We’ve all seen the completely unrealistic images of women with uber-long legs, teeny waists, melon breasts, and flat tummies. They’re on magazine covers, billboards, advertisements, and posters plastered around your local mall. Too often, we look at those pictures and wonder, Is that what a beautiful woman looks like? Is that what men want?
I’ve written plenty about body image for wives, arguing that all those PhotoShopped, airbrushed images undermine the beauty of individual wives—who are varied in their appearance but beautiful nonetheless to the Creator who made them, to the husband who married them, and to all others who love them. Which should include ourselves.
The Era of the Six-Pack
These days, women are not the only ones having unrealistic images and ridiculous expectations pelted at them. Just ask any guy who’s semi-aware, and he’ll tell you the “six-pack” is the new must-have for many men.
When I Googled “how to get six-pack abs,” I got 76.5 million results. Admittedly nowhere near the 496 million one gets if they Google “how to get big boobs,” but still a crazy high number. And how many guys out there are actually going to end up with washboard abs?
Yet six-packs, tight butts, big biceps, and every other muscular show of masculine strength is all the rage now. From Magic Mike to male cover models to superhero movies, the men who garner attention female attention are sporting a body that most only get with a strict diet, extensive exercise, and methods like taking diuretics. And guess what? If a male model or actor is over a certain age and still sporting a six-pack, they may also have had surgical intervention, such as liposuction to suck out fat and reveal muscles more prominently.
Meaning the average man…just can’t live up to the ideal.
Before the Abs Frenzy Took Hold
A lean yet muscular look has become a new standard for male attractiveness. But it hasn’t always been. Just look at these classic actors once considered particularly handsome in their day (and yes, they’re shirtless to show what I mean, but I avoided anything I thought was too much):
With the exception of Paul Newman, those are all just men who are in good shape, reasonably muscled, but not ready to wear today’s Captain America unitard. They’d be sent to a dietitian and personal trainer to push themselves up to the new, ridiculous standard.
Chris Evans, the Captain America actor, told a magazine about getting into shape for his role in Avengers: Infinity War: “For this film it was about three months of training, and I wasn’t looking forward to it…I’ve always liked going to the gym, but these weren’t normal gym sessions. I was puking at the gym. They were brutal, absolutely brutal.”
Seriously, are we wanting our men to puke so that we can look at steel abs for an hour and a half? If so, I don’t think we can say that women are the only ones being fed a pile of poop when it comes to body image.
Are Women Leading This Charge?
I blame a lot of players for unreal beauty and strength standards in our culture—from casting agents to magazine publishers to advertising executives to gym promotions. But you know what? Long before the ab craze, there was Fabio. And who bought those books and fell for the cover model? Women.
Who’s sharing “man candy” pics on Twitter and Facebook? Women. (And a few gay men.)
Who oohs and aaahs over Jason Momoa’s chest? Women. (He’s the actor who played Aquaman.)
The truth is that I don’t know if women are leading the charge, but they are contributing. And for a group of people who don’t like having Barbie-shaped expectations thrown at them all the time and object to being objectified, maybe we should own our part and do better, ladies. Maybe it’s time to create a new standard in our minds for what a handsome man looks like.
What Do “Real Men” Look Like?
Real men have varied body types just like women. Some are lean, some are bulky. Some are broad-shouldered, some are narrow-shouldered. Some display strength in their chests, some in their legs. I could go on and on with the variations, but you get the point that God made a plethora of physiques, all of which can be appreciated.
But your average guy, even in shape, is not going to look like the next Fabio or Black Panther. And we wives shouldn’t make our husbands feel bad about that. Rather, we should regularly and honestly show that we like and desire our husband’s body. Men are struggling with body image too.Men are struggling with body image too. @HotHolyHumorous Click To Tweet
Gary Thomas wrote a fabulous post about The Only Man/Woman in the World, talking about how our own spouses should become The Standard for us. And while that doesn’t mean we’re blind to the beauty or muscles of some very nice-looking people around us, it means that we cherish the real person we have in our lives.
The world will not suddenly stop the madness of throwing unrealistic body types at us, but we can make a difference in our own home by letting our husband know that he is The One for us.