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AIBU to think that boys are under as much pressure to look good as girls these days?

(30 Posts)
Fallingrain Wed 06-Mar-19 09:28:14

I was reading an interesting article in The Sunday Times last weekend about a boy who got anorexia at 12 and I've seen a few things about it recently (I think it was Eating Disorder Awareness week). When I was younger it seemed very much that it was girls who worried about their weight and appearance. But now it seems to be affecting so many young people - the thought of teenage years terrifies me.

I can't help thinking that all the focus on "healthy" and "clean" eating doesn't improve relationships with food. The list of banned items in my child's packed lunch is crazy these days. I just think it is demonising one of life's great pleasures and everything in moderation is a good philosophy.

I just wondered how others approached and promoted a positive body image with their sons?

echt Wed 06-Mar-19 09:32:32

"A" boy.

Think centuries/^ of pressure on girls/women.


Oh. I forgot. International Women's Day on Friday so let's get in the pity me threads about men/boys.

Blankpaper Wed 06-Mar-19 09:32:42

YABU to compare the pressures boys face about appearances with girls. Girls with eating disorders still vastly outnumber boys (a quick google has given me a ratio of 5:1)

Girls have many more appearance related issues to worry about. What boy cares about his “bikini line” or the way his eyebrows look?

echt Wed 06-Mar-19 09:35:16

Oh, and welcome to MN, OP

namechanger0110 Wed 06-Mar-19 09:39:30

I don't think you can compare boys and girls, as a mum of a 15 year old boy I definitely see how much more pressure there is on girls to look good, than boys.

My DS wouldn't be happy looking anything other than good though. He's got good personal hygiene and likes fashion etc. He's pretty conscious about his looks/hair. Maybe I'm just lucky that he isn't a scruffy smelly teenager!

@Fallingrain - I think your post title is wrong, but I get your point that when we were younger it always seemed to be girls who suffered from ED, now we're hearing about more boys. A very sad world indeed

HotpotLawyer Wed 06-Mar-19 09:41:06

Not much sign of it in this house.

Or anywhere, as far as I can see.

Fallingrain Wed 06-Mar-19 09:48:04

@Echt, let me be clear, I am not IN ANY WAY belittling the difficulties that women face and have faced due to history. I am one(!) and it is not easy.

But I think we can afford to be kind to anyone of any gender suffering from mental illness can't we?! Particularly a young child. I was just curious to see that it was as many as 1/5 boys suffering now and whether that had increased or whether it was just not seen so much when we were kids. 20% of the 1.8 million figure is still an awful lot of kids. If it is a relatively new thing then perhaps it might shed some light on why people suffer.

And more specifically, as a mother of boys, I was curious to see what the experiences of others had been. It is not at all that I don't care about young girls too - I do but I don't have them hence why my query related to boys.

NuffSaidSam Wed 06-Mar-19 09:48:36

I do think it's getting worse for boys and because of that the gap in experience is closing, but it's still 1000 times worse for girls.

goldengummybear Wed 06-Mar-19 10:15:46

I'm a parent of teens of both sexes.

While boys are under more pressure than in the past it's nothing like the pressure that girls face. When boys start going to school wearing makeup because they don't have skin like a Snapchat filter and boys discuss the calorie content of food because they don't want to be fat then you'll have a point.

Sparklesocks Wed 06-Mar-19 10:20:08

I read that article too but the man is now 30 and was recounting his experiences as a preteen, obviously horrible but I’m not sure what that tells us about the body image of boys nowadays specifically as he was a kid nearly 20 years ago?

echt Wed 06-Mar-19 10:25:07

*@Echt, let me be clear, I am not IN ANY WAY belittling the difficulties that women face and have faced due to history. I am one(!) and it is not easy*

That isn't what you said in your thread title.

You belittled the experience of girls/women, so if you want get MN to alter your thread title, go for it.

