Real men don’t photoshop

This piece was originally published on Mamamia and has been republished with the permission of the author @Mikey_Nicholson. You can follow the original post and commentary here. Why it matters: Body image is often an issue overlooked for men, but plays a significant role in their lives. Mike’s piece challenges the representation of men in the body image debate.

It has been well documented on this site and all across the web about the ridiculous photoshopping practices of advertisers and marketers that create unrealistic and unattainable physical attributes for women. But what about the guys?

Now I don’t want to turn this in to a his and her battle of the sexes, but I feel that my sex has been under represented in this debate. If I haven’t felt insecure about my body on the way to work, then the newsagent vendors haven’t done their job by putting out the latest Men’s Health posters.

The kinds of images perpetuated by these health magazines are often unattainable due to many factors, not least the benefit of a lighting crew and digital wizardry. I am often left wondering how it’s possible for the stomach muscles to protrude in such a way that could only be achieved with the abolition of the Earth’s carbohydrates.

To compound the ensuing insecurity, these unattainable images are usually linked with virility, sexual prowess and masculinity. So how can we as men feel good enough with what we have when this constant stream of photoshopped muscles is telling us and our partners otherwise?

The problem isn’t that these images exist, it’s that they are now considered the norm. Muscle-y dudes aren’t a problem, but photoshopping them to oblivion and dressing them up as a result of “eating right” and “hitting the gym” is reckless. A way around this would be implementing a warning system for photos that have been altered to the point of lunacy. If a label alerted consumers as to the extent of photoshopping in an advertisement, it would make companies think twice about brandishing body images that cannot be achieved.

Sadly, I think we have come to expect this ugly element with regards to the women’s fashion industry, but for men it is still a reasonably new phenomena that is less scrutinised. Being a media junkie, I constantly see pictures and advertisements that I know have had the once over with a fine tooth Mac comb, yet it is hard to delineate the concept of what these images display with what I have to offer. If this is happening to someone who consumes media daily with a cynical eye, I can only imagine what the everyday male is thinking. I can’t help but think we are doing a disservice to men, old and young, everywhere.

I’m putting it out there: the majority of guys do not look sculptured like Michelangelo’s David. With that being said, I’d love it if magazines and advertising companies would stop trying to make us believe that this is the case. Therefore, in the spirit of anti-photoshop, I have put my money where my mouth is and offered up a shirtless, natural image of un-photoshopped, unedited masculinity. Well, the merits of masculinity can be debated, but the rest is true. My photo might not be a GQcover shoot, but for me it’s maintainable and more importantly realistic. Who needs photoshop, right?

I’ll be honest. I’m not overweight or particularly underweight but I did err on the side of caution before submitting my shirtless photo. Initially, I had no second thoughts,… then came the insecurity; “you can’t see any muscles”, “are there any muscles to show?”, “am I too skinny?”, “LOTS of people read this site”, “Magic Mike is out this month, I don’t have a chance.”

But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that I didn’t care that this wasn’t a heavily edited model shoot. That photo is me. In summer it’s on display at any one of South Australia’s great beaches, in winter it comes out at my local indoor swimming pool. What’s the worst that can happen on the internet? If I want to see a greater emphasis on advertisements doing away with retouched images, I’m going to embrace my untouched body (um, that sounded better in my head.)

So here’s a thought for both sexes; let’s embrace imperfection, irregularity and difference whilst rejecting digitally enhanced, unattainable perfection.

Now I’ve just got to hope that the kind folks at Mamamia don’t pair this piece with pictures of Chris Hemsworth frolicking on the beach.

Mike Nicholson

Ed’s note: It’s worth joining the discussion over at the original article here.

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