The gay man’s pursuit of the masculine ideal by Nicholas Robinson

As you can see our self-concept and self-image is influenced greatly by social media and societal views. Within a general population certain social groups and individuals are expected to portray a certain image of masculinity or femininity to society which can throw individual attitudes and values into turmoil to match people’s stereotypes and question ourselves. This leads on to talking about a specific minority group and their own dilemmas in relation to stereotyping and gender roles. As this blog refers abnormal behaviour we found a generalised definition to gain a better prospective, “On the whole, we would define abnormality as being outside the parameters of what is accepted in our society”. However this definition does not give a clear concept on who defines what is abnormal or normal behaviour so it is slightly flawed.

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(Picture illustration taken from publication of Abnormal behaviors https://uk.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/61003_ramsden_ch1.pdf)

Budden (2009) referred to negative emotions such as shame linked with sexual orientation as “It is the painful self-conciousness of, or anxiety about, negative judgement, unwanted exposure, inferiority, failure and defeat, manifesting in sexual and gender identity minority”. Kaufman and Raphael’s (1996) further supported this statement identifying shame as a primary source of low self-esteem. Greene & Britton (2013) conducted research that found relationships between the gay community and feelings of self-esteem, shame proneness & forgiveness of self. Mruk (2006) defines self- esteem as “Self-appraisal of one’s personal worth and competency” the focus on high self esteem is that it brings happiness.

When people think of a gay man what usually springs to their mind is a tall, skinny, effeminate guy wearing makeup, stilettos and exaggerates every syllable accompanied by jazz hands. Unfortunately for the gay community this often-negative stereotype is perpetuated by mainstream media characters such as Jack from Will and Grace reinforcing this stereotype, and unfortunately heterosexuals see this as the norm and class every gay man as feminine and mock the gay community due to ignorance and possibly fear giving them names such as poof and fag. This is damaging to our community as a whole as seeing one class of gay man is not a good representation and could in fact inflict a stereotype on other gay men.

While some gay men are in touch with their feminine side shall we say, a lot of gay men are finding this stereotype having a negative impact on the gay community as a whole and are moving on to develop their own identity and chase after a masculine ideal that is verging on obsession and creating unhealthy behavior and idea’s of self image. We are turning this hatred inwards and attacking the very nature of our being and in some ways turning against each other manifesting itself as “femmephobia”.

Heather Sosa, a senior anthropology major at UC Riverside said in 2012 “If you’re femme in any way possible, people think you can’t be dominant. You lack leadership skills, you’re emotional. All these stereotypes that used to be employed against women as a whole during the last 50 years.”

Already what we perceive as feminine traits such as compassion, sensitivity and flamboyancy have negative connotations associated with being less than a man and somehow a lesser being in society and as homosexuality is defined as a man being attracted to a man in a sexual and emotional way to be “femme” is considered unattractive and undesirable and unfortunately men who are considered feminine are not considered real men and are “letting the side down” as some would argue. This negative attitude towards someone else for being who they are is the kind of thinking that represses people and oneself to try every effort to reach a masculine ideal which is creating low self-esteem and self-destructive tendencies in the individual

Many gay men are guilty of this aversion to feminine traits in other gay men as one can see from a quick glance at the many profiles on Grindr, Scruff and Growlr and other gay dating sites and apps that state “no camps” “Str8 acting” and “masc4masc” not all gay men however have this problem with femininity in men as my friend who is considered masculine himself, mockingly changed his profile name to “masc4cake” in response to another’s profile name “masc4masc”

One of my friends sees this attack on “femme” homosexual men as degrading and not helpful to the cause of equality for homosexuals and understands that everyone is different and what makes us different makes us beautiful and attractive not the other way around. Sadly, not everyone has the same open-minded way of thinking and still think it’s okay to pre-judge a guy who possesses feminine traits as bitchy, weak and likes to wear women’s clothes.

Possibly in response to this stereotype and in rebellion, the gay community has evolved to develop their own “tribes” as it were their own individual races with their own individual identities and characteristics, one of these tribes is the “Bear” community a tribe that is well known to have a large frame, and be hairy, bearded, strong powerful, deep gravely voices, big bushy beards and overwhelming high testosterone levels a stereotype of masculinity the epitome of what people think a man should be like but is this a reachable and realistic ideal? For some men, maybe but for others this could lead to internalized homophobia, low self-esteem, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and even body dysmorphic disorder such as “bigorexia” all to be accepted and loved by a society that can often seem cold and unwelcoming.

