Two months ago, I read an article in the Irish Times about male anorexia. It got me thinking about an issue that I hadn’t thought about it in years. When I was a teenager, I watched many programmes on cable channel about women and young girls struggling with eating disorder like anorexia and bulimia. I cannot recall seeing any programme back then, or even now about this issue in relation to men or boys. The rhetoric in this area tends to focus more on women in the industry who suffer from anorexia or bulimia. But what about the men? What are some of the issues that affect them. How do they stay in the game when it comes to how they look? Since this blog is about menswear, issues affecting men in the fashion industry was an obvious topic on which to do some research. Here is what I found:
- To be a model you have to accept that you are more of a product than a person. Most times you are a means to an end, a hanger for clothing to look good on. There is a high demand for male models who have boyish androgynous looks. This has led to younger models being casted and male and female models competing for the same shows.
- Male models are also risk of developing an eating disorder as their female counterpart as there is a high demand for wafer thin models. Super skinny models are prevalent in East Asia, especially Japan. That market is known for its preference for seriously skinny male models. Model who make it in this market tend to have a body mass index (BMI) of 16.9 which the World Health Organization categorises as “severely malnourished’
- Muscular models have their fair share of problems, not only are they competing with the new wave of demand for models with androgynous features, they also suffer from eating disorders. Researchers and mental health experts have coined the term ‘bigorexia,’ (too big) (which I imagine is the opposite of ‘manorexia’ – too small). Models suffering from bigorexia, according to these experts, go to the gym too often, subject themselves to far too much body building activities, have 2% body fat, and are starving themselves. They develop an unhealthy perception of their bodies – they either think they have too much muscles or not enough in certain areas.
- Casting of younger models comes with its own set of issues for young men. They are typically, inexperienced in general and end up making decisions they regret later on. This partly contributes to the fact that while male models are often the subject of sexual harassment, it is rarely reported. Serious sexual advances and other propositions are often made by photographers, editors and casting directors; they are often framed as jokes, but a model runs the risk of being blacklisted should they decline.
- The modelling industry has been unregulated for decades and this lends itself to models being overworked and underpaid. Sometimes they work 17 hours a day over a long period earning a little or nothing as some magazine shoots are unpaid. Edward Siddons in a Newsweek said this feature of the industry has contributed to a culture of silence perpetuated by models who are uninformed about their rights and powerful executives deemed too powerful to confront.
Photo credit: Featured photo: Exposure.org: http://exposure.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ken.jpg