Tag Archive for boys

Boys To Men

By: Emily Adrian

How often do you hear stories of how women and girls are affected by messages in our media? Probably more frequently than we would like to admit as a society. However, what isn’t mentioned as often is how our male counterparts react to the subliminal messages being sent to them.

For females the message is often times subtracting, losing weight, dieting, etc. We see airbrushed, photo-shopped images of women. These images show women with elongated necks, widened eyes, and trimmed thighs and hips. The message to men, on the other hand, is adding. Take action figures and super heroes for example, which have become the male version of Barbie. 8e4beff5-cf52-4a79-9f0d-63410e8db263-jpgThese figurines are setting unrealistic body dimensions for young boys and set their expectations at an unattainable level. Have you ever watched the beginning of Captain America? The movie starts with Steve Rogers (Captain America) as a “runt” signing up for the military. He shortly after gets chosen to undergo an experiment and is made into what they portray as this macho, muscled, extraordinary man. Obviously, this is fiction, but the instant success Steve Rogers has, and the new found fame under the name Captain America following the transformation still makes an impact on the stigma surrounding male body image. They fail to set a positive role model and hinder the positive development of young males exposed to them. Then when they get older it doesn’t stop.

Magazines, billboards, commercials, and more all show “ripped” men. Men whose abs are practically painted on, muscles that are continuously growing inch by inch in diameter, and a rise in emphasis on manscaping. Some even feel the need to cut out the males faces adding extra emphasis on body appearance. 10641306-abercrombie-and-fitchThis image, being sent out for all to see and women to drool over, negatively affects men’s body image too. This ideal of having “bulk” or “being built” is an unrealistic ideal that has been created by our society. No matter what the age or gender, the constant subliminal messages are inescapable.Both men and women are vulnerable to these messages. Each and every day something new in the media has a hidden message teaching young and old alike that we are not good enough. It is something that everyone feels, and it is hard to fight back. It is no secret that society adds pressure to appearance, just be aware of the fiction that lies within it, and learn from it.


“The Axe Effect”

*Submitted by an Inver Hills Community College student as part of a media analysis curriculum

The Axe Effect shows a man spraying Axe body spray, making him into a slimmer version of himself. Is Axe implying that using its product can make men more attractive and thin? The axe body spray is melting away the man’s body to expose a muscular chest, arms, and six-pack.

The model, a male with an “above average” body type, is used to entice consumers into buying the product. This guy is pretty “masculine”- he has a clean shaved face, toned muscles, dark hair, and his skin looks like it is glowing. This ad not only causes negative body image for guys, but for anyone else looking at the picture as well. Axe is showing that the man is not good enough the way he naturally looks, but using the Axe body spray will fix that.

Men also have body image and beauty standards in our culture.  The ideal look is young, sexy, and physically fit.  A seemingly quick fix to attain this look is using Axe body spray.

Jean Kilbourne is a powerful activist in analyzing advertisements, and she has given countless speeches on the subject. Although she typically focuses on the female “sex object,” she has mentioned how men have recently been turned into objects as well. Jean Kilbourne explains in Two Ways A Woman Can Get Hurt: Advertising and Violence:

Not surprisingly men’s bodies are the latest territory to be exploited. Although we are growing more used to it, in the beginning the male sex object came as a surprise.  Men are being objectified just as women in the media. Anyone looking at an ad in a magazine, bus, or television commercial can see how we are ‘supposed to look’ by the repeated images of similar body types and beauty standards. Even though it has become more well-known that the models have been altered or Photoshopped, the constant reinforcement makes it hard to remember.

Colombo, Gary, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle, eds. Rereading 
America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. 9th 
ed. Boston: Bedford of St. Martin's, 2013. 420. Print.



This Media Monday post brought to you by:

Dirk Miller & Jennifer Cramer Miller



“You Throw Like a Girl”

Gym class, first grade, it’s time for baseball.  Outside on the field boys and girls are sprawled out around the four dirt-covered diamonds and grass.  Half the kids are at bat and half are waiting anxiously for the ball to come towards them. The batter hits a fly ball and one of the boys in the outfield catches it. He throws to the first baseman, but the ball does not quite reach him. The kid yells at the boy, “You throw like girl!”

This phrase and many others using the keywords “like a girl” have been used as insults for decades. The movie “A League of Their Own,” about a developing woman’s professional baseball league, takes place in 1943 at a time when men and women were not considered equals in the sporting world.  The women were teased and made fun of because of the absurdity of girls playing on a baseball field. Noticeably, they threw like girls, quite different from how men were throwing the ball around the field.

“The Sandlot,” a film about young boys filling their summertime by playing baseball, recognized the phrase as one of the worst insults imaginable. As two teams of boys are arguing, putting each other down back and forth, one boy stops and pauses and then comes out with, “You throw like a girl!” That proved to be the winning comeback because both teams split up after it was said. It was, apparently, unacceptable to throw like a girl.

But the question remains, do girls throw differently than boys? A political philosopher, Iris Marion Young recognized that “throwing like a girl” is an observable phenomenon among many girls. The “girlie throw” results from a restricted use of lateral space coming from the localized hand and forearm. Girls do not usually use the whole arm, body, or extended space around them when they throw.  Young says inner strength has nothing to do with efficient performance, but has to do with women’s social, political, and aesthetic history of not using the entire body for the task. Women learn to be hyper-focused on their bodies and, consequently, they concentrate their effort on those parts of the body most immediately connected to the task.

Ok, so (some of them) throw differently, but does that mean it’s an acceptable insult?

