Body Image & The Media

Body Image & The Media
Body Image
Complicated feelings and perceptions
about a person’s body or physical appearance
Females are particularly vulnerable in this area
◦ Body dissatisfaction well-documented across ages
◦ Much higher rate than males
◦ Related more to appearance-related cognitions than physical
Body Image Dissatisfaction
Concern over weight & appearance begins early in development
◦ Nearly half of girls age 6-8 stated they wanted to be slimmer
◦ 40% of 9 & 10 year olds have tried to lose weight (National Heart78% by age 17,
Lung, & Blood Institute)
◦ 10-year old boys & girls reported dissatisfaction with their bodies after watching
a Britney Spears music video & an episode of Friends
◦ Leads to eating disorders in adolescence and college-age
◦ 53% of 13-year old American girls dissatisfied >>
◦ Most girls who express desire to lose weight are within normal weight range for
females their age
Subjective evaluation of appearance impacts psychosocial experiences
◦ Disturbed body image >> eating disorders or dieting
◦ Maladaptive eating patterns are increasingly concerning in adolescent girls
◦ Body Dysmorphia – see body differently than it actually appears
“Ideal Body”
Popular media portrays sociocultural standards of beauty >> ideal body
Tubular Body
Blonde Hair
Standards are almost completely unattainable for most women
Models are usually well below a healthy body weight
Asserts that for women to be beautiful, they must be unhealthy
Can never be “too rich or too thin”
Research does show that women develop an unrealistic media ideal of beauty, but it is not
clear how the images actually impact a woman’s satisfaction with her own appearance
“Ideal Body” Issues
Size 2-4
Size 12-14
5’10” tall
5’4” tall
◦ Plus size: 8
Photos are retouched
Men: little to no body Men: size 44; 5’9” tall & 162 lbs
fat, overly-developed
muscles, size 40
Media Portrayal Over Time
1900s-1910s: The Gibson Girl
1960s: Twiggy
17.6-20.4; average 25.2
◦ Slender & tall but voluptuous bust & wide hips
◦ Physically active & in good health
1920s: The Flapper
◦ Boyish body type
◦ Scantily clad, easygoing
BMI 18.5-20.3; average 23.6 at the time
Shoulder width emphasized
Longer skirts
Natural waist (not corsets)
Ads to avoid the “too-skinny” look
1950s: Postwar / Marilyn Monroe look
BMI18.9-20.5; average 23.6
◦ Busty, hourglass, voluptuous look
◦ Well-composed appearance
◦ Flawless Skin
◦ Thin & androgynous
◦ Abandoned curves
◦ Hippies too with more full-figured look
1970s: Thin is In
BMI18 – 20.5; average 24.9
◦ Anorexia received mainstream coverage
◦ Rise of diet pills
◦ Long hair & minimal make up
1980s: Supermodel s& Hardbodies
BMI 17.6 – 20.4; average 25
◦ Increased emphasis on fitness
◦ Even more slender & greater height
◦ Rise of supermodels
1990s: Heroin Chic & Baywatch
BMI17.5-19.6; average 26.3
average 27.5
2000 – BMI17.2-19.;
◦ Increasingly thin look, yet with large breasts
◦ Bony appearance
Men vs. Women
Negative body image reported in both men & women, but more among women
◦ 58% female characters had comments made about
their looks
◦ 28% in TV shows
◦ 26% in accompanying commercials
◦ Men: 24% movies; 10% in TV shows; 7% in commercials
Teen Girl Magazine Articles
◦ 37% articles also included a focus on appearance
◦ 50% advertisements used an appeal to beauty to sell products
Commercials during popular TV shows for girls
◦ 56% used beauty as product appeal
◦ 3% of TV commercials aimed at men
Media & Body Image
Over 80% of Americans watch ◦ Social Media
TV daily, on average over 3
Effects of Media
hours per day
8-18 year olds engage with
some form of media for 7.5+
hours a day
◦ TV – even cartoons emphasize
importance of being attractive
◦ Advertisements – show sexually
objectified images of girls &
◦ Average child sees 20,000
commercials annually
◦ Most frequently in men’s magazines
◦ Second most common source –teen
◦ Video Games
◦ Computers
Body dissatisfaction
Internalization of the thin ideal
Disordered eating
Stronger in young adults than
children & adolescents
◦ Black-oriented TV shows may
be protective: Hispanic & Black
girls and women have higher
body satisfaction
◦ Also impacts men, although
smaller than women
Why do we internalize this
unrealistic standard?