Doobydoobeedoo Wed 06-Mar-19 10:32:31

I have 2 teenage boys, a teenage girl, and a younger DD.

From what I've seen, the attitude is generally that teenage boys are doing well if they remember to have a shower and use deodorant. No one commented during the 'fuzzy face' years or about what their hair looked like.

DD hears daily comments at school about girls and how they should be wearing the right make-up and clothes and having the right hairstyles.

I remember a recent-ish thread on MN where parents described the satisfaction they felt on seeing their teenagers eat large quantities of food. Someone commented that it was noticeable that they were all boys and no one was talking about how happy they were to see their DD eating 6 weetabix/packs of bacon/plates of pasta.

thedisorganisedmum Wed 06-Mar-19 10:34:41

there's a difference kind of pressure, not focused on the same things, but of course there's as much pressure on boys.

You are going to attract some very vile comments, but they don't make it any less true. Think about a prom nowadays, girls may be expected to "look good, slim and toned" but boys seem to be expected to have the fancy cars. I am yet to see a girl being proud of her own ride, apart from the few who come in a chavvy limo.

What boy cares about his “bikini line” or the way his eyebrows look? bikini line I am guessing not many, but boys get just as teased for a unibrow. It's so unhelpful to make it a competition and dismiss boys issues. It doesn't help the girls.

Boys get ridiculed if they are not sporty enough, not muscly enough. There are a lot of teenage boys who are really struggling with their general image and how badly they fit at school because of it. It might not be an eating issue, but it's nasty to dismiss them.

tellmewhenthespaceshiplandscoz Wed 06-Mar-19 10:35:11

If you're just talking about appearance in general then perhaps in recent years men definitely seem much more interested in grooming, fitness, getting rid of body hair etc. So perhaps there is a teeeeny but of pressure compared to the avalanche that girls are faced with from a very young age.

I do think though that a key difference is that for girls it often stems from the need to fit into what the male gaze perceives attractive and it kicks in very early. Whilst boys may be doing lots of the above to appear attractive to the opposite sex that pressure doesn't necessarily come from females but rather some competitive, alpha-Male thing.

MyBreadIsEggy Wed 06-Mar-19 10:36:22

Girl’s have always been more sexualised than boys - it’s ingrained in our societal history and it’s disgusting. So to answer your question, no. I don’t think boys are under the same pressure as girls when it comes to their appearance but I agree they are under a different kind of pressure these days.
When I was in high school, almost 10 years ago now, there was a massive rise in the older boys (year 10 & 11) lifting weights in the gym after school. That then escalated to some of them going off site at lunchtimes to use the gym, and then escalated more into them bunking off lessons to do it. I then found out that while 2 of my male friends had gained significant muscle mass and looked amazing, that physical change had come about by using anabolic steroids and other illegal supplements supplied to them by older men at the gym.
This problem seems to have got more prevalent in recent years, and from what I can gather from it, it’s not because of girls sexualising the boys so they feel they have to look a certain way (like boys have done to girls for centuries), it’s other males putting this pressure on, or perpetuating this idea that being unnaturally muscular is the only way to look good.
My DH is in the military, and this sort of thing (minus the illegal substances) is rife there too. As the wife of a serving soldier, I have the privilege of using the station gym for free, and it’s obvious as soon as you walk into the static weights room. The “pretty boys” who are ripped to shreds with their perfect hair, perfect tan and enormous shoulders are stood by the mirrors at the front, lifting ridiculously huge weights and staring at themselves flexing hmm While the other men, who are just there to do their workout and and carry on with their day, just get on with their business, and leave. There’s a stark difference between them. Obviously serving soldiers are required to maintain a certain level of physical fitness, so they are all in pretty good shape, but it’s clear which ones are in the gym to maintain their fitness in order to keep their job, and which ones are there because they are focussed purely on how they look.

