What impact does the media have on females in todays society?
The ‘ideal' body shape has changed throughout the years and today's current society is obsessed with body image, to which perfecting their appearance is now part of every female's daily lives – a popular controversial topic of today.
All forms of media - Television, Internet, Magazines, Social Media, Films etc. promote the ‘perfect' body shape, placing immense pressure on individuals to reach the high beauty standards set within the media; slender, thin figure with a clear, perfect complexion and beautiful long hair. The media encourages beauty and the body image depicted indicates female individuals, who are attractive and appealing, are more acceptable within society, triggering negative feelings regarding own body image and beauty such as depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders and other body-related issues.
Children as young as 5 years old are exposed to the pressure of beauty by the media to which can cause negative feelings and encourage dieting from such a young age. The beauty industry appears to target insecure and vulnerable females, generally the developing adolescents, promoting thin models with no imperfections or flaws, generating the undesirable emotions.
Dieting is the most popular way in attempt to achieve the ‘ideal' body image portrayed in the media, yet the beauty standard set, is unattainable and unrealistic. Nevertheless, consumers believe what the media show and advertise are truly achievable, increasing cosmetic surgery and a rise in the development of a disorded eating behaviour or an actual eating disorder such as Anorexia and Bulimia.
The influence of the media is so powerful and influential; it is a constant controversial debate to whether the media are fully responsible for the body dissatisfaction and negative feelings females obtain, and if the images portrayed are the root cause for the development of an eating behaviour or can other factors contribute too.
All forms of media shape the world and the ‘perfect' female is depicted through magazines, TV, music, internet, billboards, toys, movies, commercials etc. on a daily basis, impacting women and girls in western civilization on how to perceive their own bodies, how to look and how to behave. Beauty standards have changed throughout the decades, even centuries, and has always placed immense pressure on females. From 1400s-1700s, an overweight body was considered attractive and the ‘perfect' shape. Through the 19th Century, the curvaceous body was the ‘ideal' body shape – large hips, large breasts and slender waist. The thinner ideal was eventually fashionable in the 1920s but was replaced again to the curvaceous shape in both the 1940s and 1950s. By the mid 1960s, successful model icon Lesley
Lawson ‘Twiggy', influenced the new ‘perfect' body image with a slender shape, short cropped hair, long eyelashes, overstated makeup and wore daring, skimpy clothing. The super thin ‘ideal' was once more the beauty standard and still remains to be the fashionable body image today - the image is of an unrealistic appearance – a slender figure, tall, a large bust, caucasian and light coloured hair.
Advertisement and marketing within the beauty industry, the 21st century in particular, has and still is, extremely powerful and influential. The ‘ideal' female body images are airbrushed to unattainable standards of beauty, convincing feminine consumers to purchasing beauty products and for many, even to the extreme of modifying themselves with cosmetic surgery - trying to achieve the unrealistic, desirable stereotype established, believing all that is presented within the media.
39% of the women surveyed reported that if money wasn't a concern they would have cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance. Of the 39% who said they would have cosmetic surgery, 76% desired multiple surgical procedures. 5% of the women surveyed have already had cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance.
Advertisements, generally in magazines and television for beauty products, fashion clothing, dieting, surgery, etc. convince females into buying with confidence and they too could become beautiful just like the model(s). The media contributes to the pressure on females of how to look a certain way to be an attractive and successful individual within the modern world society to which there is no boundary on how appealing and pretty one can become. Media representation outlines the ‘perfect' body image consistently and creates the standards of where beauty should be, to which women and girls are repeatedly exposed to what their appearance should
look like to be considered as beautiful, even though the ‘ideal' body image is hard to accomplish and maintain. Culture educates females to believing happiness cannot be achieved unless they are attractive.
The ‘perfect' body image been portrayed in the media is gradually reducing in size to a level of been potentially dangerous and harmful to a females health, but marketers understand any product that is appealing within the beauty industry will make a profit, therefore are happy to advertise products using size zero models, although the images have more than likely been manipulated and digitally improved before production – promoting an unattainable, untrue body image. Beauty sells, and the influence can be profound. Marketers are clever and know exactly how to sell products, helping consumers to believe the same appearance can be achieved like the model in advertisements but unfortunately, products cannot change how an individual's body is - shape of legs, height, size of hips or how each body stores fat etc. In the 1950s, the Coca-Cola bottle shape was identical to the popular hourglass body shape, like that of Marilyn Monroe with measurements of 37-22-35 (Figure 1). The bust and hips are of similar sizes and the waist size is at least 10 inches smaller.
