WORDS BY DREW-SHANE DANIELS
Within the realm of Black masculinity, Black men are often associated with having a strong image of power. This power does not necessarily involve education, fiscal responsibility or even family ties, rather it often relates to having a solid and highly desirable physique. Somehow the idea of this power is innate. See, Black men are often glorified at first glance and respected by and for their bodies—especially what lies between their legs.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the media’s negative effect on body image we only hear about Black women. A simple Google search will lead to more than 14,500,000 results in 0.09 seconds. For many years studies have been conducted dissecting women but what about us? Men are just as body conscious. Black men want to have the chiseled body. We want to look younger. We want that ideal healthy lifestyle. But wants and reality are two different things.
There are tons of stories and surveys conducted that portray the many paradigms of how Black women view their bodies. These studies lend to the effects of media images on how women perceive themselves and their bodies, as well as how these images influence their self-esteem and attitude towards a healthy lifestyle. Studies show how pervasive images motivate behaviors such as those found in fashion magazines, music videos and even promotional ads for products on television. Somehow their counterparts are forgotten.
History has shown a strong correlation between Black men and the importance of having a superior body. During slavery Black men relied heavily on their bodies. They had to be strong enough to withstand the unwarranted beatings and even be able to perform on the “job.” Productivity was a reflection of their bodies—even though the effects were caused from the strenuous labor. For a while, Black men body images were misplaced. If a man cared too much about his appearance he would be considered homosexual.
Do not be stunned that the media has an effect on Black men causing them to be just as body conscious as women. The media has become the clear definition of what Black men should look like. Body image will always be a prevailing personal issue no matter the gender, race or sexuality. Because various forms of the media have been objectifying women for so long, researchers have yet to generate a body of literature on the effects of the media on the male body image. Even though there are not many studies out that support this notion does not mean it doesn’t exist.
To be healthy is to look strong; to look strong is to look well fit. The images portrayed in the media contradict what a healthy lifestyle means for men and women. Even the term “healthy lifestyle” has taken on a new meaning in the media. It is important to not let the images we see force us to abuse our bodies. What is it about our society and body image? To answer this question we need to not fantasize on these impossible images but rather look inside ourselves to define choices that promote a safe and healthful lifestyle.
Do Black men have just as many body image issues as their female counterparts? What do you see as the “ideal image” for men of color? How close to reality is that image with reality? Do you agree that slavery played a major role in the development of the physical image of people of color? How much blame do you place on the media for keeping these stereotypes alive? Do you feel that men’s body image issues get addressed enough? Does that have the potential of being harmful? Have you ever come across a guy that was obsessed with his body? Was it commendable or annoying?
Speak your piece…
A Conversation About the Superficial Side of Relationships this Sunday June 19th 7-9pm @ The Open Center, 22 East 30th St. CLICK HERE for the official Skin Deep Evite