Even high profile gay celebrities like Alan Carr in his book Alanatmoy: The inside story. Penguin; Reprint edition (1 Jun. 2017) says that terms like “str8 actin” are homophobic. Graham Norton a well-known gay comedian says this about being camp ‘Being gay is easy, it’s harder to be camp’ (Telegraph, Matthew Stadlen, October 2003) he continues to say that being gay comes with judgment all around That moment when you realize that you are quite fey and quite camp, it’s a difficult one because these are not qualities that are admired by anybody. As you move forward you can own it and camp it up to the hilt or you can try and tone it down.” And some men do try and tone it down, some men pretend to be something they are not, some men try to fit the stereotype of masculinity and put on act.

I do understand the aversion to stereotypes to put everyone in the same box creates problems and resentment not just from one’s own community who want to stray from this idea as far away as possible but also from heterosexuals who use this cookie cutter idea to label us all as “fairies” and assume we all love musicals and make up when that is only a small number of gay men. Some of the strongest, fiercest and most masculine people I know are gay.

In terms of potential causes of depression and suicidality in gay men, relationship problems, accepting one’s homosexuality, experiencing homophobia, institutional discrimination, and alienation from gay communities have been reported as underpinning issues (Cox, 2006; Haas et al., 2011; Wang, Plöderl, Hӓusermann, & Weiss, 2015). (Carrie lee et al).

As we can see there are many factors that affect the gay man and lead to depression, alienation from the gay community being one of them. One can be alienated for many things, being too fat, too thin, not masculine enough even for not being attractive to the other person and this is a sad fact unfortunately. Perhaps if we learn to accept ourselves and each other can the rest of the world accept us too, we cannot ask for equality and not treat each other as equal, it starts with us as my friend so eloquently put it “build bridges and get over it”

We must all get over it. we all have different views on masculinity and these should be appreciated and celebrated not become a strict ideal to live by.

By Nicholas Robinson 2017

 

 

 

 

 

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Has society affected Self-Image and Self Concept? Is surgery a quick fix to a long term problem? By Stephanie Gregory

(Photo credit link: https://cdn.thinglink.me/api/image/513832750046773249/1240/10/scaletowidth)

This blog will aim to address subjects surrounding Self-Concept, Society’s influence, Gender roles, masculinity, feminism and abnormal behaviours.

The dreaded teenage years every parent fears, new shoes, cosmetics and suddenly boobs and hips become the problem or the lack of facial hair for our mini adults? The truth is society has deemed what is acceptable from first breaths to our last and the troublesome time begins when others influence takes hold of our behavior and expectations. Teenagers are at a most impressionable age and regardless of what parents know best – its time to realize friends become their new parents! and as all parents know self concept at school supports psychosocial well being .(viholainen et al 2014) These impressions stay with our developing minds shaping our behavior and warping our idea of what society labels acceptable or the norm, why can’t we just say no ? Social circles shape what attitudes and behaviors we adapt. Unfortunately these ideas are vastly driven by social media and cyber bullying, suddenly losing social circles is happening faster thanks to the “unfollow” and “unlike” buttons on screen. Beauty marketers portray an unrealistic expectation today from size to fashion and beauty fuelled by falsifying photos of celebrities and snap chat filters (Kesses, 2013).

Kesses, E. (2013). Why It’s Harder Than Ever For Teens Today: Is Self-Esteem At An All Time Low?. Available: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/britchick-paris/the-ugly-little-girl_b_3743195.html. Last accessed 28th Nov 2017.

Viholainen, H,. Aro, T., Purtsi, J., Tolvanen, A., Cantell,M. (2013). Adolescen school-related self-concept mediates motor skills and psychosocial well-being.. The British Journal Of Educational Psychology. 84 (1), p268-280.

Everyone’s ideal concept of beauty differs with age, race, culture, gender this moulds our view of self-image. Current trends such as the selfie culture have had an alarming impact on puberty and adolescents. Life becomes about materialism and these give us a concept of self worth and most importantly this is relevant to both genders and interestingly a lower self concept is linked to impulsive buying. Rosenberg (1979) described self concept “the totality of the individuals thoughts and feelings having reference to himself as an object” the emphasis is on INDIVIDUAL values and attitudes which form the basic principles behind day to day life (Noguti & Bokeyar, 2014).

