Body Positivity for Guys

When I was in kindergarten, my mother took away my Barbies.

“But they’re miiiiine,” I cried, and she said something about taking a break. I was getting too focused on how I looked, on clothes and pretty friends and having the right body. I wanted everything that Barbie had.

I was four.

I already had the right body for a four-year-old.

~~

Sometimes it’s still hard to believe I have the right body.

So I was astonished to read last month that America changed the definition of a normal adult in 1998. Prior to then, a woman with a BMI of 27 was within the range of healthy. But in 1998, a panel of doctors voted to drop the top end of their guidelines for a healthy population average down to a BMI of 25 (Brown, p. 105).

Overnight, millions of adult Americans became overweight instead of normal.

I was startled to realize that I’ve spent 15 years trying to move more and eat less, thinking I was fat.

But in 1998, doctors would have defined me–current me–as normal.

~~

I’ve heard for years about body positivity, that struggle to eat and move wisely, yet love ourselves no matter what shape our bodies came in.

But it isn’t easy. I’ve been posting artwork of curvy women for eight years now at Shapely Women. 700 people follow it! Yet every morning I look in the mirror and wonder if I’m doing enough.

I thought this was just a pressure on us ladies.

model Zach Miko

Yet as I’ve gotten to know guys, I realize they’re struggling with similar pressures: too thin, too pale, too big, not enough of this, too much of that. Half of all guys don’t want their picture taken (y’all, 50% of us do not look that bad). And most guys think they need more muscles. As Guy Jones writes:

“it’s hard to deny that men are very often assaulted with similar fears and anxieties concerning purported body flaws… men in almost every clothing ad have six-pack abs and huge biceps; they’re tall, tan, and chiseled. And implicitly, they have a big penis.”

So all of us know we’re okay, mostly–yet every visual we see tells us otherwise.

I’ve started to keep pictures of good-looking non-model guys that I find, adding them to a new tumblr at Eyes on Homme: big guys, skinny guys, ancient Babylonian guys, round Peruvian guys…

Portrait of Henri Carlier, by Robert Delaunay, 1906

You don’t see yourself in magazines, Henri? Yeah, me neither.

But it’s still not easy. The internet’s full of sites encouraging women to loosen up about bodies, health, eating, exercise, and enjoying ourselves at any size:

Girl is super strong and fit. No way I can balance like that!

Body Positivity for Guys

But when I went looking for sites that encourage guys to enjoy moving and living in their current bodies, it was much harder to find. HuffPo shared some nice quotes, but then illustrated it with slender young white guys exercising… which kinda misses the point. 

Yet there are guys moving to be visible with what they’ve got. Jes Baker lists 7 guys active in fashion and body positivity for men. E-Online reports that men want more visual inclusion of different body types in the media, which led Bruce Sturgell to create Chubstr, a website for larger guys:

Guys looking fiiiiine.

Another man posted a sweet letter to his young son, which I recommend you read in whole:

I wish I could say your Mother and I gave you the genetic code to have a body like Bruce Lee, but that is probably just is not in your future… That doesn’t mean you should be envious.  You have all the tools you need to do anything physical. And I hope you appreciate all the amazing things your body can do.  It helps you run, play and compete. Your body will change over time, but there is no one way to be masculine…

People will tell you how to be a “real man,” but remember, you are already a man.  Follow your heart, do what feels right and don’t feel like you have to live up to some ideal image of what a man should be.

There’s a stylish guy who styles and models matching outfits with his daughter…. what could be cuter?

And illustrator Soosh has been drawing father-daughter pictures recently, to much demand:

"walking high"

As well as pictures of couples:

our little secrets, by soosh (detail)

Guys have been looking fine for thousands of years, so it’s not new:

Cypriot guy, 6th century BCE

So I encourage you to enjoy yourselves, and rock what you’ve got!

Looking fine!

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