What kind of a ‘man’ are you if you don’t drive above the prescribed speed limit or spend your life in a gym? The answer, until now, was that you probably aren’t one.
The "ideal" male body image has been long debated—from superhero bodies to metrosexual ones to mothers wanting their newborns to be like ‘Greek god’ Hrithik Roshan. Our culture has pushed this notion of masculinity for eons, making sure men are just as susceptible to ads of men with 8-pack abs as women are to the stick-thin models who try to sell them fairness creams. Hell, there are fairness creams for men too, an update on the whole “tall, dark and handsome” trope.
But times, they are a changin’. It’s a new world, where we are pushing back against traditional notions of masculinity. In this scenario, we spoke to men championing the cause of male body positivity, and discuss how they are coming on top in this world of rapidly changing expectations from men.
Shashank Randev, 38, venture capitalist
I was a frail kid while growing up. So strength had a very different meaning for me. Strength does not only mean physical strength, I think it means an ability to strive through the path you are trying to build.
In my career I was an engineer, moving on to an MBA, and my jump into an entrepreneurship role required me to find the strength to tell my parents that I’m not going to walk the path of a full time paid job; I’ll do something on my own. That is how I define strength.
Roshan Siddamsetty, copywriter
The definition of masculinity has definitely changed and it has a lot to do with responsibilities. One is the visual, the visual perception of what masculine means, of when we see all muscled guys with beards and suits and shirts and stuff like that… and we’ve always had role models like those when we were growing up—singers, actors, many of them.
From a really young time, I always knew what this narrative was. I knew it was an expectation, but not one that necessarily needs to be met. And I would see people all around me really making so much effort to fit into certain boxes. Like in school we all had one guy who was clearly the ‘sports’ guy, there were people who were the ‘dressy kind’—and I recognized all that pressure, but I don’t think I really ever gave in. So I was pretty comfortable even in school. I’ve always been big, and after many years I’m comfortable with how I am.
Dhanesh Sharma, chef
Barring some odd incidents, like if there’s a hunk who’ll just walk into a room and he has big dolas and all, and you’re suddenly aware that you’re 5 feet 6 inches tall and weigh 45 kgs, I’ve been very comfortable with the way I’ve looked. Maybe I shouldn’t have been that comfortable because if I look back at my teenage years, I came up with these really bad hairdos.
Even now, I don’t fall into any of those categories which define “how a man should look”— groomed, clean shaven etc. And then the Shahid Kapoors of the world made the beard cool. I am aware that there’s a certain ecosystem out there which tells us how we should look, but I’m also aware that I’m not buying into it.
Vamshi Dhar Bandi, advertising professional
So I was a pretty short kid, amongst the shortest in school actually. So I was picked on a lot by the other taller kids, some of whom were a couple of years older. I took this as a challenge, and it motivated me to work out.
Right now I’m pretty comfortable with my height. I was even dating a girl who was slightly taller than me, and she would wear heels so she would look way taller than she actually is. So I think the complex has been lost over time, and my height doesn’t bother me anymore.
Tanmay Mohan, filmmaker
Ayurveda defines you in three major body types and you belong to one or a combination of them. I was fat and sweaty, and once you understand that, you will not have a problem with someone who’s petite.
I’m me, I’m not Bruce Lee, so there should not be a comparison in that regard. You’re a certain body type and you can be your own best body type. You cannot be that Calvin Klein model who is on [the cover] Cosmopolitan or something else. I was also uncomfortable for a bit, because I was thul thul growing up . But I found my way around it.