Are Black Men Body Conscious? (Remnants of Slavery)

0 Posted by - June 12, 2011 - Uncategorized

Black Man thinking


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.

Man in spanx to look fitThere 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…


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  • Bee.Oliver

    I do believe that men are body/image conscious, for the perception is to be received as such a man. If you are a man, let a lone more a Blk man there are certain things you must attribute to your image to make sure you fit in with not only the overall society, but the blk society as well. I definitely hate that these stereotypical images can’t be broken, because of the innate passing on that to look one way is the only way when it is not. when i grew up going to a predominantly white schools i would often look at white men, hispanic men, asian/orient men and midddle eastern men as they have it relatively easier because society is more open to the various forms those races carry themselves as. I believe alot of it is because they instill self confidence, self worth, and instill the value of unconditional love. these thing i hate to admit i dont see much of in the out community so it creates a insecurity in not having it.

  • G.

    I too believe that Black men are body/image conscious. I, myself, fall victim to this condition; although not quite there, I try my hardest to portray or give the illusion of a dominant figure. I haven’t gone as far as to buying Spanx for Men or anything of that nature, but I’ve learned that darker clothes and “fitted” under clothing are key. It’s the same thing with women; the right fit of clothing makes a difference.

    The slavery aspect of this, I can see the relation but it’s not hitting me. It may be because I’m one of those people who’ve tried so hard to block out the past that I refuse to relate anything we do today with slavery. Don’t kill me!

    You do often see our “brothers” in the gym trying to define what seems to come easily to our Caucasian counterparts, Especially areas such as the chest and calves. But the images will NEVER be broken. The “stereotypical” Black man being portrayed in the media (EVERYDAY) is domineering and statuesque. Ain’t nobody checkin’ for the guy next door anymore. I have a friend (actually about 3) who are obsessed with the gym and all 3 of them are annoying!! I mean I do my thang, but these fools… You’d think they were gearing up for some bodybuilder competition or something.

  • MetLifeSnoopy

    I am immediately turned off anytime I read an article where Slavery is stated as the cause for why Black people are the way they are TODAY. As I am not into Black men really I have no thought of what an ideal image for them would be. I’ve never come across a guy who was obsessed with his body.

  • NWSO

    While I hear what you’re saying to an extent, to say that slavery has had no impact(s) on people of color across this continent still today is a bit of an oversight on your part, IMHO.Most people of color would not even be on this side of the globe if they were not forced over and after 400+ years of forced labor the social structure of this continent has placed them/us on the lower rungs of the totem pole.

    Furthermore, many lost all connection to their roots, religion and true culture—basically brainwashed. Names were changed/erased, were told that they were less than human, had no rights, ugly, too dark, White is right, and called the N-word at every turn. The Civil Rights movement was only a generation or two ago, so to say that there isn’t some remnants of slavery (or just plain ol’ racism) have no impact on what happens today is an oversight I feel.

    Not saying it’s an “excuse” for everything but it plays a role in how many things are today

  • MetLifeSnoopy

    I wasn’t saying that at all actually. That’s how you interpreted it.

  • Jessica

    Great post Drew Shane! I haven’t read much about men having body image problems. I think it is a great topic to be explored.

  • NWSO

    Np. There was plenty for interpretation. So what were you saying or more specifically what turns you off in regards to slavery in context with today’s events?

    *Just trying to further the convo.

  • MetLifeSnoopy

    I’ll have to let you know once I am off from work.

  • PalmerP

    Most are, however there are many that just let it go…due to the drinking of beer and eating with like of exercise…but most keep up with the body and are indeed body conscious….blessings

  • Rastaman

    I don’t consider myself obsessive but I would call myself body conscious but I consider that a residue of a childhood of running track, playing soccer and swimming year round not some media influence. I did not set out to have an attractive physique but it is a positive byproduct of an active lifestyle and one that garnered attention and did not require anything more than being active. You don’t lose that image of yourself as a man, I have friends in their 40s who played college ball and they too are quite body conscious. One who played major college football often boasts that he weighs less now than he did as a college senior. He is a married professional with 3 kids but he still finds time to maintain his fitness. I know other former college ball players who still put a lot of effort into maintaining some level of fitness even if they are no longer as athletic. Is that the media?
    I can’t say yes or no. I guess I am impacted by media images of physically fit men but it’s never driven me to be obsessive about my body. I am certain there are men out here who are indeed obsessive about their physique but most folks I know just don’t have the time and the resources it would take to look like the men we see in media images. Most of us get that but it doesn’t mean I am going to give up taking care of my body and just let it go to mush.
    If brothas were obsessing about their physical look they would be getting themselves medically checked out much more often than they currently do. The incidences of HBP, diabetes, prostate cancer and heart disease would not be so high compared to the rest of the male population in this country. Eating right and being physically active contrary to some popular opinion is not as difficult as some make it out to be and the men I know who don’t place any efforts in that area are generally lazy or undisciplined.
    The effects of slavery are still quite evident in our culture but male physicality is not one I would attribute to that and even if it is, I do not consider it a negative. I had my annual physical 2 months ago and both my doctor and I are quite pleased with the results. My commitment to a good diet and maintaining an active lifestyle is evident in my test results. That is not something born of a media influence it is me knowing that keeping my body fit is beneficial to my overall health.

