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The Media’s Effect on Women’s Body Image

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The Media’s Effect on Women’s Body Image

Women and young girls are obsessively trying to alter their appearance just to look like the perfect body images we see in movies and magazines. What is body image? Body image is how people picture themselves and how they think other people picture them. It is basically how you feel about your body, and it includes your imagination, emotions, and perception. Images portrayed by the media tend to make people strive to be someone else's idea of perfect, while ignoring their own goals. The media influences us through television, health magazines, fashion, music videos, film, commercials, and various other advertisements. Sadly, as a result, this frequent exposure, the "thin" ideal, can lead many young girls in triggering depression, stress, low self-esteem, and suicide. The media's ideal body image has led to wide-ranging effects including, surgical procedures, body dissatisfaction, and clinical eating disorders. In “Body Image of Women” by Tabitha Farrar, she points out that the “thin-ideal media” concept highlights thinness as a desirable thing to be even if it comes to the point of damaging a person’s health. Farrar indicated that marketers will do anything that they can to sell a product and make a profit. She also mentioned that poor body image can lead to depression, anxiety, problems in relationships, unhappiness, and various health problems. Farrar suggested that people can focus on their good qualities, work with self-esteem workbooks, or receive psychotherapy treatment to improve their self-esteem. She implied that negative body image does not cause eating disorders because in that case everyone would have eating disorders. Farrar noted that advocacy groups has been trying to change the way the media portrays women. Surgical procedures has become one wide-ranging effect that more and more women partake in. Many women feel pressured to conform to the beauty standards of American culture and go to great lengths to alter and distort their faces and bodies. In 2012, more than 236,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients between 13 and 19, including more than 75,000 surgical procedures such as nose reshaping, breast lifts, breast augmentation, liposuction, and tummy tucks (Zuckerman, 2012). Women who receive these procedures are usually the women with a strong self-image who are bothered by a physical characteristic that they would like to improve or change. In 2012 alone, 8,204 girls and young women between the ages of 13 and 19 underwent breast augmentation surgery, with an additional 1,591 teens receiving breast lifts (Zuckerman, 2012). Women endure these procedures in order to fit the social standards of the mass media. Another wide-ranging effect that the media puts on women is body dissatisfaction. Grogan (2008) defines body dissatisfaction as a person’s negative thoughts about his or her own body. This includes judgements about size and shape, muscle tone and generally involves a discrepancy between one’s own body type and an ideal body type. Feelings of low self-esteem and poor body image are becoming more common in young girls as they become discouraged in trying to achieve the perfect body. The 2012 All Party Parliamentary Group report on body image found that girls as young as five worry about their size and appearance and one in four seven-year-old girls have tried to lose weight at least once. The risk factors of a girl with a negative body image can include avoiding social situations, losing interest in school, or harming herself with drugs, alcohol, and unsafe tattooing and piercing. Some dissatisfaction with one’s body may be normal, but when it becomes extreme and influences how you perceive yourself then there may be a bigger problem. Eating disorders are serious medical problems which includes, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and body dysmorphic disorder. Anorexia nervosa is “characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight even while the person is severely underweight” (Steg et al, 2008). This medical condition causes a person to engage in extreme dieting or physical exercise in an attempt to lose or gain weight. Bulimia nervosa is when a person “consumes large amounts of food in a short period of time” (Steg et al, 2008). As a result of this, people engage in unsatisfying behaviors such as fasting, purging, or vomiting. People with body dysmorphic disorder “dramatically overestimate the importance of and extent to which other people notice or pay attention to flaws in their appearance” (Steg et al, 2008). Usually, this refers to a body part that they obsess over, like size and shape of a nose, or to a severely distorted body perception. The root of this cause comes from the media because they expect everyone to have the “perfect” body. As can be seen, the damaging power of the media leads to wide-ranging effects. The media will never take responsibility for their actions in portraying unrealistic expectations of body images because sexuality sells. It is the media’s exposure and their “skinny is beautiful” body image that has suppressed in young girls and women causing a drive for thinness. Igniting feelings of body dissatisfaction has caused serious health issues in these women as they struggle for the unrealistic “perfect body” image that the media is conveying. These feelings can be eased with proper education. We need to communicate to our children that the media is communicating a false conception of beauty.

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