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OPINION: Media on Men

We are all aware of how the male gaze has affected the media we consume. Many actresses have spoken out against being hypersexualised. But how is this experienced by men?

Whether we recognise it or not, men also fall victim to objectification, it’s just maybe not as obvious.

Tom Holland is an extremely accomplished actor. From breaking the stage as Billy Elliot as a child, to his work with actors such as Cillian Murphy and Christian Bale, he has gained immense success...

But let’s talk about him wearing a thong. Amusing as it may be, if the same question were asked of his female co-star, Zendaya, there would be major backlash - so why is it okay to ask a man?

Male objectification is rife in the media. Female objectification is rife in the media. The two issues co-exist. The problem is that neither should exist at all.

Chancellor of the Exquecher is perhaps the least sexy title any man could have, unless your name is Peter or Barry. That’s pretty bad too.

However, ‘Dishy Rishi’ has ‘got it’, according to Vogue. Maybe he’s born with it, maybe it’s the institutional power, as Fairclough would say.

Either way, there are a concerning number of articles focused on how ‘fanciable’ he is, with his ‘bright eyes’ - the ‘big bad wolf of Whitehall’.

Chilling, personally I find trickle-down economics and the worst economic crash in recent history to be quite a turn-off.

SoFeminine magazine refers to Downton Abbey and Beauty & the Beast actor Dan Stevens as ‘half the man he once was after losing two stone’.

They go on to state that ‘with his protruding cheekbones, it’s hard to believe that he was ever Matthew Crawley’.

What the magazine fails to mention was that that wasn’t Matthew Crawley, that was Stevens’ real body - the same body you are criticising.

If the same grotesque imagery, along with the idealisation of ‘protruding cheekbones’, was applied to a woman it would be viewed as inappropriate and to be promoting anorexia.

So again, why is it ok when it’s a man?

According to a 2019 survey by the UK Mental Health Foundation, three in ten surveyed men aged 18+ have felt anxious because of body image issues.

Imagine these feelings, but with the whole world watching.

When we push the narrative that these celebrity men, many of whom are the poster-men for what the ‘ideal man’ should look like, are ‘packing on the pounds’ or ‘letting themselves go’, what kind of message are we sending to the ordinary men who consume this hypercritical media?

In the same survey, one in five men admitted that they had negatively compared themselves to others because of their body image in the past year.

Tragically, one in ten men surveyed said that they had experienced suicidal thoughts due to these feelings of body inadequacy, while 4% said that they had deliberately harmed themselves as a result.

Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation commented that “Men are surrounded by images of idealised body types – through advertising, reality TV shows, or digital media. It is important to recognize how this media environment can impact men.”.

Sadly, the media often doesn’t recognise the role that they play in perpetuating this hidden struggle among men.

The Daily Mail published an article in 2016 supporting the #WomenNotObjects movement - note that the article contains themes of familial loss, as well as Badger’s founding of the movement.

Articles being published about men’s appearances and relationship statuses rather than their professional work, or, you know, actual news.

What can we do to combat this objectification?

We can refuse to engage with sexualising and objectifying media, call out sites that publish articles and ‘news’ that reduce anyone to their bodies or personal appearance. Be more mindful of the things you post online.

Just don’t let it go unnoticed, because for millions upon millions of ordinary men around the world, it does not.

The effects of objectification in the media are a problem for us all, regardless of gender. Don’t be a part of it.

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