Men, women and their different complexes
Do men and women assess themselves in the same way? Told how to look and faced with fashion's top models, how do both sexes manage to keep a positive self-image of themselves?
Woman faced with fashion
From the youngest age, girls are subjected to feminine conventions with a view to seduce: whether it’s a cute hair band, new shoes or princess fancy dress, young girls learn about self image and looking good. At puberty, a time when a young girl cannot control her physical transformation, she compares herself to body ideals conveyed by magazines and television. The suffering caused by this confrontation between image and reality can be so violent it can sometimes lead to eating disorders.
Few women however, correspond to the ideal dictated by fashion, something which never ceases to change anyway: voluptuous in the 18th Century, the ideal woman was a slim one in the 20th Century, to then become once again voluptuous. In the 19th Century, it was vital to keep out of the sun to have pale skin; today, the more tanned the better! A woman’s relationship with her body has always been in reference to an image imposed by society.
Men not really faced with the demands of looking good
A man is not subjected to the same obligations to appeal: he’s traditionally the one choosing his ‘belle’. He is recognised by his actions and not his static image. And that’s why – one can observe this with politicians – that men’s appearance is often neglected, apart from the smart suit and tie look.
However, how a woman looks generates comments that have nothing to do with her professional abilities. That being said, the standard for men, while it may not especially ‘seem’ so, does impose other draconian rules: don’t cry, don’t show fear, be sporty, have a taste for adventure and even, be a bit macho...
The complex of self-image
So how could men and women possibly assess themselves in the same way? Female complexes are born from an inadequacy between self-image and an inaccessible ideal. Women diet more than men; everywhere they turn there’s a reminder that a woman needs to lose weight to be seductive and successful. If a woman eats too much she feels bad about herself and anxious, because she knows she’s damaging her image and breaking the rules.
Men however are called ‘hearty’ and 'good eaters' if they like their food, and don't get a complex about a few extra pounds that can even give them certain social standing. But if he’s more a thinker than a doer, he may feel he's lost his way in society and could become complexed.
A teenage boy who doesn't like football, doesn't "chat up" girls and doesn't like jumping in the deep end at the swimming pool is open to mockery by his peers. If he isn’t in line with the image accepted by society, this teenage boy may well feel like he's lost his masculine credibility. As a result, unless he comes to terms with his “weak” points, he’ll end up fixating on them.
Male complexes, female complexes?
So while complexes affect men and women differently, they are just as debilitating as each other's. To overcome these complexes, each person has to learn to live with him or herself, even if they don't resemble the standard portrait drawn by the creators of fashion.
Having a complex means being afraid of being noticed for one’s flaws. But are they really flaws or just differences? Embracing difference frees people from their complexes. Let’s not forget that individual diversity is what gives society its strength!
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