Rachel's Blog

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Body Image in the Media

We see images of women everywhere we look today. We view them on magazine covers, on television, on billboards, and in the hundreds of thousands of advertisements we come across on a daily basis. The majority of the women we view are thin, tall, have large breasts, small waists and virtually no fat on their bodies, not to mention, their faces are flawless. Media portrays these women as what all women should look like. However, with technologies such as air brushing, women do not see the real picture. This belief that media helps cause the insecurities of women in regards to their body image is prevalent. An article in womenshealth.gov reads: "Why are so many women unhappy with their bodies? Women in the U.S. are under pressure to measure up to a certain social and cultural ideal of beauty, which can lead to poor body image. We are bombarded with media images of female bodies that are extremely thin and with flawless features. These images can reinforce an already negative image a woman might have of her body, leading her to believe she is overweight and not able to meet the American standard." (womenshealth.gov).
Why does the media use these images to portray women? A report by Robin Gerber suggests a variety of reasons. She writes;
"The roots, some analysts say, are economic. By presenting an ideal difficult to achieve and maintain, the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. And it’s no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as an essential criterion of beauty. If not all women need to lose weight, for sure they’re all aging, says the Quebec Action Network for Women’s Health in its 2001 report Changements sociaux en faveur de la diversité des images corporelles. And, according to the industry, age is a disaster that needs to be dealt with." (Gerber). Her account of why the media throws these images in our face is troubling when these unattainable characteristics cause many women to fast, diet, throw up, and never reach their goal. Gerber’s article stated that now, young girls at the age of nine have eating disorders due to insecurities about their body image.
The media’s economic approach to women’s body image is successful. Media target women to buy cosmetics, dieting supplements, weight loss equipment including videos, certain foods such as Special K (lose six pounds in two weeks), and apparel designed to make our bodies look thinner. We spend this money with one goal in common, that we might look half as good to as good as the models we see on the magazines, billboards, ads, and TV.
To touch on Gerber’s point that women now not only seek perfect bodies, but perfect faces too, tons of ads for acne products and microdermabrasian hypnotize our brains. One company, ProActive Solutions actually uses celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, P Diddy, Vanessa Williams, Alicia Keys, and others to promote their product. These celebrities appear on our television screen expressing their struggles with acne and how we too can have perfect skin like they now do. As nice as this idea sounds, we must take into consideration that these celebrities have make up artists and skin technicians on hand almost everywhere they go.
Although these ads and magazines deliver an unattainable image to achieve, the media should not be solely blamed for women’s bad body image. "Other pressure can come from people in our lives. Family and friends can influence a woman’s body image with positive and negative comments. Doctors can also have a powerful impact on body image. Their comments, in particular, might be delivered as health advice but can be misinterpreted and affect how a woman perceives and feels about her body. As a result, the way women feel about their bodies can impact their physical and emotional health. Women with a poor body image may try to lose weight in unhealthy ways, restrict their eating, develop eating disorders, and have low self-esteem." (womenshealth.gov). This article reveals that women’s insecurity stem from many venues.
However, the media plays a crucial role in misrepresenting how a woman should look. Their air brushed, too thin, abnormally proportioned women, if real, only make up a small percentage of the population. Most women have curves and will never again wear a size zero or two after they have children if they ever did. Women must also recognize that to look like the women in the ads in not a realistic goal and embrace their bodies as they are.

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