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The perfect body, or a fit body? Your choice

Updated: Feb 21, 2019


The perfect body, or a fit body? Your choice

In June journalist Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore wrote an important article, Rise of the Ripped, for Aeon Magazine.

In the article Sebag-Montefiore argues that men are now under the same kind of social pressure that women have faced for centuries, to fulfil a particular physical state of apparent perfection.

For men, the article argues, the epitome of attractive masculinity today is lean (ripped), muscular and in a traditional physical mould that suggests power, speed and strength.

Whether this is healthy, sustainable or even attainable in many cases is the question that Sebag-Montefiore asks in her piece, and she is right to do so.

The comparison between the historical female experience under peer, culture and commercial pressure and that experienced by men today is an interesting one. Of course the big change between what was experienced by women since the Second World War, for example, and men (particularly young men) today is largely to do with the power of consumer technology and its reach.

Up until the 1990s both men and women were affected by the influence of media and advertising to shape opinion and behaviour. Today that pressure is complimented (if that is the word) by the constant pressure of the internet and social media - both of which have demonstrated themselves as being hugely powerful in shaping self-image and lifestyle - partly because both are driven by the subjects of such pressure themselves. The internet and social media encourages us to commoditise ourselves and millions of people actively take part in that process.

For men (and particularly western men) the world today is more competitive and insecure that at any time in modern history and the masculine role more fluid than ever it was. Sexuality, appearance and behaviour in the relativist age are more fluid in 2015 that a generation ago, and one quick fix for men so concerned to remain competitive in the market for a partner or lucrative career is to prioritise the building of the perfect body and its associated grooming.