Under Pressure – how do I look?

If you watched the soccer last weekend, you might have noticed a bit of a trend.

So what is it that Wayne Rooney, Leigh Griffiths and Anthony Stokes all have in common? They have all undergone hair transplants, a cosmetic procedure to combat hair loss that has become increasingly popular amongst men.

The increase in cosmetic procedures in our leading sport stars is telling and points to the newly-found pressures placed on men to look good and meet certain beauty standards – a full head of hair being one.

Males are/were often portrayed in the media as the sex who couldn’t care less about their appearance, so why the shift towards vanity by the men on our screens?

Well, one easy answer is the other men on our screens; switch over to Sky Movies and you will inevitably be confronted by Adonis after Adonis.

Yes, those quirky rom-coms that you watch of a Friday night are littered with the bulging biceps of Ryan Gosling or the sculpted abs of Ryan Reynolds.

The impressive physical condition of the movie stars is rarely more than an aside or a selling point, but subconsciously the physique of the boy who gets the girl registers with both the male and female viewer.

Case in point, Ryan Gosling’s ability to do that iconic lift from Dirty Dancing due to his ridiculous strength results in him winning over Emma Stone in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ and so what we take away post-watch, whether we know it or not, is that to get our own Emma Stone, we men should be built like Ryan Gosling.

The shift in emphasis toward men’s appearances may be an unfortunate result of a positive change in today’s society.

Years ago, it was understandable that a women would factor in a man’s earning power when choosing a life partner; wage disparity made this a necessity. While wage disparity still exists, and its existence is inexcusable, the gap is unquestionably closing, meaning that some women no longer need to factor a man’s pay packet into the equation, leaving aesthetic qualities open to being placed under greater scrutiny.

There are negative consequences to the increasing focus on men’s appearances; studies suggest that up to a quarter of those who suffer from the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are now male.

However, researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Glasgow found that instances are largely under diagnosed and under reported, partly due to the disorders reputation as being a ‘girls’ disorder.

While men in 2015 are now facing a pressure that is relatively new, it is important to remember that the pressure that we face does not match the scrutiny that our female counterparts are under. As feminist writer Julie Bindel put it – “Men can ultimately flirt with it. Women live by it. They’re judged by it”.

Her quote brings me back to a conversation that I partook in with a group of friends.

Glued to his phone, a friend announced that Chelsea Ferguson had sent out a new Snapchat update (Ferguson is an erotic dancer who has garnered internet fame due in part to her posting nude photos on social media platforms.)

After soaking in the picture, the friend made the following observation – “Jesus, all she’s good for is getting her tits out”.

Now I struggle to imagine that a man would ever be subject to such a sentence, nor the typical “she’s sound BUT rotten/she’s a bitch BUT unreal looking” descriptions; the “BUT” betraying how the real value is measured – by how the woman looks.

Another bit of leeway given to men is that male film stars are allowed to age gracefully, to proudly wear the label of the ‘grey fox’ or the ‘silver bear’ – think George Clooney or Tom Jones from The Voice. Aside from outliers like Meryl Streep, most of Hollywood’s leading ladies don’t have a wrinkle or a grey hair to be seen.

In relative terms, sure – we men are under less pressure to look our best when compared to women, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the pressure to look good (or ‘measure up’ if a recent article on the average penis size which has taken the internet by storm is anything to go by.)

Like most things, the pressure that an individual feels to look good is all relative. While disparity in terms of this pressure does need to be closed, we’re currently closing it in the wrong direction.

Odran De Bhaldraithe

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