The body positive movement is a group of people promoting body confidence and acceptance for all. Generally speaking, the majority of people who consider themselves part of the body positive movement are plus sized women. I’ve already discussed how exclusionary this group can be towards other women in my post, Body Shaming is NOT Body Positive, but it got me thinking even more about this subject. Where are all the body positive men? Where are all the calls for larger men to be featured in the media in a positive light? Where are all the blog posts showing how overweight men are stereotyped as the “funny guy”, or “gross loser?” I’m sure there are some people out there who have discussed this subject, but it never gets a lot of traction in the movement as a whole. Why is that?
I may be a little biased on this subject, seeing as how my boyfriend is an overweight man. I’ve seen how stressful shopping trips can be for him. I’ve seen and heard others make jokes about his body. I’ve seen the way his face falls when he hears a joke about fat men on TV. I’ve also seen so many women claim that overweight men (called plus sized men from now on in this post) don’t have it as bad as plus sized women. There’s many excuses they make for it, like the fact that most stores have a “Big and Tall” section in the men’s department, the assumption that plus sized men aren’t criticized as much as plus sized women, the fallacy that it’s “easier” for plus sized men to end up with a “hot” wife than it is for a plus sized woman to end up with a “hot” husband (blame Family Guy for this), or the worst of all: “It’s easier for men to lose weight than it is for women.”
I have to ask it up front. Why are these “body positive” women so content to make excuses for why men can’t have their own place in the movement? They get upset if people make assumptions about them, but they turn around and cast those assumptions on other people. If you truly believe any of the following excuses above, I dare you to take a plus sized man through the “Big and Tall” section of clothing stores. First of all, the name. How would most plus sized women feel if their section was called “Wide and Short?” There’s already a movement fighting against the term “plus size” because it’s seen as exclusionary and offensive. It’s downright insulting for men to have to walk from the Men’s section to a section called “Big and Tall.” It’s a huge source of embarrassment for my boyfriend for multiple reasons. The main one is that it makes him feel excluded. Adding insult to injury, none of the clothes are actually good. The clothing is cut in a weird way that doesn’t suit his body type. (Note: Not all “Big” men are also “Tall”) Are these not the same complaints that plus sized women make about their “Plus Size” department?
Obviously, I understand that not every plus sized or body positive woman will make comments like these towards overweight men. My examples, however, are directly pulled from the comments section of a few body positive pages I follow on FaceBook and Instagram. Strangely enough, these comments would gather a fair amount of likes and weren’t challenged at all. If someone pointed out the double standard, they’d be criticized and some excuse would be invented about why men have it better. If a man was the one who made the complaint, he’d be verbally abused. I won’t link to or quote any examples because I don’t want someone to find them and start controversy and drama.
When I make a search on Google for both “Big and Tall Men’s Clothing” and “Plus Size Men’s Clothing”, I don’t get any specialty retailers that deal solely with clothes for these men besides Destination XL (more on that in a moment). The rest of the results are linking to pages like Walmart, Kmart, JcPenney, etc. I wouldn’t call these the pinnacle of fashion. When I do the same search for women, I find dozens of websites catered specifically for plus sized women. I find a wonderful array of clothing in so many different styles. I see beautiful plus sized women dressed up in fashion forward clothing. I do not get Walmart, Kmart, JcPenney, etc. I get clothes that don’t look like muumuus. You could argue that “men don’t care about fashion”, but you’d be wrong. My boyfriend certainly doesn’t want to walk around in ugly shapeless clothes that don’t suit him, but it’s his only option because he’s too large for most fashionable brands of men’s clothing.
So why is this the sad reality that plus sized men face? Where’s their movement? On Destination XL, the only clothes I find are a series of uninspired T-shirts, button downs, and polos. They’re all modeled on men of a slim or athletic build. Does this not parallel women’s displeasure with stores like Walmart and Kmart only carrying muumuus, button downs, and polyester pants in their plus size section, with slimmer women modelling them? Both groups are treated unfairly in the fashion industry. The difference is that plus sized men aren’t speaking up for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because whenever they do speak up or make themselves shown, women criticize how “they have it so good”, and insist that they don’t need visibility in comparison to plus sized women.
To get inside the mind of a plus sized man, I decided to ask my boyfriend for two wishlists. One was what he wanted out of plus sized men’s clothing. The other was his wishlist of what he wants from society. Interestingly enough, quite a few of the things on his wishlist are things that I personally have dealt with, or have seen plus sized women complain about.
First, the clothing wishlist. Most men’s clothing in extended sizes is extremely uninteresting and lacks variety. The shirts are cut super long with very long sleeves, and do not allow for a lot of room if you have a broader chest and shoulders. This causes him to have to size up in shirts, which leaves them baggy and magnifies the fit issues above. Wearing baggy clothing makes him look larger than he actually is, which gives others the (incorrect) impression that he’s a slob and doesn’t care about his appearance. Men’s pants in extended sizes are essentially scaled up versions of straight sized pants. The waists are very narrow, and the legs are extremely baggy and long. He then has to also size up in his pants, which leaves him with baggy pants that trail on the ground and still feel tight around the waist. There’s this insinuation in the plus sized men’s clothing market that if you need a larger waist size, you must be super tall. There aren’t stores like Torrid that provide plus sized men’s jeans in a variety of sizes, cuts, and lengths. He often has to wear cargo shorts in all seasons because he genuinely can’t find jeans that suit his shape and height.
