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The body is an artform

Does art really influence how we view our bodies? I believe that it does.

The media is plastered with images of skinny blonde women, tall muscular guys, and many other idealistic portrayals of the human body.

From a young age we are exposed to images of the “ideal human body.”  As children we play with action figures and Barbies, we read comics and play video games, and all the while we are being presented with this idealistic view of how our bodies should be.

In my opinion, most people are aware of how the pursuit of the idealistic body may influence rates of eating disorders among girls and women in our society.  However, I feel that there is not enough attention given to the effects these idealistic portrayals have on males. Studies have shown that men with eating disorders are less likely to seek professional help than women, because traditional masculine ideals are associated with negative attitudes toward seeking psychological help.

From a young age, guys are surrounded by art depicting idealized male bodies. Magazines, movies, TV shows, toys and video games frequently present images of tall and muscular men. From a young age, guys are made to feel that they need to conform to this idealistic view of masculinity. Some may become fixated on building a muscular physique, become concerned with building muscle mass, or become obsessed with maintaining a certain body size.

On the National Eating Disorder Association’s website, it states that “men, while also influenced by our culture’s over-valuing of thinness, are often more concerned with a combination of issues related to weight, body shape and function (e.g. strength).  Generally, men believe they need to be both lean and muscular to meet perceived societal expectations.”

I myself feel that to fit into socially I need to maintain an average weight that is neither overweight nor underweight. I have stop and asked myself why I feel this way, and the answer that I came to was shocking. All popular, important, and successful people in our society fit this idealistic image, and hence in order to succeed and to be of any importance I must mould myself to this image.

I understand this reason to be ludicrous; however, I continue to feel the pressure to conform. This brings up an important point: is awareness enough to enact a change? In my opinion, most of us are aware that the images presented to us in art and media are idealized portrayals of the human body, but we continue to feel that we are being pressured to mould ourselves to them. The solution, I believe, lies not in raising awareness but in changing the images that are being presented to us in art and media.

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