The impact of the Media on Teen Girls Body Image
“Cosmetic makers have always sold (hope in a jar)- creams and potions that promise youth, beauty, sex appeal, and even love for the women who use them” (Postrel 125). Magazines are filled with digitally transformed images of models with amazing bodies, flawless skin and perfectly styled hair. Television advertisers push their products using the most attractive people with the perfect bodies.
Television shows such as October Road and movies like Men or Shoes portray images of sexy, gorgeous woman who have it all; the handsome boyfriend or husband, the great job and amazing friends, while the chubby, not so attractive friend is usually there simply for comic relief. Also shows like the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency on the Oxygen Network, is another perfect example of media influencing teen girls negatively. On this particular show she holds auditions for aspiring models to come before her and audition in order to gain representation by her Modeling Agency.
Instead about 97% of these young girls are harassed and ridiculed on National TV. On this show there is no such thing as constructive criticism or putting it nicely. She points out every flaw, every physical feature that she feels needs to be fixed with plastic surgery or dieting. She even has gone so far as to saying “I will never accept a plus size model into this agency” (Rotchford 72). She has been known to call girls ugly and send many on occasion crying and running for the door.
“Her show is rated number 1 on the Oxygen Network” (Rotchford 72). This kind of message is sending young girls the impression that in order to be beautiful like a model and be accepted by society that you have to have a flawless face and thin perfect body and at any cost necessary. The music industry has followed this pattern as well. Music videos (especially of the Hip-Hop category) are usually filled with woman wearing next to nothing, dancing erotically, and having their body parts zoomed in on by the cameras.
This kind of music is extremely popular in younger generations, so when these music videos are being seen by them, then these scenes are going to be viewed as being cool as well. Girls will think that that is the type of look I need to have in order to be popular and cool. Teenagers are conditioned to believe that advertisements and media reflect the world. Throughout time the ideal of beauty has differed. During the Renaissance, a beautiful woman was more full figured and pale skinned. “This reflected her station of rank in society” (Eco 212).
Her size indicated she had enough to eat and her pale skin showed she did not have to work to sustain a living. During the 1920’s, the image of beauty changed. Woman wore their hair bobbed, had slender figures and preferred to have smaller breasts. “The 1950’s brought more changes with the introduction of icons like Marilyn Monroe” (Eco 306). Women wanted to be full figured, very curvy with platinum hair and plenty of sex appeal. As times changed and society’s ideals of beauty changed, one thing remained the same, the pursuit of beauty and perfection. The most obvious victim of the media stereotyping is young girls.
Unrealistic images of beauty and perfection bombard these girls through television, magazines and movies. A study was performed to examine the effects of exposure of the media ideals of body image on women, and to determine if it would affect their self-esteem, body satisfaction, start eating disorder symptoms, and maybe change the level of internalization of the thin ideal. “Women in the experimental group reported lower self-esteem after being exposed to the thin-ideal images compared to the women who viewed neutral images” (Hawkins, Granley, Richards, and Stein 44).
“Moreover, in some cases, feelings of body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem may lead adolescents seeking self-improvement to increase their media consumption—resulting in a vicious circle of media exposure, internalization of sociocultural ideals, social comparison with unrealistic images, and further erosion of body satisfaction and self-esteem. Indeed one 13 year old girl in the current study commented that “magazines are going to exploit the fact that teenagers are often unhappy with themselves” (Clay, Vignoles and Dittmar 473). The media dictates what is considered fashionable, the popular hair styles or trends.
Images of thin, leggy models in short skirts, shorts and tiny swimsuits having fun, flirting and getting attention from men visually show what is considered to be beautiful. If a girl does not fit into the mold, she may begin to have self-doubt, or body satisfaction issues. “Idealized images are an influential source of pressure to meet the thin idea” (Monro and Huon 89). Society is obsessed with perfection. It is evident in the number of women choosing to undergo cosmetic surgery in the attempt to attain the perfect body, nose, figure and smile.
“We found that girls who engage in more appearance-related discussions and imitation of others had lower appearance satisfaction” (Dohnt and Tiggean 9). “We found that girls who watched television shows with an appearance emphasis, such as Friends or Rage, we less satisfied with their appearance. Shows such as soap operas and music television slips that present women as thing attractive, and sometimes provocatively dressed, have also been correlated with body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in adolescents” (Dohnt and Tiggean 10).
Advertisement Agencies have been questioned about why they only advertise their products with a certain types of models. The answer from each agency was usually almost always the same each time. “Sexy sells and everyone wants to be beautiful, so we sell our products to the world using beautiful people. This shows the population that beauty is within their grasp and that they too can obtain it” (Monroe 160). Janice Dickinson who is also in the media has stated that “she says no to plus size models in her agency” (Rotchford 72).
“We live in America, aren’t we allowed to do what we want with our own businesses? I own this agency; if I don’t want fat ugly models representing it then that’s my right” (Rotchford 70). Miss Dickinson has a point, but she fails to realize what her actions and her show is reflecting on to young girls. Young girls live in an appearance-focused society, where images of perfection are broadcast in every form of media. Girls are developing low self-esteem, eating disorders, and are striving to obtain perfection and acceptance.
And the kind of media that we have is doing nothing but fueling this fire that has been burning rapidly for a long time. If young girls are not offered a more realist image of beauty, they will continue to be dissatisfied with their appearance and suffer from low self-esteem. There have been some developments recently to try and change this pattern. “In the past few years marketers at Dove have added some new and improved enticements” (The Atlantic, The Truth About Beauty 125). The new campaign declares that every woman is beautiful and ignoring imperfections indicates self-esteem.
“Oprah covered the story, and so did the Today show. Dove’s campaign, wrote Advertising Age, “undermines the basic proposition of decades of beauty-care advertising by telling women—and young girls—they’re beautiful just the way they are” (The Atlantic, The Truth About Beauty 125). Imagine, a beauty-care company selling their products not by enticing young girls with unrealistic images of women who achieved perfection by using their products, but by showing women and young girls they are beautiful to being with and can accentuate their beauty by using their products.
Dove expanded the definition of beauty without losing the concept. This was a novel approach that seems to be catching on. Every girl deserves to feel beautiful, smart, important and secure. Another Dove campaign focuses on young girls insecurities about their appearance. “Every girl deserves to feel good about herself and see how beautiful she really is” (The Atlantic, The Truth About Beauty 127). Television shows are beginning to follow in the same example as the Dove campaign.
One such show is Ugly Betty, which is about a young woman from Queens who doesn’t fit the standard media beauty and works for a fashion magazine where everyone is image obsessed. Instead of conforming to the standards of her co-workers, Betty maintains her integrity and shows that being a kind, smart, and caring person is what makes you truly beautiful. As time passes, people begin to see that Betty’s beauty does not lie in her physical appearance but in her spirit and compassion.
If images like this continue, more girls will begin to see that their own inner strength, self-assuredness, and integrity are more beautiful than the images that you see splashed across any fashion magazine or TV show. These are real qualities that any girl can obtain. Society is always going to have its own opinion of what beauty is. And this will always be perpetuated through media. If we start recognizing the impact that the media has on the self-esteem of young girls, and instead present strong, confident, and capable women achieving their goals, then young girls will being to believe that the image of beauty has a new face—theirs.