Female Body Image and the Mass Media

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Perhaps no time in history have body image standards had such an enormous impact on society. With today’s mass media people can be subjected to thousands of images and messages daily, portraying the “ideal” body image. The people most often portrayed and effected by these messages are young women. Females can feel constant pressure to live up to these ideals which are most often unattainable. This pressure can cause detrimental physical and mental states. To fully understand this problem we must first ask ourselves, “Why?” Why has the female body been pushed to the forefront of society and media? It is undeniable that it is merely a marketing ploy. The beauty sector is a multibillion dollar a year industry.

Companies such as Revlon, Cover Girl, Maybelline, L’Oreal insist that girls must look a certain way if they want to be anything. These corporations are only concerned with the bottom line. They take no responsibility for the negative image that they portray, in fact, that is what they thrive on. The worse self-image a woman has, the more beauty products she will buy to try and “improve” her looks. And there is no better way to make her think she is ugly than to subject her to thousands of unrealistic, airbrushed pictures of models to compare herself to. This way of thinking is further drilled into the female mind through women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue and so on. Never do you find an article entitled “Big is Beautiful”. More often you will find “How to lose 20 lb.. so your man will love you!” sprawled across the cover of the latest issue. Occasionally magazines will run a heart touching article about an ex-models fight with bulimia.

They will often forget to mention, however, that the same model was portrayed as the pinnacle of health and beauty on the cover of last years April issue. The beauty industry and magazines are not the sole cause of the problem though, there is plenty of blame to go around. And so we look to Hollywood. The cardinal rule in movies and television: sex sells. When you tune into to watch Friends on Thursday night you will not see one leading lady (or any ladies for that matter) with a waist over size six.

The only “imperfect” characters in the show are the “fat ugly guy and fat ugly lady” who live across the street and are the objects of constant ridicule.

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