Category Archives: beauty

survey analysis: part 4

Did you miss part 1, part 2 or part 3?

When talking about body image nowadays, people assume that the media has something to do with it. I know personally the media had nothing to do with my eating disorder so I thought that I’d try to ask people about their experience with eating disorders and how the media played a role in that experience.

Eating disorders are not necessarily about body image. While images in magazines may distort our ideas of what is considered to be an ideal human body, they have little to do with eating disorders, at least in my opinion. Eating disorders are manifestations of deeper-seated psychological issues.

That was my experience and one that’s been echoed in this study among the 39.2% of respondents who either have or have recovered from an eating disorder. That’s a large number and to make things worse, another 38.4% of women have known someone close to them who’s struggled meaning that 3 out of 4 women have been affected by eating disorders in some way.

Six percent preferred not to answer this question and while direct assumptions can not be made, guesses are that the question was an emotional topic for them maybe because they’re in denial themselves, are helping someone now or have lost someone from this disease.

The media could be triggering, but there wasn’t a direct link between their feelings of themselves and their media intake. “It was a way for me to have control–an idea not given to me by the media. So, yes I feel the media does play a role in determining how women feel about their bodies and what is beautiful, but they are not the only factor.” These disorders are more because of perfectionism, being rewarded, and other emotional events like divorce or abuse. “Speaking from my own experience, the media didn’t have much to do with my ED. Mine was due to pressure from the sport I competed in my whole life (think gymnastics, although that’s not what I did). Rather than feel influenced by the media, I felt I had to be stick thin because I was rewarded the most when I was that way. I was second at nationals when I was at my smallest, gained a little weight, started not placing so well, lost the weight through starvation, and started winning again.”

The triggering, but not causing relationship was also shown by this woman who said, “I hardly ever read beauty/health magazines (except at the doctor’s waiting room, maybe), read ‘the right kind’ of blogs (ED-recovery oriented, health food blogs etc.), don’t really watch TV etc. and still suffer from anorexia nervosa. Media might play into it a little, but it is definitely not a large factor in this mess I am in.

Conclusion: What does this tell us? What can we do about it?

The cycle of negativity, disordered eating and eating disorders can also trickle down from mother to daughter and media to consumer. “Because I think confidence comes from within. My negative body thoughts originated because my mom is constantly on diets and unhappy with her body, so she passed that self-hating attitude to me and was always telling me to go to the gym, not eat dessert, etc. Yes, I look in magazines/movies and used to see the image of what I wanted/felt like I should be and it hurt even more, but that was only a contributing factor, not the main cause. When I beat my ED, I didn’t stop reading magazines, I simply stopped comparing myself and cut out the negative chatter.” Across generations, body issues have been a problem and if our mothers are showing their daughters these behaviors, they’re ultimately going to follow. Likewise, we continue to tell other women they aren’t good enough, they will feel that stress.

Because of this, instilling prevention programs at a young age (middle school and older) to women to learn about media literacy and also proper nutrition is key. Nutrition is really a glazed over topic in health classes in middle school and high school that just show the food pyramid. While this is a start, it doesn’t tell women why we need certain foods or even other options if you follow different lifestyles like vegetarianism or veganism. Obviously in a health class, they cannot get into too much detail, but it’s been said that many women try a vegetarian diet or even vegan to just be able to cut things out and in turn, eat less. That only starts a downward spiral. Along with that, media literacy in a health class would be recommended because health is not just physical health, but mental health. If we can talk about airbrushing and some of the standards prevalent in society, girls may be able to grow-up trying not to compare themselves to a standard models and celebrities can’t even achieve.

For magazines, the primary thing I would recommend would be to start using a diverse set of models interchangeably in the pages. There are always the “size” issues, but those just further show that seeing different sizes can only be a special occasion when it should be the norm. If we show women that they can grow up and be whatever size, it won’t cure eating disorders, but it won’t be a trigger and certainly will lessen body dissatisfaction and negatively comparing each other. Is it so bad to tell someone they’re beautiful? I don’t think so!

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All done! I can’t believe this project is complete- or at least for these immediate purposes. This last section is what’s really pushing the new blog and I hope you guys enjoy that too.

Was there anything you were surprised about reading or that you learned?

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PS: I can’t wait to launch the new blog, but it still might be under construction. I have some general things but my friend is helping with illustrations and I don’t know when she’s going to be done.

A formal announcement will be very soon!!!!

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survey analysis: part 3

Miss part 1 or part 2?

Along with the media, there are advertisements. I wanted to see what women said about the images they saw to get a better understanding of how they perceived the models.

