As a woman, I ask: Do male beauty standards have bearing on real men?
I grew up with girls that skipped their lunches to lose a few inches, that perfected makeup in high school to accentuate cheekbones and pucker their lips. I know girls that opted to vomit their meals in pursuit of a smaller waistline, who straightened their hair and smoothened their skin with birth control pills to fit society’s standards of female beauty. In all of this, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. The need to fit into a certain size and face shape was never overwhelming enough to push me to drastic measures. But the entertainment landscape has changed; women aren’t the only targets anymore. When the world was younger, men only needed to be of good financial standing to be coveted, to be a bachelor anyone would be willing to finally be tied down. Women, on the other hand, needed to be beautiful, too—in some instances, being beautiful was the only thing they needed to be. But things have changed; male beauty standards exist now.
Guys my age, the friends I hang out with weekly, admit that male beauty standards exist—and they watched it come to light. Some of them blame it on the rise of K-Pop stars, with their porcelain skin and incredible fashion sense; others say it’s only natural to start to care about how you look once puberty hits. Nevertheless, there is one conclusion from this conversation: The standard for men has gotten higher.
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While we could nitpick—hair, skin, clothing—it seems that men focus on their bodies the most. They were honest enough to say that looking good aesthetically was the top driver in trying to exercise and diet; health took a backseat. And there was one word, one reason to work out and eat properly, that really stuck out: competition.
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But what did surprise me is that they still let most things slide. They’re influenced by trends, but they won’t consider anything they aren’t comfortable with. They like to dress up, but it’s hardly ever to fit into the standards of society. They want to look good, but nothing trumps what they want and what they’re comfortable with. And from experience, they will let the gym sessions and basketball games slide for months at a time.
Are male beauty standards as high and as pressuring as female beauty standards?
The question then became: Are male beauty standards as high and as pressuring as female beauty standards? The answer was an across-the-goddamn-board no. Each one of them said with confidence that women still have it worse, that women still have more to live up to and “achieve.”
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That said, a majority of the boys I spoke to also pointed out that the male/female beauty standard is evening out—both because male standards are rising and because female standards are lowering. Part of the spotlight, it seems, is being directed at men. But is this the kind of equality we even want to work on? Is it better that the male beauty standards will one day even out with females? Not really; we’d much rather that an even playing field mean there are no unrealistic expectations whatsoever.
Maybe, instead, one day this won’t even be a conversation to have anymore.
Art Alexandra Lara