Mass media and its negative impact

Real beauty isn't about the bodies that are portrayed to us every day.

We don’t need Afghan-style burkas to disappear as women. We disappear in reverse – by revamping and revealing our bodies to meet externally imposed visions of female beauty” (Robin Gerber – Media Awareness Network). In America today, images of female bodies are so painstakingly flawless that they send a message that real beauty is only perfection. Americans are exposed to these unrealistic portrayals of women everyday through various forms of mass media. The media focus causes them to dwell on and judge themselves based on their looks, body types, sexuality and even clothing preferences. Sadly, this Barbie doll image already is affecting a wide age range of women starting as young as nine years old. Drastic weight control measures are being taken by younger and younger American women, according to the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute. Within the past few years, mass media have been misrepresenting women through advertisements by using exceptionally thin models and then airbrushing pictures of them to portray what the “ideal” woman should look like.

The female body depicted in the media has become increasingly thin. This unrealistic idea of the “ideal” woman gives off negative messages that ordinary is unacceptable and not true beauty. This unattainable representation of the “super” woman image has contributed largely to a dehumanizing attitude because of advertising. Mass media are a negative influence that not only point out people’s flaws and imperfections, but also make the female body solely into an object. Research indicates that long-term exposure to impossible female images link to increased anxiety about weight, low self-esteem and the development of eating disorders. During the past few years, there has been increasing pressure to attain beauty by promoting thinness and youth, even if surgically reshaping or implanting is required. Low self-esteem is reaching epidemic proportions and is aimed toward all age groups of mainly women. “By the age of 13, 53 percent of American girls are unhappy with their bodies; but by age 17, 78 percent of girls are very dissatisfied” (National Institute on Media and the Family).

In society today, women’s progressive insecurities about their bodies are exactly what lure in customers who continue to buy ever-increasing amounts of diet and beauty products. “It is estimated that today the diet industry alone is worth $100 billion (U.S.) a year” (Media Awareness Network). After only brief exposure to the media’s daily marketing exploits, there is a subtle but very consistent negative impact on women’s body satisfaction. Girls are getting the false impression that success and being thin and beautiful are inseparable. According to the Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders Group, one out of every four college-age women uses unhealthful methods of weight control – including fasting, excessive exercise and self-induced vomiting. The image of the slender body type as a beauty standard for women is repeatedly a leading cause linked to unhealthy physical and emotional distress. Society has morphed into taking on a narrow-minded perspective on the appearance of perfection. Mass media are such a powerful marketing machine today but need to take on the duties and responsibilities to protect their consumers and start promoting more realistic advertising. Women deserve to grow old feeling fabulous, desirable and beautiful without negative interference from the mass media. When we stop pouring our time and money into the marketed products sold by the media giants, it finally will confirm what we already know: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder no matter how hard they try to make us believe otherwise.

Kelly Parish is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]