In the survey, there were three advertisements that were shown to the respondents- one ad of 5 plus-sized models, one of an ad that was shot with one straight-sized model and one plus-sized model and one of Demi Moore in an ad with a picture beside it of her naturally.

The first photograph is below and the question asked with it was “What do you see when you look at this ad?”

With or without an experience with eating disorders, the responses were close to the same. There were two types of comments, ones that said they were beautiful and looked normal so that probably meant they were plus-sized models and ones that commented that they had on too much eye makeup and looked bored, sad, and aloof. I found these comments surprising since I was afraid there could have been a slight bias with the questions that proceeded. We’ve been talking about body image, eating disorders and the media and while some did pick up on the fact that they were plus-sized models without a prompt, most were so concentrated on their eye make-up and how they showed themselves. Many called them “beautiful” and said that they saw themselves being represented which actually made them feel good.

Which leads to the second photograph, which was a set of photographs of Demi Moore. The one on the left was of her airbrushed for an advertisement and the one on the right was her naturally at that photo shoot.

About 75% percent of women said they like Demi Moore naturally (on the right) then her airbrushed. Maybe magazines and ads should use less airbrushing and less fake looking people? I’m not sure what the respondents were thinking since I didn’t get written responses from this question, but it’s clear that people love the natural look which is good for Marie Claire since they recently did a whole spread on Jessica Simpson un-airbrushed this past month.

The last set of photographs was with two models, the one on the left is straight-sized and the one on the right is plus-sized, but to me, this was the most telling.

It was too close to say which photograph was preferred the most or which way the industry should take to advertise to women. Women loved the left (49.9%) just a fraction less than the left (50.1%), which was actually a different of only one person! So while this didn’t make a huge conclusion on the surface, it brought up the fact that whether a company uses a straight-sized model or a plus-sized model, it will give the same reaction- half will love it and half won’t.

This is also telling because a recent study conducted by Arizona State University concluded by saying that plus-size models could be detrimental to female consumers. Quoted from a previous blog post I wrote on this study, “the actual finding showed that women with a low BMI showed a boost in self-esteem when they viewed all advertisements because they identified positively to the thinner models and felt different from the heavier models. On the other hand, high BMI showed a decrease in self-esteem when they viewed the advertisements because they weren’t able to identify with the thinner, “idealized,” models, but could to the overweight models.”

“This study also found that the women within the normal BMI range had the greatest shifts in self-esteem depending on what advertisement they were shown. For example, if they viewed a thin model, they felt similar and good and if they saw a moderately heavy model, they worried they were similar and overweight.”

I don’t discredit this study or say that their findings were wrong, even though I found a few flags in the study write-up itself, but based on my survey, their findings didn’t hold true. Like the previous set of photographs, I do not know the actual feelings of the respondents since it was only a “left” or “right” question, but that also makes the answers more definite.

survey analysis: part 2

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.

survey analysis: part 1

Ok, here it is! I promised I’d share some of the results I wrote about for the end of my study book so here it is. I think after you read it, you’ll understand why I’m launching the new blog and what it means to me to do so. I’m going to split it into sections, since it’s about 7 pages and I wouldn’t expect anyone to read all of it at once. If you have any questions or want the actual quantitative summary of just the numbers/statistics, feel free to email me.

Also, just for your information, I want to give you some facts about our average respondent.

  • She ages between 18-24 (42.5%) and 25-30 (40%).
  • She’s white (94.8%) and non-Hispanic (96.2%).
  • She probably lives in the Northeast (33.2%); however, there was a good sampling between all other regions of the country- Mid-Atlantic (12.6%), South (19.8%), Midwest (16.8%), Southeast (4.2%)and West (13.4%).
  • Whether she’s single (30.7%), in a relationship (39.2%) or married (28.8%) is unclear, but she does not have kids (93.7%).

Viewership

Seventeen. Glamour. Cosmopolitan. Women’s Health. Allure. Fitness. TeenVogue. Elle. Vogue. Oxygen. Runner’s World. With all these titles and many more, it’s was no surprise that 79.5% of women said that they read magazines on a regular basis, which was characterized as 8 out of 12 months a year. The top five magazines read were Self (62.2%), Shape (59.8%), Women’s Health (45.7%), Glamour (41.2%) and Fitness (41.6%).

