — work, sexuality, and fatherhood. These physically embodied dimensions of masculinity are mixed with the psychological and social dynamics of masculinity, which can lead men to feel they are unable to live up to their image or expectations (Carrigan, Connell, and Lee 1985; Connell 1983). This element of masculinity is complicated by the fact that the masculine identity is constructed during times of social, structural, or personal change (Connell 1995).

More recently, the male body has become increasingly visible and sexualized (Bordo 1999; Gill et al. 2005). For example, advertisements featuring men sexually posed in briefs (e.g., Calvin Klein, Dolce and Gabbana advertisements) have become common place in magazines e.g., Maxim, Men’s Health, GQ, OUT, etc.) and on billboards. Gill et al. 2005:39–40) state that
men’s bodies are on display as never before, from the muscular heroes of the cinematic action genre, to the ‘sixpacks’ who grace the covers of Men’s Health, and the ‘superwaifs’ of contemporary style magazines.
Overall, despite the type of male body being depicted, there is widespread agreement among researchers that a shift has occurred: from being almost invisible, the male body has become hypervisible in the media Bordo 1999; Gill et al. 2005). The reasons for this shift are contested: different theorists credit different explanations, such as the gay movement, feminism, the style press, consumerism, and changing gender roles Chapman and Rutherford 1988; Edwards 1997; Featherstone 1991; Gill et al. 2000; 2005; Moore 1988; Mort 1996; Nixon 1996; Simpson 1994). Whatever the reason for this shift, one reality remains evident: the male body in contemporary culture is both highly sexual and highly visible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

eating disorder? for men?