Fatso, Prison Jokes and Male Body Shaming

“That’s how they do pants! Ross, would you tell him?”
“Yes, yes. It is. IN PRISON !”

Anybody who is familiar with F.R.I.E.N.D.S would know this joke. For the uninitiated ones, it’s one of the many prison rape jokes that find their way through our daily dose of entertainment. And we laugh at them. I laughed too when I heard it for the first time. In fact, I have a F.R.I.E.N.D.S poster with a lot of famous quotes/jokes from the legendary TV Series and the aforementioned firmly holds a place. I am as much desensitized as any one else. A groin injury is always a safe go-to sight gag for comedy serials and troupes. Welcome to the 21st century. Here, male body-shaming is not only not an issue, it is often associated with vanity among men.

When was the last time you actually heard a man coming up and opening about the fact that he was being body-shamed? Calling a man Fatso or Motu or Gundu is actually considered affectionate. Well, newsflash, it is not. Next time, unless the person who is subjected to the adjective gives you the approval, please refrain from such behavior. Not only are you raising the probability of that person being depressed about his physical appearance, you are also setting up a precedent for others to follow suit. Once a Fatso, always a Fatso. A lot of kids who are body shamed in school are unable to recover from it, both physically and mentally. A lot of them who grow up and achieve a different physique, still aren’t able to overcome the mental hiccups that they face.

Did you know that eating disorders are also present in men? I know a lot of men who are overtly conscious about what they eat. I have a friend who doesn’t eat dinner at all because someone told him it will help him lose weight and I am all for his decision to take care of his health and achieve a body he wants to. But last time I talked to him, he told me he was eating dinner and I could hear the hidden undertone of guilt in his voice. Nobody should feel bad because they want to eat food. But how many of these men actually realize that they need help? How many people around these men try to reason with them and make them comfortable about themselves? I am sure the answer is something that all of us know.

The definition of correct body is always changing. Till the 90s good body meant bulked up muscles. Very few had heard of abs by then. In the current era, good physique means lean muscles and ripped abs. It is never okay for a guy to expect bikini figure. Because it is wrong. It constitutes body-shaming. But why is it always okay to expect guys to have abs and broad biceps and amazing chest muscles? The sole decision of how one wants to appear should rest with the bearer. But men are constantly harangued about how they need to have great physique and look up to others who have achieved the same. And the worst part is that it is passed off as a good advice towards physical well being. Well, it is not.

Not every body can look like Ranveer Singh or Zach Effron. They look the way they do because it’s their profession. They are paid to look that way. Another important aspect of male body-shaming is hair loss. Hair loss is mostly a hereditary trait. But there are businesses built around this insecurity. It’s amazing, how this vicious circle works. First shame men about their apparent shortcomings and then sell them a solution. The fairness creams went one step ahead. Apparently a candidate would not get a job if he doesn’t use some random, good for nothing, fairness cream. The industry based on which such standards are created for men, is a industry which spends 3 hours or more on makeup of the protagonist before he comes on screen for 10 mins. We all know that. Still, we choose to applaud their looks and silently let them and others denigrate men.

Another issue about male body-shaming, which is spoken of in very hushed tones is virility. The easiest way to exact a reaction out of a man is to make fun of his penis. Anyone who browses internet would have at one occasion or the other come across advertisements promising solutions to grow the size of the male organ. But even if we leave such spam advertisements aside, one can find articles galore about various topics related to it. Ranging from studies which reassure men about the length of their organ based on some data to “How to find if a man is lying about his size”.

Body-shaming, eating disorders and its effects have been widely researched and studied in women. Feminists have made sure of the visibility of this topic and that’s a commendable job. But what about men? Where are the Masculinists? The word is so rarely used and heard, that the editor that I am using to write this blog doesn’t even think it’s a word. That speaks volumes about how aware we are of the rights of men and the problems they face. I know a lot of cases where men with thin hair or a plump body are relentlessly ridiculed without even an iota of realization that it is emotional abuse.

The more a person is body-shamed, the higher are the chances that he will have low self-confidence. These are issues with serious consequences which nobody wants to talk about. I hope at least men stop tearing down other men based on their perceived notion of manliness or lack thereof. Nobody is Man Enough and the solution to this problem is not to Man Up.

Originally published at inmyopinion.today on May 12, 2017.