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Media, Body Image And Self-Worth

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Running Head: (MEDIA, BODY IMAGE AND SELF-WORTH)





Media, Body Image and Self-Worth
How the Media Influences the Development of a Woman’s Self-Esteem

Every women’s dream… to be 5’10, 115 pounds or underweight as to be considered thin, have long slender legs, a flat stomach and to have generously proportioned breasts. Why? Simply because media has deceived young women into thinking as though that is the standard of beauty, and every woman wants to be beautiful. This generation of young women and girls are plagued with the dissatisfaction of their bodies. They struggle with body image, low self-esteem, and dieting. What causes their self-hatred for their bodies? A selection of sources show the outcome that media has on women in America and around the world.
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Beauty and Body Image in the Media. (N.D.). Retrieved September 18, 2004. from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/women_and_girls.
This web site is about the standards of beauty being imposed on women, and the effects that those standards have on average women. It states that exposure to media images of thin, young, air-brushed female bodies is linked to depression, loss of self-esteem and the development of unhealthy eating habits in women. Women are sold to the diet industry by the magazines we read and the television we watch, almost all of which make women feel anxious about their weight. Media images of female beauty are unattainable for all but a very small number of women. This article uses an example of how if a woman had Barbie-doll proportions, her back would be too weak to support the weight of her upper body, and her body would be too narrow to contain more than half a liver and a few centimeters of bowel. A real women built that way would suffer from chronic diarrhea and eventually die from malnutrition. Television and movies reinforce the importance of a thin body as a measure of a woman’s’ worth.
Berger, J., (2002). Tradition vs. TV (Indications). Family Practice News, 32, 59. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Wed database.
Berger looks at the true to life evidence of television’s ability to convince young girls that “super-thin bodies are cool.” She goes on to explains how in the Fiji Islands 2000 years of tradition were overcome by 3 years of TV images. No longer do girls want their culturally traditional robust physique, but now 69% of girl’s admire and diet to achieve a slender body like those seen on TV.
Body Image & Advertising. (N.D.). Retrieved September 18, 2004, from http://www.mediascope.org/pubs/ibriefs/bia.htm
This website states that advertisements emphasize thinness as a standard for female beauty, and the bodies idealized in the media are frequently uncharacteristic of normal, healthy women. Magazine models influence women’s idea of the perfect body shape. The persistent acceptance of this unrealistic body type creates an unrealistic standard for the majority of women. Women frequently compare their bodies to those they see around them, and the exposure to idealized body images lower women's satisfaction with their own attractiveness. Dissatisfaction with their bodies causes many women and girls to strive to be thin.
Body Image Statistics. (N.D.) Retrieved September 18, 2004, from http://womenissues.about.com/cs/bodyimage/a/bodyimagestats.htm
This article states statistics showing how many girls struggle with eating disorders, how the media pushes the unnatural body type making it difficult for us to accept natural beauty, and what percent of children are influenced to be thin.
Casey, J., (2004). The Media Does Not Contribute to the Incidence of Eating Disorders. Opposing Viewpoints: Eating Disorders, 1, 1. Retrieves September 18, 2004, from Opposing Viewpoints database.
In this article, Casey disagrees with Dr. Vivienne Nathanson who in her study concludes that images of thinner-than-average women are a significant cause of eating disorders. Casey believes that the media is a world of fantasy that has no direct relation to life, and all who view it need to keep that in mind. He goes on to compare the media to art. Casey states that it would be naпve to think that the fleshly, voluptuous reclining nudes of Rubens had the effect of encouraging young women of the 17th century to stuff themselves with fatty food. Casey resorts to the conclusion that Dr. Nathanson and others if they cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality are just playing the anxiety game.
Green, J., (2004). Women beware: Dangerous messages in the checkout line. Pentecostal Evangel, 9/19/2004, 6-7.
Green’s article believes that magazines along with television and films tell women that their bodies need to be “fixed.” She states that continual exposure to the media produces a body dissatisfaction rate higher that 60 percent among high school students and 80 percent among college students, and a study that was done found that the more frequently girls read magazines, the more likely they were to diet. Green uses the testimony of a girl named Kate to support her belief.
Harrison, K., (2003). Television viewer’s ideal body proportions: The case of the curvaceously thin woman. Sex Roles New York, 48, 255-264. Retrieved September18, 2004, from ProQuest database.
Harison’s article reveals the results of various surveys and experiments. The results show that exposure to media images of the female body ideal is linked among female audience members to the desire to be slimmer, and have a poorer body image.
Henderson-King, D., & Henderson-King, E., (1997). Media effects on Women’s body esteem: social and individual difference factors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27, 399. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac, Web database.
This article is about a study that examined individual difference and social factors in moderating the effects of media images on women’s body satisfaction. The findings demonstrate that media images do not similarly affect all women’s body esteem.
Media exposure drives how satisfied women and girls are about body image.
Pharma Business Week, 1, 13. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Web database.
This article states that brief exposure to thin-ideal media images has been shown to have a small but consistent negative impact on women and girls’ body dissatisfaction. A study was done where 80 young women viewed either 20 appearance-related TV commercials, containing female thin ideals, or 20 non-appearance commercials. For girls, initial body dissatisfaction change in response to viewing appearance commercials at time 1 predicted subsequent body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness 2 years later, above and beyond the variance predicted by initial body dissatisfaction.
Rabak-Wagener, J., Eickhoff-Shemek, J., & Kelly-Vance, L., (2004).
Participation in a media analysis program helped young women change their beliefs about body image, but their behaviors stayed similar.
Journal of American College Health, 47, 29. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from RDS database.
This article is about a study that was done with an intervention group and a comparison group of undergraduate college students. It was conducted to investigate whether analyzing and reframing fashion advertisements changed the students’ attitudes and behaviors of their own body images. The results of this study showed a significant change in beliefs among those in the intervention group but no significant change in behavior. The comparison group showed no significant change in beliefs or behaviors.
Simplistic explanations regarding women and body image neglect other factors.
Mental Health Weekly Digest, 1, 16. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Web database.
