Do Men Need Body Liberation?
Body Liberation is a woman’s journey, right?
True, we are the ones most generally associated with eating disorder risk, body dissatisfaction, and weight obsession. And, these are the things we work to leave behind when we enter into a body liberation journey toward body acceptance and finding our own definitions of health and beauty, outside the dominant norms that Diet Culture has been feeding us.
Still… I have a feeling we are leaving a big portion of the population out NOT because they do not suffer from and struggle with these same issues but because they are not given permission by our society, to delve deeply enough into their emotional lives to make that suffering and that struggle known – even to themselves. And if they can’t admit they’ve got a problem, they can’t begin to figure out how to fix that problem.
Men need Body Liberation too.
Every time we hear someone joke about how much weight they’ve gained or are going to gain, what that person is really FEELING is something like:
“People aren’t going to like me anymore if I gain weight.”
“People aren’t going to accept me anymore if I gain weight.”
“I’m afraid of rejection.”
“I’m afraid of losing people’s approval.”
“I’m afraid you don’t (or won’t) love me anymore.”
I used to believe this wasn’t true for men – that it was only true of women. Because, Diet Culture has led women to associate their worth with their weight. But, I maintained for a very long time, that men do not associate their worth with their weight. When you hear a man talk about his weight in an insecure way, like with fatphobic jokes, he’s merely pointing out something he wants to “work on” and the disruption to his psyche ends there – or so I thought. I no longer believe this to be true. And more than that, I believe that the fact that I thought men did not associate their worth with their weight as much as women do is sexist. I believe I was engaging in the wrong-headed and absolutely sexist social belief that men just don’t feel as deeply as women. That’s bullshit. Of COURSE they do! They are just not ALLOWED to notice, explore, or give voice to their emotional lives. This is just one way that men suffer under patriarchy as much as women do.
Body Liberation is for men as much as it is for women.
Though I am by no means an expert, when it comes to transgender men and women, I believe what I’ve written above remains true but takes on stakes that cis men and cis women can’t fully understand. That is, trans men and trans women are at greater risk in Diet Culture (just as they are in our culture, in general) because the expectation to conform to dominant norms is not just about being acceptable in their beauty but being acceptable in their basic humanity. Though cis women are often the group most associated with body liberation, trans men and trans women are in greater need of body liberation because they are actually at even greater risk.
Body Liberation is for trans women and trans men as much as it is for cis women and cis men.
The fact is humans with money to spend have been inundated by Diet Culture for at least a good century. The dominant norms Diet Culture has been feeding us exist because we don’t want to buy things if we think we are okay just the way that we are. And Every. Body. – regardless of gender – has the right to know, believe and FEEL that they are okay (and worthy and lovable) JUST THE WAY THAT THEY ARE.
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is an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer; an ACE-Certified Group Fitness Instructor; a certified Yoga Teacher; a Certified Intuitive Eating Professional; and a degree-holding Health, Fitness Specialist. She lives in Frankfort, Michigan and owns Every. Body. Fitness and Yoga Studio.