Body Image

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Our world is media-saturated: ads, TV, radio, internet, movies, magazines, newspapers, billboards, video games. Media sends messages on several levels: written words which people think are most important but they really aren't and images which are much more powerful and create an ongoing debate about whether the portrayal f women in advertising is a serious issue. Various studies have been conducted and many opinions are available on this subject. As an example, Jean Kilbourne, (cited by Robin Gerber) a famous media activist of raising awareness about the exploitation of women in advertising claims that:" the overwhelming presence of media images of painfully thin women means that the real women's bodies have become invisible in the mass media"(Bordo,2002,pp.379). This statement clearly implies that the constant exposure of images and texts suggesting the idea that the thinner a woman is, the better she is has a strong influence on females in particular, that contributes to eating disorders and low self esteem issues. In my opinion, this assertion is really valuable, and I totally agree with it for many reasons. I will start by giving an overview of the articles proposed, then examine and analyze some advertisements. This analysis will lead me to present the impact that media images have on the way women perceive themselves; and whether this may be related to the recent increase in the incidence of eating disorders amongst them. An important article by Robin Gerber, "Beauty and body image in the media" 2006 was proposed. It deals with the overexposure of women in the media, representing unattainable beauty standards. Gerber claims that Media purveyors promote the message that unrealistic thinness equals sexiness and popularity, thus beauty. He argues: "women's magazines are full of articles urging that if they can just lose those last twenty pounds, they'll have it all-the perfect marriage, loving children, great sex and a rewarding career" (Gerber, 2006). The author also observes that these images are being taken to extremes in the fashion industry, displaying tall silhouettes and skeletal bodies that each woman tends to attain despite health-related risks. For instance, "one out of four college aged women uses unhealthy methods of weight control."(Gerber, 2006). Consequently, Gerber defines thinness as a culture, blaming media of causing hazardous effects on one's body. This issue is also mentioned in "The Globalization of Eating Disorders" by Susan Bordo (Bordo, 2002). As the title implies, the author analyzes the true causes of rising eating disorders. She points at the fact that results of eating disorders find its origin in media power. Indeed, Bordo explains that advertisements are not as innocent as they seem (Bordo, 2002). on the contrary, they contribute to the image of women culture shapes: "they are never just pictures[…].they speak to young people not just about how to be beautiful but also about how to become what the dominant culture admires, values, rewards." (Bordo, 2002, pp.370).To strengthen her statement, she even shows the results of a conducted research that clearly proves the considerably harmful effects of media on a whole culture. This research was conducted in the Fiji islands, highlighting and comparing women's behavior towards their bodies before and after having access to television. "Until that time, Fiji had no reported cases of eating disorders […] just three years after the station began broadcasting, 62 percent of the girls surveyed reported dieting during the previous months"(Bordo,2002,pp.371). The most important assertion resulting from all the research and observations Bordo makes is that body image problems became generalized, affecting the whole wide world. In 1913, Webster's dictionary defined beauty as "properties pleasing the eye, the ear, the intellect, and the moral sense" (Webster, 1913). Nowadays, the...
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