Self image is a very important problem in the social work field. The way you see and feel about yourself is vital to the success and happiness of a person. Attaining a positive body image is important because there are many aspects of life that are affected by how individuals perceive themselves. We encounter individuals that may have poor or negative self images that may lead to eating disorders and depression. It is important to research how different cultures view body image, the effect of media and stereotypes in order for us to effectively assist our clients. The purpose of this research is to determine whether if there is a difference in how African Americans and Caucasians view body image. In an earlier literature review, Yale nursing students discovered that African Americans view obesity positively and relate it to attractiveness, sexual desirability, body image, strength or goodness, self esteem, and social acceptability. However in the same literature review, Caucasians viewed obesity as unattractive, socially undesirable, and related to poor body image and decreased self esteem. African American individuals face much bias and discrimination in their lives due to the attitudes and discriminatory actions of people today and the necessity of meeting the Caucasian standard of beauty. This paper is to uncover reasons why there is such a difference in the way African Americans and Caucasians view body image. The paper will examine what social theories apply to this problem and why they are relevant. The independent variable is the attitudes toward the obese and the dependant variables are culture, media, and stereotypes. The variables defined are; Culture the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people. Media the various means of mass communication considered as a whole, including television, radio, magazines, and newspapers, together with the people involved in their production. Stereotype is an oversimplified standardized image of a person or group. The study is important because in can assist individuals in broadening their views of the self image and limit bias and discrimination toward obesity. Since early in time both African Americans and Caucasians have had very different perspectives on ideal body image. African Americans believed that a positive body image is equivalent to a full shapely physique and Caucasians attribute an ideal body to be long and slender. Our greatest concern is do factors such as media, culture, and stereotypes affect the way we view ourselves as well as they way we view others.
To demonstrate how these factors affect body images of both African Americans and Caucasians this literature review will uncover the historical background of body image, how culture affects how body image is perceived, how the media sways our views on obesity, and how stereotypes affect why we believe people suffer from obesity. The primary purpose is to discover previous evidence and research on how the media, culture, and stereotypes shape views of body image. What became apparent in the process of this review is, explaining historically where the idea of ideal body image came from. Historically in African American culture blacks were taught self hate since slavery times. The light skinned blacks with “good” hair were often “house niggers” who we able to have access to better clothing and some education. Darker skinned blacks with “bad or nappy” hair worked the fields and were mistreated more often. So not only was self hate instilled in African American culture early but so was hatred toward each other. In Caucasian history, they went through many body image trends which were all very similar. In the 20’s a small framed woman was desired, in the 40’s the women were still expected to be slim but with an hour glass shape, in the 60’s and 70’s tan and slender was preferred (Patton, 2006). Culture plays a very significant role in the way people view obesity...
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