In our society, it is not enough for men to be men just in the biological sense. Men need to also “act” like men and exude masculinity. And yet still, this is not quite enough. In addition, men need to also pay specific attention to avoid anything that even remotely connotes femininity. They need to avoid at all costs, such things as: the displaying of emotions, betraying a smile at the purchase of new shoes, or to take more than a passing interest in one’s own reflection from a mirror. In short, for men to be men, they need to adhere to the Male Image—lest be deemed anything but.
However, in a most ironic twist, and contradictory exception, some men that many would consider the apotheosis of masculinity are the most egregious offenders of the circumscribed male body-image rules. This group consists of: the male body-builders, the lifters, the aesthetic athletes, the hormone-gulping protein-shaking buttocks-injecting many; they abound, and they betray the fact that masculinity and femininity are not as diametrically opposed as we’d like to believe.
While females are known to have a more ostensible interest in their outward appearance, males as well, that are part of this group, have an almost obsessive regard for their body. Muscle building to this degree far exceeds any health benefits gained; in fact, it comes to a point where it is almost all aesthetics. This degree of male image obsession flagrantly contradicts one of the major precepts of those implied rules of masculinity: that males should hold indifference to their looks.
We then move on to product. It is accepted that most women spend a great deal of money purchasing beauty-products that highlight, conceal, or augment, their own natural features, such as eyeliner, makeup, breast implants, et al. However, such product purchasing, as well as cost, is comparable in the male domain. Herbal/supplement stores like GNC, or MetRX, boating huge profits, sell supplements—with dubious efficacy— that are bought in enormous quantities by men interested in “bulking” up with the hopes of increasing gains beyond exercise and weight lifting. A perusal through the MetRX website will quickly indicate to anyone that these products are not exactly cheap either, although some like the best adaptogen supplement is quite affordable. However, most of these supplemental products require a long duration of use before even the promise of noticeable results. Here we see another instance of the overlapping between the masculine and the feminine “image”—making it harder to differentiate the two.
The male muscle building culture seems to ignore the rules of masculine body image. In fact, not only are the rules ignored per se, they are defiantly broken. And yet, within the male community, an overly muscled body, with chiseled abs is becoming more and more desired. What if every male obsessed over their bodies in such a fashion; what if it consumed all their time, dictated their diet, and costed them an exorbitant amount in product. Are we still talking about men?