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Taylor Anderson
Scott Merrow
Writing 1301
November 26, 2014
False Advertising
Media killing millions. Historically media has portrayed beauty as thin, tall, and muscular
but in the real world that should not always be expected. Media like television, magazines,
advertisements, actors and models have all played a part in contributing to lowering our society’s
self of steam. Media advertisements focus mainly on thinness, no matter what the product is.
These type of ad campaigns have changed society’s view of beauty, causing many individuals to
feel inadequate with their body type. Media’s negative impact of society’s expectations of body
image on male and female viewers needs to change because it has caused a growing epidemic of
eating disorders.
Media’s focus on thinness is not the only cause for eating disorders, but it defiantly plays
a key role in the expectations of society’s appearance. However, not all media is promoting the
one ideal women. Here is a quote that Tina Fey said in her book, Bossypants, depicting the way
women today are expected to appear as the ideal woman.
Every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button
nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish
legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy,
the arms of Michelle Obama and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this
look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage
our athletes. Everyone else is struggling.-Tina Fey Bossypants
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This humorous quote is an example of how pop culture is aware of the problem of everyone
trying to be the perfect women. This goal is unachievable and an unhealthy one at that. Everyone
is built different and from different races that it is not possible to have a piece of every race to
make a person the perfect woman. Tina Fey is a talented writer who has the popularity and
power to help change the ideal image of women. Tina Fey is not the only celebrity speaking out
against eating disorders the actress, Sophia Bush, from One Tree Hill, helped raise awareness
against pro anorexia fashion lines. Bush boycotted Urban Outfitters after promoting anorexia on
one of their new graphic tees. The t-shirt read, “eat less”. (Solomon) Bush did not just stop
shopping at the store she also wrote the company a letter about how they should be ashamed for
promoting such a terrible disease that millions of people battle with every day. She went into
detail with the health problems anorexia can cause and how they should be ashamed of what they
sell. Bush also wrote that Urban should write a public apology letter and make a donation to an
organization that helps women fight eating disorders. (Solomon) More celebrities should follow
in the footsteps of these women and raise more awareness against anorexia, bulimia, and binge
eating. Celebrities have the networking, fans and popularity to help raise awareness to fight
against eating disorders. Social media can also be a very powerful tool and should be used to
help raise awareness of this silent epidemic.
Social media sources like Tumblr, Twitter, blogs, and Instagram are all major online
resources that connect people from all over the world. Online, people have come together to
support themselves and others talking about their eating disorders. Their most common hashtag
is #ana, for anorexia. These online bloggers support each other to lose more weight and post
pictures of girls that are a week away from dying and they call her beautiful. Researching these
websites, Tumblr bloggers by far are the most upsetting; posting about wanting to end their lives
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and being perfect would be losing more weight. They have comments on their pictures with other
bloggers encouraging them they can do it and they will lose the weight with them. This was
really upsetting to discover how much these people need help. I found rules that some anorexic
and bulimic people follow that was all over social media. They call their rules the, “Thin
Commandments” and try to live by these life threatening and self-diminishing rules.
1. If you aren't thin, you aren't attractive.
2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.
3. You must buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, and do anything to
make yourself look thinner.
4. Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty.
5. Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterwards.
6. Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
7. What the scale says is the most important thing.
8. Losing weight is good/ gaining weight is bad.
9. You can never be too thin.
10. Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success.
11. If you are thin, you will be loved and accepted.
(Costin) These rules are being upvoted, liked, reposted and shared all over social media. Having
a support group to help someone fight an addiction or a disease is one thing but having a support
group encouraging the disease needs to be stopped. These rules were first written by a doctor
named, Carolyn Costin, to represent what people go through when suffering an eating disorder.
They were not meant to be followed but unfortunately are now all over pro anorexia and pro
bulimia websites. There are websites like the, 'Joys of Anorexia', 'The beauty of Bulimia', how to
'teach one another how to play the dangerous game', and how to figure out the minimum number
of calories you need each day to stay alive” (Best-Boss). People figuring out the minimum
number of calorie intake they need to survive do not understand how close they are playing with
death and how they are destroying their body. An average woman should have about 2,000
calories a day and an average man should have about 2,400-2,600 calories a day. The average
anorexic eats less than 500 calories a day. (Estridge) They may have a normal day of intake but
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then starve themselves afterwards for punishment or work out excessively to leave themselves
with very few calories. (Estridge) The World Wide Web is a powerful tool but also can be very
dangerous and in this case, Tumblr is being used as way of encouraging someone’s sickness. It
promotes unhealthy living and the false perception of beauty.