This article states that women do not develop eating disorders from the social cultural pressure put on them by the media, but the media just gets blamed for spreading the message that women must be thin and for making women feel bad about themselves. The article goes on to say state that, “women voluntarily expose themselves to thin media images” (Policy, 2004, 16). This exposure can be pleasurable and most women do not develop eating disorders from it.
Spaeth Cherry, S., (2004). Parents Can Help Prevent Eating Disorders. Opposing Viewpoints: Eating Disorders, 1, 1. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from Opposing Viewpoints Resource center.
Spaeth Cherry explains in this article how parents can prevent eating disorders. One of the ways she describes is to avoid buying magazines that feature extremely thin models. Spaeth Cherry explains how young teens, which are usually susceptible to media influence, tend to use slender celebrities as role models for how they themselves should look. Movies, TV shows, music videos, magazine articles and ads for health clubs and weight loss programs perpetuate appearance standards that young women adopt, but may not be able to meet. TV food ads: thin actors make then thin on reality.
Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 19, 2. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Web database.
This article states that trim people are shown on TV testing high-calorie meals and snacks, adding to the misconception that it’s possible to eat like a typical American but not have the typical American body. It also states that the ads don’t cause our eating behaviors but do reinforce them, making it seem that you can eat a high-calorie, high-sugar, high-fat diet and still look like a super model. You can’t.
Walling, A., (1990). Teenagers and Television. American Family Physician, 42, 638. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Web database.
In this article it is estimated that young women watch about 22 hours of television each week. The overall influence of television on teenagers is hard to assess because of personal and industry bias. It was stated that a woman’s value is highly influenced by her physical attractiveness, but was advised that more research is needed.
* * *
As young women grow up it is a time for learning. This time can be easier to handle by some than others. For some it can be a revelation of new experiences and ideas, but for other it can also be a difficult, stressful time for those trying to discover themselves. This can affect themselves as well as those around them. During this time, young women are likely to identify with those around them, their peers. Identifying with peers can help young women along by giving them the opportunity to see how others deal with problems similar to their own and by offering their own advice to those who need it. Along with this, young women are liable to worry about their body image, and may want to conform to those who have achieved the “desired” image. This image may be thin, muscular, or just average. This can be attributed to the media’s portrayal of women (Body Image & Advertising). The majority of women in ads; television, movies, and magazines are thin and are seen as attractive because of this. Young women will see these women and may want their image as their own, and some will go to any lengths to acquire this (Harrison, K). This in turn could lead to the idea that during this process of change and growing up, young women are often concerned about their physical image, which is influenced by the media (ibid).
Young women may want to change their body image for a number of reasons. When women compare themselves to models and pictures of people in advertisements, they believe the only way they will get noticed is if they also appear the in the same image of the models (Henderson-King & Henderson-King). During adolescence, they may feel unsatisfied with their bodies and want to change how they look just to fit in (Beauty and Body Image in the Media). Also, young women look up to a number of people, namely celebrities, and try to adopt their style as their own in hopes of being able to fit in. Many celebrities are thin (Henderson-King & Henderson-King.
The media widely popularizes the female figure as very thin. This all has its roots to 1959 and the introduction of the Barbie Doll and then in 1967 the “waif look” entered our society when Leslie Hornby, known as Twiggy, began showing up in the media. The majority of actresses throughout the history of media have been thin (Beauty and Body Image in the Media). Many of today’s personalities are thin, and with the newer shows and movies coming out, it is often rare to find an actress with an “average” built body. Because of this fact, many people will be influenced by shows whose characters are stereotypical of women; all are thin and viewed as beautiful. In the popular show Friends, the 3 female leads, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow, all have thin builds. One might conclude that only those who are thin will become famous. This may appeal to young women girls because they may want to be thin if they see that this seems to be the norm in society.
According to Health Weekly Digest it is asserted that young women voluntarily expose themselves to thin media and the media just gets blamed for spreading the message that women must be thin. Casey believes that the media is a world of fantasy that has no direct relation to life, and all who view it need to keep that in mind. He goes on to compare the media to art. Henderson-King & Henderson-King also allude to this by examining other factors that moderate the effects of media images on a young women’s body esteem.
A popular pastime of young women is reading magazines. In these magazines, they look for ways to make themselves more attractive to others, sometimes by wearing the latest fashions or wearing makeup. Magazines today are full of models and advertisements. It is rare to find a model that is not tall and thin, given the fact that most designers tailor to the needs of tall, thin women (Green, J.). Whenever a woman is in an advertisement, she is usually wearing the latest fashions, whether or not the advertisement itself is for fashion. Usually she is very thin, as models are used in advertisements, and, in order to be a model, a slim build is almost next to necessary (ibid). Young women are then concerned with their own image when seeing others their age as they are depicted in the media and believe that that is how they should appear to their peers (Berger, J.).
“In our current cultural context ‘thin’ has come to represent much more than physical beauty. A thin body has become synonymous with self-discipline, success, and control” (Rabak-Wagener, J., Eickhoff-Shemek, J., & Kelly-Vance, L.). This ideal that has become so common in society can often lead vulnerability. With all of the models in the media spotlight, sometimes they are so made up that it is not their beauty that attracts an audience, but that certain “look” that a company is trying to get across.
The media can have certain effects on people. Some of these effects are becoming everyday norms in our culture and society. Cherry Spaeth criticizes the media for instilling these unachievable images in the minds of young people
Everyone is exposed to these cultural pressures, but some people are more susceptible than others to allow poor self-esteem and emptiness to take over their lives. Vulnerability leads to emotional eating or starvation, which does not fulfill the need of acceptance. This is how eating disorders usually begin. Young women see these unrealistic images and believe that they should look like that and that they need to be “fixed” (Green, J.).
Some young women may be content with their body image, despite these findings. Those who do admit to having a problem have numerous ways that they can go to for help. Many young women can be influenced to have a positive body image despite all of the negative media influences. Cherry Spaeth explains how parents can prevent eating disorders and a negative body image.


