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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Got muscles? Who cares?

    Jeremiah Simmonscolumnist
    Jeremiah Simmons

    Most people believe that only women have body-image issues – but similar problems plague men, as well. If you don’t believe me, march over to the Student Recreation Center and observe firsthand evidence: the absurdly long line of men waiting indefinitely to get into the weight room.

    Sometimes, the male obsession for the perfect body becomes a harmful endeavor. Over the past 50 years, the ideal male body image has been constantly shifting, and, for the most part, in an unhealthy direction. One way to understand the meaning and value of body image in American society is to look at the way it is represented in media and popular culture – and to understand that the media both reflects and produces meanings and values about the ideal male body.

    An easy way to trace changes in male body image is simple – through the increasing size of male action figures that we see in the toy departments of Wal-Mart or Target. Just as Barbie’s breasts have grown completely out of proportion, Batman, Spider-Man and GI Joe figures have noticeably bulked up over the last few decades. This cultural phenomenon has been described as the “”Adonis complex,”” named after the Greek demi-god said to represent the pinnacle of male beauty. But even artistic representations of Adonis have changed through the ages.

    It’s easy to find yourself caught up in body-image obsessions, spending more time in the gym than in the classroom. I, too, am guilty of wanting an ultra-ripped body. It’s hard not to want one when on every page of Men’s Health or GQ we are bombarded by images of ultra-fit men who we think live better lives than us because they meet the ideal male body image.

    But the

    The discrepancies in media portrayals of men make it difficult to reach a holistic understanding of health beyond merely what we physically see.

    discrepancy between the models splashed on the page and men in real life suggests a lack of communication both between men and women and within the male and female genders themselves. There seems to be an overwhelming discrepancy between what men think women want and what women actually want.

    Magazines marketed towards men show men who are ultra-ripped, and magazines marketed towards women show men with a softer look. Discrepancies in media portrayals of men make it difficult to reach a holistic understanding of health beyond merely what we physically see. Our obsession to reach an unreachable ideal can compromise our health in the emotional, spiritual, social and mental spheres.

    It’s important that students know how to recognize, critically analyze and resist the mixed messages from our culture. Body image should be based equally on social norms and our own self-concept in a holistic fashion.

    As I spend most of my time at the medical campus, most students here spend their time trying to find products that will keep them up all night for their review boards before really thinking about what exercises will optimize their workout to get that washboard stomach.

    Bottom line: There is nothing natural about ideal body images. The way they are made says something about those in the culture that makes and consumes them. In our culture, men have been the primary authors of our popular culture. The changes we see in the ideal male body image reflect the changing psyches of their creators and consumers. We can either choose to perpetuate the misperceptions peddled to us, or we can see them for what they really are: insecurities in magazine form that we only choose to believe about ourselves.

    Jeremiah Simmons is a second-year public health graduate student. He can be reached at

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