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Data Commentary- Body Image

By cliff1ae Apr 27, 2011 1503 Words
Data Commentary of Fear Mongering on Body Image

Literature Review
Fear is an emotion that is stimulated by danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. Everyone is born with fear. As a child you are afraid of many things such as going down a big slide or riding a two-wheeler for the first time. These fears change and people begin to overcome the small ones in life but continue to develop more throughout their life. Fear has changed over the years and people are becoming more afraid of what is happening with our society. But why do Americans fear more now than before when Barry Glassner, a professor of society at the University of Southern California, expresses “Americans live in perhaps the safest time in human history”? This is because of all the media that is making it seem like crime rate is at its highest right now but really it is not. People are living in fear of murder and crime because of what they are hearing about or watching on television. Glassner proves this true by stating, “Between 1990 and 1998, the murder rate in the United States decreased by 20 percent. During the same period, the number of stories about murder on network newscasts increased by 600 percent”. Are Americans increasing their fear in something that is actually decreasing? Along with crime, drug use has also decreased by half in the passed decade. Even this being true adults still fear that drug abuse is one of the greatest dangers to American’s youth (Glassner). It is important for American’s to be aware of what is going on in our country but they should also be informed of the statistics that along with many others, drug abuse and crime rates have been decreasing. Glassner presents a great example, “Life expectancy in the United States has doubled during the twentieth century. We are better able to cure and control diseases than any other civilization in history. Yet we hear that phenomenal numbers of us are dreadfully ill”. Why is it necessary to overload Americans with all these fears when truly they are getting better? Kids also seem to contribute to a large amount of fear in parents. In the article, “We Protect Kids from Everything But Fear” by Paula Spencer (2007), states that parents are worrying their children with everything. Kids are being put on diets to prevent obesity by eliminating all the delicious foods children love such as regular potato chips and chocolate-chip-cookies. Children are being forced to get tutors and take extra classes over the summer to “keep it fresh”. Even protection fear of the sun is being forced onto the children by switching to long sleeved UV- protective swimwear. ( Spencer). Methodology

The more I researched about fear mongering, the more I believed it was completely true in nearly everything that people fear. I am also guilty for being influenced by the fear-mongering happening. Reading gossip magazines and watching television has developed the fear to many women of body image. After reading the example essay and searching fears of American’s, I grew very connected to this topic. The fear of body image is everywhere and everyone is guilty of insecurities. I spent many hours reading articles online about the fear of obesity and concerns body image and learned many things about the statistics behind weight gain and insecure woman of America. Findings

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention state the definition of obesity in the article “U.S. Obesity Trends”, “Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated from a person's weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories”. Obesity has been increasing over decades and even though it has slowed down a lot the passed couple of years, people still fear being obese.

There are many young women who feel they are overweight and are actually not. The expressions “I feel so fat, today”, “These jeans make me look fat”, “I have such thunder thighs” are all very common in many woman’s daily conversations. Has fear mongering been used in the media to cause women to feel insecure about there bodies? On a top ten list of fears among women from the website, weight gain was number four and the fear of no longer being attractive was number five.

Studies have been done to test women on their fear of being overweight. Mark Allen, a Brigham Young University neuroscientist constructed an experiment that took brain scans of women who were shown pictures of overweight people and noticed these images triggered a part of the brain that processes identity and self-reflection. “The results show how women are conditioned to be afraid of being fat because they are constantly bombarded with messages and images of thin being the ideal” says Mark Allen.

Being this is a time where many men and women are struggling with their weight, it is a prime opportunity for companies to come out with new weight loss products and services. They can use fear mongering to make people feel they are fat by using images of extremely good-looking people to sell their product in hope that the customer will believe they will look like that. The figure below is from BCC Research and is a chart of the market for weight loss products and services between 2007-2014.

Companies can use the fear of obesity and sell their products easier. For example, many new diet pills are coming out along with shoes that help you lose weight. Sketchers Shape Ups and Reebok Easy Tones are both shoes that work you out while you walk and every commercial has an attractive woman selling the product. The image below is an example of what many of the advertisements look like to make people who are overweight and not fit believe they can transform into. A study by Dr. Jennifer Harriger, a colleague at Pepperdine University, was done on young girls from the ages 3-5 to see how they felt about weight. She looked at how these girls felt about beauty in females and they all felt thin meant beautiful. The girls connected fat with laziness and have now friends while being thin meant they were nice, sweet and has friends. Also, in the article, Dr. Harriger shows and image of the difference between a Barbie from the 1990’s compared to the 2000’s and the image description reads, “Barbie may have changed over the years, but her body now looks like a Victoria’s Secret model”. The fear mongering about weight has also brought on eating disorders. Since people are so concerned about being obese they will do anything to look like the image media portrays women should look like. After reviewing many statistics on eating disorders, I realized how serious it really is with younger girls. “Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents” from the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Below is a graph that shows the numbers of Americans who suffer from eating disorders from the Mirror statistics webpage.

There is an endless amount of fear mongering happening and is being used towards almost everything. In “Narrative Techniques of Fear Monger”, Glassner (2004) stated “By fear mongering…TV and print newsmagazines sell themselves to viewer and readers… and corporations sell consumer products”. This quote from Glassner helps prove the point that fear mongering is used everyday and even towards advertisement. The media makes women feel the need to believe they need to look a certain way and develop a fear of their body. Women who are overweight tend to believe they won’t be successful because the media expresses strongly that attractive thin women are mostly successful and will find better happiness in life. The fear is pounded into people’s minds to make them continue to want to lose weight to the point where people are becoming underweight or developing eating disorders. There are many health problems that can result from this form of fear mongering and they need to be regulated and eventually end for good. It is important for people to be healthy because they want to feel better not lose large amounts of weight to be skinny like the media wants people to be. “Fear mongers deploy narrative techniques to normalize what are actually errors in reasoning” a quote from Glassner which is entirely true. The media is spending so much time on showing what they feel is the perfect body image when really it isn’t. The perfect body is someone who is happy with themselves and comfortable in their own skin. A person shouldn’t have to feel the need to lose weight to be like the woman on the television. It is important to stay fit and healthy but the way the fear mongering is going, there is no healthiness involved.

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