In this week’s readings, an interesting historical perspective was applied to the upward trend in the diagnosis of PMS and the use of steroids in men. While men use chemical and hormonal means to achieve a hyper-masculine body, women have one of their most feminine experiences classified as a disease – treatable by hormones like progesterone – all in response to the exponential increase in female independence and feminism since the 1960’s.
As a woman I am familiar with the pervasiveness of body dismorphia and eating disorders now considered common to women thanks to the ride of media portrayal of ultra-skinny women as the ideal. Social media sites even romanticize eating disorders and create and toxic online communities to share ideologies. The topic of girls with body image issues and poor self-esteem can be found in movies, tv shows, and magazines. However men are increasingly becoming concerned with their physical appearance and are left little resources for help. The Pope article represents a dramatic shift in the way our culture recognizes body image issues, and it shows a revolutionary breach of one of our cultural taboos. While women are expected to fret (if disordered behavior can be considered fretting) over their appearance in order to appeal to men, men are expected to simply be masculine. They are not expected to worry about their weight or muscle tone to any great degree. A man who works out consistently is a good thing – a sign of healthy masculinity, but a man who takes steroids or diets in addition is a huge taboo. An interesting term employed by the article “Rise of the Adonis Complex” was “politely ‘roided” a term which allows the viewer and model plausible deniability in the question of whether or not they use steroids.
The other section which focused on hints if someone (some man) you know is secretly taking steroids was very sad. Not only is our culture perpetuating unhealthy/ unachievable ideals, but it is also refusing to acknowledge the existence of a problem and provide help for men suffering from body dismorphia. This NPR article talks about the lack of treatment facilities for men with eating disorders (trigger warning).
The Chrisler article made a very interesting case against a condition most women are taught is natural and normal. The at least partially socially constructed aspect of PMS has created false ideas about how to handle premenstrual changes and sometimes creates a dangerous environment. I know a woman who suffered from “PMS” that was “occasionally debilitating”. She went to her doctor and was eventually put on birth control to handle her “out of control” PMS. While this did help alleviate some of her symptoms, it also did nothing to help with the cyst that had gone unnoticed and untreated on her ovary for the past few years. Turns out not every woman with cramps is just suffering from stereotypical PMS that can be solved by popping a few Midol and calling it a day. This article reinforces the idea that so much of our physiology and psychology are socially constructed by showing that while cyclic changes are reported across cultures, the symptoms are culturally skewed and inherently negative in industrialized nations where we disproportionately value control.