Media is causing a wide spread epidemic of societies normal beauty to be thin, and
muscular people causing many people to find an unhealthy way to cope with society’s
expectations of beauty. Patrick Sullivan stated in American Journal of Psychiatry, “Eating
disorders have the highest mortality rate out of any mental illness” (Sullivan). Eating disorders
are a hidden killer because usually the patient dies of heart disease or organ failure and the eating
disorder is the cause but most commonly not reported. Eating disorders are a complicated disease
that affect a person’s self-esteem, worth and sense of identity. Eating disorders often times cause
depression and the person to feel shameful of their sickness. Even elementary students are
known to have been impacted by magazines and want to lose weight. There is a statistic that,
“42% of 1st through 3rd grade girls want to be thinner…81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being
fat” (Collins, 1991). Children are bombarded with beauty advertisements and they may not even
know it. For example, University of Alabama, had a research project on how children are
affected by their environment correlating to mental illnesses. The researches stated, “If Barbie
were real she would stand 6 feet tall, weigh 101 pounds…if G.I. Joe were real his biceps would
be 27 inches and he would have a 55 inch chest” (anthropology, University of Alabama). This
shows that children are taught from a young age that their prized possessions are tall, thin and
muscular convincing the children that is how people are expected to look. These types of
propaganda is what influences people to think their natural bodies are not good enough and
eventually leading them into eating disorders.
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There are three main types of eating disorder: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and
binge-eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is when a person may refuse to eat or exercise
excessively. The person may think they are overweight even when they are already very skinny.
The restriction of food can cause many health problems. The Canadian Mental Health
Association states the risks of anorexia.
Anorexia nervosa can cause heart and kidney problems, low blood iron, bone loss,
digestive problems, low heart rate, low blood pressure, and fertility problems in women.
As many as 10% of people who experience anorexia die as a result of health problems or
suicide (CMHA).
These are dangerous side effects of anorexia that many people are unaware of when they first
start depriving their bodies of food. Eating disorders are not usually recognized as the cause of
the death because it is usually recorded as the person’s organs shutting down but truly it was the
eating disorder that caused the organs to stop functioning.
The second most common eating disorder is bulimia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa involves
binge eating and then forcing themselves to purge whatever they consumed. People suffering
bulimia may feel they are overweight no matter how thin they may be and may have very low
self-esteem. Just like anorexia there are many health problems that come with bulimia. The
health problems many include kidney problems, dehydration, and digestive problems. Frequent
vomiting can damage a person’s mouth, teeth, and throat because of the acid from the vomit.
The third eating disorder is binge-eating disorder and that is when a person eats way too
much in one sitting. After binging a person may feel ashamed or may fast after they have eaten
so much. Binge eating can cause Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. This eating disorder
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may seem very different from the other eating disorders because this is a problem with the
person gaining weight but it still has major health problems. It is similar to the other disorders
because the people suffering this disease also experience a low self-esteem and depression.
(CMHA) This are all fatal diseases if not treated in time.
People with eating disorders can be treated and many people recover from their illness.
There are multiple ways people can recover from an eating disorder. For example, people can
recover with a good support group, medication, counseling, and with a medical care facilities. A
strong support group is key to a healthy recovery. It is very important to refrain from not being
ashamed of the disorder and to find help early. By talking to loved ones or someone trusted,
someone suffering from an eating disorder will be able to get help and recover much quicker.
The people fighting and recovering from this disease are not only women, many men are also
suffering from these disorders.
Women are not the only victims of eating disorders, people tend to forget about the men.
When people think of an eating disorder, women are the first gender that comes to mind and
many times men are overlooked. Eating disorders in men can actually be pretty common as
Carlat states in American Journal of Psychiatry, “An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia
or bulimia are men” (Carlat). Men are underdiagnosed because they are too embarrassed to admit
they have an eating disorder because our society thinks of it as a woman’s disease. That can be
one of the biggest problems with this disease is being ashamed of it. The disorder may not be
easy to catch at first because people suffering with this disorder find ways to hide their unhealthy
habits and it is not until they are very sick people find out their friends or loved ones need help.
From National Eating Disorders Awareness week they found that, “10 million males in the
United States will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life”
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(NEDA). This number may be shocking to some people that do not expect men to have eating
disorders. NEDA found that gay males are more commonly diagnosed but among men only 42%
are gay men and 68% are straight men (NEDA). Heterosexual men are less commonly diagnosed
because of their embarrassment of the disease or their inability to tell loved ones. Men’s
insecurities do not focus on thinness as much as they focus on their muscles. Males feel great
pressure from advertisements, television and from movies that their muscles need to big and
strong to be attractive. For example the NEDA states, “The muscularity of ideal male body
representations has increased from the 1970s to 1990s, presenting a largely unattainable
muscular body type” (NEDA). This means that the ideal male body image continues to look
stronger and is unrealistic to actually attain. If a person were to watch a movie, the main
character in the movie is usually handsome tall and muscular, giving men the unrealistic image
that every man should be able to look that way. Talking to male athletes on campus one stated
that after watching an Axe commercial focusing on a shirtless, muscular, male, model, with
women surrounding him on a beach; the athlete then feels insecure about his own body and
ashamed of how he looks. Another athlete mentioned that he hated the Abercrombie shopping
bags with the shirtless, muscular, men on the bags that girls carry all over the mall. He felt
intimidated walking into the store. These are examples that male athletes feel even when they are
strong, fit, men. This goes to show that even when an athlete is in shape advertisements and the
television can lower people’s self of steam. There was a study tested with 160 men researching
the effect of commercials with men advertising cologne and how that effected male viewers self
of steam. Researchers found the men who saw the buff male model ads reported feeling more
depressed and less satisfied with their own muscles than the men who saw the neutral ads
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(Agliata). Media has a juristic effect on the way society thinks and they should take more
responsibility of how they influence societies’ perception of their coverage.
