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“Manorexia”, “Metrosexuals” and belittling male experience of eating disorders.

January 5, 2012

Note: I’m going through and finishing some of my drafts from way back when, so some of these articles will be a little out of date.

New York magazine reports that the British mannequin maker Rootstein is releasing a new skinnier model: the “Homme Nouveau,” which has a 35-inch chest and a 27-inch waist. Mannequins have been growing smaller for men, the magazine reports:

THE CLASSIC: 1967, 42” chest, 33” waist
THE MUSCLEMAN: 1983, 41” chest, 31” waist
THE SWIMMER: 1994, 38” chest, 28” waist
THE ANDROGYNE (“Homme Nouveau”): 2010, 35” chest, 27” waist

In comparison, the average American man has a 39.7 inch waist. The article connects the smaller mannequin size to a growing pressure to be thin for men, and increased rates of eating disorders among men. According to The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication in The Beauty Myth, 25% of Eating-Disorder sufferers are men, up from 10% in 1990.

I am glad to see coverage of male ED, which is often overlooked, but what’s frustrating is how the information is framed. The article is entitled “Manorexic Mannequins”. Manorexia as a term implies that men with eating disorders experience of ED is somehow lesser or perhaps even more trivial than women. It’s not a clinical term, it’s just a not-so-clever portmanteau, that makes it seems like men don’t have “real” ED, just some offshoot of it, and lumps all eating disorders for men into a singular category.

Even more stilted is the explanation for the increase in “manorexia”:

One of the side effects of metrosexuality seems to be the affliction of men with the same unrealistic body images that women have been dealing with for years.

For me, “metrosexuality” is just another term we use to trivialize expression of male sexuality that is deviant from a straight,cisgender, and physically dominanant  narrative about whet it means to be a man. Being “Metrosexual” means one takes way more interest in his appearance than a “normal” man would. It follows a  faulty line of reasoning that gay men inherently care more interest in their appearance (read: are more feminine), and any straight man who does so is just a little more towards gay on the scale.

In short, “Manorexic”, “Meterosexual” and the linkage of the two marks body image and eating disorders as issues irrelevant to “real” men, but rather problems that ensue when men begin to act more effeminate. The assertion that metrosexuality brings the “same unrealistic body images that women have been dealing with” argues that there are no questions of body image inherent in traditional masculinity. Uhh… which is false.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2012 6:29 AM

    hi I think you misunderstand what metrosexual means.

    I recommend the work of Mark Simpson:

    • happybodies permalink
      January 6, 2012 8:10 AM

      Thanks for that resource! I guess I was just pulling from my personal experience of the way “metrosexual” has been used by friends/in conversation – as well as celeb magazines like People or Us. Whenever I’ve heard it, it’s been used as a kind of insult for guys who groom more than a “normal” guy would, it also seems to have a homophobic ring to me. Anyway, I’ll look into it!

      • January 6, 2012 11:02 AM

        Hi yes it can definitely be used in that way you’re not wrong.

        But Mark Simpson provides some brilliant insights into metrosexuality and what it *actually* means, and how it is now the dominant form of masculinity in our culture.

  2. January 9, 2012 11:29 AM

    Prior to the rise in media images of idealised men’s bodies, men suffering from EDs had to closet their suffering. One would imagine that subjecting men’s bodies to the sort of scrutiny that women’s bodies receive should open up opportunities for men to talk about EDs. Instead the commercialisation of masculinity has indeed resulted in some men trying to reach impossible standards, but also without having the social permission to admit to that in the way that women do. This is really dangerous – the pressure to achieve a certain look increases alongside the pressure to hide being serious about wanting that look 😦


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