I have had many a discussion with female friends who bemoan the fact that women and girls don’t have the same societal standards for body image that boys and men have regarding, clothes, skin care, hair, weight and cellulite. Unfortunately for our sons, I think they also have impossible standards subjected on them that can cause social anxiety, eating disorders and interference with learning.
Let’s pick it apart starting with clothes. Teenage boys may not care about how dirty their clothes get at the end of the day, but they certainly want to wear the right brands and put on clean clothes in the morning. I’m raising both a daughter and son and can say they both are very choosy when it comes to color, style, fit, brand and latest trend. In fact, boys have this whole thing about athletic shoes that the girls don’t have such as finding the latest Micheal Jordan. My daughter certainly never cared about socks as much as my son and even though her designer jeans and Lululemon leggings cost more than his Vineyard Vines pants, national sports team logo wear or goofy lacrosse pants, the label was important and both wanted what they wanted.
Skin care is paramount to both genders. Nobody wants huge, swollen, pussing zits. Although, boys usually don’t wear make-up, in a way that’s too bad, since it’s a crutch not available to them to feel beautiful with just application of a few products.
When it comes to hair I think it might be harder for the boys. Most girls wear their hair long with subtle variations with length and bangs, but boys need a hair style and are concerned with the perfect hat if they don’t like their cut.
Then there’s body image, a particularly painful subject for me. Frequently I hear men/boys don’t have to be concerned with their weight and they don’t struggle with dieting, unfortunately this isn’t true. Maybe boys suffer in silence, as do many girls, but they suffer at increasingly alarming rates and help may be more difficult to access.
Thanks to the pressure that always existed combined with social media postings, it’s no longer safe to think we can just assume indifference to our boys’ emotional state concerning appearance and weight. Women are gaining equal rights slowly in many fields but some of the cultural norms we hold are nothing I want to share with my son. Body dysmorphia should be eliminated not granted equal rights. Neither my son nor my daughter need to be defined by his or her thigh gap.
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