A young woman looks at herself in the mirror and despises what she sees. Deluded by the commercials and magazines, she is convinced that she is fat and ugly. She is sure that she is overweight and will be for the rest of her life. She is sure that no man will ever find her beautiful, causing her to go on a diet. Another young woman with the same convictions starves herself even though she is beautifully slim. Another woman simply can’t stop eating even though she long to lose weight. These women have one thing in common, a body image problem. Many would ask what is wrong with a little body image issue?
Aren’t most people discontent with some aspects of their body? The answer is yes, but a body image problem is a more dangerous thing than just discontentment. So what is body image? Body image is the idea of how people picture themselves and how they think other people picture them. HOW SOCIETY PERCEIVES IT The media is one of the greatest influences on an individual. However, when abused, the power of media can harm the general population. Images portrayed by the media tend to make people strive to become someone else’s idea of what it is meant to be perfect.
In the American society, women are taught how to be a certain body type. In the American society women are “suppose” to be slender. To be slime is generally associated with happiness, success and social acceptability and being overweight is linked to laziness, lack of power, and unattractiveness. In the American society, women are pressured to be thin since it is seen as beautiful. It is a way for them to be accepted in society. There is a huge pressure on women to be a particular shape and size; women are portrayed as abnormally slim in the media. HEALTH
Worry has been expressed over the representation of unrealistic images of female beauty in the media. “Vogue Magazine [complained] that the models used in Vogue’s fashion pages were so thin as to appear anorexic” (Grogan 95). The use of these images has brought attention and concern to models health issues. The anorexic images of models have a powerful effect on the viewers. To foster and maintain a ‘femininity and supplying a advertising media supplies a definition of what it means to be a woman. Grogan quoted Marjorie Ferguson sociological research on Women’s Magazines.
Ferguson argues that “Women’s magazines contribute to the wider cultural process which help to shape a woman’s view of herself and society” (Grogan 95). According to Ferguson, Women’s Magazines change a woman’s view of herself by teaching women socially acceptable views of female image. The mental effects of the mass media’s portrayal of the perfect body can cause women to resort to unhealthy methods of weight loss to attain that athletic look that so many desire. Eating disorders develop became a desired strive to achieve the ideal body that the media is promoting.
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders did a study and found that “Eight million or more Americans have an eating disorder, and about 90 percent of them are women” (Lane 50). Women create such unrealistic expectations for themselves that they experience disappointment. With the increase of advertisement about “beauty”, girls have developed eating disorders to conform to the hidden message sent by the fashion industry: thin is how you’re suppose to be. Having this pressure is damaging society by having an impact of women self esteems, coercing women into getting on diets to change their body shape.
It communicates an unhealthy image for girls to strive to emulate. In Schere book Eating Disorder mentions that “Fashion Week is about reinforcing hierarchies, skinniness had always been a way to compete”. (Scherer 71). Being skinny means having control, young, beautiful and successful. The models themselves who are skinnier and younger seem to be the weakest people here. It makes us ask the question of: Why this skinny? A theory is that “Girls need to be skinny because they need to be invisible”. (Scherer 72). The reason behind this is that the clothing stands out the best.
The better the clothes are the more extreme the skinniness must be. The fashion industry does not present a realistic view of women to the public. People come in all shapes and sizes. The facts is that “The average American woman is 5’4 and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11 and weighs 117 pounds. That means models are thinner than 98% of all American women” (Scherer 40). In Sharlene Biber’s book, Am I Thin Enough Yet? , college girls explain how the influence of the media affects their body image. A college girl said, “I would see these thin girls in the magazines and say I want to be like that.
I would look at myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw” (Hesse). TECHNOLOGY The huge advances in digital technology and their effects on visualization make it harder to see what is real in the advertisement. Our perception of reality is shaped by how computer graphics specialist interpret their idea of reality to us. Photoshop creates an illusion of what a body should look like. This has a greater effect on women because there is a bigger cultural pressure on women to conform to an ideal body shape. These false images have a impact on women as they perceive an unrealistic image, causing it to impact their self esteem.
The idealized images of women created by photoshop makes women feel insecure about their appearance. ??? The Self Schema Theory focuses on how individuals process the content of media messages. It is a way to see how the media affects a person’s concept of self, a person’s mental representation to make her distinctive from others. People develop their sense of self thorough reflecting on their own behaviors from observing reactions of others to the self; to see which aspects of the self are most valued. According to a study by Irving in 1990, female college students were asked to rate the importance of social pressure.
Irving found that the most powerful source of social pressure was the ‘media’, followed by ‘peers’ and then followed by ‘family’ (Grogan). These young women were aware of the media pressuring them to be slim. Using Victoria’s Secret as an example they affect women by showing women a thin body type in their advertisement. They introduce their advertisement in many different ways: billboards, website, fashion show and social media. Often, women buy from Victoria’s Secret because they see the advertisement and they feel self-conscious about themselves, thinking that it will make them look better.
Advertisements and the media set out with only one intention: to make a profit. However, along the way they are altering the reality of body image and leading girls to believe beauty is only skin deep. Every year the Victoria’s Secret angels fall from heaven and parade around in only bras and underwear for the broadcast of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. The angeles’ “perfection” leave women questioning what “perfection” really is. As millions of women watch the fashion show, transfixed by the gorgeous models, they can not help but ask themselves, “Why can’t I look like that?
Also, these models are portrayed as ethereal, goddess like, out of this world and what some consider “perfect. ” Women tend to compare their bodies to these beautiful Victoria Secret Models. By the end of the show women’s and young girls’ self esteem is most likely out the door. Victoria Secret models have been noted to represent women who embrace their sexuallity and feel confident in their own skin. But a question many of us ask is why wouldn’t these women feel confident if they already do have the “perfect” bodies? A study claims that women already feel pressured to be beautiful by the age of 14.
By the time they are 29 years of age that number increases by 90% (Granja). The toxic combination of the media, advertising, and celebrity culture can account for a huge percentage of influence on body image on society. Models are seen as perfection making women think that models never suffer from body image since they were born with the ‘perfect’ body, but models also suffer from body image. Erin Heatherton who was a Victoria’s Secret model has opened up about how the pressure to fill demands of perfectionism left her struggling with body image.
During her career in the Victoria Secret industry she was pressured to lose weight because her weight was no acceptable although she was already thin. She started to work very hard by eating healthy and exercising everyday to get the idealized body the industry were looking from her. She said in an interview, “I was really depressed because I was working so hard and I felt like my body was resisting me, and I got to a point where one night I got home from a workout and I remember staring at my food and thinking maybe I should just not eat. (Ross).
Although the models look perfect they also suffer like millions of women do with body image. Research suggests the conclusion that the media indeed has an affect on young teens and women body image. Research suggests that more young girls and women will acquire a healthy, positive body image and self esteem if the media wasn’t showing unrealistic and perceptions of what women suppose to look like.
The Victoria Secret Models may be very appealing women in the world, but all women have beautiful qualities that make them unique. Attractive outward appearance is a quality that is desired, but a woman should love herself for what she has, rather than dwelling on what she doesn’t. The media should realize that the types of “beauty” messages they are sending to young women. Women are surrounded by these visuals every day and they believe that they must look thin to be able to be accepted in society.