BertrandRussell Wed 06-Mar-19 10:39:34

No, they are not under as much pressure. They may be u see a bit more pressure, but without the generations of socialization behind it, I reckon they’ll be OK.

Now if you want to talk about young men and their mental health I’m certainly up for that.

tellmewhenthespaceshiplandscoz Wed 06-Mar-19 10:39:53

Just to add that being an Old Git I can really appreciate growing up in an age where the image pressures were nothing compared to now. No bloody social media, Z list "celebs" like the Kardashians or those idiots from Geordie Shore being influencers. All I wanted to do was look like one of the All Saints and my crush was a grubby Kurt Cobain wannabe. I think he washed once a month. God he was sexy.

I think this generation of boys and girls are unique in how much pressure they are under to look good all the time regardless of where that comes from. Poor buggers.

U2HasTheEdge Wed 06-Mar-19 10:59:16

I think the pressure is getting worse for boys, but I don't think it is anywhere near as bad as it is for girls stills.

Two of my teen boys are very skinny. Their dad was too. They hate it, and wish they could be bigger. They feel self-conscious about it. They do feel like they aren't 'manly' because they are so tiny.

Boys have lower rates of ED overall but the number of boys with ED is rising.

I don't know why you gave such a harsh response echt. I don't agree with the OP that boys are under as much pressure but it is an interesting subject and it is OK to be concerned about the pressures boys might be facing as well. It is getting worse for boys and men and everyone is right to be concerned about that and it takes nothing away from the extra pressure girls and women face and have faced for centuries.

I very much doubt the OP was thinking of International Women's Day either.

MyBreadIsEggy Wed 06-Mar-19 11:05:12

Amen to what Bertrand said too - the mental health statistics for men make for some really sad reading, and those statistics can’t be totally accurate because of how many blokes simply don’t seek any help because it’s makes them look “weak” or not “manly” sad Through my own military career, and now through my DH, I’ve seen this first hand. And all that happens is young men spiral into horrendously dark places and ultimately end up dead because they didn’t get the help they needed.

namechanger0110 Wed 06-Mar-19 11:06:45

Totally agree @MyBreadIsEggy

Fallingrain Wed 06-Mar-19 16:27:30

@Echt I think you are being really mean here. Perhaps instead of "think", I should have said "wonder" but I've explained this in my post. I've told you that I was not belittling the experience of teenage girls (I was a very anxious and mentally unstable one myself and I have fought against all kinds of sex discrimination in my time, trust me). I am genuinely wondering because I don't know as I am out of touch! Lets be kind to people (female or male) who are genuinely seeking views from others, could we - social media is a really big threat to mental health in my opinion? Moving on and taking your comment as well intentioned, I hear you when you say that for you appearance is still far more of an issue for girls.

Other valid points here though such as the mental health stats for men and perhaps other pressures to earn a big salary etc.

GregoryPeckingDuck Wed 06-Mar-19 16:29:43

I think it’s a case of girls are pressured to look like super models while boys only have the pressure to look healthy and somewhat groomed.

thedisorganisedmum Wed 06-Mar-19 17:16:15

I am much less worried about my daughters being pressured to wear a certain make-up than by my boys feeling pressured to drink themselves silly, putting themselves in stupidly dangerous situations under peer pressure , or just end up in the middle of a gang fight.

It's not the same pressure, but let's not pretend boys have it easy whilst girls have to keep fighting to stay on top. It's bollocks.

thecatsthecats Wed 06-Mar-19 17:57:47

Under pressure? Sure. It's often underrated.

Under AS MUCH pressure? No way!

A trend that particularly disturbs me is for very young girls to be brought up with the expectation that not only should they wear excessive makeup, but it should cost £££. Like, hey you know how you earn less? You also need to spend more of that on making yourself look acceptable to society.

Billballbaggins Wed 06-Mar-19 17:59:49

They are, perhaps, under a bit more pressure than 10 years ago but girls and women are still under way more pressure.

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