You really are the lucky ones aren’t you! Today we are really proud to introduce you to another brand new contributor, Amy Haggar. With her confident, informed views she makes an amazing addition to the VinylOctopus team!
You may have heard of the ‘male gaze’ theory – a term coined by feminist Laura Mulvey in 1975 – to describe the way that society views women and femininity through the lens of what would be deemed as desirable for the heterosexual male. Much research has been done into the effects of this ‘gaze’ on women in society, and how they are portrayed, but what about it’s effect on men? Whilst women have traditionally been viewed as fragile, delicate and in need of a white knight, on the other side of the coin men have been expected to be that white knight. Not all men are able to live up to this expectation placed on them, and it can be very damaging when they feel as though they fall short.
I know what you must be thinking – this is an outdated view no longer relevant, and to an extent you’re right. We now live in an age of social media and consumerism, where individuals can effectively build their own identity. This can be through the purchasing of desirable items, through following trends with their leisure time, and through creating the persona they want to portray through use of their social media profiles.
But if we’re going to build our identity through consumer activity, we need to be shown the products we can buy, right? We need to be advertised to. We can handle this in small doses, and when celebrity culture first arose we knew to a certain extent to take it with a pinch of salt. These individuals are in the business of looking beautiful, and they have time and money to get a personal trainer, a nutritionist, and a personal shopper (even a cosmetic surgeon if that’s the route they choose). Sure, we can find their stories inspirational, and look to them for health and fitness advice, but we know that we are only able to follow this to a certain point.
But what about when it isn’t in small doses anymore? What about when you live in a society where you are drowning in multi-national corporations, wanting to sell you something? You could idolize the likes of footballers when they are just playing football, because you know that’s how they ended up looking the way they do – but what about when they’re trying to sell you aftershave or a clothing brand? Advertisers are very skilled in their field, and they know that in order to get you interested in a product, they need to sell you a lifestyle. All men wear underwear. But when was the last time you saw a middle-aged man, who is a little bit flabbier round the middle and probably has a very stressful office job, posing topless in them?
You can see this in the rise of new celebrity culture too. New celebrity culture refers to the idea that young individuals can become famous, simply for appearing on reality TV shows (think Love Island, Geordie Shore and the like). These individuals are, to all extent and purposes, ‘normal’ people. That is how they are sold to us. So when we see them on social media promoting weight loss pills, protein powder and teeth whitening products they’ve used, it’s much more effective in selling us the product. You follow these people online because they were funny on TV, and you become bombarded with adverts that have been written to seem like these individuals are your friends and they are giving you advice on how they keep fit.
I’m sorry to say it, but they are not your friends. They are not sharing their bulking up ‘secret’ with you because you’re buddies, they’re being paid.
Whilst people who have grown up with social media and have seen it evolve into what it is today are often able to distinguish between the fake and the reality, younger individuals find it a little harder. Imagine going through your adolescent years again, but instead of toned and muscle-clad men being confined to movies, superhero comics and world-famous pop stars, they are in fact seemingly regular people, who are able to go to the gym every day, meal prep chicken and vegetables for the whole week, eat smoothie bowls everyday for breakfast and take millions of selfies their ‘gains’ while posing with a protein shake next to the weight trainer. All the while having the time to earn enough money to fund this lifestyle.
Herein lies the problem – people don’t post statuses about how awful their partner is, they wait until a happy moment and lead with that. People don’t post pictures of themselves when they’ve got the flu, they use edgy angles and maybe a drink in hand or a tan, and post these. What this creates is a self-made filter, where only the best bits of an individual’s life are shown.
So effectively, social media has enabled anyone to become ‘famous’, if only they have enough followers. Advertisers know the market is changing, so move their funding to this outlet. So now it’s not just David Beckham posing in a tight fitting top that you know he’s trying to sell you, it might well be the lad you used to sit next to in Maths in year nine. There is pressure on men to ‘bulk up’ in society, and whilst we think we’ve grown smart to this pressure, it still exists because it has taken on new forms; forms we are increasingly unable to avoid.
So what’s the solution? I mean, the obvious one is to try cutting down on your exposure to social media. However, this isn’t always realistic. Instead, try filling your news feed with individuals who are promoting not just a healthy lifestyle, but a healthy mindset and wellbeing. They are out there, and they are the ones we should be taking inspiration from.
Let us know what you think…
Have you ever felt the pressure to have the ‘perfect male body’?