The Influence of Media on Perception of Beauty

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The influence of the media on our perception of female beauty

Defining beauty is not without its challenges: look up the definition of beauty in any english dictionary and one will be met with an ambiguous description similar to this:

''A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense''

(Newman 2010) acknowledges the dilemma in asking what beauty is. She maintains ''we grope around the edges of the question as if trying to get a toe-hold on a cloud''. We know it when we see it, or so we think. Philosophers construct beauty as a moral equation (Newman 2010). Plato once said that what is beautiful is good. Poets reach for the lofty, according to (Newman 2010). Jean Pullman wrote ''true beauty is how she acts, true beauty is inside.'' Others are more definite in their definition. When people approach plastic surgeons and announce ''make me beautiful'' what they are asking for are high cheekbones and a stronger jawline (Davis 2011). Scientifically beauty is seen as health. According to (Newman 2010):

''It's a billboard saying 'I am healthy and fertile, and I can pass on your genes.''

Our personal perceptual process plays a large part in what we deem to be beautiful. Perception refers to the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses (Merriam-Webster 2010). The sensory receptors that are involved are skin, mouth, ears, nose and eyes and they inform our sense of touch, taste, hearing, smell and sight. The media has brought with it wonderful advantages in certain aspects of people's lives but it has also brought with it a very alarming detriment, and this is a change and influence in society's perception of beauty.

Through the media unrealistic images of western ideals of beauty are transmitted out all over the world. Advertisements, magazine articles and modern hollywood are the driving force behind the influence of the public's perception of ideal beauty (Hoffman 2004). From magazines and billboards to film and television advertisements, it is fair to say that images of unattainable body ideals are everywhere for all to see. The age of technology has meant that there is more access and exposure to these images. According to (Tornambe 2010) movie icons in the 1950's and 1960's that appeared on the silver screen were admired and adored, but never copied like today. Because it was understood that they lived a life far different from the average person. Fast forward to the present, where people are bombarded by images of the daily life of celebrities thanks to online social media websites like twitter and facebook, blogs and online magazines. This has created an intimate relationship between celebrities and the public (Tornambe 2010). This relationship has changed society's view on beauty because now that celebrities are on our level, doesn't that mean we can be like them?

Women in particular experience the brunt of media pressure. From reading magazine articles and advertisements that feature women that are models who are underweight and beautiful, they feel that they need to look like that to be happy and successful (Hoffmann 2004). This can create an unhealthy body image for women. Body image is the perception that one has about oneself (Martin 2009). This perception can be either positive or negative.The average height of a female fashion model is 5 ft 10 inches and weighs 110lbs (Waltz 2004). The average woman is 5 ft 4 inches in height and weighs a healthy 145lbs, yet the media glorifies the former as ideal. The perception that to look like a model will make one happier and confident has led to an increase in eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, as women starve themselves or make themselves sick to aid in faster weight loss (Waltz 2004). Unsurprisingly, eating disorders are a growing epidemic and since 1970, the number of those with eating disorders has increased by a staggering 400% (National Eating Disorder Organisation...
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