Did you miss part one? We talked about viewership of magazines, beauty definition and body image, but now it’s about…
… the Media
Unfortunately, whether it’s the media’s fault for making women feel not good enough or the reader’s fault for buying the magazine in the first place, 46% of women said that the media affects their feelings of their body a little while 41.6% said it has a lot of influence. “Unquestionably, society has an obsession with women’s bodies (and criticizing them). [It] boggles my mind.”
Even if women read these magazines, they can become unclear with what the message they are reading into. “Health magazines constantly push the need to lose 5-10 lbs. What is “the media’s” definition of the perfect body? Who knows,” said one reader. Or if it is more defined, is the magazine just trying to make money? Are the writers trying to help us or are they trying to just talk how the companies want them to talk? Another respondent brought up these questions when she said, “I think the media absolutely defines a standard of beauty, often at the behest of companies who stand to make money by moving the bar of perfection farther and farther away so that we buy the products that will make us skinny and beautiful overnight and all that jazz. As much as I might like to ignore that particular brand of beauty, and declare that I don’t subscribe to it, it is difficult when it’s impossible to escape it. From movies and TV shows to advertising to the Internet, I see those images everyday multiple times a day.”
Being bombarded was a trend among respondents saying, “the pressure to be thinner is very much magnified by the media. Specifically, the media contributes to a perception that beauty is formulaic (i.e., everyone needs to look like X to be beautiful), as well as, more tangentially, the perception that it is worthwhile to sacrifice much to be ‘this’ kind of beautiful. For instance, ‘diets’ in these magazines are often not healthful – the message is then that we sacrifice healthful eating for thinness. I believe myself to not be fully sucked in by these messages, but am simultaneously certain that they do have some influence.”
That was the saddest thing when reading responses from women- knowing that they knew they were being influenced, but they have a hard time stopping it from happening. “When I answered the following questions it isn’t that I think about the media when answering the questions, however I think that my answers are influenced by the media without even thinking about it, due to the constant pressures to be thin and constantly wearing make up and looking beautiful.” The same goes for this woman who said, “The media is everywhere. Even if I don’t consciously think about its effect on me, I know there’s no way I can be escaping all of the messages.”
Researchers have tried to answer the media’s involvement with women developing negative relationships with their bodies, but in my opinion and one that was found through this study as well, the media plays a heavier role in creating body dissatisfaction and disordered eating habits, like some that are presented in the pages, rather then eating disorders themselves. That’s where the media has to watch how it speaks to women and also what they are teaching. Our media has grown in great strides over the past 10 years with magazines, the internet and social media platforms, but with all of this growth, media literacy has not followed so you have women growing up with these messages, but they’re not able to discern what’s good for them or what’s bad.
There are also others who have either struggled in the past with body issues or an eating disorder and because of it, want to try to change the media’s influence. “In the past, I would have said a lot. This year I am making it my goal to be more positive about my self-image. I am finally becoming (still working out a few kinks) happy with my body the way it is. Do I look at models in magazines and think, ‘I wish I was as thin as them?’ Sometimes. More often now I look at the models in fitness magazines and think ‘I’d rather have muscle than be too thin.’ I recently learned that Wilhelmina Models has an athletic division, and I think that is great.”