Women and Societies Views on Weight

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In the American culture, women are starving, and gorging themselves, their children, and their loved ones. Some women hate and want to get rid of everything that makes them female; a pear shaped body and curves (Keresey). Many eating disorder specialists agree that chronic dieting is a direct consequence of the social pressure on American females to achieve a nearly impossible thinness. Women are taught from childhood to judge the worth of their bodies looking at an emaciated standard of beauty, which the media has been blamed for upholding and possibly even creating (Schneider). To explore the broader context of this controversial issue, this paper draws upon several aspects on how common body dissatisfaction in adolescent females is, and also reflects upon research that presents several important ideas regarding the connection between the mass media and body dissatisfaction.

"Body image is the subjective sense people have of their own appearance and their body"(Body). "Body dissatisfaction is defined as a subject's satisfaction with their bodies" (Lewis). People tend to have a distorted sense of their own body (Body). Perceptions about body images are shaped from a variety of experiences and begin to develop in early childhood. It has been shown that children learn to favor thin body shapes by the time they enter school. "By the age of 10, most girls are afraid of becoming fat (Body)." Overall body size and image concerns have been reported to be more prevalent among females than males. Gender related differences in acceptable body size are shaped from a variety of societal definitions of appealing shapes for males and females. Girls are taught to focus on the external aspects of themselves. "Learning to do their hair, polish their nails and paint their faces, is virtually a rite of passage into womanhood in the American culture"(Body). "Boy's, on the other hand are taught to focus on their athletic abilities rather than there looks" (Body). Many males' report being unhappy with some aspect of their body, but concern about body weight appears to be a far more common and more important aspect of body dissatisfaction by females than males. Survey data indicates that about one-half to three-quarters of females who are normal in weight consider themselves to be overweight (Lewis).

Researchers have observed that while a boy learns to view his body as a means for achieving power and control in the world, while a girl learns that a main function of her body is to attract others (Lask). Many advertisements lead girls to believe that they must be found thin to be attractive. As girls grow older and their body changes, they become increasingly dissatisfied with their bodies and consistently desire to be thinner. The appearances of models in the media may send a dangerous message about eating disorders, but fashion, and fitness magazines, and some television shows with thin characters also play a part in influencing irregular eating patterns of young women (DeGroat). Most surveys state that symptoms of women's eating disorders are stronger for magazine reading than from television viewing. However women that watch television shows with thin women in them, shows a woman's drive for thinness (DeGroat). Watching shows with heavy women shows that women are concerned with their body dissatisfaction (DeGroat). Either way you look at it, media influences both. Kristen Harrison, an assistant professor of communication studies has many things to say about media influence on eating disorders. She says,"…Instead, the overall emphasis on feminine thinness exemplified by multiple media depictions of slender models and actresses should be considered for its possible influence on disordered eating" (DeGroat).

Food plays a major role in a woman's life. For females, food is depicted as a reward or a way of socializing. But women are also taught that they are supposed to be thin and fit, yet this is difficult to...
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