How Media, Advertising and Celebrity Culture Affects Female Body Image
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ï»¿Research Project Kayleigh Giles-Johnson How Media, Advertising and Celebrity Culture Affects Female Body Image In this essay we will be exploring the subject of body image, looking at which outside influences contribute to the high rate of body dissatisfaction from both psychological and sociological viewpoints, taking into account a range of evidence varying from statistics to studies in order to draw a conclusion. Firstly we will define the meaning of body image and look at the way in which the ideal has changed in recent years, before analysing the effects of media, advertising and the accompanying celebrity culture on body dissatisfaction in females. I will then apply this information in order to explain why it is that some people suffer body image related mental illnesses such as anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphia. Body image refers to an individualâs own perception of the aesthetics and sexual attractiveness of their own body and facial features. The ideal has changed over the years with the preference of modern culture being a slender, toned figure and delicate, symmetrical features. In the 1800âs the idealised form was still voluptuous and plump, as we can see from some of the art from that time, for example in Renoirâs Blonde Bather of 1881 (Plate 1). The idealisation of slimness in women dates from the 1920âs which is argued to be the outcome of successful marketing by the fashion industry, becoming the standard of cultural beauty in the industrialised affluent societies of the twentieth century (Grogan S, 1999, p.14). In Western culture, slenderness is generally associated with happiness, success, youthfulness and social acceptability. Non-conformity to this idealised body image is regarded as resulting in negative social consequences, such as physical unattractiveness and low sexual desirability. Being overweight may hold other negative stereotypes, such as being perceived as lazy or having no self-control, whereas slenderness may symbolise personal order and a sense of self-denial in the face of plenty (Grogan S, 1999, p.6).
A study by A. Chris Downs and Sheila Harrison from Sex Roles: A Journal of Research found that one out of every 3.8 television commercials has a message about attractiveness in it. They determined that viewers receive roughly 5,260 advertisements related to attractiveness per year, or around fourteen a day, of which 1850 are specifically about beauty. The average female has already received around 250,000 commercial messages by the time she is just 17 years old (www.healthyplace.com). It has been suggested that watching even thirty minutes of television advertising can alter a womanâs perception of the shape of her body â the first stage of this being that âthe young women generate, absorb or reinforce a mental representation of the ideal female bodyâ through viewing idealised models (Myers & Biocca, 1992). Based on these ideas, the amount of commercial messages an individual will receive in their lifetime can severely alter the way they think about their own body. Silverstein et al. (1986) found that, in a study of four womenâs magazines compared to four menâs, the total number of advertisements for diet food aimed at women was 63 whereas there was only one for men. For the total number of articles on non-food, figure-enhancing products, the total in the womenâs magazines was 96 while the menâs total was 10. This shows that advertisements with a focus on image, shape or beauty are aimed primarily at women and their insecurities about body image. âAdvertising most often represents some ideal future self to the viewer in the process of selling a product that will aid the individual in attaining this ideal future self. It can influence behaviour such as dieting, exercise and the purchase of cosmetic productsâ (Lautman, 1991, cited by Myers & Biocca, 1992). By using images of idealised models, advertisers can use this to their advantage by suggesting that the product or service they are offering can extend this same standard of beauty to the consumer through their purchase.
This is also a main trait in Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), in which the person perceives themselves to be extremely overweight or unattractive, even if the reality is very much the opposite, to the point of which they are unable to lead a normal life. Researchers have suggested that culture does play an important part in the development of eating disorders. It is generally accepted that anorexia and bulimia are more common in countries that value slenderness and less common in those who are generally less aware of this cultural value - as we could see in the study of Fiji, where plumpness was previously the cultural norm and eating disorders only began to surface after the arrival of television. When people move from cultures that value plumpness to those where slimness is valued, they become more likely to develop problematic relationships with food (Rosen, 1990, cited by Grogan S, 1999, p.168). In conclusion, we can see that media does have an important part to play in how modern women perceive themselves, their weight and their looks, and has many different affecting factors ranging from the way people think to the cultural traditions around them. The evidence is there that media, advertising and celebrity culture can have a negative effect on body satisfaction. From television shows which inspire us to be like the characters we see on screen, to advertisements which encourage us to live up to the standardised ideal of beauty, we can see that these can have a negative effect on both physical health and mental attitude of females, leading to such a high rate of body dissatisfaction and resulting mental disorders. The process for change is likely to be a slow one; the media is a formidable force, and one that is not likely to change easily, but we only can hope that in the future the idealised form will be one that is healthier and more attainable for women to achieve. Plate 1 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Blonde Bather, 1881 Source: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/pierre-auguste-renoir/blonde-bather-1881 Plate 2 Plate 3 Britney Spears for Candieâs Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1265676/Britney-Spears-releases-airbrushed-images-digitally-altered-versions.html Plate 4 Kate Moss for Calvin Klein Source: http://www.businessinsider.
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