Special occasions are also significantly harder for larger men. While plus sized women can try Modcloth, Lady V London, Ashley Stewart, and other brands, men do not have this luxury. This means that if a special occasion comes up that requires a suit or more professional looking attire, a larger man will have to go to a specialty retailer and have the clothing tailored to his body at an additional cost. It’s a long process and is much more annoying to deal with than comparing your bodily measurements to a size chart and ordering a dress. Occasions that spring up unexpectedly, like a funeral, could mean that a larger man is set back $250 for a pair of trousers that are made for him specifically. Once these occasions pass, or if the clothing doesn’t fit right after a few months, men are stuck with their clothing. There aren’t any FaceBook groups designed for the sole purpose of reselling old plus sized clothing for men. There are numerous FaceBook groups that have this feature available for plus sized women. If you have a quick event, you can just search for your size and find a slew of options available at the click of a button. Disclaimer, I’m a size 18 at the moment and most of the clothing posted for sale on these groups is in a larger size than I wear. I actually have to hunt for clothing in my size because there’s more 22s and 24s than 16s and 18s.
Now for the societal wishlist. As I mentioned above, plus sized men are not taken seriously in the media. There isn’t a huge push for more representation of larger men, and the few portrayals of larger men reduce them to the butt of every joke. Whether it’s the unattractive and disgusting “loser”, the unintelligent bumbling idiot with a wife that does everything for him, or the crass yet lovable funnyman, you won’t see many instances of larger men being cast as the lead in romantic movies without comedic intent. Additionally, larger men are only accepted as attractive in the media if they begin to lose weight. Some notable examples are the actor Jonah Hill (who previously personified the above stereotypes), and Patrick Stump, the vocalist of Fall Out Boy. While you’ll see magazines showcasing Gabourey Sidibe, Rebel Wilson, Tess Holliday, and others portrayed as strong and beautiful, you will not see any serious attempts at showing that larger men can be just as attractive as a man of smaller build.
Think of actors like Ethan Suplee, who claimed that he was always typecast as “dim witted brutes” before his 200 pound weight loss. Another classic example is Jack Black, who starred as a chubby man with shallow dating preferences in the comedy Shallow Hal. It’s interesting to note that while both main characters were overweight, only Rosemary’s weight is used as a running joke to advance the plot. Even comedic geniuses like Jim Carrey have landed extremely serious roles in films like The Number 23 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. An example that always sticks with me is Seth Rogen’s portrayal in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, where he remarks to Elizabeth Banks’ character that “his tits are bigger than hers.”
While I’m on the subject of attractiveness, there’s a few tropes on the internet right now that can cause detrimental effects to a larger man’s dating life. There’s the stereotype of the “neckbeard”, the disrespectful man that feels entitled to women “way out of his league.” They’re commonly portrayed with long hair, a beard, and glasses. My boyfriend just happens to have these same characteristics and is often stereotyped because of it. He has noted that he can’t even be nice to a woman in public or online without her thinking he’s trying to get in her pants. There’s the stereotype that larger men have no stamina and are bad sex partners, or that they’re lazy and don’t like to reciprocate foreplay. There’s this big misconception that fat men only date certain women because they’re “desperate”, which can make a woman feel like her larger boyfriend is only with her because he can’t get anyone else. Even though I am also overweight, my boyfriend has expressed concerns that I’ll end up seduced by someone smaller than him and end up leaving him for someone else.
A man doesn’t even have to be overweight to have struggles with his body image. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this Buzzfeed video where they had a group of men called The Try Guys replicate some of their favorite images of celebrities and discuss their body image. The images were manipulated in Photoshop to look extremely close to the originals. None of these men were overweight, but the concerns they had about their bodies are just as valid as the women who look in the mirror and hate their stretch marks and cellulite. Many of them expressed concerns with their muscles not being defined enough, them not looking “manly enough”, or their bulge not being as pronounced as the men in the images. The most powerful part of the video was when Keith saw the finished product and mentioned how it still didn’t make him happy. I’d definitely recommend checking out the video because it’s extremely powerful and reduced me to tears.
As women we’re constantly bombarded with idealized images of women in the media. The super slim women with amazing curves and flawless faces. The porn stars that seem to fulfill every male fantasy. I think we forget that men have their own idealized image they constantly feel like they have to measure up to. How many women went out to see Magic Mike and drooled over the chiseled and “perfect” men on the screen while their boyfriends sat at home wishing they could look like Channing Tatum? How many women saw Fifty Shades of Grey while their husbands wished they were daring enough to experiment in the bedroom? It’s the same exact struggle women go through when they catch their boyfriends watching porn and wonder if they’re not good enough. The difference is that it’s socially acceptable for a woman to indulge in movies like Magic Mike and Fifty Shades of Grey, while porn is unfairly stigmatized and dismissed. Nobody would turn a head if a woman was reading erotica in public, but if a man was to bring a Playboy magazine on a plane he’d be labelled a creep.
I hope that some men can read this and realize that their concerns about their body deserve to be legitamized. Having body image struggles doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves, but unfortunately we live in a society that pushes an idealized version of the human form and ridicules everyone that doesn’t fit the mold. It’s okay to speak out, and I applaud the few men who have taken a stand against body shaming so that everyone can have a little bit of hope feeling comfortable in their bodies. This isn’t a gendered issue, it’s not even a size issue. It’s an everyone issue.
I will be taking my boyfriend out to various shops to show how hard it is for him to go shopping, so stick around and that post should be up within 2 weeks.
NOTE: All images taken from Google and Bing. If you own one of these images and would like it removed, send me an email at RollsAndCurvesEmail@gmail.com and I’ll have it down right away.