SEEING BEYOND THE MUSCLES
Men were considered the dominant sex for many years. They’ve been engaged in more physically and mentally challenging activities. History called them the hunters, food gatherers, the able-bodied species. They were assigned, perhaps by nature, as the “provider,” thereby making them the stronger sex. http://www.menshealth.com/cda/homepage.do.
This idea proliferated through language, which Kramarae perceives to be a man-made construction (McClish and Langan, 2005, p. 473).
On the other hand, women, according to Ardener, are a muted group. Kramarae elaborated on this idea by emphasizing that “women’s words and thoughts are discounted in the society” (McClish and Langan, 2005, p. 473). Women were brought up to believe that they were the mothers who should nurture the babies until they were ready to take care of themselves.
The men might have been too proud then until the women finally broke the silence. Now we have concepts of feminism, gender bias, gender sensitivity, and women empowerment. It’s all because the women didn’t want to be branded as inferior to men.
Despite the obvious changes in the status of women in societies, the million-dollar question still remains unanswered: Are men the stronger sex?
Are the modern men proud of their well-being? Are modern men free from any worries? Do they still perceive themselves as “macho?” Or do they now submit themselves to physical changes they might have not thought of doing many years ago?
To be strong is to be firm. To be firm is not to be swayed by invalid claims. If this is the case, then men are not strong. They are just like women who believe in the world that media created for them.
Several studies have established the relationship between media exposure and women’s perception of their body image. The media tell the women that “thin are in” by having super thin models promote beauty products. Due to the overwhelming presence of super thin models in giant billboards, on flashy TV screens, and in glossy magazines, women came to believe that they also have to be at least as thin as the models. If not, they would become less attractive to the opposite sex. This notion leads to excessive dieting, and eventually lower self-esteem.
Women have been targets of advertising because many believe that it is easy to persuade them to buy different items and it’s not difficult to attract them with emotionally oriented advertisements.
The media, for years, have been “molding” women’s concept of beauty: ultra-thin, flawless and smooth skin. Without these traits, women are considered second-rate.
Now, advertisers target the men, and it seems that the men are good prey despite the status in the society that they enjoy.
Pope, Phillips and Olivardia (2000) argued in their book The Adonis Complex that American men these days “have become obsessed with their bodies” (cited in Goshgarian, McSweeney & Young, p.84). What’s more, the men would do everything to get the body image they desire. This is what exactly the women felt in the past that eventually made them become easy prey for diet pills, cosmetic surgery, and varieties of beauty products that could either enhance their facial features or hide their imperfection.
If people think that only the women are worried about being attractive, they must think twice because men can be more susceptible to believe in the false claims of advertising.
What accounts for these changes in men’s perception towards their body image? These changes, I believe, are not because men have changed but because men were changed, maybe even without them noticing it. Men were changed by a force which is more powerful than men or women: MEDIA. This is what makes men weak, contrary to the long-held popular belief that they are strong.
Imagine an ordinary young man being bombarded with huge visuals showing a muscular model’s enviable six-pack abs: he wakes up to read newspapers and see Matthew McConaughey’s “perfect” body displayed on newspaper adverts. When he gets online, he’s intruded by a pop-up ad that says “It’s time to remove your hairy worries and to gain the pecs that women would die for in a man.” When he sprays his favorite cologne, he sees the image of a well-chiseled body of an international model. On his way to the school or office, he sees a giant billboard of the naked body of famous hunk Matt Damon promoting his latest film, Bourne Ultimatum. Finally, when he checks his favorite web site, it welcomes him with a slogan saying, “It’s 2008. Change your body. Change your life.”
How would an ordinary young man react to the ubiquity of media? Definitely, it’s hard to ignore something that you see every single day. Sometimes, the brains recognize messages and store them even without the people knowing it.
Through the power of the subliminal messages everywhere, eventually, men are predicted to “re-examine” their own bodies and see if theirs would at least be comparable to the flawless skin and muscular body they have been exposed to several times a day. If their bodies are not like Matt Damon’s, or of Tom Cruise’s, they would start to feel dissatisfied.
The pressure gets doubled when the society or the people around start bothering men who are short and “unattractive.” The pressure to feel accepted in the society is a big deal for any human being. And with the status men enjoyed in the past, it would surely be very hard for them not to have the muscles, which some men perceive to be the only thing they could have that women can’t (cited in Goshgarian, McSweeney & Young, p.84).
Muscular dissatisfaction is not uncommon among young men these days. This kind of dissatisfaction is actually a result of effective advertising campaigns which come in different packages and executed carefully using intrusive strategies. Most of the time, advertisements capitalize on the weakness of all human persons which is imperfection
The story doesn’t end with the dissatisfaction felt by a young man. Dissatisfaction creates dissonance. This feeling motivates him to do something about his body.
