The Effect of the Media on Women’s Personal Identity
For many women, the media has a profound effect on how they view their bodies from a personal perspective. From the mass marketing of advertisements that depict thin women, to how behaviors of females should be, there is clearly a trademark being developed by the media on how women should look and feel. This is contributing to an extreme, as well as a versatile image on the characteristics of women today.
However, statistics show that the women that are portrayed in these ads and advertisements are not actually vindictive of women in today’s decade. Even though it’s true that there are positive influences as well as negative ones, the fact is, the media is playing a tremendous role in how any female perceives her own identity. Whether the media realizes it or not, they hold the power to build a woman up or to break her down, in this respect it can lead to a lot of negativity. Nevertheless, for a female who feels in control of herself, and is proud of her own body image, the media simply exemplifies these feelings for her. Even so, it needs to be kept in the forefront of the mind that for some women, these ideals set up by the media are destroying dozens of women’s natural ability to cope with how they feel about themselves.
Extensive Research on Women’s Body Image
Fisher (1986) emphasizes the fact that body image undoubtedly plays a part in all of the behaviors that are visually interpreted to show how an individual feels about themselves. So when a female begins to portray a symptom of depression on her body image one has to pause and ask, “Why is there suddenly this problem?” Is the media wholly responsible for this type of crisis simply by presenting a bombardment of extremely thin and sexy women? The answer is dutifully, yes. If the media would focus on how women actually are instead of presenting false ideals then perhaps there would not be such an upset among the female gender. There might not be eating disorders, or poor self-esteem levels among women in the real world.
Females Susceptibility to Media Portrayal
Females are highly vulnerable to what the media projects, they want to feel good about themselves. When the media only shows examples of thin and beautiful women, then average women are, of course going to feel belittled and bad about themselves. Obviously, the media affects all facets of a females life. If a woman starts to become overtly depressed due to her feelings of failure of herself then it can have a vast impact in other areas of her life such as, sexual orientation, sexual awareness, comfort of ones own self, sexual arousal patterns, intimacy, delinquent behavior, clothing choice, drug addiction, tolerance of stress, and how they interrelate with their environment (Fisher 1998, p.625).
A person wouldn’t think that issues such as these would go this far, yet they do, and often undetectable, until it is too late. It is a known fact that women arm themselves with their own defensive mechanisms to combat the material that is endlessly thrust in front of them by the media. This is especially true if it is information that subjects them to feelings about themselves that are extremely complex, confusing, or even threatening to who they really are (Fisher 1998). The main point of fact is, is that the media projects these ideas that are in actuality falsely representing women today. They not only place a negativity on adult women but young adolescents are affected by them as well. These unrealistic expectations create all sorts of probabilities for young girls that can lead to eating disorders, lowered self esteem, thoughts of suicide, dissatisfaction of their bodies, self mutilation, and many other psychological disorders (Holmstrom 2004).
Traits of the Media
As was mentioned, there is not only negative attributes that the media presents onto women, but also positive ones as well. Women who are overweight, or are simply slightly overweight have been found to feel better about themselves when the media presents them with advertisements of larger women (Fisher 2004). It helps them to realize that they are not alone when dealing with their personal body image and that there are ways to where they can feel better about themselves. This would undoubtedly be considered a plus that the media relates to the generalized public, consisting of mainly women. It is odd though, how images of thin beautiful women create such an adverse concept for women, when it is far more healthier to be thin than to be overweight. Supposedly, the problem lies in the fact that the media promotes this idea to much, and to little of how women really are in the world. This was also mentioned earlier, yet it is one of the most steadfast points in what has the strongest affect on women, due to the media. The question must be asked again, “Is this what society really wants?“ No it isn’t, but what a society wants and what they are impaled with visually and mentally are two totally different concepts.
All evidence that has been being gathered over the years, by a number of reputable researchers, points to the fact that media consumption is the main culprit in disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa, affecting young girls in particular (Holmstrom 2004). To further emphasize on the image that the media habitually presents, the statistical evidence shows that they exemplify on images that show women to be on average a height of 5”11 and 120 pounds. This is totally opposite what exists in the real-time world. An average female is around 5”4 and 140 pounds.
Though this is a normalcy, the media contradicts it by pushing the idea that women in this range are not tall enough nor thin enough either. Really it is simply ludicrous to strive to be what the media is projecting (Holmstrom 2004). It is unhealthy and impossible for a good portion of women to even reach these types of goals, yet they keep being bombarded with them. Furthermore, these falsities are causing extreme negative emotions to develop such as, sadness, depression, anxiety, and discouragement about ones own self image (Holmstrom 2004). On the other hand, even though the ideals might not be acceptable to some, they do give a number of women the encouragement and personal initiative to try and better themselves and build a better and healthier body that they can feel satisfied with. Even though this is a minute few, it still has some small amount of positivism associated with it, because it can lead to a healthier lifestyle for some women.
