With all the discussion about body image and body positivity, we as a generation, community and society recognize that people come in all shapes, sizes and color. That what we wear has become an influential component of our self-identities and how we act reflects that. On the flip side, there is increasing discussion toward body positivity, to suggest that a person doesn’t need to look like an emaciated runway model or muscled balloon animal just to be considered “sexy.” A lot of this discussion has been more focused on women, and rightfully so. In mainstream media and other prominent communities, women have faced increased scrutiny over their appearances and what is considered feminine.

Putting on unnecessary pressure to conform to a certain standard of beauty that is unhealthy and unattainable. A cultural definition of femininity persists that is responsible for the prevalence of eating disorders, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues that, as a society, we are quick to ignore. Does a woman need a thigh gap to be considered beautiful? No. Puffy lips? No. Blond hair? No. Big boobs? No. Therefore body positivity has continued to grow as a movement, because we recognize that a person can be just as beautiful as they are.

Does the same concept exist for men? You bet it does. While gay men are quick to buck the so called “standards” of masculinity, there is a prevalence of expectation toward how a man should look if they were to be considered “a man.” Especially in the United States, while our broader society encourages women to show off their body’s and the never-ending sexualization of women for the sake of profit. It is expected that men need to do the opposite, to cover themselves up in baggy layers and hide any semblance of any kind of body behind tough fabrics. Should a man wear a speedo to the pool or should he wear baggy swim trunks? How about oversized basketball shorts that go down past the knees? Loose, uncomfortable clothing is the only thing that one can find in the men’s section because that is what is only considered acceptable. But why?

Because a cultural identity persists that if a man embraces his body, he might be considered as gay in the sense that he is somehow not a man. It is culturally acceptable for women to wear tight leggings and low-cut shirts that show off their bodies, but when a man wears leggings (or “meggings”) he suddenly becomes “gay” and the made fun of or is otherwise told to “cover up” which translates to “put shorts on to cover your enormous bulge.” What is the difference between cleavage and a bulge? One is appropriate to have but the other is not, or so they say. In a culture that glorifies violence but tries to cover up sex, any recognition that people have reproductive organs is considered blasphemous. Which is why while women can wear leggings, it is not acceptable for men as certain body parts (insert eggplant emoji here) are going to be noticed.

Believe it or not, women and girls aren’t the only ones with body image issues, while it is more common among them. It is also prevalent in men too, especially among gay men, who face the same pressures of sexualization just to “fit in” as it were in the community, but also being reminded that to wear tight, form fitting clothes might make them gay or not having a fit body equals not having friends.

The gay community has started to recognize this as well, with more and more men, especially gay men, recognizing that not everybody is going to look a certain way and that doesn’t mean they’re not sexy. With subset communities that not only recognize it but embrace it as a part of their identities. For me personally, as a cis gay man who has faced his own body image issues. I have come to embrace wearing spandex shorts and “meggings” with tight shirts, not because I am gay. But because I am learning to embrace and be proud of my body, as a reflection of who I am and not because I have anything to fear or to hide.

Men should not be afraid to wear tight clothing, it’s not going to magically turn you into a raging homosexual nor is your small penis going to be the focal point of people’s comments. However, it can help you build confidence and break outside of a black and white world by adding a little splash of color. Plus, Meggings are just plain comfortable!

By Dirk Smith

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