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14 March 2000
Everything around us in society seems to contain hidden messages. The media is a main proponent of this, including television shows, magazines, billboard signs, and commercials among others. All of these variations of media have something in common; they depict all woman having thin bodies. Many girls and women are left thinking, “What’s wrong with me, my body doesn’t look like that?” Unfortunately today we are exposed to the media constantly, which invariably influences girls’ self-images, often negatively. I look at myself in the mirror and see a body that can afford to lose ten to fifteen pounds. I frequently find myself comparing my body to all of the models and actresses on television. The media is influencing my self-image and causing me to think I do not look good enough according to our society, when I am average weight in reality.
One component of the media is advertisements. Often they not only sell products, but also sell images, values, and concepts of sexuality. They stereotype what we should look like and what is considered “normal.” This includes perfect skin, washboard abdomens, tall and thin legs, a big chest, and overall a beautiful, perfect body. Advertisers target young girls because they are very vulnerable and sensitive at the age during adolescence. What the advertiser does not either realize or care about is the fact that girls take it to heart that they are not good enough and are unworthy. I look at an advertisement of Naomi Campbell and think, “How can she be that thin at her height?” What the media neglects to tell us is that her hips are computerized to look smaller than they really are. By laws of physics, if they were actually that small, she would be unable to walk without falling down. This demonstrates the media’s attempt to portray women to be big chested, small waisted, and small hipped in order to be beautiful. I never see an overweight supermodel in an advertisement. This may bring in more money in sales, but in actuality it causes teenagers to deplore themselves for not looking a certain way. I find that I constantly compare myself to others and always want to look different. Today it’s not only a necessity to be thin, but toned as well.
Many commercials promote their products with beautiful people with amazing toned bodies. Girls may begin to exercise excessively and eat less just so they achieve looking like the people on television. Television images teach us that we must look like models and surround ourselves with beautiful things in order to live a worthwhile life. We are constantly attacked with images of “beauty” every time we turn on the television set or flip through a magazine. Continually throughout a person’s daily routine, they are forced to think about their body and self-image because our minds are being filled with “beautiful people” endorsing products that they claim will make us beautiful as well. We believe the advertisers and buy the products, and after using the product we realize we will never look the same as they do or measure up. I turn on the television and see a commercial for cellulite cream that claims to rid the cellulite in a quick week. This advertisement shows a woman’s firm buttock and toned thighs. It makes me feel inferior and have a low sense of self worth. I would like to have the “perfect” body without any work involved and not have to go to the gym for hours to achieve this. Unfortunately this common desire among men and women is extremely unrealistic.
It is not only the magazine advertisement that promotes the image of beauty; it is the actual magazine as well. Magazines put pictures of beautiful women in them to show its readers how they should look. There are certain features of our body that we all would like to change because we feel it is not good enough, like our height, weight, eye color, or hair. These magazines make us feel inferior because we do not look like the stereotypical model. It is really sad that the media has such the power to influence our opinion on what is beautiful and “normal.” Magazines always have articles on how it is not sexy to have an hourglass figure, while having a stick thin body with no meat is in. The media’s portrayal of being sexy is a tanned body and a starved adolescent look. Advertisements impose what we must look like in order to be accepted in a world so obsessed with body image and as depressing as it may sound, we buy into it.
After seeing all these flawless women portrayed in the media, the female gender commonly takes a path that makes matters worse. Girls are left to think about their self-images continually. Their minds become warped with all these ideas about losing weight to look like the models. It has a negative affect on ones self-esteem because they become obsessed with how they look. Girls start looking at the fat, calories, and carbohydrates in foods so they know how much they will consume, and plan their workout accordingly. Their priority becomes doing all it takes to lose the weight, which sometimes can be fatal because of the ways they want to accomplish the goal of losing weight. Some girls starve themselves and deprive their bodies of nutrients, which brings on anorexia. I was horrified seeing a friend with the disease. I know that I could never be anorexic because I love food so much, but it is so scary knowing that so many girls are faced with this disease. I remember watching a Lifetime movie about a girl who was anorexic. It showed that her body was weakening and her skin turned a vile green. She was depriving herself of nutrients that she needed to survive. In another movie, a girl had bulimia and she would binge eat candy and other sweets and throw it up after. This is terrible for a person’s body because it weakens your muscles, ruptures the stomach lining, causes irregular heartbeats, causes kidney damage, ends menstruation, and damages the tooth enamel from vomiting frequently. Many girls with these eating disorders keep it a secret from their family and friends. Their more important priorities are now behind how their body looks. Doing well in school and being social may not be as important as before, and their attitude may change for the worse with depression being a common side effect. Girls with eating disorders are usually very tired because of their weakening bodies. Aside from the physical consequences, another change that occurs is the absence of self-esteem. Having confidence is a necessity for everyone, without it, girls feel useless. It is common that when a girl looks at herself in the mirror she feels fat and ugly. Almost everyone wants to be tall and skinny and if they don’t achieve this, they believe they are failures. I always look at other girls and think, “Why can’t I look like her?” I am not overly happy with how I look, but I cannot help it. I think about my flaws all the time.
Recovering from an eating disorder is a hard thing to face. Many girls find it extremely difficult to admit they have a problem. They have to admit that they are destroying their minds and bodies and need help. Clinics are available everywhere for girls to get help. They tell the girls that there is no reason to be insecure about their bodies and they are beautiful. They learn that nobody is perfect; not even the models on television. Another vital issue learned is that what is on the inside is more important then how you look on the outside. It is okay to look different than models. Recovery is a long procedure to go through. It takes time accepting the fact that abusing and depriving your body is not an answer. Fortunately, many girls overcome this obstacle. It takes strength and will power to move on, but in the end the girls will feel like they accomplished something.
Advertising companies must terminate the publishing of only beautiful, “perfect” women. In today’s society, with the various amounts of individuality expressed, it would be beneficial to girls if they actually turned on the television and saw a girl on a commercial that is a size 10, instead of a size 2. The media should expand its horizons and realize that the world has a lot of people who are not tall and skinny. They can focus a little more on inner beauty and strengths, then maybe when we look in the mirror, we would not just see what we look like on the outside, we would be able to see the person we really are.
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