What does “beautiful” mean?

created by Wordle

It was close, but 52% said that the magazines they read do not represent their idea of beauty; however readers of the top 5 primarily said that they did. There were some suggestions for these magazines, even the top 5, which included more realistic and more diverse approaches to beauty. “It’s so focused on the outside. You read an article on making ‘body peace’ and ‘loving yourself,’ but then two pages later there’s an article on how to make yourself perfect if only you do these 8 simple moves and buy these jeans. It’s so contradictory,” said one respondent who reads Glamour regularly. She’s not the only one who feels this way. “Many magazines teach us that we aren’t ‘beautiful enough’ instead of showing us how we can appreciate who we are,” said one respondent who reads all of the top 5 on a regular basis.

Some more suggestions included, “no airbrushing” and to see “models/people with cellulite, not the clearest skin, frizzy hair, etc…NORMAL people. Naturally thin, toned, curvy, etc.” But stating what the magazines do is not going to change anything because while the editors are great people, they’re also trying to get people to get advertisements and more subscriptions. However, it was shown that readers want to relate to the people in the magazines. Sensationalized gossip is fun every now and again, but regularly, they want to read the stories about their peers, about who other fabulous women around the world who are making a difference in their own lives or in others lives because that’s more inspiring. Now the question to them is “why do you still buy the magazines if you don’t agree with their content or practices?” But that’s for another survey.

Body Image

When asked how they felt about their bodies, only 19% said that they were happy with their body. Period. Another 6% said that they were generally happy, but would like to tone up a bit and gain more muscle or know they could eat healthier.

That being said, 61% of women said that they think they could lose weight. I was very touched by the 1% who admitted that they are still struggling from an eating disorder and know that they should actually gain weight, but cannot see it for themselves at this time.

Next up: the media’s role, eating disorders and how women view advertisements…

the price of beauty: japan

Tokyo was the next place Jessica, Ken and Cacee visited to look at their beauty customs. I was interested to see it because my parent’s neighbor’s daughter went there for a while after college and spoke so highly of it that ever since, it’s a place I have on my “travel list.” There’s a lot on that list.

The first stop is always to meet the beauty ambassador and this time wasn’t any different. Rio Mori, who was Miss Universe in 2007 and now a model, brought them to the tea house to talk about beauty in the country, but also to learn some Japanese.

She said that while women have more freedom now, there’s a huge pressure for Japanese women to be beautiful because for a long time, women always stood behind the men and were subservient. Cosmetic surgery is big, but not something that’s talked about and the most popular surgery is a double eyelid procedure to make their eyes bigger.

What the other thing is common for an episode? A spa.

The first thing they did was go on a rock walk which is a small pond-like area with rocks on the bottom of it that’s supposed to massage your feet and hit pressure points in your feet. They had a very hard time walking.

They then went to a pool with a bunch of little fish in it. As you put your feet in the water, the fish come up and suck the dead skin off of your feet as a pedicure. It’s funny because I had recently heard something about this a few months ago, but it was so weird seeing it. I can’t imagine how weird it’d feel.

The best part or should I say the most different treatment was the sand pit where they were covered from their chin down by sand. It was supposed to exfoliate and be like a sauna and they just had to lay there for 2 hours.

Something that’s associated with Japanese tradition and beauty is a geisha so their next stop was to learn what it took to be one. They got handed a basket with a kimono, but were asked to strip to their skips to be dressed in one.

Next, the girls got white paint on their face which was traditionally made from nightingale poop. Ken has said this before and I think it’s an important thing to note, but he’s helped many celebrities get ready for award ceremonies and what makes this experience better is the tradition behind  it.

FYI: geishas do not marry. They cannot fall in love.

There’s a very specific way in which geishas must perform tasks. Jessica said the hardest part about being a geisha was the walking.

You must walk very straight and with very small steps, but then there’s also the tea service. You must hand tea a certain way, pour a certain way. Everything has it’s place so it’s not just for fun. And just an added tidbit, did you know that in the 1920’s there were over 80.000 geishas? Now there are about 1,500.

Afterwards, Jessica and CaCee were put to the test of being a geisha for two businessmen.

Let’s just say that the men didn’t want to be served by them again… oh well…

But Japan is not all about traditions and the old world, but the modern day harajuka girls.

It was started to allow women self expression and a free creativity since the traditional women was very oppressed. It was their empowerment.

Before leaving, Jessica really wanted to go to a clinic and meet with a woman who wanted to get the cosmetic surgery Rio talked about earlier in their trip- the double eyelid which make their eyes look more Western.

Here, the bigger the eyes are, the more beautiful.

As an ending, they had a fashion show of all the beautiful looks they had seen during their trip to celebrate. There were all different styles and really showed the girl’s style. CaCee wore a kimono but with nontraditional makeup and hair.

