Show Me Your Moobies!

Moobs: We’ve all seen ‘em. On the beach, in the gym, maybe even on our fathers or husbands. Man-boobs spring up on guys all around us for a number of reasons, ranging from plain old physical inactivity to hormonal inbalances. Some men, in an effort to bulk up, may acquire a pair as a result of steroid use or overzealous bench pressing (these type of moobs are often firmer and rounder.)

But according to a new BBC News Magazine story, the moob phenomenon may be getting out of control, with more and more UK men seeking breast reduction surgery. Is this, the article asks, the result of the media’s constant focus on the bods -– and accompanying physical “flaws” -- of male celebrities? For example, Simon Cowell's pecs have been followed in the media with bald-headed Britney Spears-like infatuation. In 2007, Kurt Russell and Jack Nicholson joined Team Man-Boob. And in 2006, when then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was caught by paparazzi taking in some sun, newspapers raged about his "moobs." TMZ even has a Man-Boobs photo gallery.

The most recent figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons show that surgeons performed 323 male breast reductions last year, up a whopping 44% from 2007, according to the BBC. In 2005, only 22 were performed.

“It would be easy to assume that the UK is a nation where men are rapidly becoming more obese, and they are taking a surgical shortcut to get rid of male breasts that are merely deposits of fat on top of their pectoral muscles,” writes BBC reporter Finlo Rohrer. “But this is not the full picture, says consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS member Dalia Nield. She concedes that…up to a third of the men seeking breast reductions are simply obese.”

Many more are young boys with pubertal gynaecomastia, or the development of excessive breast tissue during adolescence – often exacerbated by poor diet and exercise.

While such commentary certainly isn’t nice, it does in a way speak to the double-standard that exists between the sexes and the public ridicule each receives because of our bodies.  Men’s bodies are indeed under increased scrutiny lately – Jon (of Jon and Kate) had pics of his paunch blown up on magazine covers; John Travolta’s receding hairline has been made fun of. The advent of the word “moob” shows that a new language is being developed specifically for men and their body flaws –similar to women and “muffin tops.” Probably not the kind of equality any of us, man or woman, wants.

British researcher Paula Singleton, currently working on her PhD (entitled with the chuckle-worthy "Bruises Heal But Moobs Last Forever - Men's Account of Cosmetic Surgery for Gynaecomastia") tells the BBC, "It seems like you can hardly turn on the telly and open a newspaper without it being mentioned. [Those planning surgery] described feelings of shame, anxiety and embarrassment. They had suffered everything from being shouted at from a bus to teasing from work colleagues… doctors smirking and laughing at them and saying 'get down the gym'."

Fair enough. But where the double standard comes in is that men get made fun of…but they’re still popular and adored and respected and lusted after. Whether they’re wrinkled or balding or have a huge gut, male celebs can still qualify as sex symbols. Women, on the other hand, get eviscerated for having even the teeniest bit of cellulite. And while 323 male breast reductions were carried out in the UK last year, in the US, 307,000 breast augmentations were done on women. That’s A LOT more women clearly bearing the brunt of a judgmental, looks-based society. (Interestingly, 18,000 American men underwent breast reduction.)

Hey, I've got an idea: Let’s just stop making fun of breasts – women’s or men’s – altogether. Radical, I know. I like to make waves.

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