Keywords: men's bodies, consumer culture, contemporary men's research
This issue of the International Journal of Men's Health focuses on the emerging area of research on men and their bodies. Increasingly, academics are researching and writing about men's bodies from a variety of perspectives. Initially, such work tended to emerge from the field of psychology largely focussing on psycho-metric analyses of body image. However, over the past decade and especially during the last five years, research has also come from a range of disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies. Consequently, we are beginning to develop a multi-perspective view of the issues that confront men with respect to their bodies. The literature includes discussions of men's bodies across sexualities and the lifespan, including boys, adolescent males, adult males, midlife males, and ageing men.
It is with pleasure that we bring together a diverse group of researchers for this special issue to represent changes in the way we view the male body. These articles make evident that men have to confront social and cultural issues regarding their bodies with which they have not had to previously contend. Certain expectations to look a certain way and live up to specific social and cultural ideologies, particularly with respect to archetypal masculine bodies, have been imposed on males. Given the highly consumer-based nature of contemporary Western culture, men's bodies, like women's, are now seen as a commodity. They can be used to sell a product or create a symbol of masculinity that is meant to appeal to a mass audience. Men's bodies are now highly visible and this visibility is affecting the ways both men and women perceive the male body.
Too often, male body image has been dismissed as not warranting attention due to the common misperception that men do not have to deal with the same social and cultural issues that confront women and their bodies. Historically, women have been placed under an aesthetic gaze and therefore have had to live up to archetypal feminine stereotypes that were extremely difficult to achieve. However, that does not mean that men are, or have been, immune to expectations based on archetypal stereotypes. On the contrary, in the West, men have been living up to archetypal masculine stereotypes for many years. These were not aesthetically based, but largely behavior-oriented. Now we are witnessing an aesthetic judgment of males by social and cultural standards, which are affecting certain groups of men in contemporary Western culture more than others. Given the consumer-based nature of Western culture and the niche market surrounding the male body as a commodity, it is arguable that men will continue to be exploited in such a manner. This will have an impact on the way in which young males in particular view themselves and their bodies as they attempt to define themselves and their masculine identities. It is likely that, in the future, men will increasingly place emphasis on the masculine "look," which has important ramifications for men and the construction of masculine identity.
Interestingly given the historical nature of body image research being largely driven by psychology, David Tager, Glenn Good, and Julie Bauer Morrison's paper provides the issue's only quantitative psychological-based research paper. Their findings are significant and indicate that body image has become an important predictor of psychological well-being in young men.
The second article, by David Birbeck and Murray Drummond, focuses on the need to research body image among boys in early childhood. While there is an emerging body of literature on adolescent males and body image, there is a dearth of such literature on young boys. The data presented here provide important insights into the ways in which very young males perceive themselves, their bodies, and masculinity itself. The article discusses the methods and importance of attaining data with such a young cohort.
Catherine Soban's paper on men and eating disorders discusses an alternative perspective through which we begin to understand men and anorexia nervosa. Soban discusses the feminization of eating disorder treatment that ultimately does not translate into working with men. Her argument is based on the premise that we need an alternative treatment approach for men with anorexia nervosa utilizing masculinist perspectives combined with traditional approaches.
Danielle Soulliere and James Blair's article is a qualitative content analysis of televised professional wrestling. The paper investigates the way in which the male body is discussed and then reflected back to the wide television audience that views this as a form of "entertainment." The types of discourse the commentators use is analysed along with the images that highlight hypermuscular ideals and reflect certain archetypal representations of the masculine male body.
Brenda Weber provides the concluding article, which identifies the many cultural issues confronting men in Western culture within the context of "makeover" reality television. It emphasizes the capitalist nature of Western culture and how men's bodies have become an integral part of consumer culture. The paper also provides readers with an opportunity to compare and contrast the issues that women have had to contend with in female-oriented "makeover" reality shows.
We have drawn together an eclectic group of researchers who reflect the changing nature of literature on men and body image. It is hoped that these articles will provide readers, ranging from academics, clinicians, and students, with a number of alternative perspectives from which to reflect, analyze, and understand the varied issues confronting men and their bodies.
University of South Australia
Murray J. N. Drummond, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Murray J. N. Drummond, University of South Australia, School of Health Sciences, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia 5000. Electronic mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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|Publication:||International Journal of Men's Health|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2006|
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