Body Image

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The media negatively influences body image for women in American society.

“Many women in the United States pressure themselves to look like females from magazine editorials but fail to realize that these women whom they have grown to envy don’t actually exist.”

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S and almost 50% of these people meet the criteria for depression. One of the main causes stem from cultural pressures of living in the United States, where body image proves to be of great importance to many American citizens. Body image has always been an issue among Americans and whether it is negative or positive, it has been shaped by numerous factors. One of the most common factors is the media, which can heavily influence one’s perception of the ideal body in a variety of ways. The media helps to promote the cultural drive to thinness. “It is nearly impossible to open a newspaper or magazine, listen to the radio, shop at a mall or turn on a TV without being confronted with the message that to be fat is to be undesirable” states Rader Programs. In fact, one quarter of all television commercials convey a message related to attractiveness. There have also been studies that prove that music videos featuring thin women resulted in a jump in body image dissatisfaction (Media Influence). We as the American society have gotten accustomed to seeing beauty portrayed by “stick-thin” actresses and models and although there has always been a “want” to be thinner, in recent years there has been a growing acceptance of full-figured or plus sized woman in the media, including advertisements for popular brands. Many of these campaigns are an attempt to challenge our cultures definition of beauty by reaching out to “real” women, the women who don’t fit the standard definition of beauty. Many can agree that the issue regarding body image is a factor that greatly defines the American society.

One’s perception of the ideal body has been shaped in more ways than one. Body image has always been an issue among Americans. Prior quotes that “cases of anorexia grew by 35% each 5 years between 1950 to 1984.” Although the statistics of today are not as shocking as they were in the past, it is evident that the women of today still seem to follow the idea that “thin is in”. During the 1970s, anorexia was thought to be a rare occurrence but by the mid-1980s, eating disorders had become the 3rd most common health problem for adolescent females (A Look at Body Image Issues for Women Through History). Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating among other eating disorders, are extremely serious. Though they can be caused by many things including biological and psychological factors, social pressures are still relevant.

The ages where people begin to feel more self-conscious about their bodies are becoming younger and younger, which is no surprise, given that many young girls are taught to play with Barbie’s from the age of three. As fun as Barbie dolls are for kids, they too can create a perception of beauty among children given Barbie’s unrealistic proportions which include large hips and busts and an impossibly tiny waist. In fact, according to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25 and 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight.

Toys, adolescents are also greatly influenced by celebrities. Many celebrities are seen as role models, especially for younger girls, who have a tendency of wanting to be exactly like their favorite actress, model, or singer. This is a problem because many celebrities, especially models, are sometimes on the verge of being unhealthy. The majority of runway models are considered to be anorexic by Body Mass Index criteria. The well-known model and actress Kate Moss is 30% below her...
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