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Male Body Shaming: A Less Talked About Domain

23 Oct '23
6 min read


No human is born perfect. Suppose we keep aside a few exceptional individuals who are born with some sort of "imperfection." In that case, each one of us is born with similar body structures and features. And as we start growing up, we start working and taking care of our bodies, trying to make them "picture-perfect." 

We hit the gym, we eat a balanced diet, we meditate, and we do everything known to modern humans to make us look better than our previous selves. And if we are asked why we are working on our natural self to shape it differently, most of us will call it "the need of the hour." But is it really the need of the hour? One of the prime reasons that force us to work on our bodies, especially our looks, is some random act of body shaming!

Male Body Shaming

Body shaming is not a new concept, as it has existed since time immemorial and will remain ubiquitous till Armageddon. Irrespective of long and scholarly lectures and discussions, this isn't going to stop. From the tip of our hair to the colour of our toes, each and every part of our body is scrutinised and criticised. And body shaming is not exclusive to one gender or sex; it is universal. However, when it comes to male body shaming, we habitually ignore the consequences. In this patriarchal society, it is often assumed that males are immune to such passing comments that hurt an individual's emotions.

From newspapers to movies, from cartoons to comic strips, body shaming of males is evident in various ways.

To call a fat man "fatty, fatso or motu", a dark-tone child "kalu" or a small-statured person "chotu" is common in Indian society. Often, such comments are taken as playful comments, never realising the possible consequences.

Let me not go far. I have been body-shamed since my childhood as I am bulky and slightly obese.

"Oye motu", "Oye, lose some weight", "You look like an uncle", and " "When are you getting married? Time is running out, and you already look old." these have been some of the random comments I have been hearing since I was a child, and I continue to hear the same even now. 

These comments hurt me badly, affecting my mental health during my growing-up years. My self-esteem was crushed, and I always tried to find an escape route.

It was only during my late 20s that I could muster courage and face body criticism right on the face. I developed the "ignore and move forward policy", and today, I can proudly say that body criticism doesn't affect me anymore. But that does not mean I welcome people's comments about my body and looks? Just because I have grey hair and wrinkles on my face, I do not give permission to anyone to call me uncle, especially to someone whom I have met just once personally.

Men are not body shamed only because of their body size; we are shamed for our skin tone, receding hairlines, voice, height, body odour, profuse sweating, being too hairy, not having enough facial hair, and also for the size of our private parts. We are also shamed for not wearing "attractive clothes or shoes or anything fashionable".

Men are also shamed because of the way they talk, and if someone stammers, you just imagine the difficulties he has to face. Well, since everyone is not Shah Rukh Khan, they keep getting mocked for a lifetime. That could be the reason why a stammering person is always shown in a comic role in movies. If you have noticed, in movies, it is always a male character that is shown as a stammerer and not a female.

Millions of people constantly go through this humiliation because their style of speaking is not "perfect" as per the set social norms.

Let's shift focus to some data now.

According to a study by the UK pharmacy site Superdrug in 2021, it was revealed that only 42% of men are happy with their looks. Even those with "perfect body type" with six-packs had complaints. The constant comparison with others made them look uglier and unhappy.

Consequences Of Body Shaming

So, what are the consequences of body shaming? The answer is simple- extremely negative, having the potential to destroy a person completely, even so, taking him/her to the verge of self-harm.

When a woman is bulky, most men find her attractive for the "obvious" reasons. While women seldom consider a fat man "handsome". If a man has to be called handsome, then he has to have a leaner body with no extra fat around the waist area.

A Guwahati-based counsellor, seeking anonymity, told me that most of her patients are aged between 23-30 years. Their self-confidence has hit the bottom mainly because they were constantly reminded of their body structure by their friends and families.

 "Body shaming destroys the self-esteem of a person, pushing them to anxiety and depression. In some cases, one can also develop anxious-avoidant behaviour. To become delusional and developing obsessive thoughts about self-image is most common in such case. Body shaming can also lead to eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating," the counsellor added.

Final Words

Male body-shaming is common, and it is on the rise. Irrespective of how much we try to stop it, this isn't going to stop. 

Studies have revealed that most men feel insecure about their weight and muscle. If we can see a change, then we will have to take the onus upon us and trash this body insecurity and the idea of becoming the "perfect man". Yes, man, it should work out. Not just men but every single individual should work out and eat a healthy diet. Not because we need to change the perception of society but to live a healthy life. Let's not make our body a haven for several diseases.

One should work for a fit body only for oneself. We all deserve a fit body, and body shaming should not be the primary trigger.

A body-positive campaign for males is the call of the hour, and I hope, someday, the idea of a "perfect body shape", which is the most desired, changes. Until then, it is only a waiting game...

Category : Health and Wellness


Written by Partha Prawal


Guwahati based journalist, who is also a published author