In this modern world, being politically correct demands that we do not even open our mouths; it seems that any word can offend any group. Of course, discrimination based on race, religion, sexuality, and others must always be disqualified. However, I wonder if we have taken this too far, for example, with the beauty of the male body in art.
Before the horde comes over me with arguments of “promoting the perfect image of the male body”, “male stereotype” and “superficial discrimination”, I must clarify that this reflection is not about cheering up the fact that in dating apps and social media people humiliate those who can’t fit in a tight underwear.
Advertising campaigns, Instagram (www.instagram.com), escort sites (www.escorta.com), dating apps such as Tinder (tinder.com) and even our gym constantly remind us of that ideal male body, and how far we have come to define it, expose it, and demand it. Of course, this is overwhelming, exhaustive, and incorrect. For many of us, reaching it is almost impossible due to our daily routines, and we must often remind ourselves that the important thing is to be healthy, not to be spectacular without clothes. And I will not come with the sermon that beauty is carried inside since, although that is partially true, it is also true that many of us are not blind and that first impression does say something about us.
But in art is something else. I am an inveterate fan of artistic expressions such as architecture, design, and of course, men sculpted, photographed, painted or drawn by both Botero and Mario Testino. This passion frequently makes me wonder about the origins of this obsession that we feel for the “perfect” body of man, and therefore, the rejection we develop for everyone who does not comply. This has perfectly valid reasons that go beyond machismo and culture.
Those who have seen the documentaries will agree: historically, the attractive man was the one who could hunt and fight to defend his group, and for that, it was mandatory to be physically prepared, it was a matter of survival. Period. That man, biologically, was the most suitable to perpetuate the species. Psychologically, that man projected security to those around him and himself. Of course, today we have laws and diplomacy to defend ourselves, and supermarkets whose only physical requirement is to push the cart and bring the can from the shelf to our cupboard; but that physical hunger remained in our subconscious and has as an escape valve; for example, sports.
Today, that muscular man is simply an option. However, art will always be a reminder of those beautiful gladiators, angels, and heroes who represent something positive beyond their bodies, such as loyalty, strength, glory or benevolence. If art has taught me something, it is that we must see beyond the muscles and youth that are shown, we must try to talk with the artist and observe the facial expressions, hands, wrinkles, poses, and feelings of the models to really absorb what the author wanted to convey.
Even, for example, in dance – the perfect mix between athletics and art – physical beauty is not something that is denigrated, but is admired thanks to the strength, discipline, and passion that a skilled dancer embodies. And in sports, we can see it in the beauty of the shape of a dive, a gymnastic routine or skating. It is not only about muscles and flexibility, it is about years of arduous training to achieve extraordinary things with the body, such as a jump or a turn, and also, making them look like the easiest and most natural movements in the world.
It is no surprise to many of us that many types of physical attributes are applauded today. In the gay community, there are already strong niches that defend standards of beauty outside the typical western. We appreciate dad-bods, silver foxes, bears, skinny, and androgynous of all colors, flavors, and textures. Today the old Abercrombie model is not the only one to end up the night successfully. Today, masculine beauty, both in art and in other aspects, is so abstract, subjective, relative, circumstantial, and variant that it confuses more than an examination of differential calculus. Although it is clear that much remains to be done, we have already taken the first steps, and that’s why we should be proud.