Body talk must include men in the conversation

Body confidence: Men, as much as women, suffer from poor body image. It’s time to start the conversation

One of the portraits in photographer Anthony P Manieri’s series, Arrested Movement.

Men are faced with challenging the labels placed on them as much as women are. What should a man look, and act like in this supposed world of perfection?

This is the first of a five-part series about body confidence

Male body image is often associated with a certain physique. The must-have abs, muscles and an ideal strength. The term “muscle dysmorphia” was devised in 1997 to describe a form of disorder which affects negative body image. It is a form of obsessive-compulsive behaviour, which has been encouraged by the media and our online lives, to put the same type of pressure on men to look and feel a certain way.

It is far from an achievable reality for many. Why should it be the physique to chase after anyway? We are, after all, made up of a diverse world of varying shapes and sizes and that is perfectly okay. However, being sold an ideal can create a damaging inward thought pattern which makes us believe we are not good enough. Body image and body confidence are intrinsically linked with what we see.

To assume men are not succumbed with body issues is simply incorrect.


Both men and women face challenges with body image and it's important that it is not a single-gendered conversation

The world seems to think the conversation of male body image and confidence should be side-lined for the in-depth discussion women have been having about body positivity and body neutrality in recent years. We have witnessed a strong emergence of promoting body positivity, with most of the conversation being female-focused, but how do today’s standards affect men? Quite heavily in fact.

As much as women, men feel a pressure to equate their bodies to what they see on the screens because we inadequately praise and blush over the perfectly toned bodies sold to us.

Negative effect

Highlighting the negative effect the media and social media has on how we perceive our bodies, and the push to understand and fight back against a supposed ideal, has made important changes on how we view our bodies; but it’s not necessarily enough to support men who battle with poor body confidence and body image. It is, however, a conversation we are willing to now have, as we recognise the damaging effects poor body image can have on our mental health. Both men and women face challenges with body image and it’s important that it is not a single-gendered conversation.

Never quite feeling I ever fit in, mixed with being a closeted queer kid, I always suffered from body image

Toronto photographer Anthony P Manieri understands the idea of body positivity is universal. He promotes an encouraging body image for men through incredibly beautiful and significant portraits of men through his Arrested Movement series and a soon-to-be-launched book. His portrait series has been featured in Vogue Italia and he has toured, taking pictures of nude men to balance and continue the conversation that body image greatly affects men also.

“Body positivity is something that always needs to be worked on,” says Manieri. “It starts in the mind, but the journey must be led through the heart. I hope it means a healthy mind, body and spiritual journey void of comparison.”

Manieri began this journey with expressing the new era of body positivity with a single photo session which involved 10-12 men who were showcased in a gallery exhibit. The iconic series started in the spring of 2016, after a combined turn of events in Manieri’s life.

“I am one of two children of Irish and Italian descent, Canadian born. Growing up in a large Italian community, I never felt I fit in,” he says. “I was the tall, chubby blonde with blue eyes, surrounded by petite, olive-complexioned, brown-eyed Italian kids. Within my extended family, I felt I was too Italian for my Irish side and too Irish for my Italian side. Never quite feeling I ever fit in, mixed with being a closeted queer kid, I always suffered from body image.

“A few years ago, I became the caregiver to my entire immediate family – my sister, who is blind with MS, and elderly father, both ended up in a nursing home, and my mother almost passed a few times due to health reasons. During that same time, my partner and I broke up, and my relationship with my business partner started to sour because of my absence from work, having to care for my family. After my father passed, and the sale of my shares of my business, I had an emotional breakdown. I put on a lot of weight and became depressed, and my self-esteem suffered greatly.”

Highly complicated

Our perceptions, feelings and thoughts about our bodies are highly complicated and ever-evolving as life stages and events change and mould how we look and who we are as people, as Manieri is aware. We are thrown an ideal from the media, the movies we watch and the hours we spend online being sold supplements, protein shakes, the perfect body and the perfect life as a result. All of which causes our self-esteem to drop and waver.

“During that time, I looked within and submerged myself into spirituality and mindful meditation,” continues Manieri, who found inspirational memes online to be helpful and took them as signs of hope. “My spiritual teachers taught me that to be in service to mankind is the greatest joy.”

Everyone seems to be looking for validation, except it's empty validation. Validation comes from within, not a stranger over the internet

Arrested Movement brings a sense of empowerment to the men who are liberated to accept and appreciate their own bodies, a key component in addressing poor body image. “Arrested Movement has had an overwhelming effect on the men I’ve worked with. I chose to photograph these men nude, in a plain studio, at which point they would be stripped away from anything they could hide behind. What I’ve come to realise is that I hold space for these men on set, giving them a stage with a spotlight. I’ve become humbled by their vulnerability and grateful to have seen their fear transform into fearlessness.”

The desire to include men in this narrative of positive body image is poignant. Manieri is looking for a moment where the soul comes through during the session. He stops time when their authentic self meets his eye and the shutter of his camera. A celebratory moment of self-love, self-empowerment and self-acceptance is captured.

‘Body positivity awareness’

“Body image and self-esteem are a big part of wellbeing,” says Manieri. “Arrested Movement is for and about men, but with the hope of inclusion in the conversation in general when it comes to body positivity awareness. The negative effects of media, and now with the juggernaut of social media, is massive. And it is getting worse. Since everyone’s smartphones are attached to themselves these days, it’s almost like a viral disease that’s spreading. The things I’ve witnessed when seeing people posting images or videos for likes and followers is mind-blowing when you sit back and look at it. Everyone seems to be looking for validation, except it’s empty validation. Validation comes from within, not a stranger over the internet.”

And it is the moments within which Manieri is capturing in his aim to approach body positivity for men. He hopes the end result of this project would someway help shine a light on the fact that men, especially men in the LGBTQ community, suffer from body issues and self-acceptance just as much as women.

Body positivity is not gender-biased.

Body Confidence
Part 1: After serious illness or injury
Part 2: Our idea of beauty is diverse
Part 3: Celebrating my disabled body

Part 4: Including men in the conversation