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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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