Another factual based point is the way in which women are viewed constantly in society. They are far more closely scrutinized than their male counterparts are. Because of this, there is more of an emphasis on how they are generally evaluated and sexualized (Weiderman 2000). The media has a role to fill in this area as well. Nine times out of ten, it is believed that women have problems sexually due to how they have begun to feel about their bodies because of the media’s projection of images into their minds and lives. Women have a great fear that if their bodies aren’t up to par to the media’s projections of how they should be, then their partners are not going to be sexually attracted to them. Of course, this is not necessarily true as the idea of love is more powerful than an image on the TV screen or in a magazine. Nevertheless, it is hard for many women to move past this philosophy of how they should look and it severely impacts how they carry out an intimate relationship in their personal life.
What takes place is women become so self-conscious about their body image that they fail to reach a point of comfort ability in their own skin, preventing them from having the ability to be able to relax in order to enjoy a complete intimate partnership with their mate (Weiderman 2000). Because of the body dissatisfaction that women gain, (often due to the media), they form a strong disapproval of themselves, and form a social avoidance among the opposite sex so they will not have to deal with any form of negativity or disappointments in themselves or their possible relationships. It is really disappointing to know this as a variety of body shapes is one of the things that makes women unique. Not all men prefer one body size or facial characteristic. In fact, they more than likely fall for the person rather than the outer shell being presented.
However, for a multitude of women, they don’t find comfort in this thought concept and continue to beat themselves up for not having the perfect bodies of media celebrities, models, and other women the media presents (Weiderman 2000). Some women are never able to have a fulfilling sexual relationship due to all of the adversity surrounding their personal perception about their body. Now, on the other side of this point it is found that some women become more self assured about themselves and work harder to fine tune their body. They don’t go so far as to try and become too thin or too hard-bodied, but they simply want to feel comfortable with themselves. They look past what the media portrays and find their own niche to fill. If an individual can do this then the media does help in self-esteem and body image, but for those that can’t then it leads to more negativity. There are gains and negatives everywhere in this philosophical concept. Basically it all boils down to how well a person feels about themselves individually before the media ever plays a part. If a person is already feeling bad about themselves then of course pictures of perfect women are going to make them feel much worse. However, if your taking good care of yourself and in decent shape, then these images will spur you on to do more for yourself and strive to be better. It’s actually a two sided coin. Again, it is basically all about personal perception and individuality.
Women are going to great lengths to try and be equal to what the media represents women to be. It has come to the point where the issue has surpassed simply body size, but gone on to facial characteristics as well. This has lead women to look into areas of change that involve, cosmetic surgery, liposuction, face-lifts, and miracle diets in an attempt to look their best and achieve perfection (Rodin 1992). However, the truth of the matter is, no person is flawless in the real world and the images that the media present have been airbrushed, enhanced, camouflaged, and have been closely examined to try and portray the women in a way that qualifies them as women of perfection, when they actually are not. Women need to be aware of this, and more than anything else, find happiness with who they are and what they have been endowed with. Rodin’s article (1992) accurately expresses what the media has done to many women, and even men are not wholly immune to this fanatical phase of thinness and perfection.
Body preoccupation has become a societal mania. We’ve become a nation of appearance junkies and fitness zealots, pioneers driven to think, talk, strategize, and worry about our bodies with the same fanatical devotion we applied to putting a man on the moon. Abroad, we strive for global peace. At home, we have declared war on our bodies. (Rodin 1992).
The majority of this madness has to do with what we perceive the media is trying to relay to us. By the media publicly portraying perfect women (and men as well), we think that we are inferior, and therefore we try and do everything possible to make ourselves better or equal to what we are seeing. This can be positive, as has been stated repeatedly. Positive for some, but not for everyone. Some people don’t have the ability to compete with those types of images. They might have disabilities that prevent them from engaging in cardiovascular exercise that would reduce their weight. They might not be flexible enough to get involved with yoga to help their posture or, improve upon their mental thinking. There are all types of stipulations that play a part in this as well, and for some this is a depressing situation. They want to change their bodies yet can’t so they become depressed, as well as feeling oppressed. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages. However, there can be some leeway found in between it all.
The Truth to it All
In conclusion, women don’t have to feel inferior to what they see flashing across the television screen or pasted in an ad on a magazine. They simply need to do things to feel more appropriate and content in their own bodies. Women need to realize that we are all different, no woman is exactly the same and even the ones that seem to be picture perfect have flaws and pooches here and there. Perfection is just not feasible. So, by accepting one’s self for who they are and where they are in life is what is going to prevent the disorders from taking place and the self-esteem from lowering. Once this is understood then the media won’t have such a long-lasting affect on society at all.
Fisher, Seymour. Development and Structure of the Body: Volume2 Lawrence, Erlbaum & Associates (1986):1
Holmstrom, Amanda. “The Effects of the Media on Body Image: A Meta-Analysis” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media Volume 48 (2004): 1.
Rodin, Judith. “Body Mania” Psychology Today. Volume25 (1992):1
Weiderman, Michael. “Women’s Body Image and Self Consciousness during Physical Intimacy with a Partner” The Journal of Sex Research Volume 37 (2000):1
Author: Misty Keith
About the author or the publisher
Misty Keith is a wife and mother of three. She has been published in many venues on the web, as well as one print publication. Currently she works for clients, assisting them with academic papers of all genres. She can write in non-fiction, fiction, horror, romance, inspirational, motivational; basically all creative styles are a familiarity for her. Creativity and Inspirational are her favorite styles.
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