I find the whole palava that has emerged from this photo and the sudden fascination with Leisl Jones’ physical appearance sexist and contrived. I won’t go on about it here though because I think the general population has done a good enough job of advocating for her right to be whatever shape and size she chooses because let’s face it, she’s an Olympian. Enough said about that.
I’m not a fan of this image because of the messages it gives to the wider community about body image. And for the purpose of this blog I’m going to do something a bit random and focus on his physique and explain the impact that that photo may be having on young boys and men who see it.
Monk’s physique is incredibly lean, my guess is his percentage of body fat is close to if not below zero. He is white, tall and for use of a better word ripped. Note the lack of body hair. I’m focussing on his image today because I want you to think about the message that it’s giving to young males about what it means to be a real man.
We know that physical ability is one of the two key contributing factors that determine popularity in boys (the other being good looks, as opposed to prettiness and intelligence in girls) so images like this in the media about body image can have an unhealthy influence about how young people perceive themselves and consequently influence their self esteem and confidence.
Murray Drummond (from Flinders University in South Australia) explains the detrimental effect of the media on the wellbeing of young boys in an article by Verity Edwards as featured in ‘Body Image Muscling in on Boyhood’ (2 January 2012, ‘The Australian’ pg 3). Drummond’s research showed that “boys as young as five are starting to believe that being masculine is all about six-packs, muscles and hairless chests” which can have an obvious effect on boys’ mental health if they perceive that they do not fit this mould. He continues “Boys don’t even mention masculinity” but they begin to think that being a successful male involves being muscular and strong. And although it isn’t as well reported as eating disorders in girls, let it be known that boys also suffer from anorexia, bulimia and other disordered eating behaviours, not to mention excessive compulsive exercising and steroid use. And that concerns me.