Men facing Pressure to bulk up

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I know what you must be thinking – this is an outdated view no longer relevant, and to an extent you’re right.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’?

Written by Amy Haggar

Her name is Earl


Alaska born Earl began singing at 14 in the church choir. However, she moved to California following both love and music which subsequently is where she got the advice that changed her life.

‘Sing for everyone, you’re only six degrees of separation away’.

Because of this little tidbit she did just that, which eventually lead her to make a new home in London where she became a BBC introducing artist which in turn kickstarted her career.

Looking at her most recent single ‘Tongue Tied’ (which is in fact also shares its name with her album title) it’s clear to see that she gets her inspiration from the greats, such as Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse. Sharing some comparisons to Caro Emerald, her sultry voice slides effortlessly between the bouncing rhythm of Tongue tied.

Have a listen below…

Currently Tongue tied is doing the rounds on BBC radio 2, but it’s also available on iTunes right now.


Kiss with Pride


Absolut has always held strong links the the LGBTQ community. (In fact, the first thing that springs to mind for me is their sponsorship of RuPaul’s Drag race but that probably says more about me than anything else). However, the Kiss with Pride campaign has been created not only to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, but also to spread an awareness of the 72 countries where homosexuality is still illegal.

Photographer Sam Bradly expressed his interest believing it simply to be ‘pure idea’. Additionally, although it was an advertisement campaign it also felt ‘natural and true’. This was reflected in the aims set out by Absolut to allow people to express their freedom.

The advert itself will be place in news and lifestyle magazines all over the world. However, they have also created the #kisswithpride Snapchat filter which will donate £1 to Stonewall every time it’s used.

This campaign was sparked by their short film ‘Equal Love’. Check it out below…

Breaking down the walls of gender


Fashion is truly ever changing. 27 year old, professional firefighter turned model, Rain Dove is at the forefront, challenging the concept of gender through clothing. It began simply from losing a bet with a friend in which she had to go to the Calvin Klein casting call. Rain was even more surprised when she got a call back as she’d been mistaken for a man.

She explains ‘not only did the cast me for a men’s show but it was for a men’s underwear show’. Not only did she decide to do it – she decided to do it topless!

This saw the launch of her career! However,she still faced a lot of rejection for her appearance which did not clearly fit into one gender role. Rain explains how the fashion industry tried to encourage her to be ‘more like’ the gender they were aiming their campaign towards.

However, due to Rain’s size, height and dimensions she does not typically conform to traditional men’s and women’s clothing sizes. Although she also refuses to change her body proportions or shave, which has resulted in her having to turn down some high-profile jobs. Im spite of this, it clearly hasn’t affected her career too greatly as she has still worked for huge industry names such as Elle and Vogue, without compromising her own identity.

However, this definite divide in gender within fashion could be coming to an end as designers such as Burberry and Julian MacDonald are now combining men’s and women’s wear in their shows. But through this Dove expresses that gender fluidity should not be a trend or a gimmick but designers should be actively trying to break down walls.


Personally, we have to take out hat off to Rain who is truly carving a path within the fashion world so that others can follow and not face the same hostility.

Let us know what you think…
Do you think clothing will ever be entirely gender neutral?

Barbie is back, Bitch!


Barbie has in itself become an iconic image ever since she first launched in the 1959. 1990 in fact, saw the release of the best selling barbie doll. She was created with her signature cascading long platinum blonde hair, white skin, long slender legs and of course that teeny tiny vanishing waist that has since become synonymous with the doll brand.

However, jump forward 16 years and Barbie’s best selling doll is very different.  2016 saw the release of the popular fashionista doll which was not only was Latina, but with a much curvier figure and was brunette, as supposed to the white blonde legacy that had preceded her. However, as successful as her sales were she was a one off doll with a limited release.

In spite of this, over the past 2 years sales at Mattel (the manufacturers of Barbie) have been declining, with consumers pushing for diversity within the range, moving away from the stereotypical image that has since become the brands identity.

Vice President Lisa Mcknght established that ‘the brand was losing relevance’ and had to ‘change the conversation’ to keep with with the customers changing viewpoints. Subsequently, they revamped the fashionista line to include a range of skin tones, hair colours and introduced ‘flat feet’ instead of the constantly contorted feet which allowed barbie to always wear high heeled shoes. This change of brand worked, as 2016 became the first in several years that the sales of Barbie did not suffer a decline.

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Mattel had since made a very conscious effort to change its image and is contributing to do so. 2017 will see the release of a bigger range including a tall African American doll with an Afro, as well as a red headed petite girl and a blue haired doll. Additionally their will be 10 skin tones, 4 body types and 15 various hairstyles to ensure their dolls diversity reflects that of women in real life.

So its clear to see that Barbie is changing. No longer will the public be confronted by an impossible standard of the female form but instead with  more realistic images, that truly represent the diversity of women and their bodies. The next few years will be interesting!

A rare glimpse of the powerful, peaceful man


Yoga has for a long time been seen as being for women. This is only further backed when we take a look at mainstream media, in magazine and tv advertisements depicting woman practicing in beautiful elegant and often ‘feminine’ poses. However, LA based photographer Amy Goalen also saw this and thought it was time for a change.

She began by simply photographing her own yoga instructor, who was male. From this she realised the images exuded strength and a peaceful element. Subsequently, with the aid of writer Julian DeVoe they created the book ‘Inside the Warrior – The Masculine side of Yoga’.

Throughout this project, she explains how she enjoys photographing men of all ages and body types. And one of the most rewarding aspects is the ability to produce stunning images, that even the subjects are surprised at, by only using their body and practice.

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Her images are beautiful, showing a powerful yet serene side of the masculine form that is not often seen in mainstream media.

Take a further look at her work @amygpics

Let us know what you think…