  • Mommy T-Rex

    Interesting article. Honestly I think people of color don’t really focus too much on their body images. I can throw a stone around here and see plenty of mal-shaped ladies and gentlemen. It seems to be alot of people are not aware of keeping healthy and eating well, and the effects that has on your life. I realize that slavery weighs heavy on our minds but honestly, like I tell my father, we have come too far
    and have too many footholds, and made too many strides to fall back on slavery. I don’t think its negative to be focused on your body image, I am paying more attention to mine now, and am obsessed with being in shape. Fully agree with the comments Rastaman made.We need to be uber focused on our health and body images.

  • Antonio Maurice Daniels

    Drew, you did an excellent job with composing this piece. Many of these questions you have posed in this piece have been wrestled with at my site Revolutionary Paideia and in my academic research and scholarly publications. We often focus on Black masculinity being the issue, but it’s Black hypermasculinity that is really at the heart of the problem with this extreme concern for the Black male body.

  • Qalil Little

    I actually wonder that more men have not stood up to say what you have so eloquently said in your post. Somehow, in the minds of most people, men of African descent must all look like some version of Idris Elba and otherwise you’re either not masculine enough or not African enough.

    Thank you for sharing this. It is great to see men being honest about their feelings.

  • MetLifeSnoopy

    All I was saying really is that I have come across too many Black blogs and Black people who/where slavery is cited as the reason for the ways of Black people of today. There just seems to be very little accountability for one’s actions. I remember one time someone tried to argue with me that the reason Black men/boys sag their pants is because of racism or something of the effect.


    I had to read this one twice and then admit that I am somewhat guilty. I work out 3 or 4 times a week, run a few miles to keep the gut down and I take pride in my sexual prowess.

    I pledged what most would be consider to be the most masculine fraternity of the historically Black Greek system. I take pride in manhood and if I were to be honest, I have to admit that some of these traits have been instilled in me by American society, my fellow African-Americans, and deep-rooted traditions.

    I guess what I will have to do as an individual is to take this weakness and make sure I spin it into a positive, using the attributes as a means of providing strength for my family and also as a means of being a healthy person in general.

    This post was well thought out and constructed.

    Well done Drew-Shane!

  • Abu Husain

    I do think that Black men have body image issues, but it doesn’t get the play that women usually get. Personally, I don’t see the media being at fault for reinforcing these stereotypes of the strong and domineering male figure… I blame people who go after that in lieu of those who don’t fit that image!

    I have always been an athletic person, but I noticed a big change when I went from running cross country and track to bodybuilding (I went from being 6′ 1 175 lbs to 240 lbs 6% bf). I still pulled when I was much thinner, but the number of people checking for me after I got bigger showed me how important this particular look is to some people.

  • Drew-Shane

    History plays a major part in everything. I feel allusions to past events help speak to present day issues. Not just race relations either; it extends beyond race. Accountability starts with being able to evaluate.

  • Drew-Shane

    I think that’s keyword when it comes to semantics that actually make sense. We’ve taken masculinity to hyper-masculinity of being acceptable. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Drew-Shane

    That is what has been missing. People have been hiding their experiences, especially men. I’ll probably look into exploring more. I heard on “The View” they talked about more men getting plastic surgery now. I find that interesting and a true testament to the times. Thanks for reading!

  • Drew-Shane

    I think, well know, we share some of the same friends who can go OVERBOARD when it comes to working out. Sometimes I still wonder why all the work.

    Thanks for reading!

  • wrenagade

    wow completely turned off my @metlifesnoopy’s comment. Its unfortunate that people who choose to not educate themselves on the systems in place since the African Holocaust effect all of us today, not just people of color who suffer from internalized racism but everyone in the US is effected by this, its a huge part of our history. Even the fact that we still refer to it as the slave trade is a problema for me, thats from a economical take on it! I question anyone that doesn’t think huge injustices in human history don’t effect their (everyone’s) psychology today…Do you think analyzing these issues will allow for less accoutability, do you think certain group (male verse female, white verse black) deserve any less psychology support systems withing their community…super red flag in my mind went off when this generalization was justified with “as i am not into Man men really” as if we are still thinking of our brothas as something to be into – that someone who wants them determines their worth (thus much needed to cover this topic in the article and connect it)

    Disclaimer: {Maybe im thinking a lil extra into it, not trying to attack anyones views rather state my opinion and hopefully ask questions that call for solutionary thinking of uplifting people in a struggle}…maybe over thinking this because @nakedwithsocks on wrote such a good article! Had me thinking of all the times that men have joined into the conversation of body image and also why some men are so outspoken about their love for a women’s body (being curvy and the opposite of what he feels pressured to be)

  • QuoteMan

    I think it’s a mistake to dismiss the impact slavery has on black ppl today. Cuz to go thru what we went thru for that extended period of time would be a major setback for any of the human races.

    What happened to our 40 acres and a mule? Don’t let me start…… Lol

  • sunnydelyte21

    This is an eye opener for me…I would’ve never thought that men have body image issues.

    I know that most guys I know like to hit the gym 3 to 4 times a week. But I don’t think it has gotten close to females issues with body image…but hey maybe I’m wrong.

    People don’t realize that if you like you, then other people will too. No need to go all crazy tryna be something or be like anyone else.

    Idk…thats just my thoughts!! Get eye opener Drew-Shane!