Last week's article, “Why Women Need To Change The Conversation And Stop Obsessing Over Their Weight” provided a firsthand account of one person's experiences in the world of women and weight concerns.
In the article, the author summarized her personal desensitization to “the unending conversations centered upon weight loss and poor body image” and commented on the need for women to change the conversation rather than contribute to it.
By no means do I intend to challenge that our society is disproportionately obsessed with weight or disparage the very real difficulties that women face; however, I do challenge the assertion that the emphasis on body image is an entirely female experience.
Although the public may support harsher physical expectations of females, it does not overlook other body forms. The criticism and public scrutiny the author discusses is universal and the matters will not resolve until all people acknowledge, accept and appreciate that every person is subject to judgment.
Even as a male, I can empathize and identify with much of last week’s article. I may not strive for a thigh gap, but I do work toward certain socially coveted physical features.
And, I may not limit myself to just one apple per day, but I do ruminate over almost every calorie that enters my body.
In an effort to march forward, I intertwine my vulnerability and self-criticism with my confidence and self-respect, thereby creating a bipolar blend of inward weakness and outward strength.
However, I often feel halted by the media’s relentless focus on women’s bodies. Women and men are systematically depicted on opposing sides with combating experiences: women as the observed and men as the observers. This fashioned representation of contemporary society is grounded in truth but steps far beyond reality.
Ultimately, a person – in this case, a man – can only be devote so much attention to his partner’s weight while also focusing on his own body image.
Based on my experiences as a male in society and the academic field of women’s and gender studies, I consistently ask myself: Am I less of a man because I identify more with the women who undergo the weight war than the men they seek to impress? (Note: we almost always assume that women try to impress men, which is naïve, but a separate conversation.)
Should I internalize my thoughts to avoid judgment? I cannot genuinely accept that I am one of few men who struggle with these questions and general body concerns.
As I mentioned before, the author of the article advocates for women to change the topic instead of contributing to it. I respect this approach, as it recognizes value in developing more healthy conversations, but I am not entirely convinced that it will yield the outcomes for which we hope.
In my opinion, all of us — not just women — need to change the topic by contributing to it more.
In order to improve the level of social awareness, we need to stop attributing obsessions with weight to women and security with it to men. Women should not feel that they need to struggle and men should not feel that they cannot.
Furthermore, in order to paint a more accurate picture of who struggles with weight matters, we must encourage all individuals to openly share their experiences. Fostering open, honest discussion will allow relationships and people to evolve.
Obsession with weight will likely never go away. But, this does not mean that the discourse surrounding it cannot change.
If we, as a society of tremendously diverse body forms, can work toward an obsession that centers upon happiness and healthiness, we may never want to change the conversation again.
Top Photo Courtesy: We Heart It