This young man will do everything just to get abs worth showing to the public. If he has patience, he would religiously go to the gym and do a lot of work out! If not, he has another choice: steroids.
Anabolic steroids are dangerous prescription drugs. It can cause not just physical damage but also psychological effects. Its use can cause a person to have heart disease, paranoia, liver damage and an urge to be violent. Among its serious side effects is impotence (Bell-Laroche, 1998). What’s worse, if steroids are given through injections, the chances of acquiring HIV are not impossible.
If men would “surrender” to the reality constructed by media by subscribing to the product being promoted by models with “perfect” bodies, it would mean that they use the peripheral route in processing information. This makes them vulnerable to any advertising claim that distorts reality in order to ring the cash register.
For example, if men were exposed to the slogan of Men’s Health online, “It’s 2008. Change your body. Change your life,” should the men sign up for a free 30-day trial? To believe in this slogan instantly is to use the peripheral route. This route, according to Elaboration Likelihood model, is used when the receiver of the message doesn’t want to cognitively process the information given to him (McClish and Langan, 2005, p. 187). This is the route that advertisers want their target consumers to take. Accepting everything the media say, for me, is the acme of mindlessness, of being weak. Therefore, if most men become obsess with “perfect” bodies, it’s already a sign that they are admitting the fact that no gender is better, that no one is stronger. Both can be manipulated by advertisers and marketers, regardless of gender.
So far, it’s good to note that not all men would resort to steroids use to gain more muscles. However, Cloud (2006) said that men who are not willing to use steroids have to sweat it all out in the gym on a strictly regular basis (cited in Goshgarian, McSweeney & Young, p.86). Of course, that’s not as simple as ABC.
The presence of men who are obsessed with their bodies is not something to be alarmed of. What should be more alarming are the strategies and effort media exert in order to distort the real concept of beauty among men and even women. What should be given attention to is the danger of exposing young boys who will soon become men to magazines and other media that advocate six-pack abs in order to get the customers’ dollars from their pocket.
The advocacy of specialized business magazines promoting various programs for muscular-wannabees, emphasizing the idea that changing one’s body leads to change in one’s life, is absurd. Life changes even without altering body images. Also, changing body image does not always change one’s life. At the end of the day, it isn’t the body image that would make heads turn but the muscles displayed for the malicious eyes to stare at.
The eyes that stare seem to say, “Behind those muscles are insecurities.”
Indeed, men can never claim to be strong if they easily fall into the profit-oriented hands of advertising.
Let’s take time to look beyond the muscles.
Let’s not wait for a time that would need a male version of the DOVE campaign that tells us to SEE THE REAL BEAUTY.
Bell-Laroche, D (1998). Steroid use: A growing problem. Journal CAHPERD. 64 (2). Retrieved March 25, 2008 from http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.library.selkirk.ca:2048/pqdweb?index=1&did=7059
.Cloud, J. (2006). Never too buff. In G. Goshgarian, G. McSweeney & L. Young (Eds.), Contemporary reader (83-87). Canada: Pearson Education Canada, Inc.
McClish G. & Langan, E (2005). A first look at communication theories: A manual. Retrieved March 24, 2008 from http://www.afirstlook.com/main.cfm.
1.In your opinion, what letter grade does this essay deserve?
As the writer, of course, I’ll say I deserve not less than the ceiling letter grade which is A.
2.Why do you believe it deserves this grade?
There are three concrete reasons I deserve an A for this argumentative paper. First, I did not write the arguments in vacuum. I read several materials and sources before I finally decided on what timely and debatable topic interests me the most. Aside from reading, I also looked, observed and compared magazine advertisements showing male models. I did this to establish in my mind that what I read in CONTEMPORARY READER is indeed true. I also gave original and specific examples based on my own observation.
Second, I did not dwell on usual topics. I tried my best to “explore” other angles which many writers don’t see. I chose to use a cliché — MEN ARE THE STRONGER SEX — as a framework of my argument but I DWELL ON RARELY DEBATED point of view: That ADVERTISING MAKES MEN EQUAL TO WOMEN.
Third, as a writer, I did not merely describe. I argued. And my arguments are supported by readings and observation of the real world. Most importantly, I ended with a call to action – a strategy all arguments need to have in order to make a difference.
3.What are the greatest strengths of this essay?
This is well-thought-of and supported by researches and observations. Definitely, this is an argument that explores new possibilities in proving a cliché. It, in short, gives a different perspective to something familiar to readers. By the way, my title was creatively done – it’s enough to make the readers read the paper.
4.What are this essays greatest weaknesses?
I think it’s too short to explore many other possibilities that would prove the main point.