Thursday, April 28, 2011

Does the media effect body image?

Images of celebrities and models on television, in magazines, and newspapers surround us everywhere in the media today. These images provide viewers with what society believes to be the ideal body weight in America. Self-esteem, body changes, and peers are some of the many reasons why young girls start to feel badly about their bodies, but the main reason is the media. The media’s portrayal of the ideal body is very unattainable, and affects the minds of young girls by making them believe that thin is beautiful and everything else is not.

All throughout history, the media presents young girls with subliminal messages about what the perfect body should look like and how to attain this image. This makes young girls self-esteem drop dramatically because the media provides the message that looking different than these images is not good enough. Girls self-esteem already starts to lower during their teenage years because of the way their bodies are changing from puberty, and the media only lowers the way young girls feel about themselves. Researchers Daniel Clay, Vivian Vignoles, and Helga Dittmar have found that, “girls self-esteem declines substantially during middle adolescence, with changes in body image proposed as a possible explanation. Body image develops in the context of socio-culture factors, such as unrealistic media images of female beauty” (Clay, VIgnoles, Dittmar). The presentation of these images to young adolescences causes them to want to be like what is seen in the media. Knowing that the media thinks fat is ugly, causes girls to be unsatisfied with their body image.
Being unsatisfied with their bodies causes teenage girls to be obsessed with what they look like. Adolescents rely on the media whether it is on the computer, television, or in a magazine. Teenage girls are bombarded with pictures of models all over the place and eventually they come to the conclusion that they should look similar to these images. “Magazines aimed at girls and young women tend to present traditional slim images of attractiveness. Eileen Guillen and Susan Barr in Seventeen magazine concluded that the magazine contributes to the current cultural milieu in which thinness is expected of women, be they adults or adolescents” (Grogan).  Sarah Grogan researched that these body images have powerful effects on their readers and makes teenagers develop a definition of what it means to be beautiful.
Ashley Tisdale before and after her nose job.
For Example, Ashley Tisdale, a Disney channel actress on the cover of Seventeen Magazine, has the celebrity perfect look. In order to obtain this image, she reconstructed her nose by plastic surgery. She is an influential woman, her fans look up to her and most teenage girls view her as a role model. Girls think that her natural beauty is what makes her so perfect. Thus, they will think that plastic surgery is also necessary to be accepted by their peers as being declared “perfect” (Beresin and Derenne). No matter how hard you try, everybody has his or her own look and there should be no definition of a perfect body type. The media should not present young viewers with an inaccurate definition of the “perfect” body type because girls believe what they see in the media is realistic.
Not only does the media portray the ideal body in an unattainable way, but it also promotes many ideas about eating that affect young girls mentally and emotionally. The media always encourages women to not eat as much as men. In many commercials and television shows, it shows women hiding what they eat, or eating only little amounts. Sarah Bordo, who wrote on a topic about women and eating said, “women are encouraged to indulge only in small amounts to demonstrate a lack of all desire even about the basic need to eat” (Bordo). The media also sends off a message to women that they can either eat or be loved. All of these messages that the media presents affects each girl in a different way.

When the media tells girls that they should either eat in small amounts or hide what they eat, eating disorders develop. Anorexia and Bulimia are becoming more popular in younger generations today. Adolescents see skinny models that are 5 feet 110 inches and 110 pounds on commercials and in fashion shows whereas the average American woman is 140 pounds 5 feet four inches (Holmstrom). Teenage girls try to live up to these standards and look in the mirror and aren’t satisfied. They decide that they want to reach their ideal body image by going through strenuous events to reach that goal. There was a survey done by Teen People magazine that said, “twenty-seven percent of girls felt that the media pressures them to have the perfect body” (Eating Disorders: Body Image and Advertising).  This number may not scream outrageous, but it is way too high of a number for girls to feel like they have to hurt their bodies to obtain an image provided by the media.
            Overall, the media has negative effects on how young women view themselves and their bodies.  “In one major American survey of over 500 adolescent girls aged 9–16, nearly 70% believed magazine pictures influenced their idea of the ideal body shape, and 47% of the same sample wished to lose weight as a result” (Cignoles, Clay, and Dittmar). This shows that viewing ultra thin models on television and in magazines cause teenagers and most women to be unsatisfied with their bodies. It was also found that this thin body image was associated with a rise in eating disorders in adolescent girls. The way the media presents how women should look and feel about themselves is not realistic, and young girls should not feel the need to try and live up to these standards that are impossible and unhealthy to accomplish.

Works Cited

Beresin, E, and J Derenne. "Body image, media, and eating disorders." Academic Psychiatry 30. (2006): 257-61. Web. 6 Apr 2011. 

Bordo Susan. “Hunger as Ideology” The Text-Wrestling Book. Donna Lecourt and the UMass Amherst Writing Program Editorial Collective. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 2005. Print. 18 November 2010.

Cignoles, V, D Clay, and H Dittmar. "Body image and self-esteem among adolescent girls: testing the influence of sociocultural factors." Journal of Research on Adolescence 15.4 (2005): 451-77. Web. 6 Apr 2011.

"Eating Disorders: Body Image and Advertising." Healthy Place. 11 Dec. 2008. Web. 17 November 2010

Grogan, Sarah. Body Image: Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women, and children. 1st ed. New York, New York: Routledge, 1999. 94-7. Print.

Holmstrom, A.J. "The effects of the media on body image: a meta-analysis." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 48.2 (2004): n. pag. Web. 6 Apr 2011.

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