What is beauty? Beauty as we see it enshrined as an illusion, it is a big effort and a big business to keep it up. The shell of the perfect woman is stressful and expensive to maintain; beauty contests are just to see who does it best. When one talks about beauty it typically leads us to focus on women. In the past, words such as 'beauty' were used in relation to 'women' and even in this day in age words like 'beautiful' and 'attractive' are referred to women, rather then men. The media has helped to mold how we visualize words. Messages from the media help to define what is normal, acceptable and ideal, but do not help teach and distinguish between imagination and reality. Image and representation of women in the media has long been a subject of concern. In today's society woman are perceived as stereotypical models, which consequently have a negative affect on young girls who emulate women based on fantasy and unrealistic standards. As media continues to show negative images, young girls will continue to face challenges physically, mentally and socially.
Media Watch groups are non-governmental groups and organizations that monitor the way communications media deals with socially and politically sensitive issues. Media Watch. ca and Media Watch. com are two such organizations that take an in-depth look at how women are represented in the media. Their goals are to portray women positively, depict women as experts and represent diversity through media. They do this by revealing the true source of negativity, and the impacts it can have on young girls. Gatekeepers play a major role in deciding what will and will not appear in media. If anything they are too be blamed for most of these negative images that we see daily. Gatekeepers are not too worried about what the consequences of there actions will be, they are more worried about what will sell, even if it is a women's image. Gatekeeping is supposed to be a theory enforcing positive access to media. The goal is to present a women's image positively while illustrating diversity. However, they do not and society suffers. Their concept of ideal and realistic standards can have a great affect on individuality, health, and a girls self esteem.
There are many different types of media that influence young girls. The truth is that media does not understand how unhealthy and deadly their representation of women can be. Advertisements are one of the many ways girls are affected. Advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry in North America. North Americans are believed to be exposed to between 1,500 and 3,000 promotional messages each day. (These can come via radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, bus shelters, billboards, posters, bumper stickers, flyers, on the internet). The average woman however sees 400 to 600 advertisements per day, and by the time she is 17 years old, she has received over 250,000 commercial messages through the media. The continuous exposure to female-oriented advertisements influences girls to become insecure about their bodies and to obsess over their physical appearance. Fashion models, whose image we are bombarded with daily, weigh less than twenty-three percent than the average American woman. Only five percent of all women are born with the ideal body type of fashion models. Advertising uses a massive number of techniques to create perfect images. The majority of the women we see in magazines, music videos, and films do not appear in reality, as we perceive them in media. We may believe we are actually looking at one woman's body when we are actually looking at least three different images. Young girls learn very quickly that they must spend there time, money, and energy on achieving these standards. Girls frequently compare their bodies to those they see around them, and researchers have found that exposure to a «perfect» body images lowers a girl's happiness with their own appearance. Studies have found that people who were shown slides of thin models had lower self-esteems than people who had seen average and oversized models. A 1996 study found that the amount of time an adolescent watches soaps, movies and music videos is associated with their degree of body dissatisfaction and desire to be thin. Magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Seventeen are almost guarantee tips on «loosing ten pounds in just ten days,» or «101 ways to a tighter behind.» Ads such as Gucci, Versace, CK and Chanel are just one of the many ads that not only illustrate thin women, but stereotypical gender roles where women are submissive and helpless and men are dominating. Whoever thought toys could actually make young girls question their bodies. Well, Barbie has become a major role model for young girl. What people do not know is that the originally Barbie was based on a prostitute. The image aspects of the media influence us, weather we are young or old. About 90% of American girls ages 3-11 own Barbie dolls and live in a world with fairy tale princesses as our role models. Barbie dolls expand the description of the «perfect» image. Complete with tiny waist, enormous breasts, and long slender legs. 5 Another factor that helps manipulate young girl's minds is music. Music videos tend to send out a negative message to young girls, three-quarters of female music videos show sexual content. Young women artists tend to show more skin, and dance provocatively, often more than necessary. Young girls are not able to distinguish the fact that they are performers and that is what they do for a living; instead they copy what they see. Another, group that had a great influence on girls is the Spice Girls. The group of five very sexy girls took the world by surprise when they came out with their big shoes, short dresses and the message of «Girl Power.» This group of girls played a large part in what girls today see as an «independent women». There message was truly positive to young girls everywhere, however the message some how did not fit with their image. Their attitude and appearance were just one of many reasons why their message of «Girl Power» did not come across as they wanted it to. To put it briefly the current message pushed into our minds by the media is that «thin is beautiful» and this can have a great effect not only physically on young girls, but also mentally and socially.
