It is funny how so many girls and women today are led to believe that the only way to feel attractive and be beautiful is to have their bodies consist of nothing but skin and bones. Women are dieting more today then they have ever been before. They are striving for an unattainable body figure that is portrayed by the media as being the ideal standard for today’s women. It gets worse. Not only are women dieting unlike ever before, but they will ruthlessly harm their bodies in order to achieve these inaccessible standards. This ruthless harm that haunts so many women today just so happens to be what we call eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are the primary diseases that go in the category of eating disorders. Who is to blame for this daunting occurrence? In most cases, the media is either some or all to blame for the eating disorder and standards placed for women. Commercials, billboards, women’s magazine ads, etc. are all forms of the media that portray negative images of women. When the women in today’s society sees what is being advertised (which happens hundreds, if not thousands of times a day) it is not so shocking that many of them strive for these impossible body images. It is when the want and desire becomes so strong that these women drive themselves to starvation and other forms of eating disorders.
In order to realize the effect that advertising is having on girls and women in society today, it is important for people to know the facts and statistics that are current about eating disorders. Eight million girls and women are affected with eating disorders (Wilson and Blackhurst 111). Among college-aged women, bulimia affects nearly one in every five (Wilson and Blackhurst 111). Most women (nearly 75%) consider themselves over weight, even though they fit the ideal weigh standards submitted by insurance companies (Wilson and Backhurst 111-112). There is something obviously wrong with these statistics. Women who subject themselves to these circumstances are fighting against their own body make-ups in order to fulfill the standards put out by the media. In order to change these staggering statistics in the future, we must examine what the media does to make girls and women obtain eating disorders.
When researchers asked one hundred eighteen female, college-aged students to look at twenty pictures in ads from women’s magazines, they felt a sudden change in mood after the pictures were observed. There was notable depression in the women, a depression that has seemed to hit many women after leafing through women’s magazines (Key and Lindgren 11). This depression is due to the fact there are so many negative messages being conveyed in advertisements that are published in women’s magazines. But who can blame the women for their depression anyway? When the majority of the ads in women’s magazines show super-skinny models advertising nice clothes, makeup, jewelry, etc., one might find themselves to be a little down. Skinny models portray their figures to be the cultural norm in Western society today. How often does one find a model in a woman’s magazine that is over a size six that is not shown advertising plus size merchandise? The answer is not very often, or sometimes never at all. If women do not see their body type being depicted in advertisements, then they are bound to feel left out and depressed. The women will be led to believe that they are not desirable to the public; therefore they must do something about the way their body looks. Unfortunately many times women turn to eating disorders to try to take care of this problem. They become anorexic, bulimic, or other types of eating disorders in a strive for body perfection. All of this melancholy just because of what society teaches women is the only acceptable way to look.
Not only do advertisements in women’s magazines use skinny models to sell their products, but they also advertise a lot of food in the magazines as well. It is funny how food products are mostly advertised in women’s magazines, not men’s magazines. Western culture knows that women are most likely to buy food over men; therefore the ads are mostly shown in women’s magazines. But, in order for women to want to buy these food products, the advertisers use certain key tactics that will appeal to most women. Advertisers know that many women today are striving to be super-thin, so are not afraid to show women that their products will fulfill their daily diets. Low-calorie, low-fat, no-fat, and fat-free are just a few of the phrases that will catch women’s attention. If women know that they will not be “sinning” or going against their diet if they buy a certain product, then they will most likely be interested in what the advertisement is trying to sell to them. Showing women food that is low in fat and calories in women’s magazines only re-iterates the notion that women are led to believe that thin is better. This kind of advertising can also lead to eating disorders because dieting and striving for thinness are two factors that are a precursor to anorexia and bulimia.
The question that needs to be researched for future examination of advertising and eating disorders among women is why does society feel the need to portray women in this manner anyway? Are thin and super skinny women what males and even females feel is attractive? If it is what they find to be attractive, then that is a lethal idea that is already killing our people. People were made to be different from each other, and if not all women are super thin like the models in the magazines, then that can be beautiful too. It is sad that not too many males or females in our society remind themselves and others that it is okay to be different, and that not everybody is obligated to live up to these false advertised standards. Western society needs to come up with a new way of portraying women and the female body (Key and Lindgren 11). What if all different body types, shapes and sizes were advertised in magazines, especially women’s magazines without being labeled “plus size?” Would that put an end to eating disorders? Probably not, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Of course not all eating disorders are caused by the media and advertising alone. Some women want to feel like they have control over something, some are trying to meet standards that have set by other places other than the media. It is important, though, to recognize the kind of effect media and advertising has on women. It is important to realize that because of what is portrayed in Western society, many women will go to great lengths (sometimes deadly lengths) just to meet these portrayals. If society wants to change what women are doing to themselves every day, than it is up to the media to start showing women today that it is okay to be who you are, big or small.
Key, Sandra W.; Lindgren, Maryclaire. “Skinny Models in Ads Cause Immediate Anger,
Depression in Women.” Women’s Health Weekly (5/11/99) 11.
Wilson, Nona L.; Blackhurst, Anne E. “Food Advertising and Eating Disorders:
Marketing Body Dissatisfaction, the Drive for Thinness, and Dieting in
Women’s Magazines.” Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education &