The Female Body Ideal through Media How do you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror? Dissatisfied?… This research paper is about the problems women have to face with their body and how they look like because of the ideal the media gives them. For me, it is really important to talk about this problem because it definitely has to change. A recent article in the Daily News said, that 87% out of 2000 girls are unhappy with their body. Only 19% of the teenagers were actually overweighed, but 67% thought they have to become thinner and 64% of the girls under thirteen already tried a diet.
Also, more than 25% of 14-year-olds thought about getting plastic surgery. And all that only because of the unrealistic body ideal the media gives us. What is considered to be beautiful? Throughout the last one hundred years, the female body ideal changed many times dramatically and with it their trends, ideals and diets. In 1910, the Gibson Girl with curves, a small waist, and eight shaped bodies was in trend, following with the Flapper Girl in 1920 that had a flat chest, no curves, was thin and focused on her legs. In the 1930s, the “soft siren” look was the ideal and that represented small curves and a round figure.
After that in the 1940s, during World War 2, the military style was in fashion. Military shoulders and pointed bras were necessary for every female. The curves are coming back in the 1950s along with the hourglass figure. During this decade, products for women to gain weight were sold. The Ideal in 1960 shows narrow hips, a doll-like a face and unlike to the 1940s, medicaments for weight loss were used. The “Party Girl” that represents a flat stomach and a slim hip, appears in the 1970s and gets replaced 1980 by the ideal to have the perfect long legs and an athletic body shape.
1990 is the decade of the unhealthy. Only really thin women that were bony matched the ideal. In 2000, it was the Buff Beauty that represented the perfect women body, whose features are long bodies and curves. And there we are at the 2010s. Right now, a slim waist, a fat booty, D-cup breasts, abs and a thigh gab reflect what is considered to be beautiful. Summarizing, every single one of these beauty ideals is not reachable and unrealistic for the majority of women, but our decade’s ideal women are more unattainable than ever.
The sociocultural standards of the female body are shown in almost every form of the media. Most of the standards are not only unreachable but unhealthy, as you can see on countless models and actresses that are obviously underweighted. The mindset “you can never be too rich or too thin” that is given to us, makes it much harder for females to achieve their goals because only a small part of women fulfills the ideal and that gives all the others the feeling that they are not beautiful, attractive or accepted in society. The media portrait has a negative impact on the way women view themselves and their confidence.
There are three different theories, the Social Comparison Theory, the Cultivation Theory and the Self Scheme Theory, that try to explain why females try to internalize with the thin ideal. The Social Comparison Theory says, that people compare themselves with other individuals and automatically judge themselves as either better or worse. The upward comparison means, that the person you compare yourself with is better than you and the downward comparison means that the individual, that you compare yourself with is not as well off than you.
There are many things individuals can compare themselves with, but mass media is one of the most common because you get confronted with it several times a day They beauty ideal of the mass media is however so unrealistic, that it is hard to go through a day as women without getting the message that you are not good enough. There out you can see, that social comparison can have many negative effects like a bad mood and body image disturbance. Furthermore gets the thin ideal internalized through this theory.
The second theory is the Cultivation Theory. It tries to explain the striving to be thin, with the explanation that the unrealistic ideal of the female body becomes the norm for several people because it is prevalent in the media all the time. It makes it seem like that only woman that match the ideal are popular, have influence and are accepted. As a result, the ideal becomes the norm and the norm becomes abnormal. The third and last theory are the Self Scheme Theory.
It contents three points, the Socially Represented Ideal Body, the Objective Body and the Internalized Ideal Body. The Socially Represented Body is the ideal the media or important persons give us, the Objective Body is our own body and how we look like and the Internalized Ideal Body is the ideal you want to achieve. For some women, the ideal body represents exactly the one that the media gives them and for others not because they know it is impossible for them to achieve it.
If there is a large gap between the individual’s body and their ideals, it is bad for their confidence and has many negative effects because it is unlikely that they are going to fulfill their goal. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to change the media’s description of the perfect body because “thinness sells” even though many organizations already try to change it. The media’s ideal of beauty gives women unrealistic goals that are impossible to fulfill and therefore some of them don’t see another way than starving.
In the last three years, the number of young adults with eating disorders doubled. Additional to the eating disorders like Anorexia or Bulimia, a low body image contributes also depression, anxiety, and other problems. But also, the usage of the media increased dramatically at the same time. About 80% of Americans watch TV every day and that usually for about 3 hours. Eight to eighteen-year-olds spend usually 7,5 hours on all forms of media every day. Surveys show that 83% of adolescent girls read fashion magazines for 4,3 hours a week.
That means that almost every single person is under the media’s huge influence if they notice it or not. Almost every time when there is an over weighted person shown on television, they get either ridiculed or are the fools, unlike the characters that have a thin body and are most likely the heroes. A study showed that female characters on shows or movies are almost every time under the recommended weight for being considered as healthy. Popular media figures show women, that it is not a big deal to eat unhealthy to stay thin, but the truth is that it is really risky.
Unfortunately eating disorders are not the worst side effect of the media. Numerous young adults’ commuted suicide because of their struggle with their own bodies and because of bullying. A study shows that 42% of the girls in the grades 1-3 try to be thinner, but at this age you should not have to worry about how you look like and if you match the ideal. However some things have already improved, for example, the new Dove campaign called Real Beauty Campaign that gives many women all over the world more confidence.
Instead of using really thin models to represent the campaign, Dove chose to use oversize models. This shows all women, that they don’t have to have 90-60-90 to be considered as beautiful and that even if they have a few more pounds they still have all the possibly the others have. But unfortunately, there are only a few companies next to Dove that that don’t follow the thin beauty ideal. Even if there is a lot changing and improving going on right now, it is still not enough. You can see it at every single Victoria Secret Campaign, where super thin models show you what “perfection” is.
But unfortunately, all these unhealthy looking women give people the idea, that this is how you have to look like to be considered to be beautiful even if it’s not the truth. When already little girls are worried, that they are not pretty or beautiful, we all definitely have to start changing the media’s influence. It is a big goal for many groups of people to change the way women get portrait by the media, for improving women’s self-esteem and for taking away their doubts about themselves. Overall you can see that the female body image has hanged dramatically in the last century and that the current ideal is almost impossible to reach at the moment.
Also does it take women’s confidence away and makes them unhappy when they try to internalize with the unreachable thin body ideal. Furthermore does the media have an obvious influence in women’s and teenager’s mind and is one of the reason why many of them have eating disorders, commit suicide or have other illnesses like depression because it gives them the impression that if they are overweighed or don’t match the media’s image, they are nothing worth and not accepted in society.
In my opinion is the impact of what is considered to be beautiful something that has to change as soon as possible because it makes people live unhealthy and gives them selfdoubts. Of course is it important to eat healthily and to sports but you should not starve yourself to match some stupid ideal. “To all the girls that think you are ugly because you are not a size 0, you are the beautiful one, it is society that’s ugly “(Marilyn Monroe) All in all, I can just say, be yourself and do what makes you happy and don’t try to change for anyone except for yourself.