Bokeyar, A.L, Noguti, V . (2014). Who am I? The relationship between self-concept uncertainty and materialism. International Journal Of Psychology. 49 (5), 323-333.

Cosmetic Industry Statistics

– In 2016 the industry grew by 4%

-Skincare currently leads the market at 36% of the global market

-Market Value is projected to grow at 20.1 Billion US dollars between 2014-2019

https://www.statista.com/topics/1008/cosmetics-industry/

Negative Influences – How far can we go with our ideal self and current self? Is the Self Discrepancy Theory relevant?

With easier access to the media publications , extreme behaviour can be accessed daily, this includes negative body promotions, promotions of cheaper cosmetic procedures due to the over flooding market of cosmetic fillers and quick fix procedures. The Self Discrepancy Theory, Higgins (1987) presented identifies the outcomes of emotions through Actual and Ideal self, the notion of how we see ourselves or attributes that someone would like you to have

Higgins, E. T. (1989). Self-discrepancy theory: What patterns of self-beliefs cause people to suffer? Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 22, 93-136.

Examples of these influences include Valeria Lukyanova a “Human Barbie” who has stated she has under taken dramatic surgery including removal of ribs, a simplistic minimal diet, regular gym use and hours of makeup lessons to achieve her desired look where as other claim use of photoshop. She uses an “earthly” name and has her alter ego name “Amatue”. Despite her journey for an extreme look, in an interview conducted with the Cosmopolitan she was quoted to say “Everyone likes attention on the Internet, including me as well. But attention in reality sometimes can be too much” and “I think it’s even a little degrading and insulting,” when asked how she liked to be referred to as the human Barbie (Wischover ,2015)

Wischover, C. (2015). Valeria Lukyanova Finds Being Called “Human Barbie” Degrading. Available: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/a39804/human-barbie-valeria-lukyanova-internets-most-fascinating/. Last accessed 28th Nov 2017,

Extreme behaviour does not just stop at women as the male equivalent of “Ken Doll” Rodrigo Alves has under taken over 50 plastic surgeries  and over 100 cosmetic procedures to satisfy his need to resemble a ken doll. A quote from an interview he said “he gets bored of the same old look and wants to challenge himself” another replicated obsession is a tiny waist and ribs removing as the human Barbie. (Harper, 2017).

Harper, P. (2017). PLASTIC’S NOT FANTASTIC Human Ken Doll Rodrigo Alves vows NO MORE surgery after being ‘detained in Dubai because he looks nothing like his passport pic’. Available: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4551520/human-ken-doll-rodrigo-alves-vows-no-more-surgery-after-being-detained-in-dubai-because-he-looks-nothing-like-his-passport-pic/. Last accessed 29th Nov 2017.

The alarming concept behind these transformations is to resemble an inanimate object factory made without imperfections. The real question that should be asked is it more damaging for children to play with dolls such as Barbie or ken? although this may seen as an extreme statement in an up to date modern society with gender fluidity, supporting individualism and equality of rights there may just be evidence there to suggest early introductions to such idea’s of gender beauty that could become instilled in such vulnerable minds. Has society already cast a judgement on beauty and gender roles from an early age with materialistic views such as “Barbie’s dream house” or “Barbie’s convertible cars” ?

Lastly, when is enough enough? When is our ideal met, if at all? Unhealthy idea’s and struggles with self image and confidence is now leading many of us behind technology applying filters and updating status’s desperately showing the world assets that we necessarily don’t have but use creating a safety net portrayal, that we have great self worth and proud of our image.  As a society we have a need for others approval and to create a life that most people would be envious of, when infact this is nothing more than a negative behaviour cycle and a majority of people would benefit from some support and positive role models.

If you take the likes of Josie Cunningham who divided society by having a termination of pregnancy for a cosmetic nose job , the question needs to be asked when is enough enough? Psychologist Emma Kenny commented on the incident “Josie is a product of a society which has taught her that the way she looks is more important than the way she thinks” a statement which when studying evidence around image and societal views is vastly relatable with too many people acting on looks rather than reason (Aldridge, 2015)

Aldridge, G. (2015). Josie Cunningham: I got rid of my unborn baby for nose job which will make me a porn star. Available: http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/josie-cunningham-rid-unborn-baby-6568719. Last accessed 29th Nov 2017.

By Stephanie Gregory (Psychology & Counselling bsc student 2017)

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