Rihanna has long been praised as a champion for inclusivity as her lingerie brand Savage X Fenty continues to showcase numerous shapes, sizes, ethnicities and sexualities in its campaigns. But with the Sept. 24 release of the Savage X Fenty Vol. 3 runway show, it appears that men are at the forefront of what makes the brand different.
While talking to the Associated Press, the singer-turned-designer opened up about the importance of including diverse men in her show. "Men, especially, there’s always a certain figure that represents them in this space of lingerie and loungewear and boxers and briefs," she said. "We’re going to have men of all different sizes, all different races. We’re going to have men feel included as well, because I think men have been left behind in the inclusion curve."
While it wouldn't be the first time that Rihanna included men in her show or campaigns, the conversation is an important one to have. The stigma alone that men continue to face in opening up about body insecurities is a major obstacle in the larger movement of diversity in fashion. According to experts, Rihanna's highlighting that stigma is a step in the right direction.
"There has been much more of an open discussion for women, than traditionally for cis men, speaking out against the pressures and negative impacts of beauty standards in society," Brenna O'Malley, a registered dietitian and founder of the nondiet community The Wellful, tells Yahoo Life. "Just like there is more of a stigma for men to speak about mental health, we also see fewer spaces for men to openly share and feel represented in conversations around body image. This does not mean men are not experiencing these struggles."
O'Malley points out that body pressures and men's responses to them are often "disguised" as more acceptable than the responses of women, which are usually deemed "disordered." For example, "The idea of a woman not eating all day for intermittent fasting more easily elicits an image of disordered eating versus a man not eating all day often is associated with willpower or strength," she explains.
At the root of both behaviors, however, are the societal standards of beauty that are harmful. As for the ideals for men specifically, the standards are outdated, according to clinical psychologist and wellness expert Carla Manly.
"Similar to the manner in which versions of the ideal female form are etched into the psyche, the media and society at large have created narrow, perfectionist ideals of the male form. The tall, broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped, muscle-bound physique encapsulates the often overidealized version of the quintessential male form," she explains to Yahoo Life. "As a result of societal ignorance and acceptance of the status quo, males have been left behind in the inclusion curve. This, in part, stems from the atavistic awareness that the tall, athletic male type was better able to 'protect his women and progeny.' Yet given that times have changed and we no longer live in a world rife with primitive threats like lion attacks, it is certainly appropriate to rethink and broaden our inclusivity standards."
Rethinking these standards has been done for women through the activism of body positive advocates on social media. A reflection of that work is seen in the media through the decline of Victoria's Secret, the evolution of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and, most recently, the success of Savage X Fenty's runway show — spearheading a new standard for inclusive casting. Little room, however, has been carved out for men in this broadening of inclusivity standards. While both O'Malley and Manly point to male underwear models as a very influential model of "the perfect male form," creating space in the lingerie category specifically is important.
"Representation matters. The more we are exposed to images of people in all bodies living in their bodies and not only as a ‘before’ picture, the more we widen our views of beauty and what bodies ‘should’ look like and makes room for the nuance and diversity of all bodies," O'Malley says. "By having purposeful representation of all bodies and people, it sends a powerful message that ‘your body is enough, you are worthy of being seen’ and chipping away at the narrow look of thin, muscular, men, with visible abs — which is only a small percentage of the population and the majority of images of men we currently see."
"The much-needed focus on female body positivity and inclusivity has set the stage for similar changes in the male realm," Manly says.
And according to Rihanna and her latest work, the Savage X Fenty stage is where those changes will be seen.