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Effects Of The Media On Women Essay, Research Paper
The Effects of the Media on Women
The obsession with how a person should look is becoming a national priority
among women, especially among young girls and teenagers. Women in general are most
preoccupied with being thin. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, this
obsession of being thin can usually be labeled in two ways, which are anorexia nervosa
and bulimia (Caldwell, 109). What would influence women of all ages to starve
themselves to death or to seek out other means of changing their bodies just to “fit in”?
In many instances, cultural pressures especially by the media and the remainder of
society has caused these problems today.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are two of the most dangerous and
most common eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa involves severe weight loss-15%
below normal body weight (Caldwell 109). If left untreated, anorexia can lead to
osteoporosis, cardiac arrest, malnutrition and even death (Mullen E1). A bulimic eats,
sometimes compulsively, and then purges through forced vomiting, use of laxatives,
diuretics, strict diets, fasts or exercises (Caldwell 109). Bingeing and purging, which is
associated with bulimia, can lead to stomach rupture, heart failure, inflamed esophagus
and swollen glands (Caldwell 109). Also, certain research has shown that 14 is the
approximate age for the onset of anorexia; Bulimia has been shown to start around age 18
(Body n.pag) In recent studies conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University,
bulimia which has always been linked to society’s obsession with thinness, has now
been related to the genes. Dr. Cynthia Bulik, psychologist for the VCU institute says that
” Genes may contribute to bulimia, but if a woman is never exposed to the cultural
pressures to be thin and diet, then she may never develop the disorder (Qtd Kelly, E-1).
Also, in a society that rewards thinness and at first applauds weight loss, a simple diet
may soon lead to an eating disorder (Mullen, E1). It is estimated that 1 in every 100 girls
suffer from an eating disorder; 95 % of which are between the ages of 12 and 25
(Mullen, E1). Some girls look at movie stars and believe that is what they need to look
like because everybody wants them to (Mullen, E1). Advertising, television and films
constantly push the message of a slender figure. Women who do not think they fit that
“mold” often respond by dieting or even surgery (Worshop 1100). When asked, 33,000
American women told researchers that they would rather lose 10 to 15 pounds than
achieve any other goal (Gotschall). In the past ten years, the number of people suffering
from eating disorders have increased dramatically, and cosmetic surgery has become the
fastest growing medical specialty (Wolf, n.pag). Of men and women surveyed, 55% of
women wanted to lose weight “now” and compared to a 28.5 % in men (Caldwell, 110).
The average woman is 5?4? and weights 140 pounds. The average model is 5′11″ and
weighs 117 pounds (Dahlstrom, n.pag).
From another viewpoint, women spend much of their time and money engaging in
various activities with their appearance, and also shopping. Beauty ads on television and
in magazines play a significant role in the market of beauty products. According to Mary
Gotschall, a freelance writer in Virginia, ” Women have free will, and they are not forced
to buy beauty products. They choose to do so. If this were not so, fashion and the beauty
industry would not be the same. (Gotschall, 1113). The diet business alone has become a
$35 million per year industry only in North America (Body, n. pag). Children by the end
of high school have seen over 350,000 advertisements, half of which stress the
importance of being thin and beautiful, and half which are selling food. Only fifteen
minutes of exposure to these advertisements causes girls to think that beauty is more
important than their popularity with boys (Body n.pag). Younger generations are also
beginning to develop a “mind set” of what they should look like. It is estimated that from
an early age young girls watch about 20 hours of television per week (Reflections, n.pag).
69% of girls have wanted to look like, dress like or fix their hair like a character they
have seen on television; About 31% of them say they have changed something about
themselves to be more like that character (Reflections , n.pag). In one report it states that
children would rather have a chronic illness than be fat (Body, n.pag). Also, in another
study it indicates that by age 4 and 5, children have already developed negative
stereotypes about fat (Body, n.pag). It is an unbelievable fact that the number one wish
of girls ages 11 to 17 is to lose weight (Hines, 3). Many of us probably do not even
recognize the “warning signs” posed by the younger ones. Recognizing in a child that
something is wrong may be the first step to preventing future emotional and physical
pains. Does the fact that 4 out of 5 females in 5th grade are currently on a diet or have
been on a diet seem surprising (Hines, 3)? Adolescence is such a confusing time for
kids; When adolescents spend most of their time under the influence of the media, it is
no wonder that the way they try to define and clarify themselves is by copying what they
see. The statistics will prove it. About 32% of girls watch television very often, 46%
listen to the radio very often, 24% read fashion magazines very often, and 50 % listen to
cd’s and tapes very often.
One of the recent controversial issues now is Barbie- concerning her possible
negative influence on women of all ages, especially girls. Many people blame Mattel’s
popular icon for giving young girls unrealistic ideas about a female figure (Worshop,
1101). Theoretically, if Barbie’s actual body measurements were converted to an actual
woman, she would consist of an 18 inch waist, 36 inch bust and 33 inch hips (Worshop,
1101). On top of all that, Barbie would stand an amazing 7 foot 2 inches tall (Barbie,
n.pag.). One main reason Barbie is being blamed is because she is a consumer of clothes,
dream houses, and cars, which may be teaching children negative stereotypes about their
gender roles (Barbie, n.pag). Psychologist Roberta Sherman says, ” There are an awful
lot of women out there who think Barbie and the models in magazines represent the ideal
body.”(Qtd Barbie, n.pag). It is a possibility that the reason 150,000 women in the
United States undergo breast implant surgery every year is connected to Barbie (Barbie,
It is quite obvious to see that the media has an affect on people, especially
women. However, one can not put all the blame for the problems of society only on the
media. There are many other possible reasons as well. The struggle for beauty seems like
it will be a never-ending problem that of which will probably never disappear despite any
corrective attempts by the media itself. Beauty comes from within, and until the battle
For beauty is over, the world may never see true beauty.
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