Body image is everything.
I remember hearing once that boys feel the pressure more than girls, for two reasons: 1. for girls, it is accepted to have these issues, and 2. while girls have the ‘get slim’ clouding over them, boys are burdened with the ‘get slim, but also gain muscle’, which results in over-exercise and strain. Not to diminish the experience of girls battling body issues, I can only speak as a young male, but I remember that in the lead up to my novel’s release, I wasn’t busy writing a follow-up, I was consuming protein shakes, exercising five days a week, restricting calorie intake, feeling guilty for a beer or a soft drink – and it caught up with me, I slipped two discs in my lower back, and that’s an injury that will restrict me for the rest of my life. Because being a teenage author wasn’t enough. At least, in my mind it wasn’t.
And when men explore these body issues in articles or novels, the response is usually ‘oh, boo hoo, poor baby’, when that same exploration by a woman is lauded as brave. When more realistically-shaped women attack the Jennifer Hawkins ‘real woman’ nude, undoctored spread, they’re glorified. The pressures on women are front and centre, and condemned. Meanwhile, when I’m at the gym, and I see boys almost half my age lifting weights, nobody’s telling them to stop, to have a childhood, to let their bodies mature a little bit – nobody’s fighting for them because the image of the male as ripped, toned and sporty is socially accepted as ‘right’. It’s masculine. There’s no backlash. There’s nobody praising male curves, claiming they’re all natural.
And body issue problems for males are very, very secret. Because, outward feelings don’t mesh well with the image of masculinity – strong, stoic, emotionally stunted. And I mean, just look at this rant that has developed from what was supposed to be a two paragraph closer to Shane’s post – this is a big issue, at least, for me. Books like My Private Pectus are important. While they probably won’t change the world, I’m sure that for boys battling body expectations, it means a lot to know that 1. you’re not alone and 2. there’s someone fighting for you.
Ahem. Now I’m off to make up for this post with a 7km run.