If there was one thing that could cure my January blues, it would be Love Island. I mean, watching a bunch of singles couple up, live in an incredible house and undergo a series of challenges and drama amid summer-somewhere-else vibes sounds pretty appealing to me. So, thank god that the greatest show on reality television has arrived back on our screens. And fronted by Maya Jama, nonetheless.
Now, while most of us are still reeling off that awkward hugging moment between [farmer, not singer!] Will Young and Olivia Hawkins *cringe*, a fair few Twitter users seem to have raised a 'brow at Haris Namani's grooming choices. No, seriously... a lot of people seem to have a problem with his eyebrows.
The 21-year-old TV salesman was one of the first to make his villa debut in last night's episode and unfortunately, it didn't take long for fans of the show to fill social media with comments about his appearance. Read some of the tweets below:
Now, don't get me wrong as I, myself, was guilty of having flagged Haris' perfectly preened eyebrows in the girls' WhatsApp group chat. But when thousands of people anonymously take to social media with less-than polite comments on one's appearance, we've got to have a serious chat.
Of course, pencil-thin 90s eyebrows are very on-trend ATM, with celebs like Kylie Jenner, Amelia Gray and Rihanna all having sported the nostalgic look within the last year. Others, like Julia Fox, have completed ditched the brows in favour of bleaching and shaved looks. But when we make body hair and grooming 'trendy', it comes with layers. While super thin brows are having their moment on many women, the same experimentation can't be said for men and the hyper-masculine, rigid beauty standards they face.
Men's eyebrows are an uncertain facet of grooming and self-care, but global market research has shown a steady rise in men's overall interest in grooming, as well as a rise in preferences for, specifically, eyebrow grooming products. The "ideal" standards surrounding facial hair for men tend to fall around beards, moustaches and sideburns, but eyebrows are more difficult for men to ascertain.
Posting on Twitter, one user said about Haris: "U can't have thinner brows than a girl". Yep, somebody actually wrote that – but where did a gendered approach to our eyebrows even come from? When watching him on TV, we can see that Haris' eyebrows are, evidently, on the thinner side, but really, judging the masculinity of someone for their choice of eyebrow shape – or the body hair choices of anyone, for that matter – is reductive.
Sure, everyone's up for a laugh and judging in jest from afar, but once you've hit send/publish/post/tweet, they're out there on the internet forever. And not only that, but friends and family, as well as Haris himself when he arrives back home, will be able to read these comments, which could potentially leave him feeling emasculated, embarrassed or unworthy.
According to findings published by the Mental Health Foundation, millions of men in the UK have struggled with body image issues. A 2019 YouGov survey found that almost three in 10 adult men (aged 18 and above) have felt anxious because of body image issues.
Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation Mark Rowland said: "Body image is often seen as an issue that only affects women – but it is clear from our data that it is affecting millions of men in the UK as well.
"We must recognise the significant negative impact a media environment can have on mental health."
We've seen this intense analysis and ridicule of Islanders looks happen time and time again; it wasn't too long ago that season eight's Coco Lodge tearfully addressed cruel internet trolls who taunted her over her appearance.
For some, a dialogue about eyebrows may seem a trivial topic but it's important to stay aware of how people in the show are moving through an apex of beauty standards, masculine norms and social media judgement. We all have our opinions and preferences – me included – but at what point are we crossing the line?
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