The crew from the TV show “Myth Busters” wanted to see if there was a distinct difference in the way guys and girls throw a ball. To analyze peoples’ motions, they had the subjects throw with their dominant arm first, then repeat the task with their non-dominant arm.  The results showed that there was a distinct difference in the way guys throw a ball versus the way girls throw: Men throw more horizontally, and women throw more vertically. The Myth Busters BUSTED that myth that throwing like a girl is an insult by determining that “different” does not mean worse, and therefore, should not qualify as an insult.

Continuing to bust perceptions, Always has started a campaign called #LikeAGirl to challenge the idea that doing anything like a girl is a bad thing. In a series of videos, Always shows how after hitting the vulnerable ages of about ten to twelve years old, girls start to learn that they are lesser than boys. People are asked a series of questions about being a girl. Boys, and older men and women answer by doing motions that show girls are weak, vain, and don’t care about the task. The younger girls are asked the same series of questions and answer by showing how they would complete the activity using full power and strength .

The Always videos ask girls of all ages to challenge their own (socialized) beliefs, first, by writing on boxes the negative messages they receive, then kicking or punching down the stacked cubes at the end.  The last video ends showing girls and women in action performing amazing activities ‘as girls,’ like rock climbing, equating numbers, and throwing baseballs. I commend Always for making a film that not only supports positive media messages, but encourages people to stand up for who they are.

So many product advertisements give the impression that we are not good enough the way that we are, that we need to fit the beauty standard–which many people call ‘the thin ideal’—and then when we do, we are accused of being weak and vain. Exposure to such messages can lead to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behavior1. Shifting the media focus to realistic images and positive messages may make a difference in the lives of so many who develop eating disorders. Companies like Always, who send the message of self-acceptance and empowerment, are one of the catalysts of the change that we strive for every day.

Thoughts to Consider:
What does “throw like a girl” mean to you?
How has Always inspired a positive media message?
What do you perform like “yourself”?

1Thompson, J. K., & Heinberg, L. J. (1999). The media’s influence on body image disturbance and eating disorders: We’ve reviled them, now can we rehabilitate them?. Journal of social issues, 55(2), 339-353.

Brave and Strong

As a male growing up in today’s society, I have always thought that being big and strong was important. From sports figures to ads and characters in video games, the emphasis of strength and muscle is everywhere.
I grew up playing videos games, and my favorite game was Legend of Zelda.  Link was the main character.  Brave and strong, he could do anything- which I admired and I wanted to be the same. I thought if I played sports I would also be strong and brave and it would make me more masculine, which I thought I was supposed to be.

However, as I have gotten older the messages that I got from media have started to change. For example this ad by Old Spice: there is a perception of a big and strong man doing something ridiculous or extreme.  I used to think this was impressive and funny and that I wanted to look like that. I might have even bought the product with the idea that people who use Old Spice are impressive and attention-grabbers.  Now however, I know that this advertisement is made to sell the product.  The model does not represent what most men look like in America and what he is doing does not make much sense.  The ad does not make clear what the product actually is, whether it is advertising one specific item or a variety of Old Spice products.

In Jean Kilbourne’s essay of Rereading America she says, “Men conquer […], always with the essential aid of a product” (420).  Marketing ads tell us that products assist men to be dominant and to conquer, an assumed trait all males are supposed to display.  The ideal body for men is muscular and big, but how realistic is that?

This advertisement is created in an almost fantasy-like manner.  It is not likely that men could have volcano’s erupting as hair, sand with miniature people basking in the sun as a shirt, and doll-size whales coming out of their shoulders.  Since the accessories on the man in the add are not realistic, then why do we think the man is?  I can now see that the model and his body are probably not real and definitely do not represent what most men in our society look like.

-Submitted by Matthew McDonald

How masculinity, media and body image are all connected

Submitted by Dana Rademacher

Everyone knows that today’s endless influx of media images negatively affects girls’ self-esteem and body image. Constantly seeing unobtainable body shapes in advertisements. Not so subtle nods that women should change their bodies to be “perfect”, whatever that is. What is lesser talked about though is how the media industry is also failing our boys and feeding toxic messages to them too. This is what spawned Jennifer Siebel Newsom (creator of the acclaimed Miss Representation) to uncover American masculinity in her new film The Mask You Live In.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this film at a pre-screening at the University of Minnesota. I highly enjoyed the documentary and after watching it, it really got me thinking about male targeted media and the common themes boys are receiving in today’s culture. All too often, boys are told to “man up”, to not show emotions, to be extreme athletes. I thought about my nephew who is just four years old, who is the sweetest, sensitive, most loving kid and I don’t want him to be made fun of or change these qualities within himself because of the standards shown by the media on a daily basis.

I actually started paying attention to how ads and media portray men, and I saw some of the shocking themes the film points out. Like, how lead protagonists in hit shows like Breaking Bad and countless others resort to violence and their physical power to get what they want and how male deodorant and clothing ads almost always show men with Greek God-like physiques. This is what boys see day in and day out and it is no shocker this can lead them to have a distorted view of masculinity and body image.

It is estimated that about 1 in 33 adult males struggle with an eating disorder, which is a much higher statistic than most people would realize. The way in which masculinity is displayed in our media is definitely not helping this statistic and we need to realize as a culture how detrimental certain messaging can be for people’s body image, including males. But together we can educate our boys and show them they do not need to bulk up, be in “perfect shape” or have muscles in order to be masculine; you are perfect how you are and that message could go a long way.

For more information on males, eating disorders, and body image, check out this blog & video from The Emily Program.

For more information on The Mask You Live In, visit www.therepresentationproject.org/ films/the-mask-you-live-in.