You see them everywhere. Unrealistic looking models that make the average woman feel quite a bit less confident about her appearance. On every magazine, book cover, and in nearly every movie, women are portrayed as flawless specimens and the object of men's attention. I believe that it is damaging for women's self image for the media to promote the idealized woman instead of the real one.
What is beauty? Can this word ever really be defined as an absolute when it means so many different things to so many different people? If you asked ten different people to define what beauty means to them, you would receive ten different answers. In a world as diverse as the one in which we live, why do women allow themselves to be dictated on how they should look? According to Doctor Saltzberg and Chrisler it is because, " films, television, and magazines have...helped
standardize our vision of attractiveness" (Saltzberg and Chrisler, 26). I think that if it were not for the constant pressures that films, television, and magazines put women under, that women would not question their self worth nearly as much as they do. It is not a crime to be attractive, but the media tends to link beauty and thinness with happiness and success and it makes women, " measure themselves against an inhuman ideal" (Dittrich, 1). An example of an inhuman ideal are the extremely thin models that women are to often confronted with. This not only hurts women emotionally, but can also hurt them physically as well. One study it was found that, "exposure to idealized images lowered subjects satisfaction with their own attractiveness." Their results indicate that exposure to the thin ideal caused depression, shame, guilt, body dissatisfaction, and stress and a direct link between media exposure and eating disorders. (Dittrich, 2). Although a lower body image is one of the main affects of the media on women it is not the only one. Women's appeal to prospective mates is also lowered because of the media's effect on how men will view them.
When men are, "bombarded with images of beautiful women it weakens their commitment to their mates" (Levine, 38). It has been scientifically proven by Doctor Sarah Gutierres and Doctor Douglas Kenrick that, "Judgments of attractiveness depend on the situation in which we find ourselves... a woman seems a lot less attractive than she is if the viewer has first seen a highly attractive women" (Levine, 38) For example if a man has first viewed a magazine, movie, billboard, or television show where highly attractive women are present then he will generally view the average looking woman as unattractive. To furthur illustrate my point, another example is a study conducted by Doctor Gutierres and Doctor Kenrick. Male dormitory residents were asked to rate the attractiveness of random women as potential blind dates. The women were previously rated as being of average attractiveness. However, if the men were watching an episode of, "Charlie's Angels" while viewing the photos the women were viewed as less desirable than by the men that were watching another show (Levine, 38). I believe this means that even while involved in a relationship, a man's perception of his girlfriend or wife can be altered by viewing an unattainable woman (Levine 38).
"Media is a powerful factor which influences our beliefs, attitudes, and value we have for ourselves and others as well as the world around us" (Koivula, 1). This basically means that if a woman sees size two models every time she turns on the television or looks at a magazine, she is going to believe that she should be a size two as well. The media not only affects women, but our culture as a whole because it alters the way women are perceived by everyone, most of all themselves.
I don't think women are the only people whose minds are brainwashed to believe that anything less than perfection is unacceptable; men are as well. I think that men are subjected to and even embrace the idea that women are supposed to be without imperfections. Why? Because that is the message that the media send when it constantly showers it's viewers with unrealistic standards about how women should look. By promoting the idea that all women should look like Barbie's, the media is not only hurting women's self image but it hurts men as well (Dittrich, 1). Based on studies conducted by Doctor Gutierres and Doctor Kenrick, by men seeing so many, "idealistic women" on magazines and on television, they are led to believe that there are many available to them. I think that by seeing only beautiful women plastered on billboards and magazines, men think that there are women like that in large quantities. In reality only a small percentage of women look like the one's seen on magazines and billboards. This raises their standards of women that they would consider as a mate (Levine, 38).
"The media campaign to promote a preferred standard of beauty has not diminished over time" (Spalding, 18). In the twentieth century the ideal woman has changed many times. In the 20's it was, "attractive" to look very pre-teen, having small breasts, hips and legs. In the 40's and 50's the hourglass was in style thanks to a very curvy Marilynn Monroe. In the 60's thin was in. In the 70's women strove to be bronzed and thin . In the 80's women were not only expected to be tan and thin, but were supposed to be toned and muscular as well. In the 90's as well as today women are supposed to be so many things that are unnatural combinations. For example one ideal body involves large breasts and a small frame and body. In my opinion that is like mixing vinegar and oil; it might look good but it just doesn't mix. I think that because such impossible demands are made upon them, that it drives some to opt for risky medical procedures such as breast implants and liposuction (Saltzberg and Chrisler, 20).
Based on my research, I believe that because such perfection is what the media projects, many women have turned to plastic surgery as means to obtain such unrealistic standards. The plastic surgery movement began in the mid-eighties with face peels, anti-wrinkle treatments, silicone injections and liposuction. These procedures are costly($4000 and up) and have dangerous side effects is not performed properly. Face peels burn skin, and silicone injections left many women with deformities. Liposuction caused infections and even cost some women their lives (Spalding, 18). Is being "beautiful" worth such risks?I think the reason so many women risk their health and even their lives is because the media stresses the importance so heavily.
In conclusion I strongly feel that the media is the main culprit against women's self esteem and by buying what they are selling we support the images that they are feeding us. Perhaps when advertisements driven towards women are more realistic in their portrayal of the ideal body, the level of self-confidence will go up among women. It seems, according to Doctor Kenrick and Gutierres that for women it becomes harder and harder each day to look in the mirror and not feel inferior to the women they see everywhere they go. There are so many far more important things for women to worry about, least of all trying to fit into size two clothing, and the media should focus more on what they are trying to sell, rather than having flawless models, instead of ones that make many women feel inferior. Throughout my research I have found that it is impossible to be as perfect as the models I am constantly made aware of. Women are truly beautiful when they stop letting the media influence the way they feel about themselves and realize that we're all beautiful in our own special way.
Works Cited Dittrich, Liz. "About Face Facts on the Media." On-Line Internet. 13 November 2002: Available WWW: http://www.about=face.org/resources/facts/media.html Koivula, Natalie. "Gender Stereotyping in Televised Media Sports Coverage".
November 3 2002: 1 Levine, Michael. "Why I hate beauty." Psychology Today 1 July. 2001:38 Saltzberg, Elayne A. and Joan C. Chrisler.(1998) "Beauty is the Beast." Taking Sides, Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Gender Studies. Guilford, Ct.
Dushkin -McGraw Hill. 20-26.
Spalding, Alison D. (1998) "Is the Quest for Beauty Necessarily Damaging to Women?". Taking Sides, Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Gender Studies. Guilford, Ct. Dushkin -McGraw Hill. 18-19.