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In recent years, there has been a boom in men’s magazines that answer the call of this new self-interest, emphasising the benefits of exercise for mental and physical health. But chasing an often unrealistic ideal can be dangerous. For example muscular perfection is often achieved by taking steroids, which can cause testicular shrinking and kidney and liver failure.
‘The Adonis Complex’, written by Phillips, Pope and Olivardia, examines male body obsession in the United States. They explain that ironically the Greek god named in the title wouldn’t compare to the kinds of body ideals that we are exposed to today, suggesting that ‘perfection’ has got out of control. Based on 15 years of research and interviews with men from Boston to Austria, the researchers argue that this unattainable ideal has subjected men to many of the same pressures that women have faced historically.
Argentine image consultant Luz Sáenz Valiente agrees. “The increase in importance of image for men has a lot to do with the increase in technology and the fact media are often presenting the perfect stereotype. Besides, for Argentine women nowadays it is very important that a man dresses himself well, has a good haircut and is taking care of his body. This is noticeably different than a few years ago, when the more wild and harsh ‘macho-type’ was more beloved. Nowadays you will find a mix of macho and metro men.”
Country of Plastic Surgery
An international survey on cosmetic surgery released this year, with data from 50 countries, puts Argentina in fifth place for the number of cosmetic surgeries per year, with most operations performed on the face. The trend is confirmed by data from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).
Argentine psychiatrist, Dr. Damian Berenstein stated: “Our body functions as a machine, with our physical appearance as measuring role. If it’s not going totally okay with our body, we go to a doctor, also when this affects our outside. Cosmetic surgery among men has increased in the last several years. During the nineties people’s image became more and more important and beauty plays an important role in that. That is a phenomenon you still find today. It’s about someone’s profile, which you can ‘easily’ change by means of aesthetic surgery.”
According to Gonzalo Otálora, author of the book ‘Feo’ (Ugly), Argentines prefer to look like European people, who are often considered a kind of ideal. “Since we Argentines are a mix of European and indigenous cultures, we have to change more of our bodies to achieve this ideal than for example people in Europe. I think that could be a reason that plastic surgery is such a common phenomenon in Argentina.”
Dr. Carlos Juri, professor at the Universidad del Salvador and director of a plastic surgery medical centre, agreed in an interview with BBC Mundo: “The number of men who are having cosmetic surgery is still lower than that of women, but is has increased noticeably. Concerning facial surgery, ten years ago, 15% of all operations were undertaken by men and today this percentage is to approximatley 25%.”
Psychiatrist Berenstein emphasised that around 80% of people are satisfied after having a cosmetic surgery, leaving some 20% who are not. On the contrary some are even less happy than they were before which often leads to the continuation of surgeries.
Gonzalo Otálora wrote his book ‘Feo’ in 2007, which is about the life of Argentine men or boys who are perceived as ‘ugly’. According to Otálora, life for an ugly man is more difficult than for a good-looking man; ugly men will encounter more problems being accepted, finding a partner or getting a job.
He thinks that the increasing importance of image is an historical process. After the last dictatorship people wanted freedom, when they achieved freedom, they wanted a better economic situation and after that, physical appearance and health became more important.
Also Berenstein linked back to the fact the economic changes of the nineties had their influences in everything. “Argentina went through a process from a third world country into a first world country. Everything changed in a way you can say we became more similar to the United States. During the Menem years, people’s ‘look’ became more important, even in Menem’s own family.”
According to the psychiatrist, Argentine society has been transformed intp a society where the image became more important and where you either were feeling included or excluded. “This was often based on aesthetic aspects. Many people, especially after the dictatorship, had the feeling they had lost their identity. Think about the ‘desaparecidos’ – often their identity is seen by means of their physical appearance, since there was nothing else left.”
A suitable example of society’s adjustment to the contemporary desires of Argentine men is the Markus Day Spa for Men, the only spa for men in Latin America, which opened five years ago.
Marilyn Balaguer, co-founder of the spa, explained: “Argentine men are vain and our place is created exclusively for men where they have the freedom to do all things which are normally aimed at women; facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures, Botox and hyaluronic fillers and removal of annoying fat rolls. It is a place where they are not being judged for caring about their feminine side and men have the freedom to improve their appearance without being perceived as gay or effeminate.”
Balaguer concurs: “It’s a statistical reality cosmetic purchases by men have increased during the last years and I think that Argentine men are just as vain as Argentine women, only they do not admit it. The Argentine macho-man is becoming a metro-man and the idea of our spa is that we take care of them instead of judging them.”
All About Image
Luz Sáenz Valiente, has working for several years as image consultant and the majority of her clients nowadays consist of men. She explained: “I think is especially due to the fact women are less open to admit they need advice about their image. It is the same as that men can feel ashamed of going to a garage and saying they don’t know anything about cars.”
According to Saénz Valiente the concept of image is becoming more important and by means of visual expression there is a growing number in facilities concerning people’s image. People are always in a hurry and there is nearly no time for communication, that is why the image and first impression are of a person got more important. Also non-verbal communication is getting more and more important nowadays.
Balaguer believes that Argentine men are not necessarily more or less feminine than elsewhere, only the difference is that they show their feminine side and vanity is not frowned upon. “The fact that Argentine men pay more attention to their body, by means of monthly facials, wearing makeup, dying or plucking their eyebrows, is part of the culture, and often even encouraged by women. Argentine women prefer a man who looks splendid than a man who does not care about his appearance and looks clumsy and careless.”
According to Otálora, image and the ideal beauty phenomenon are a fantasy, something that actually doesn’t really exist; for every person, ideal beauty means something else.
Unfortunately, nowadays it seems that the media wants us to impose a certain ideal form of beauty – for women and men – and as it works with everything; people want to have things they do not have yet, which often works in the same manner with their image and physical appearance.