Investigating the impact of male body image ideals on lived experiences of the male body and masculinity

Iqbal, Yasser (2022) Investigating the impact of male body image ideals on lived experiences of the male body and masculinity. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis explores the rise of the muscular male body as an objectified, sexualised and desired embodied state in contemporary society. The study delves into consumer experiences of the lived masculine body and its representations. This is of importance when considering the increased visibility of the male body in media and the implications on male consumers and male body image transformation. A rich insight is provided into the way in which marketing discourses of the idealised muscular body are interpreted by individuals and used to define masculinity and an idealistic masculine self-concept. This offers important insights into under-developed male consumer research knowledge.

The research adopts an immersive ethnographic approach using access to a fitness club and twelve male participants embroiled in regular exercise routines. As a result, a compelling data set of observations, personal narratives and my own experience of building a muscular body are presented and analysed in this thesis. The research yielded deep, meaningful findings related to the muscular body as an agent of the self with regard to defining the self-concept and setting a desired identity. Furthermore, the process of sculpting muscularity was perceived as a masculinising process with weight training methods and other weight trainers seen as bearers of authentic masculinity.

The research presents a number of original contributions that enhance understanding of male embodiment and the value of physical body capital informing male consumer research and outlining implications for self and identity research. I argue the relationships around body image expectations, norms and ideals are complex and formed through self-concept perceptions, nuanced power dynamics and how the natural body reacts to cultural norms and expectations. The research findings demonstrate a need to go beyond social conceptualisation assumptions and consider individualistic agendas, the natural/biological masculine body and body identity motives in contemporary culture.

The study comprehends the power of physical capital in helping to achieve other forms of capital and masculinity affirmation. Important contributions are developed in relation to the gym habitus as a safe haven for masculine males to play out interpretive masculinity beliefs. Such insights provide an enhanced understanding of how males are combating threats to traditional masculinity and to shape the masculine-self in order for the ‘macho’ spirit to live on. The research builds upon the cultural meanings of male fitness as a body constructing scene to showcase self-identity and superior masculinity. Additionally, the desire to obtain social and cultural capital through the muscular body is analysed to provide novel insights into a consumer movement shaping male consumer lives both culturally and physically.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: masculinity, male embodiment, male fitness
Subjects: L900 Others in Social studies
N500 Marketing
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2022 08:37
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2022 08:45

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