Social Comparison Theory
Evaluate yourself based on peers, groups, or social categories
Judge yourself on being better or worse than someone else
Research shows women frequently report comparing themselves to other women
Media projects a standard that women are expected to aspire to
Pervasiveness of media makes it challenging for women to avoid evaluating themselves to this sociocultural
ideal of beauty
◦ Media targets women with diet products, make up, hair products
Cultivation Theory
◦ Images in media are so prevalent >> repetitive exposure >> don’t realize these standards are unrealistic
◦ Women who acknowledge the standard is unrealistic have higher resilience to body image concerns
Self-Schema Theory
◦ Women use 3 points of reference to construct perceptions of their appearance
◦ Socially-represented ideal body
◦ Objective Body
◦ Internalized Ideal Body
◦ Large discrepancy between internalized ideal & objective body >> low confidence
◦ Media images make it difficult to hold an internalized ideal body that is realistic & attainable
Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa
Obsession with controlling food intake
Typically weigh themselves repeatedly, portion food carefully, & eat very little
May also engage in binge eating followed by extreme dieting, excessive exercise, or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
Symptoms: Extreme thinness, intense fear of gaining weight, distorted body image, lack of menstruation, extremely restricted
eating, osteoporosis, brittle hair & nails, dry and yellowish skin, mild anemia, severe constipation, brain damage, organ failure,
drop in body temperature, infertility, lethargy
Bulimia Nervosa
Binge & Purge: eat a lot, then get it out via vomiting, laxatives, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination
Usually maintain normal/healthy weight, while some are slightly overweight
Fear gaining weight & desperately want to lose weight
Symptoms: chronic sore throat, swollen glands in neck, worn tooth enamel, acid reflux disorder, severe dehydration, electrolyte
Exercise Bulimia
Obsession with exercise
Often binge eat
Complications: depression, injury, weak bones, reproductive problems, cardiac arrest
Symptoms: missing events to exercise, several hours a day, with no break, when sick; depression; dehydration, exhaustion,
injuries, arthritis; overly focused on appearance; overly self-critical; amenorrhea
Oversexualizing Youth
Sexuality = evolves in children as they
develop a healthy curiosity &
understanding of their bodies
Sexualization = determine your value
based on sex appeal projected by
society’s portrayal of attractiveness
◦ Hinders development in forming healthy
self image
◦ Normalizes degrading behavior
Is the media over-sexualizing children
and teens today? Or, is the media just
reflecting society?
◦ Teen girls more likely to wear sexy,
provocative clothing in movies than older
◦ As likely as older females to appear
partially naked
◦ “Hannah Montana” actress pole dancing
at VMAs
◦ Bratz Dolls – mini skirts, fishnet stockings,
tight jeans, skimpy tops
◦ 70 make up products at Wal-Mart for ages
◦ Breast implant surgery increased 500%
over past decade for women under 18
◦ Teasing girls for not having boyfriends in
elementary or middle school
◦ American Psychological Association Task
Force on the Sexualization of Girls said girls
Do we blame the companies, media, or
are “sexually objectified” – made into a
thing for others’ sexual use
◦ Abercrombie & Fitch released padded
bikini tops designed for 8 year olds
Anti-Media Movement
SPARK – Sexualization Protest, Action, Resistance, Knowledge
2012 petition for Seventeen to include 1 photo spread per issue that’s not digitally retouched >> 72,000 signatures
Baby Bangs – “for the girl who has everything, except hair”
Halloween costume Anna Rexia
Petition vs. Lego (girls’ line included cupcake shop & hair salon) generated 56,000 signatures on
Affiliated with Girls Inc. and NOW
Anti-Airbrush Campaign – Photoshop going too far
Missing limbs, chunks of butt, etc.
Leads to teens wanting breast implants, Botox, facial fillers, liposuction
Some want a health warning on Photoshopped images
American Medial Association has called for industry standards in photo altering to stop “portraying models with body
types only attainable with the help of photo editing software”
◦ Lancome ads were banned in Britain for conveying unrealistic expectations of products
Vogue pledged to no longer use models who appear to have an eating disorder
Glamour pledged to ask its photographers not to manipulate models’ body sizes
Women’s Health banned “Bikini Body” and “Drop 2 Sizes” from its cover
◦ Will instead promote greater benefits of being strong
Videos, If Time:
ABC News: Teen Bullied into Plastic Surgery, 5 min
Real-Life Barbie, 2 min.
ABC News: Too Sexy, Too Soon, 8 min.
Jennifer Lawrence: In Hollywood, I’m Obese, 2 min