Refrences
Beauty and Body Image in the Media. (N.D.). Retrieved September 18, 2004. from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/women_and_girls...
Berger, J., (2002). Tradition vs. TV (Indications). Family Practice News, 32, 59. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Wed database.
Body Image & Advertising. (N.D.). Retrieved September 18, 2004, from http://www.mediascope.org/pubs/ibriefs/bia.htm
Body Image Statistics. (N.D.) Retrieved September 18, 2004, from http://womenissues.about.com/cs/bodyimage/a/bodyimagestats.htm
Casey, J., (2004). The Media Do Not Contribute to the Incidence of Eating Disorders. Opposing Viewpoints: Eating Disorders, 1, 1. Retrieves September 18, 2004, from Opposing Viewpoints database.
Green, J., (2004). Women beware: Dangerous messages in the checkout line. Pentecostal Evangel, 9/19/2004, 6-7.
Harrison,K., (2003). Television viewer’s ideal body proportions: The case of the curvasiously thin woman. Sex Roles New York, 48, 255-264. Retrieved September18, 2004, from ProQuest database.
Henderson-King, D., & Henderson-King, E., (1997). Media effects on Women’s body esteem: social and individual difference factors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27, 399. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac, Web database.
Media exposure drives how satisfied women and girls are about body image. Pharma Business Week, 1, 13. Retrieved September 18,2004, from InfoTrac Web database.
Rabak-Wagener, J., Eickhoff-Shemek, J., & Kelly-Vance, L., (2004). Participation in a media analysis program helped young women change their beliefs about body image, but their behaviors stayed similar. Journal of American College Health, 47, 29. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from RDS database.
Simplistic explanations regarding women and body image neglect other factors. Mental Health Weekly Digest, 1, 16. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Web database.
Spaeth Cherry, s., (2004). Parents Can Help Prevent Eating Disorders. Opposing Viewpoints: Eating Disorders, 1, 1. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from Opposing Viewpoints Resource center.
TV food ads: thin actors make then thin on reality. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 19, 2. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Web database.
Walling, A., (1990). Teenagers and Television. American Family Physician, 42, 638. Retrieved September 18, 2004, from InfoTrac Web database.

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