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Weight Obsessed Women Essay, Research Paper

Weight Obsessed Women

Today?s media places an extreme amount of pressure on women to maintain a slender

figure. Through childhood to adulthood, women are bombarded with images of stick skinny

women, and this is the way almost every woman wants to look. Although there are other factors,

the media is the primary source of the obsession with being thin. Why has this become such a

popular trend? This is what society says is acceptable. It has been proven that these images of

perfect women do affect the normal women who wish to look like that. Shaw and Stein found

that, ?Women exposed to pictures of thin models experienced more depression, stress, guilt,

shame, insecurity, and body dissatisfaction than women exposed to photos of average sized

women or control photos? (?Media?s? n. pag.). Now, thanks to the unrealistic expectations put

on women to maintain the perfect shape, eating disorders are on the rise. Then, once they enter

college, the body images of women get even worse. They are on their own now and can eat

whenever and whatever they desire; therefore, college girls gain weight and diet. When they gain

the weight they are willing to do anything to lose it. A person?s body image can also vary

depending on that person?s race. On the surface it may seem that the media is trying to work

through this weight issue, but society already has a prejudice against being too heavy. Every

media influence is shoving in all American girls?, womens?, and sometimes mens? faces, that thin is

in and fat is out.

The burden of attempting to have the flawless build has been climbing to unrealistic

heights in the past years. In the forty?s, the sexy look for women was to be curvaceous and have

some meat on her bones, however; from the late eighty?s to the ninety?s more emphasis was

placed on having no figure at all. The best body for women today is a waifish body, if you have

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curves you are considered over weight. This damages the self-concept of less than perfect

women. ?The increasing pressure to be thin and the unrealistic images portrayed in the mass

media may have a devastating effect on women?s self-perceptions, self esteem, and identity

development? (Heights 603-614). There have been many studies on the weight decline of

Playboy centerfolds and Miss America Pageant contestants over the years. In 1960, the average

Playboy model?s weight was 91% of the population mean. By 1978, it dropped to 84% and

continues to plummet. From 1979 to 1988, 69% of Playboy models and 60% of Miss America

contestants weighed 15% or more below their expected weight, which is criterion for anorexia

(603-614). Who is too blame for this massive self destructive phenomenon? Most of the fault lies

with the media. Children as young as two years old start to see images of perfect women, who

one day they are supposed to look like. Even the dolls and Barbies they play with have flawless

figures. In the forty?s and fifty?s children we seeing more shapely models and actresses, so there

was not the strain on those children of doing anything possible to achieve a so called perfect


When you turn on the television, do you see many heavy women or men for that matter?

No, the majority of today?s actors and actresses are thin. The fat people are usually the funny

unusual people on sitcoms and daytime shows. The only other place you might find an over

weight person is on a pathetic talk show. When you only see fat women as miserable talk show

guests, then you are thinking if you become over weight you might end up where they are, so you

had better go on a diet. Speaking of diets, a study found diet promotions, nonexistent in 1973,

make up about five percent of television commercials (Berg n. pag.). When doing segments on

weight, producers want to know what the women look like. The producers explanation for this

is, ?We do not want to turn off our viewers? (?Fear? n. pag.) You might think that putting real

life people on their program instead of women that are not representative to the bulk of the female

population in the United States today, might raise their ratings. As society gets fatter and fatter,

the media is going to have to start dealing with this issue. They say that they are, but actions

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speak louder than words. Some magazines have dared to write articles on heavier women, but

there are never any pictures. An example of that was in Harper?s Bazaar, they ran an article on a

new model named Wanderful who was 183 pounds and proud of it, but again there were no

pictures. They are saying that it is acceptable to be imperfect, when it really is not (?Review? n.


Preteen to teenage girls are especially susceptible to the media?s influence on everything,

not only their size. ?Magazines for teenage girls give training in lookism. The emphasis in on

makeup, fashion, weight and how to attract boys, with almost no space given to sports, hobbies

or careers? (Berg n. pag.). Girls will put on a false identity of how society expects

them to be. They no longer feel that they can totally be themselves without looking over their

shoulder. An example of this was shown at the 1996 Academy Awards when Alicia Silverstone

was made fun of for gaining five or ten pounds since her last movie. The headlines read ?Batman

and Fatgirl,? and ?Look out Batman, here comes Buttgirl? (Berg n. pag.). Their being accepted

in this nation depends on being sickly thin, no matter what the health risks are. High school girls

say they are terrified to become fat. In a study of 326 New York high school girls, 72 percent

said they had attempted to diet. Currently dieting were 20 percent of underweight, 32 percent of

normal weight, and 54 percent of overweight girls (Berg n. pag.). On the bus, in class, after

class, at lunch, and on the weekend, girls obsess over their weight and how bad they look. They

talk about how different parts of their bodies are too flabby and how they wish they could move

fat from one part of their body to another. No matter how hard they try, these young girls will

never live up to their own expectations.