She said it was liberating and fun as everyone in the audience was clapping along to the music and having a great time. Jessica too said that it was empowering when she dressed as a harajuka girl with everyone cheering YOU on no matter how you’re dressed.

“Breathtaking” was the closing adjective to describe Japan but will Rio de Janeiro be the same?

…in other fashion news, here are 8 fashion apps for you to know about 🙂

the price of beauty: morocco

This week Jessica, CaCee and Ken discovered Morocco with it’s veiled women, mopeds and of course, camels.

Their first stop, as always, was to meet their beauty ambassador, Khansa Batma, who’s a famous singer there. Jessica immediately said she felt that she had such confidence and asked her what makes Morcoccan women feel beautiful? She said that there it wasn’t about the dress or the food you eat, but how you act and carry yourself.

After talking, Khansa Batma brought them to get a traditional dress and and veil. While it’s also for covering up, the veil helps to protect the face from the wind and sun. As Ken said, this makes you talk with eyes which CaCee actually enjoyed.

When they went to the market next, she said they men would actually be looking straight into your eyes and not at your butt or chest.

What they didn’t care for so much at the market was sheep brain. It’s a delicacy in Morocco and a great source of protein and iron, but while it’s great for your hair and skin, Jessica did not like the texture and said it was like an eyeball.

I do have to say though that I was happy she tried it and didn’t spit anything out like her first show in Thailand.

Next, they met up with a family to talk about beauty. There were three generations of women with the youngest, Leila, being the most liberal with her dress of jeans and a 3/4 length shirt.

A big thing about the Moroccan culture is to preserve and respect themselves for the right man. Because of this, the married women didn’t shake hands with Ken. Covering up is another way that they to protect their beauty for their partner.

What was interesting though was that Leila actually thought that the way Jessica was dressed was inappropriate and too revealing- she was wearing shorts- because of the amount of leg she showed.

Jessica’s response? I like my legs, just like you like your cleavage, and that might sound harsh, but I do have to admit, I would have stuck up for Jessica in that situation too. Leila was attacking her and our culture when they were just trying to talk with them and see how they live. The good thing though was that because of that experience, Jessica said that she felt more comfortable to wear what she wanted to and own it. Yay!

Because of that “stressful” experience, they next went to a spa which is called a Hamman and models the older Greek and Roman spas.

They had a scrub (which was none too soft) and then a mud wrap before having a water fight while rinsing off the wrap.

Afterwards, Khansa has arranged a surprise for them. The surprise was to learn how to dance with a tea tray dance which is when you dance and swirl your hips while balancing a tray with a tea kettle and lit candles.

The seduction is posture and balance.

Lastly, they rode a camel to a party with all the women they met during their stay- including Leila, who liked Jessica’s dress for the evening!

I have to say that Ken gives some of the best comments and summaries of the whole show at the end. He said that he thought that Jessica had more confidence covered up. As CaCee said, sexy is a lot of different things, not just skin and in Morocco, it IS more about who you are and looking into the person, not AT. It’s about the self and the way they respect themselves and value themselves that makes the difference.

Be ready for Japan next time! I can’t wait to see the geishas!

I have to say that this was one of my favorite shows. Which place has been your favorite? Thailand, Paris, India, Uganda or Morocco?

vogue curvy celebrates julie henderson

I saw this on Madison Plus last Thursday and had to post about it because 1. I think she’s beautiful and 2. I’m starting to really dislike this term “plus-size” model.

(source)

Read more about her here, but Julie is an inspiration for every young woman out there. She graduated from college in 2000 with a degree in Marketing and was a very successful basketball player before signing with Ford Models. She loves showing off her curves and actually is upset when castings try to hide them.

But what really struck me was that she’s a plus-size. This term has been so skewed since it first came out. When I was younger, the term may have been used, but it was for women who didn’t not fit the average range of sizes of 0-16. I think that range has been extended, but in the fashion industry, an 6-8 is now a “plus-size” while the average woman is a size 14. A little off?

Likewise, when I went to the NEDA panel, I met Emme, one of the most famous “plus-size” models. More of that later, but let me tell you, the adjective “plus-size” would definitely not be the first adjective I’d use to describe her. Actually it wouldn’t be in my vocabulary at all.

These women are real. They have curves. They love their body. They have goals. Now I’m not saying that women who are petite, thin and more straight in the hips are not real because they are, but all of us can tell someone who looks sick and someone who’s naturally thin. You can see it in their eyes, their smile and the way they hold themselves. I can only hope that one day those eyes, smile and confidence can show up more on the runway and advertisements soon 🙂