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.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Growing up (the beginning of a rant)

As the youngest child and the only girl, my parents weigh me down with responsibilities that at times seem uncalled for or unreasonable. I am the first person in my family to go to college and soon graduate, and I made the choice to go to school partly on my own and partly because my parents coaxed me into it. Frankly, when I graduated high school I felt conflicted about the next step in my life. I knew I needed to attend college because in today’s workforce we need degrees. I simply remained clueless as to where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do once I got there.
I ended up at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) for my first two years of school and absolutely hated it. The massive campus and 400 students in each class scared and confused me. In schools like that, unless we make a massive impact, we exist as another number in the roster. I decided my second year that I needed to move on from VCU and go somewhere that I wanted to go. I read about Randolph-Macon and ate at Suzanne’s with my boyfriend at the time, and I decided that RMC could be the place for me.
I made a difficult decision when I decided to come here because I knew that an expensive school might push me deeper into obligations toward my already overbearing parents. My mom tends to throw guilt trips on me for anything. My dad felt uneasy about the money situation and only offered to pay a minute fraction of the cost. I felt tied to them and as if I must do everything they wanted me to. Unlike other college students, I stayed home out of respect for my mother’s wishes. I also refrained from outlandish partying and worked for the company my mom works for because she wanted me to. Her demands only led me to resent her.