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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Bodies » Body Image and Gender: Intersections and Divides

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Author Topic: Body Image and Gender: Intersections and Divides
Executive Director & Founder
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I'm thinking a bit of a reflective gender-based body image exercise might be of benefit to everyone, so here's the deal.

We often hear a lot of people talking about body image stuff one gender does or doesn't have to deal with. But my impression is that there are a lot more intersections than divides, and knocking down those divisions is probably a really good thing. And having an awareness of where there really are differences? Also good.

So, if you're a guy, tell us what you feel like guys have to deal with as far as body image goes that girls do NOT have to deal with.

If you're a girl, tell us what you feel like girls have to deal with as per body image that guys don't.

Any intersex users who want to tell your side of this story, even if you ID as male of female, that'd also be great. If you're transgender or genderqueer, just pick what suits you or speak from your persepctive as a transperson.

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Interesting topic [Smile]

Well, women have to deal with the changes in their body that happen during pregnancy, labour and after childbirth. It can sometimes be hard for women to feel attractive and happy with their bodies after having children.

Other than that, I can't really think of body image issues which are unique to girls. I think that anyone can have issues with things like going through puberty or aging, weight loss/gain and not reaching conventional beauty standards . Girls worry about breast size, Guys worry about penis size- same sort of issue.

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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One of the differences I think I see is that girls are constantly reminded of any body issues they might have any time they go to buy new clothes or even try on old ones. Women's styles are traditionally much more form fitting than men's, so finding clothes that fit like they're supposed to is a much more laborious process.

Whereas guys are generally set as long as they know their waist and inseam measurements, girls face the prospect of having to try on pair after pair of jeans until they find ones that fit in the butt AND the thighs AND the hips AND are long enough...etc etc.

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I can't personnally say that body image is something that concerns women more than men because I know some guys who care about it as much as I or other women might if not more.

Nothing really comes to my mind either as to what girls might go through with body image that guys might not. I think there is an equivalant for boys and girls, a bit like it has already been said.

[ 05-26-2009, 08:41 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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Whereas guys are generally set as long as they know their waist and inseam measurements
I keep thinking of a scene from Superbad when Seth (Jonah Hill) is trying on pants and asks Evan (Michael Cera) if the pants are too tight and shows them to him with his genitals pretty much popping out of them. I'm female, and I've never been clothes-shopping with a male, so I don't know if that's how it goes, but it is a nice example of how easy it isn't for males. Most people do have trouble finding clothes that fit they way they want them to. Which is part of why I really support people making their own clothes. (I'm going to do that as soon as I can find a cheap class in my area on sewing.) Plus you save money, and you can be happy in the knowledge that you are one less person taking advantage of the abuses perpetrated by the fashion industry, such as sweat shops.

Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Well, body hair.

Sure, I think hairlessness on men is fetishized in on our culture too. But, I think (American) women get the message a lot more that they're gross if they don't shave their legs/underarms/bikini line. And, if they have visible facial hair they don't get rid of, that's like unforgivable. The reaction that hair on women is "gross" feels like it's reserved for women. (With men it seems like it's a lot more about personal preference.) During the summer, I sometimes get double takes when people see that I don't shave; I don't think guys get that.

The first thing I thought of with clothes was bathing suits, and how suits designed for women feel so much more exposing. (I feel so much more comfortable in baggy trunks, topless, but that's just me--if I was a bio-guy, who knows how I'd feel.) Men don't have to bare so much of their legs, and if they do wear speedos/bikini briefs, their pubic hair isn't considered that big a deal. Too, guys get a lot of messages about fat being bad, but I don't think it's as intense as what girls get. Like with average body hair, I think average body fat on women gets called "gross" in a way that it doesn't on men.

I also think there are big differences between the body image stuff women have with their breasts and men have with their penises. Yeah, there's widespread self-consciousness about each of them, and there's the shared cultural pressure that bigger is better. But, in day to day life, when you're wearing clothes, breasts are much more visible than penises. Breasts are objectified in a way that I'm not sure is comparable to any male body part. They can feel like public property in a way that feels really crappy. You can't hide them unless you're doing a whole binding thing, and people don't exactly not notice if you show up one day without your breasts. It's also another example, like with body hair, where just letting them exist how they are (not wearing a bra) is considered weird.

[ 05-26-2009, 11:44 PM: Message edited by: bluejumprope ]

without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich

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