Body Image, Women and The Media
How realistic is the media’s presentation of women?
Women and men come in all shapes and size, yet constantly the media presents us with only one ‘image’ – a very slender and unrealistic one. Only a small percentage of women actually look that way naturally. We forget when looking at these pictures that the best lighting and photographic equipment, hours with make-up artists and wardrobe assistants have been necessary to make these women look so ‘natural’.
What is the media trying to do by constantly presenting us with unrealistic images?
Deliberately convince us that we are not good enough as we are. To make us believe that in order to be happy, successful and popular we must change – we must try and mirror the media image. Because for most of us our size, shape and facial features are not represented on the screen or in the magazines we begin to feel as though we are ‘not good enough’. We begin to believe that we need to change, that we should not be happy with our current appearances.
What do you think is gained by having us believe that we need to change ourselves?
There is BIG money to be made in the name of image creation. Large industries are flourishing because we have come to believe that we need their products and services in order to be wanted, needed, loved, happy and successful. Just think of all the cosmetics, diet books, dietary products, dieting agencies, cosmetic surgeries – the number of businesses which are thriving simply because we have been made to feel inadequate as we naturally are. How would these businesses survive if we were left to feel happy with ourselves?
How does this all effect us?
We are of course all affected in varying degrees. The pressure to feel dissatisfied with ourselves can lead to low self-esteem, even self-hatred. Some of us become obsessed with striving to achieve the media image. This can be time consuming, expensive and emotionally damaging and lead to physical ill-health. Far from promoting health and happiness, these media images encourage illness. Some of us feel guilty when eating or swimming in public because out bodies are ‘not good enough’. Many turn to disordered eating patterns. many have died as a result.
How successful do you feel the media has been in convincing you and your friends that you need to change?
Think about how differently you would feel about yourself if the slim media image was replaced with a wide variety of shapes and sizes – just like the real world?
What can you do about all this?
Think carefully about the points raised here. Talk them over with your friends – we are all being pressured by the media. We all want to be loved, desired, happy, feel needed and wanted – but are those things that can really be bought, copied, or manufactured? Do happiness and popularity really come from a diet sheet, a pot of face cream or from a painful cosmetic surgery procedure?
Perhaps you and your friends can agree to help each other overcome media pressure by not encouraging each others diet and food fads, advocating certain body shapes or endorsing right and wrong body shapes. Reduce the talk of losing weight and changing shape. Try not to wonder what your ideal body shape is and think more about things that make you feel healthy and comfortable in you own skin. Leant to look at different shapes and sizes in a new light for what they are – that there are many different types of beautiful.