Welcome back to another Blogmas. This is my research paper that I did for my English class. It focuses on an important topic that affects me personal.
Media’s Destructive Influence on Women
The media continually bombards women with images of the thin ideal. The constant need to be slim has affected women from around the world. This strategy influences women to buy products to enhance their appearance, which never truly satisfies them. Media advertising, therefore causes women to experience a vast range of negative feelings, which leads to an unhealthy lifestyle. The thin ideal presented in the media often negatively impacts women and can have immediate, short-term and long-term effects. This can lead to the immediate trigger of low self confidence and turns into a short term effect of body dissatisfaction. However, as continual advertisements perpetrate this can lead to negative long-term effects such as eating disorders and plastic surgery. Therefore, advertisements featuring the thin ideal has various negative effects on women.
One ad that can generate negative effects in the consumer is for NV rapid weight loss, which appeared in a recent issue of Glamour Magazine. The ad features a before and after shot of the model Angeline. In the before shot of Angeline, the photographer has manipulated various elements, such as her stance, clothing and hair, to make her appear larger. Angeline’s hands are placed on her hips, which occupies more space and shows off the widest part of her arms. In addition, the frontal view illustrates Angeline in a wrestler stance, enlarging her overall appearance. Furthermore, Angeline’s tight crop top reveals her mid-section in an unflattering manner. The high neckline and wide shoulder straps make her shoulders appear larger. This image is further emphasized by the fact that her hair is swept behind her shoulders. In contrast, the after shot of Angeline depicts her in a more flattering manner, Angeline’s side-
angle stance appears to slim down the width of her body. Her arms hang by her side which make them appear slimmer. Her floor-length dress and plunging V-neck elongates and slims her body. The strategically placed ruching slims her mid-section, which diminishes and hides her curves. The thin shoulder straps accentuate her narrow feminine shoulders and her hair is over her shoulders which hides the breadth of them. Finally, the before image is one-sixth the size of the iconic image of the thin ideal. Thus, the before image of the average sized Angeline goes unnoticed in comparison to the larger after/shot of the thin ideal. Altogether this advertisement of Angeline sends the message that the average sized women is actually to fat and will never measure up to the thin ideal in society, just as the before shot of the average sized woman is visually insignificant against the image of the thin ideal.
Another type of advertisement that can negatively impact women is advertising for plastic surgery. These ads essentially tell women that they need to improve their bodies by having medical procedures performed. An example of this can be found in a local New York subway. The ad is for Doctor Plastic Surgery, who specializes in breast augmentation. This advertisement features a model posing in two pictures side by side, with two different sized fruit on her breasts. The first picture shows the female model with two small tomatoes on her breasts, and has an unhappy expression. In the second picture the same model is seen holding large melons to her chest, she is seen with a large smile on her face. The second photo sends the message that the woman is much happier with the larger breasts, and not her smaller natural breasts. The advertisement has a list of other services offered by the surgeon. For instance, “Liposuction”, “Tummy Tuck,” and “Brazilian Buttock Lifts” are some of the other services listed that this surgeon will perform. This further reinforces that women’s bodies are judged in parts. These types of advertisements prey on women’s insecurity and low self-confidence. This drives these insecure women into the hands of a surgeon who simply just wants
to take their money and cash in on their self worth.Advertisements in the media featuring models that are extremely thin can cause an immediate reaction of lowered self-confidence in women. Because many women do not look the models in the media, they tend to compare themselves to this unrealistic standard of beauty and internalize negative feelings towards their appearance. An example of how people compare women’s weight is the Body Mass index; this provides women with what their specific weight should be in relation to their height and age. If women do not fit into this size standard they are deemed either obese or underweight, which causes an immediate reaction of lowered self-confidence. In a recent study on adolescent girls and the effects that media has influences their body dissatisfaction, researchers stated that “BMI is not as precise as other approaches to measuring body fat composition, it presents a useful estimate of a girls actual body mass relative to the thin ideal”. In other words, the Body Mass Index compares all women to the thin ideal. It does not take into consideration any health problems or various other reason that prevents woman for obtaining the thin ideal. It simply calculates the average and expects all women to follow this standard. In another study, which focuses on eating disorders the researchers stated that “the idealization of slimness and derogation of fatness in cultures of abundance is more intense for females.” This repeated exposure to the ideal body type portrayed in the media reinforces women’s negative feelings about themselves. The inability for the average sized women to achieve the ideal body type causes them to experience the immediate feeling of lowered self-confidence.
