Convincing Women Not to Idealize the Thin Ideal

Topics: Female body shape, Body image, Advertising Pages: 9 (3420 words) Published: January 31, 2006
Body image is can be described as how a person perceives their physical appearance, how they feel about their body, and how they think others view them (Holmstrom, 2004) Marcia Hutchinson (1985), author of the book Transforming Body Image states, "Our body image is formed out of every experience we have ever had - parents, role models, and peers who give us an idea of what it is like to love and value a body. Image is formed from the positive and the negative feedback from people whose opinions matter to us. It is also the way we ourselves have perceived our body to fit or not fit the cultural image." Body image influences behavior, self-esteem, and people's psyche. When people feel bad about their bodies, their satisfaction and mood plummet. If people are constantly trying to push, reshape or remake their bodies, their sense of self becomes unhealthy. People lose confidence in their abilities. Unfortunately, the media pushes an unnatural body type, making it difficult for many people to accept natural beauty in others and themselves. Research has shown that there is a definite link between body image and the media, especially in advertising. Advertisers often emphasize sexuality and the importance of physical attractiveness in an attempt to sell products, but researchers are concerned that this places too much pressure on women and men to focus on their appearance. Researchers suggest advertising media may adversely impact women's body image, which can lead to unhealthy behavior as women and girls strive for the ultra-thin body idealized by the media (Tiggemann & McGill, 2004). Advertising images have also been recently accused of setting unrealistic ideals for males, and men and boys are beginning to risk their health to achieve the well-built media standard. Little research has attended to the effects of media exposure on males' body image. However, there was a recent study done by Agliata and Tantleff-Dunn (2004) that explored this issue. The study exposed 158 male undergraduates at a large open-enrollment university in the southeast to television advertisements containing either male images or neutral images that were inserted between segments of a 30-minute television program. Mood and body dissatisfaction were measured after viewing the television program and advertisements. Participants were asked to place a vertical mark across a 10 centimeter horizontal line anchored with the labels "no distress" on the far left and "extreme distress" on the far right to represent how they felt at that time. The findings suggest that exposure to media images of the ideal male body, which is lean and muscular, can have damaging effects on mood and body satisfaction in men. The results indicate that exposure to "ideal" images of attractiveness via television advertisements can significantly increase a man's muscles dissatisfaction, whereas exposure to non-appearance advertisements shows no effects on body dissatisfaction. Still, the most serious problems with body image occur in females. Eating disorders such as bulimia is one of those serious problems. Research show that the more dissatisfied women are about their body image, the more bulimic symptoms they report, such as binge eating, purge dieting, and use of laxatives to control weight (Pelletier, Dion, & Levesque, 2004). The thin-ideal is not only falsely associated with attractiveness, but it is also associated with different characteristics such as being interesting, strong, poised, kind, socially outgoing, and sexually warm (Pelletier et al., 2004). Endorsement of these beliefs is likely to lead women to develop an ideal body image to which they will compare their actual self. Again, because this standard is often too extreme, many women feel dissatisfied with their body image. Countering the effects of the media on body image would not be an easy task. Some form of media is everywhere, and girls and women are highly exposed it. The average woman sees 400...

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