Pao Ling Lopez
Convergence Culture, Fall 2012
Although wonderful in many ways, the media can have an enormous negative effect on women’s body image. “Look great, weigh less!”, “How I Got Thin, You can too!”, and “How I lost 10Lbs in 10 Days” are some of the headlines that women are presented with on a daily basis. Portrayals of perfection through thinness are found in advertising, television shows, and celebrities; and can negatively affect women’s body image and possibly be the start of many psychological issues such as eating disorders and depression.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, it is estimated that 10 million American women suffer from an eating disorder. The image of perfection through thinness is glamorized through the media, and it can be the driving force behind low body image and eating disorders today.
According to the January 2012 issue of Plus Model Magazine, twenty years ago the average model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less and most runway models today meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.
In the 1950’s, the image of women in the media were realistic examples of women who embraced their bodies and their curves. One of the most famous women in history was the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe, who wore a size 8 pants and size twelve dress. The average celebrity today wears a size 2.
Advertising is the most powerful tool of the mass media and it is all around us, yet many of people believe that we are immune from its effects. That is one main reason why it is so effective. The portrayal of perfection through thinness has conditioned women, especially those who are growing up, to believe that if they do not have the standard body that it’s portrayed in the media, then something is wrong with them. Women begin to feel pressured to imitate those who they believe to be their idols, thus causing many psychological problems. Low body image and low self-esteem may lead young women especially, to resort to extreme dieting and excessive exercise in order to try and reach those goals.
Women are bombarded with the negative portrayal of perfection every day. This has conditioned women to feel that they need to achieve these high standards of beauty in order to look and feel perfect, and is possibly the reason why 10 million American women are diagnosed with eating disorders. It is important to remember that everyone has their own reality, and what is depicted in the media is not necessarily real. Everyone is beautiful, even if the media tells us otherwise.
Jean Kilbourne. “Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising” (New York: The Free Press, 1999), 27, 58.
Dittmar, H., & Howard, S. “Professional hazards? The impact of models' body size on advertising effectiveness and women's body-focused anxiety in professions that do and do not emphasize the cultural ideal of thinness.” British Journal of Social Psychology, (2004) 43(4), 477-497
Kathrine D. Gapinski, Kelly D. Brownell, Marianne LaFrance. “Body Objectification and "Fat Talk": Effects on Emotion, Motivation, and Cognitive Performance, Sex Roles” (May 2003): 377-78.
Sands, E. R., & Wardle, J. Internalization of ideal body shapes in 9--12-year-old girls.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, (2003). 33(2), 193-204.
"Plus Size Bodies, What Is Wrong With Them Anyway?” Madeline Jones, Editor-In-Chief. Plus Model Magazine.January 8, 2012. (http://www.plus-model-mag.com/2012/01/plus-size-bodies-what-is-wrong-with-them-anyway/)
National Eating Disorder Association. (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-resources/general-information.php)