In addition to low self confidence, exposure to contemporary mass media can also have short-term effects on women; for example, body dissatisfaction. In 1995, Fiji was introduced to western television programs Psychiatrist Anne Becker from Harvard medical school was in Fiji at this time and observed that the ideal body type was one that was
“sturdy, tall and large” (180), not the thin ideal. Becker returned to Fiji in 1998 and found that women were highly dissatisfied with their bodies. Her study found that “[m]ore than 80 percent said that watching TV affected the way they felt about their bodies” (180). Fiji is an isolated island that prior to 1995, had minimal exposure to the western world. The Fijian community ideals are traditional, in such a way they relied on family, friends, and peers to deeply embodied cultural values. It’s remarkable that three years of exposure to western media has resulted in such a rapid change of ideals, making the thin ideal prominent with young women. This research makes it clear that exposure to media has a negative effect on women, thus causing women to develop a short-term effect of body dissatisfaction.
One of the long-term effects of body dissatisfaction leads to is eating disorders. According to research done by Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman, body dissatisfaction and the drive to be thin is associated with exposure to popular mainstream media.Furthermore, “[t]he more intense this dissatisfaction, the more likely that one will undertake attempts to lose weight” (192). Often times the standard of beauty is unrealistic and eating disorders can provided an outlet to achieve the thin ideal. Research done by the National Eating Disorder Information Centre found that in a 2002 survey, 1.5% of Canadian women from the age of 15-24 years old had developed an eating disorder (nedic.ca). The drive for the thin ideal doesn’t just affect women but children as well. National Eating Disorder Information Centre estimates that up to 40% of nine year-old girls have dieted to lose weight—even when they were at a normal weight. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association found that anorexia nervosa affects between 0.5% and 4% of women in Canada and bulimia nervosa affects between 1% and 4% of women in Canada. Eating disorders cause life threatening damage and that 10% of people who suffer from anorexia die as a result of health problems or suicide (cmha.bc.ca). The picture of the thin ideal in mainstream media has a huge impact on female consumers, it
reinforces that the average sized woman is not considered equal to the thin ideal. As a result leads to extreme changes in lifestyle to achieve this unachievable goal that society has set out for women.
Furthermore, another long-term effect that body dissatisfaction in women can lead to an increased desire for plastic surgery. Women are consistently being exposed to the thin ideal in the media, not only do they have to be slim but also have large breasts. In a study called Project Muse, research by Julie M. Albright found that college students in Los Angeles and Buffalo, New York had desired impossible bodies’ standards from TV media that contributed to plastic surgery attitudes. The study starts off by showing other research on body image in women and found while doing an International study for a Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, “only 2 percent of women from ten countries around the world consider themselves beautiful, and 60 percent strongly agreed that society expects women to enhance their appearance” (108). Advertisements for cosmetic surgery are becoming more prevalent in magazines. Often ads have been manipulated or photoshopped which further emphasizes the unrealistic beauty standards. As a result this can make women less satisfied with their appearance in comparison to the thin ideal. When doing Project Muse, research found that women in Los Angeles top three dissatisfying body parts were 98% for breast, 76% for their butts, and 89% for their thighs. When conducting the same study in Buffalo they found that women were 96% dissatisfied with their thighs, 86% with their butts, and 100% with their breast. They found that women who watch more plastic-surgery makeover related shows “reported more anxiety about their bodies and specific appearance features” (118). With the desire for plastic surgery increasing, woman can now finance their desired bodies. “[A]s plastic surgery becomes more available and affordable”(123) women from working class can achieve their standard of beauty. Furthermore, cosmetic surgery is being used as an outlet by everyday women who want
to fit into the standard of beauty; thus, reinforcing the idea that average women is not comparable to the thin ideal. In conclusion, advertisement in the media, featuring the thin ideal can cause a range of negative effects on women. Women are faced with these images starting from an early age and continuing throughout their lives. This over exposure to unrealistic beauty standards can cause the immediate effect of lowered self-confidence, which can lead to the slow-term effect of body dissatisfaction and more drastic measures such as eating disorders or plastic surgery. The unrealistic body image portrayed in media is an unhealthy example and in turn can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle both mentally and physically. It is time for this unhealthy obsession with women’s bodies to stop.