Through media young girls can learn a lot about body image and women. The hypodermic needle theory states that media is so powerful that it can «inject» their messages into audiences. In this case, women representation is the message and young girls are the audience. When all young girls see around them is negative images, this is what they see as «ok». In this case, they interpret the «ideal women» to be as thin, almost anorexic; the perfect beauty has large eyes, large in proportion to her face. She has full red lips, a small delicate nose, a face wide at the temples and narrow at the jaw, and a dainty neck. She should have shiny, glossy hair, and lots of it-but only on her head, of course! Leg hair, underarm hair, and any visible hairiness even on the forearms, but especially on the face - it all has to go. With so much pressure from media to look a certain way, how can this help them mentally and socially? The answer is it cannot. These destructive images can be so overwhelming to young girls, and can lead them to feelings of insecurity about the way they look, feel and act. Women frequently compare their bodies to those they see around them. Insecurities lead to many self-esteem problems also. Although self-esteem applies to every aspect of how you see yourself, it is often talked about in terms of appearance or body image. One study reported in a Body Image Survey that «very thin» models made them feel insecure about themselves. Young girls also punish themselves for not having perfect bodies. They believe, «It is our body's fault that we are not happy - with our relationships, our jobs, and our lives.» Therefore, they deny their bodies food, new clothes, and even love. Sadly, a lot of us hate our bodies and this negative body image poisons the rest of our self-image. Unfortunately, the way girls see themselves is all due to how media depicts women. Seventy-five percent of «normal» weight women think they are overweight and 90% of women overestimate their body size. Dissatisfaction with their bodies causes many young girls to go through depression. Depression can have numerous affects on girls, such as starvation, loss of sleep and appetite. It is ridiculous when you see young girls complaining about how they think they are too overweight. The number one wish for girls ages 11 to 17 is to be thinner, and girls as young as five have expressed fears of getting fat. This can have major implications on girls in the long run. Relationships may also suffer due these factors, jobs may be jeopardized, and attitudes towards life will change. When we see negative female artists such as Madonna and Britney half naked, talking about sexual relationships, what type of message are they sending? Most videos now a days focus mainly on breasts, there behinds and their bare skin. Content analyses indicate that up to 75% of concept music videos contain sexually suggestive material. As you can see the media's influence can really have great impacts on young girls and their mental and social attitudes, but there are greater problems that can occurs from this.
A young girl can under go a lot of abuse, not only mentally and socially, but also physically. An eating disorder is a type of mental, physical, and emotional illness. Eating disorders occur in women who suffer from a distorted body image of themselves, low self-esteem, depression, etc. Fashion Ads for companies such as Calvin Klein, Gucci and Versace depict images of women that are underweight. Teenagers already suffering from mental and social problems are easily influenced by the media, which sets unrealistic standards and unachievable goals in terms of looks. Teen magazines, movies, and celebrities promote an attractive and fake, yet desirable image. Some girls affected by these cultural images follow extreme dieting, with the hopes of looking like their role models. This is especially dangerous because diets can easily lead to anorexia and bulimia. Dieting can become surprisingly addictive. Many girls between the ages of 6 and 12 are dieting and building unhealthy expectations about their bodies. With all the publicity around us advertising diet supplements, drinks, and ideas about dieting, girls are so vulnerable to these fixations that they believe this is the only way to diet. Some women that diet and or have eating disorders develop problems with alcohol or drugs. Actresses such as Ally Mcbeal and Tracy Gold are just a few of the many female actresses that have gone through these sorts of struggles. When young girls see stars that have gone through this disturbing process, they do not recognize the fact that it is an illness, and think it is all right to do those sorts of things.
The media presents role models that are degrading to women and teach them to value good looks and thinness over personality and integrity. The mass media is a powerful tool. It has influenced and shaped North American women's perceptions of body image. The media's ability to communicate mixed messages to women makes it hard to identify who we really are. It can shape one's individuality, health, and self esteem. One thing we tend to forget is that a women's beauty is not always determined from the outside, but also from inside. As soon as you accept yourself, regardless of society's standards, the media will not control your feelings about your body.