Another factor that has had an effect on how seriously girls and women take the media?s

advertising of the perfect body is race. African Americans are more accepting of women with

bodies in various shapes and sizes. These girls do not have to be skinny to be thought of as

pretty. White and Hispanic girls on the other hand do have a huge obligation to themselves, so

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they think, to be as small as possible. A study done in Arizona of 300 girls showed the vast

contrast of the ideal body of a white girl and a black girl. Even when the girl?s weight was

normal, over 90 percent of the white girls were unsatisfied with their current size. They wanted

to lose weight to be ?perfect? and popular. The ?perfect girl? described by the white girls was a

girl weighing 120 pounds, long legs and long blonde hair. Even though most of the girls, when

comparing themselves to this ideal girl, were displeased with their bodies; they are jealous of the

girls that do fit that description. The black girls in the study had more flexible images of beauty.

Being yourself, having style, having confidence, and looking good, were the most important parts

of being ?perfect.? They say beauty comes from, ?Making what you have work for you? (Berg n.


Many female role models, past to present, have had to struggle with media pressure to be

thin. Now no woman that sees that happening wants to go through the same circumstance, so she

must diet to keep a figure that is acceptable to the public, no matter what the consequence.

Before Princess Diana got married the media got a peek of her at about a size twelve. They knew

nothing about her, just that she was not a size five. So, they public harassed her until she lost

weight and her hair got blonder. When she did that, she got tormented by the media once more

for looking anorexic. Which is better, being too fat or too thin? The ideal body is very slender,

but when you are that thin, you are thought to be sick. An Additional role model that has had

weight issues is Oprah Winfrey. She has lost weight and gained weight many times, and every

time someone has something mean to say about it. She cannot win either way (Berg n. pag.).

The rising star, Calista Flockhart, otherwise known as Ally McBeal, has had many problems with

the media thinking that she is anorexic, although; she insists that she never denies herself food.

The harassment started with her appearance at the Emmy Awards. She wore a sheath,

open-backed dress that left little to the imagination. That left the media asking: is she too skinny

or is she anorexic? To see how the media torture her about her size, we can look to Jay Leno.

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On The Tonight Show. Leno said that the typical McBeal meal consisted of three peas and a lima

bean. This indicates even being the ideal thinness can be unfavorable (Duffy 71-72).

Once women enter college they have entered the most high risk time of their lives for

acquiring an eating disorder. They have dealt with it all their lives, but now that they are away

from home it becomes more difficult to bear. The media also plays a part in their struggles which

is worse than all the other women, because the stress of leaving home makes them even more

susceptible to the media?s influence. Jennifer Biely, EDAP?s director says, ?College women are

away from their families, and there?s tremendous pressure to find their way in the world. Food is

one thing they can control? (?Out? 52-72). It is tough to gain awareness of these diseases on

college campuses, because so much time is spent on rape, alcohol, and drug awareness. They do

not want to believe that this is the immense problem that it really is. As colleges are discovering

that not dealing with the issue is far more costly than intervening before the girls have serious

health problems, people are hopeful that awareness of this developing problem will be addressed.

In February 1998, over 600 college campuses participated in a National Eating Disorders

Screening Program; of the 26,000 students who filled out questionnaires, 4,700 were referred for

treatment (52-72). As this problem rages on campuses across the United States, most do not

realize how devastating these diseases can be. Studies have shown that with good treatment, 70

percent of people with eating disorders will be cured; although, this cure could take years to

achieve. Sociologist, Traci Mann, says, ?I can tell that what matters is what?s going on in her

head and heart, but when she turns on the TV, she sees that what really matters is how you


In conclusion, the media plays a tremendous role in women?s body dissatisfaction;

although, there are other causes, the media simply makes those worse. Most women are very

vulnerable to how the media portrays women on TV, in magazines, and many other aspects of our

everyday life. It is a very extensive problem effecting little girls to grown women. Even though

the media says it is trying to work with the issue, their actions speak louder than words. Will this

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problem ever be treated? Will women always want to be skinniest of them all? It used to be

unfashionable to be sickly thin, but now it is the way to be and if you are not a boney skeleton

then you are considered fat. This makes for a poor self image and women are thinking they are

fat when really they are that their normal weight. If the normal weight in the 40?s and 50?s was to

be curvaceous and have some meat on your bones, how will it be in the years to come? It seems

that the normal weight keeps getting smaller and smaller. When will we be little enough? With

the extreme amount of pressure on women to be thin, who knows what the ideal woman will look

like in twenty years. If this continues, eating disorders will be vast epidemics that will spread all

through the country, worse than it is today. It is totally unrealistic to allege that the women on

TV are perfect. They may have a flawless body, but are they really happy? Women must realize

that there is no perfect figure and being ?perfect? involves more than merely what you look like.


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