Switching through channels, passing billboards, or flipping through a magazine viewers
are bombarded with advertisements focusing on beauty and with beauty comes thin, small
people. There needs to be a change in media that focuses on thinness and muscularity. Some
companies are starting to embrace plus size models and celebrate the different shapes and sizes
people come in. For example, Dove is changing their advertisement style to plus size models and
embracing natural figures. Dove has launched a campaign that is called “The Dove Campaign for
Real Beauty” focusing on giving women more confidence and embracing their natural beauty.
The city of New York has launched a new campaign called “I’m a Girl”. (Mysko) This campaign
focuses on girls from 7-12 with ads all over New York City. The campaign uses NYC girls, not
professional models in a public service announcement as well as on billboards, subways, buses,
kiosks and throughout the city. (Mysko) The “I’m a Girl” campaign helps young girls have more
confidence in their appearance and spread the education of a healthy perception of life and that
being a super skinny super model is not true beauty. Mysko comments that “It is meaningful
when a major city acknowledges that poor body image and low self-esteem are serious public
health issues. This is a first—and I hope it paves the way for others” (Mysko). Sadly, there are
many more companies promoting the unachievable perfect look that destroys many peoples’ self
of steam leading them to eating disorders.
There are many more companies and media influencing our society with negative
advertisements. Victoria Secret, Miss America and America’s Next Top Model are all negatively
influencing young women everywhere. These popular icons give an unrealistic expectation of
how women should appear. An average American woman is 5’4 and 140 pounds but the average
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Miss America is 5’8 and 120 pounds (CDC). Victoria Secret is supposedly selling bras,
underwear, and lingerie but they are selling their product with sexy women. The way they
advertise their merchandise is degrading towards women and the way the models are edited is
only a fantasy when some people may actually believe these models are flawless. Photoshop and
other photo editors distorts the reality of what models actually look like.
In conclusion, the long lasting effects of media coverage focusing on thin, muscular,
models has influenced millions eating disorders and now our society has to find a way to battle
back and accept that not everyone is a super model. Media like television, magazines,
advertisements, actors and models have all played a part in contributing to lowering our society’s
self of steam.
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Work Cited
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Image." Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 23.1 (2014): 7-22. Guilford Press.
Web. 4 Nov. 2014
Carlat, D.J., Camargo. Review of Bulimia Nervosa in Males. American Journal of Psychiatry,
154, 1997
Collins. "Eating Disorder Satistics." Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. N.p., 2010.
Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Estridge, Bonnie. "The Cheeky Girls: 500 Calories a Day Was All We Ate." Mail Online Health
(2009) Web. 25 Nov. 2014.
Fey, Tina. Bossypants. New York: Little, Brown, 2011. Print.
Field, Alison E., Lilian Cheung, Anne M. Wolf, David B. Herzog, Steven L. Gortmaker, and
Graham A. Golditz. "Exposure to the Mass Media and Weight Concerns Among Girls."
Pediatrics, 1 Mar. 1999. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Mysko, Claire. "NYC Promotes Positive Body Image With Its New “I’m a Girl” Campaign."
Web log post. National Eating Disorders Association. N.p., 2 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Nov.
Slater, Amy, and Marika Tiggemann. “Media Matters for Boys Too! The Role of Specific
Magazine Types and Television Programs in the Drive for Thinness and Muscularity in
Adolescent Boys.” Eating Behaviors 15.4 (2014): 679-82. Print
Solomon, Natalie. "Sohpia Bush Declares War on Urban Outfitters." Web log post. Montreal
Blog. N.p., 3 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Stice, Eric and Heather E. Shaw (1994). Adverse Effects of the Media Portrayed Thin-Ideal on
Women and Linkages to Bulimic Symptomatology. Journal of Social and Clinical
Psychology: Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 288-308.
Sullivan, Patrick F. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074
"The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty." Dove. N.p., 2004. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
"The Effect of Thin Media Images on Body Dissatisfaction. (Eating Disorders)." Expand
Academic ASAP 21.3 (2002): 10. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.