Manorexic Mannequins

Following the introduction of 27- inch waisted male mannequins, TABATHA LEGGETT looks at manorexia.

anorexia bulimia eating disorders john prescott magazine manorexia media pete doherty russell brand

With Health magazine recently hitting the headlines for airbrushing a thin model to make her look curvier and healthier, the contentious issues surrounding body ideals are as prominent as ever. But, these problems are no longer solely dominating women’s magazines: next month, mannequin makers Rootstein are launching a male mannequin with a 27-inch waist in Britain. That’s more than 11-inches smaller than the average British man.

As such, eating disorder campaigners are up in arms. According to New York Magazine, in 1990 only 10% of eating-disorder sufferers were men, compared with 25% today. Just as it seemed like we were making steps forwards with size 14 models finally on the runways, we took ten steps back with these new mannequins. So, how have Rootstein defended their controversial decision? Apparently the mannequins from last season wouldn’t fit the ‘current fashion trends for skinny jeans and very tight tailoring.

Until now, we haven’t seen much in the press about male eating disorders. But, it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that men face the same pressures as women to conform to a certain body shape. With celebrities like Russell Brand and Pete Doherty sporting the slender look, it would seem that men are facing more pressure than ever to look good in skinny jeans. Sure these guys are hardly muscly men, but it’s difficult to understand that something as seemingly trivial as a comedian’s penchant for women’s jeans would inspire anorexia among young men.

So, where does the problem lie? Well according to the apparently bulimic John Prescott, ‘it’s all to do with stress.’ Oh, Prezza. Whilst I’m pretty certain that John Prescott was possibly the only bulimic who forgot to throw up after eating, he may, for once, have a valid point. It’s irresponsible to assume that women are affected by images of thin celebrities in the media whilst men remain unaffected. Images of perfect looking men have long plagued the media, and the introduction of these unnaturally tiny mannequins can only fuel any potential body hang-ups that men may have.

For men, though, the problem is slightly different. Whilst the media portrays slim women as the ideal, men are expected to be slender and still strong; they focus on shape and weight. We accept physical weakness from women, and even find it endearing, but would feel differently about a man lacking in physical strength. This has a destructive effect on men who are prone to eating disorders: having a 27-inch waist and maintaining physical strength is pretty damn difficult.

As easy as it is to blame current trends for the increase in manorexia, I’m not sure that fashion is entirely to blame. Rather, I suggest that we point the finger at society’s increasing obsession with conforming to a certain persona. If men aren’t in shape, wealthy and successful, they face constant pressure to be more like the perfect male caricatures that we see on television and in films. The sad fact is that looking like these celebrities is a somewhat futile goal, since airbrushing and PR control ensure that they are presented to us as perfect, yet entirely unrealistic, role models. Even Robert Pattinson’s torso in Twilight, for example, was airbrushed, painted and shaded in order to give him a chisled look. Manly.

Aside from the obvious health implications connected to developing eating disorders, manorexia entails an obsession with appearance in many men. And that’s just never an attractive quality. But, these super-skinny mannequins that show men how clothes are ‘supposed to look’ set unrealistic ideals and have a detrimental affect on the confidence and health of impressionable young guys. Skinny jeans don’t suit everyone, we can’t all have Peter Andre’s six-pack, Russell Brand’s style and Jonny Depp’s charisma, and we shouldn’t want to: individuality and confidence, not obsessive conformation to unachievable ideals, is what makes us attractive.