display | more...

Male standards of beauty have, in recent history, been less strict than female standards of beauty. This laxity has manifested itself both in the standards themselves and in the zeal with which the standards are enforced. Women are and have been obligated to spend a great deal of time and effort to the activity of being beautiful, and failure in this regard reflects very negatively on the woman as a whole. Men are encouraged to maintain a well-kempt appearance, but being "well-kempt" for a man requires relatively little time and effort. For a man to have a poor appearance reflects badly on him; but not nearly so much so as for a woman. In short, attention to one's appearance can make a good man better; whereas for a woman, attention to appearance is a prerequisite for being a good woman in the first place.

This is the historical and current situation. We can, however, clearly identify a shift in societal standards of beauty. This shift is slowly bringing the standards of the two sexes closer and closer to equality. This, in itself, is good. However, it is clear that rather than relaxing female standards of beauty, we are instead strengthening male standards of beauty. There is greater and greater emphasis on a fat-free, muscular body for a man. When we examine the sex symbols of generations past, even recent generations, we can see that the "ideal man" (insofar as there even was an ideal man) was not far removed from the average real man. Today, the ideal man has spiraled off into unattainability.

These changes can be quantified in the shocking rate of increase of male eating disorders and exercise disorders (which still are far below female levels).

It must be noted that "pure force of will" is itself an empty phrase. A will is meaningless in isolation from the effect that will has on the objects of its willing.

That being said, how should we apply our will to changing male standards of beauty? How can we do so? These are not rhetorical questions. I myself can offer only vague ideas. It is, I hope, clear that an attempt must be made to arrest this development, of the strengthening of standards of beauty. Our standards of beauty are vastly harmful to society on many levels, the indentification of which I do not here undertake to explore. How we are to go about this task is a much more difficult question to answer. The facile, cliche, and perhaps correct answer is that we must exercise constant awareness of the ways in which we are affected by societal standards of beauty.

I, however, am very pessimistic toward the idea that we can consciously change standards of beauty, male or female, by force of will. These societal symptoms are not caused by our conscious apprehension of them; why, then, would we expect to be able to cause them to change by conscious will? I am afraid we must wait out this trend.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.