Male pageants: socially deaf, obtuse parades, or a promotion of 'environmental awareness'?

Lily Abery debates the issues surrounding the rise of male beauty pageants.

Lily Abery
10th October 2019
Instagram: @inggikendran

Fashion month is drawing to a close- we can now all sigh a sigh of relief, flop down on the sofa and switch on 'The Antique's Road Sh...'oh wait, no, what's this? Shiny skin, feathers, pore-less skin, and an overwhelming abundance of muscles and jewels? No, I'm not talking about Strictly. I'm referring to 'Mister Global', the men's beauty pageant which took place in Thailand on the 26th September.

'Mister Global', according to spokesperson Kitti Kamjunsa,  is ostensibly a beacon of philanthropy. Kamjunsa claimed that "the aim of 'Mister Global' is to promote environmental awareness, and we have been promoting that cause ever since we started in 2014". The Pageant shows models wearing ornate costumes designed to celebrate their country's heritage and culture.

A pageant, by definition, is "public entertainment consisting of a procession of elaborate, colourful costumes". Placing this definition next to 'Mister Global', there is certainly a presence of elaborate, colourful costumes, but the phrase 'public entertainment' is somewhat troubling, reminiscent of perhaps a gladiator ring in Ancient Rome. This is a pageant, an event which serves to applaud and marvel at the lucky few who won the genetic lottery.

"One must ask the question: why? Why in a society beset with false masculinity and male struggle is such a huge platform being given to an enterprise such as a pageant?"

While the conception of the women's pageant sits way back in 1921, men were only invited to participate in these parades of shiny humans in 2014. With the notion of body confidence gathering such momentum on social media, why is there still such a lack of appropriate representation of the human form in the beauty industry? It is interesting that 'Mister Global' has maintained enough popularity to sustain a five-year run. The pageant's premise is supposedly a charitable celebration of different cultures. One might ask, therefore, why this has to be done through displaying quixotic body types; why can't such an altruistic endeavour celebrate all bodies? Not just those with 5% body fat and smothered in baby oil. It is no secret that pressure from all sides of popular culture is dangerous and debilitating.

In the UK, the number of adult men being admitted to hospital with an eating disorder has risen by 70% over the past six years. Dr William Rhys Jones of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' eating disorder faculty previously commented that "Images of unhealthy male body ideals in the media place unnecessary pressure on vulnerable people who strive for acceptance through the way they look". Let us not ignore the facts. Pageants and the beauty industry take up considerable space in contemporary media culture, but it must be said that perhaps this is not a good use of that space. Might we instead use it to invite the pageant community, and indeed, the global population, to a conversation. A conversation about how we should take the reins of a new form of 'environmental awareness'; an awareness of the support we should be giving to men suffering at the hands of unachievable body ideals and eating disorders. Awareness of the struggles the men in your personal environments are facing.

Instagram: @fashionweek

It is also strange how some female beauty parades are beginning to lose their momentum. The Victoria Secret Fashion show had its last hurrah of abs, hip bones and wings in New York City last year. 'Savage x Fenty' by Rihanna took over with great aplomb thanks to its ethos of celebrating the entire scope of human body types. Isn't it time the pendulum swung in men's favour? Hang up the sash, for all our sakes.

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