Women are bombarded daily with society’s standards for beauty. Make-up ads, makeover shows, hair product commercials and the like constantly play to the images women see when they look in the mirror. At times it seems that no matter what a woman does, she will never measure up to what she is told about herself from other outside sources. This is a topic that is discussed all the time but there is a similar topic that is just as relevant but a lot less prevalent when talking about standards.
Just as women are constantly trying to live up to magazine, movie and talk show images of what is visually pleasing and socially acceptable, men are a segment of the population that is often overlooked when the conversation comes up about this topic. Women are not the only ones who have to shoulder the pressures of being told what is physically acceptable and what makes someone a model of societal standards. Men, too, are being hit up one side and down the other telling them what is wanted from them, what they should look like and how they should act. If a man is losing his hair there are countless commercials telling him that he should get his hair back and look younger. He can get the latest in hair transplants or an expensive, life-like toupee to boost the perceived lack of confidence that he suffers from. If he is experiencing difficulty with intimacy he is told there is a pill, cream or spray that will instantly restore his virility and make him a sexual dynamo. Commercial after commercial shows the next great invention to give him washboard abs, massive pecs and legs of steel that he must surely sport. Men are constantly being told that they must live up to the requisite position of being the strong head of the household despite the fact that, in many households, both men and women work contributing to the household equally.
Men are also held to emotional standards that can be difficult. Whereas women are encouraged to show their emotions, men are told to ‘suck it up’ and ‘be a man’. Many times men are seen as weak if they show their emotions especially if they shed a tear. These standards are oftentimes handed down to sons keeping the misconception going that a man who shows his emotions is less of a man. Only emotions such as anger and aggression are shown to be acceptable for men by society and this is perpetuated by images we see in such areas as the sporting community, business and industry and action movies to name a few.
I don’t understand where this double standard comes from. With society being so advanced why isn’t it okay for a man to be okay with his self and why isn’t it acceptable for men to show the same emotions as those that women do? What’s wrong with a man just because he may have to wear a bald head because of hair loss or one who has a few extra pounds around the middle? Why isn’t it okay for a man to cry when he is hurt or has suffered the loss of a good friend or loved one? Why is a man seen as less of a man if he isn’t working the bedroom like a porn star or knocking out bad guys like a crazed vigilante? It just doesn’t make sense.
In all of our fighting for equality in marriage, race, sexual orientation, age we should not be leaving men out and holding them to a different set of standards. Men should not be demeaned for being themselves, whatever that may mean to them, whether or not they sport perfect hair or the latest designer suits or have the hardest body. They should be able to be the same emotionally balanced human beings as their female counterparts and they should not have to live up to unrealistic macho images to be considered ‘real’.
When it comes down to it, a real man is a man who lives life on his own terms not those dictated by society. We would do well to remember this.