Pretty Hurts: Why Are Males Left Out of the Self-Esteem Conversation? [Commentary]

Beauty & Style | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 03/07/2014 | 02:30 PM EST

Body image insecurties aren't exclusive to women...men are affected too

In the first part of “Pretty Hurts” series, Centric explored beauty perceptions of young Black girls and how European standards affect the way they see themselves. But while young girls are turning to extremes in negotiating their self-worth, there are just as many males who too suffer with their self-esteem.


Though men are socially less emotional and expressive, it doesn’t mean they don’t still battle with their self-image and how others perceive them. For Black males especially, navigating a society where they are constantly portrayed as aggressive, uncivilized beings is hard enough as it is. When you’re having to constantly fight the misguided idea that you are to be feared, the last thing you want to acknowledge are insecurities as it relates to beauty image.


While it may not be as critical to them as it may be for Black females, young Black boys and men do care about their looks. Because of the unrealistic standards of masculinity, men are expected to acquire a chiseled physique, and usually for the appeasement of women and not for self-gratification. Much like how women are obliged to police their waistlines, men are expected to attain the body of Hercules and if he doesn’t, he’s deemed weak or less of a man (and the same goes for gay men). But why can’t a man be skinny or slender and be considered just as much of a man?


Aside from the issues of attaining a more muscular body frame, men too face issues of colorism and the pressures to have more European-like features. In entertainment alone, Black men are pitted against each other in the trivial war between “team darkskinned” and “team lightskinned,” where brown men are left to feel inadequate or less attractive, while more fair skinned males are emasculated and erroneously labeled as overly sensitive, as if one’s emotions can truly be delegated by the pigment of one's skin.


More futher, just think how much the image of the Black male has changed over the years. Men of color almost never rock their true natural hair (Afro)...at least not since it was a trend during the 1970s. Instead, Black men are using relaxers or texturizers to give off the effect that they have “good hair.” Sounds familiar?


The reality is that the plight of body and beauty images is just as damaging to Black males as it is for their female counterparts. So when we’re having dialogue about about self-esteem issues within the Afro-Caribbean culture, let’s not leave men out of the conversation.

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