Body Image and the Media
Popular film and television actresses seem to be skinner, taller, and younger than ever. Women’s magazines and television shows are filled with weight-loss ads. The average American is subject to about 3,000 of these ads on a daily basis according to the Women’s Center of Media and Body Image. The ongoing exposure to these images has proven to distort and alter our perceptions of reality. Our constant encounter with these images of perfection is not what the average woman looks like. Yet, it is difficult for young girls to understand this concept. So they continue to strive for these unrealistic images of what the media believes a woman should look like.Many of the images found on television and in magazine ads have been proved to be unattainable. The majority of the models and actresses that we see on a daily basis are reported to be at least twenty pounds underweight. The Dove Corporation has launched Campaign for Real Beauty, which promotes healthy body image among women. Their mission is “to help free ourselves and the next generation from beauty stereotypes” (Dove). This corporation has created though-provoking ads featuring realistic body types of women from differing backgrounds. One of their most effective commercials entitled “Dove’s Evolution” shows a model at a photo shoot. The young woman goes through sits while a team of hair stylist and make-up artists work on her, prepping and primping her. They then show her image on a computer screen. Editors have the ability to elongate her neck, darken her eyebrows, and narrow her face and more. The finished, yet altered product is then plastered on a billboard for all to see. This commercial just emphasizes the fact that the images we see on the media are literally impossible to attain.
Poor body image is not just an issue among adults and teen; researchers have found that preteens are also trouble with their body image. The Canadian Women’s Health Network warned “weight control measures are now being taken by girls as young as 5 and 6”. Several studies show that almost have of all preadolescent girls in the U.S wish they were thinner, and have been on a diet or are aware of the concept of dieting (Media Awareness Network). In the year 2003 Teen Magazine reported that 35% of girl’s age’s six to twelve have been on at least one diet and 50-70% of these girls felt that they were overweight. Approximately ninety percent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance in some shape or form.
Imagine what life would be like if we did not have the influence of the media shaping ones perception of the ideal body. Before this type of pervasive media existed negative body images were absent. Reports show that twenty years ago the average model weighed only eight per cent less than the average woman. Today models weigh at least twenty-three percent less than the average woman (Women’s Center of Media and Body Image). Advertisers believe that thin models sell product. Yet the average woman seems to think differently. If pictures of “normal” sized models were featured in magazines the majority of women reported they would continue to support that particular magazine. It seems the only way there will be a change in the media is if we, the consumers refuse to support these unrealistic and detrimental images.
The influence the media has on teenage girl’s minds is becoming greater and more dangerous every day. Advertisements and the media set out with only one intention: to make a profit. Along the way however, they are altering the reality of body image and leading girls to believe beauty is only skin deep. Flip through the channels on your television and what will you find? Gorgeous and skinny star icons that make healthy, young girls feel like they need to be prettier in order to be noticed. The media affects girl’s minds in such a negative manner that it often causes these girls to look at themselves in dissatisfaction and disgust. When girls see the models in a Victoria’s Secret commercial they think only one thing, “why can’t I look like that?” After they examine the models and then examine themselves, they will often start to compare their bodies. If the girl’s ribs do not show or her legs are not as long as the models, she may ultimately begin to think she is unattractive and abnormal. When girls think this about themselves, their self esteem is lowered and their confidence is lost.
Self esteem is the opinion and value you have for yourself. It is also something that girls do not have a lot of these days. Low self esteem is often caused by the lack of positive body image, which almost every girl in America can relate to. It has been reported that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to be 78% by the time girls reach seventeen (Brumberg, 1997). Having a low self esteem may seem like an insignificant affect to some, however, it leads to much more serious problems that can even result in dire consequences. According to I Am Beautiful, a program created to help girls with low self esteem issues to build their confidence, “girls with low self esteem are more likely to suffer from depression or an eating disorder, consider or attempt suicide, or be more willing to engage in sexual activity.” Although it is not impossible to restore one’s self esteem, it is difficult and it may require professional attention such as a therapist to accept yourself for who you are.
It’s pretty widely understood in America today that the media, our friends, and all the forces of society our country puts value in, contribute to how we feel about our bodies. These attitudes and judgments mess with every aspect of how our bodies functions, including mentally and physically. With the information that is currently available and through further awareness, society can slow start to fix this increasing epidemic of the perfect body.