Reforming the Definition of Beauty

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Reforming the Definition of Beauty:
The Use of Real Women in the Media and their Affect on Body Dissatisfaction and Eating Disorders in Women

Kate Ray
Psychology 101

The media is a powerful tool of communication in today’s society. It has been argued that the media is one of the most potent messengers of this society’s idea of an ideal body for women. Women see the thin models used in today’s advertisements and are driven to dislike and be dissatisfied with their own bodies for not conforming to this idea of beauty. Many studies have been done to examine the relationship between the media and body dissatisfaction, as well as the link between eating disorders among women and media exposure. However, researchers have yet to investigate the affects of simply changing the type of model used within advertisements. Through the use of advertisements, from Dove and Glamour’s campaigns for real beauty, this study investigates how average size women, used as models in advertisements, affect the rate of body dissatisfaction and eating disorder expectancy within the women who view them.

Introduction
We are all born into a pre-established culture of shared ideas about the nature of reality, the nature of right and wrong, and the evaluation of what is beautiful. These definitions of desire, attractiveness, and the idea of the “ideal body” for women have significantly evolved throughout the years. In the 40’s and 50’s women wished to obtain the curvy hourglass shape of actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Pin-thin model, Twiggy, became “The Face of ‘66” and women worldwide envied her skinny shape. Slim and toned models like Christie Brinkley defined the 70’s and 80’s. Models like Kate Moss were introduced in the 1990’s and women strove to obtain their waiflike look. Women of today envy the models and actresses with thin yet curvy figures, a combination that is difficult for many women to attain. But no matter what size or shape is seen as beautiful, women are constantly under pressure to fit this idea of the “ideal body” portrayed through the media. Past research has confirmed the popular belief that exposure to media images and advertisements of females attractiveness increases a women’s body image disturbance (Heinberg & Thompson, 1995). Many women feel that if they can conform to this ideal figure they will be just as desirable and sexy as the women they see in countless advertisements, television shows, and movies. With this pressure to fit a cookie-cutter shape, women are driven to become dissatisfied with their natural figures for not conforming to the ideal notion of beauty. Due to this, body dissatisfaction among girls and women today is increasingly common; over 80% of women in college settings report body dissatisfaction (Spitzer, Henderson, Zivian, 1999) and 76.8% of adolescent girls report wanting to be thinner (Ricciardelli & McCabe, 2001). Further, studies have also shown a direct link between body dissatisfaction and the development of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, among women (Garner, Rockert, Olmsted, Johnson & Coscina, 1985). We must put a stop to this dangerous trend. Over the past 10 years, a handful of advertisement companies have stepped up with the noble goal of reversing the effects of body dissatisfaction as a result of unrealistic figures shown in the media. Advertisement companies, such as Dove, and magazine publishers, like those of Glamour magazine, have begun campaigns in attempts to define beauty through the use of real, natural, and beautiful women as models in their advertisements. Throughout the years, many studies have been done regarding body dissatisfaction among women and the link between body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. However, researchers have yet to study how this new wave of positive advertisement in the media affects the women who view them. Additionally, scientific studies have not examined how these “real beauty”...
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