The ‘perfect' body image represented in mass media promotes narrow standards of beauty and attractiveness, and females, commonly the adolescents, seem to develop unhealthy attitudes and negative effects towards their own bodies – loss of self-esteem, depression and unhealthy eating habits. Yearning to be popular in school, peer pressure to be super thin and beautiful will place them into popularity groups at school, respected and idolized by other children.
Children as young as 5 are exposed to the pressure within the beauty industry through pamper parties for girls aged between 5 – 11 years (Figure 2) - offering manicures; nail art, make-up, hairstyling alongside entertainment, opening up doorways to encourage imitating adult role play and creating pressure.
Market firms are very much aware the insecure females are the target market – are more than likely to purchase the beauty product, a certain brand of clothing or diet aids to improve their own body image.
Advertisers often create ads that use the human body to make viewers feel different emotions. Advertisers do this to persuade consumers to do what the advertisers want them to do.
The media can deliver strong messages and portray females as sexual objects. Partially clothed or even naked provocative images of women's bodies are sexualized in advertisements to seize attention from potential buyers. Provocative advertisement images are considered acceptable. Many women assume males want to have a spouse with the same beautiful body image portrayed in the media, generating a feeling of been inadequate, therefore are eager to buy beauty products and go to the extreme of having surgery to help improve attractiveness.
The 3000 British women surveyed were aged between 18 and 30 years old and were asked at what age they first considered cosmetic surgery, to which 25 per cent of women answered between the ages of ten and 15 years old and 33 per cent said between the ages of 15 and 18 years old.
In particular, teenagers are concentrating on developing individuality, therefore are more vulnerable to the peer pressure of looking good in addition to the direct powerful messages been sent out from the media of how a beautiful, slim figured female will appear to be more popular, wealthy and successful in life. Music has a major influence on youths, and teenagers are the largest consumers of music, admiring the thin, beautiful pop stars, inspiring ideas on what to look like, what to wear and how to behave.
A concern with these role models is that models are generally skinny, and ‘perfect'. The message that this gives to young people is that you have to be skinny if you want to be successful, popular, etc.
Social media apps for mobile phones and tablets i.e. Snap Chat, Instagram, Pinterest and many others, allows individuals constant access to flawless imagery of not only celebrities but non-celebrities with faultless beauty and perfect figures, many of which have a large number of followers and positive comments on effortlessly, unplanned picture perfect photos. The current trend of taking pictures of themselves, known as ‘selfies' is continuous peer pressure into taking the perfect picture to then be updated regularly on social media for all to see and comment. However, media can be damaging to those who have poor body image as it allows abuse and/or to be a target of intimidating behavior. Victimisation of insults can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and development of unhealthy eating habits. The growth of social media has heightened dramatically in the last 5 years, and is now indispensable to the younger generations. Teenager's lives are accessible to be viewed and even judged from all around the world by any individual, making social media the ideal platform for businesses to connect with to advertise products and services.
Through online social media, kids can spread embarrassing or untrue information about one another. This includes opinions about how people look. According to Do Something, an organization for teens and social change, nearly 43 percent of teens have been victims of online bullying.
The influence of the media can develop body image issues from girls as young as 7 but has been known in children aged 5 years old who are attempting to diet to help lose weight and achieve the ‘ideal' body images represented constantly by the media.
In the United States of America girls as young as five years old have succumb to the ideal beauty standards and are already dieting to be thin.
The messages are so prevalent in culture, the effect on young girls occurs even before been exposed to beauty and fashion advertised on TV and magazines. The exposure of a beautiful body image has major effects on young girls, encouragement into buying beauty and dieting products from such a young age. Beauty pageants for young girls are very popular to which each girl competes against one another based on appearance, individuality, talent and confidence - dressed in expensive dresses, make-up and big hair. Taking part in such events from a young age with attention centered on appearance, can affect an individual later in life – developing issues with self-esteem and confidence.
Many experts agree that participation in activities that focus on physical appearance at an early age can influence teen and/or adult self-esteem, body image and self worth. Issues with self-identity after a child “retires” from the pageant scene in her teens are not uncommon. Struggles with perfection, dieting, eating disorders and body image can take their toll in adulthood.
As girls get older, attitudes become more powerful with concerns on personal appearance - making the new desirable consumers young girls, who are experimenting with brands and developing loyalty to which advertisers focus on directing the messages that the ‘ideal' body image can be achieved. Cosmetics for young girls are moderately low-priced and within a couple of years, media representation would have persuaded young consumers to purchase even more expensive cosmetic and beauty products to help achieve the unachievable look. Young girls establish make-up and skin care products that help attain clear, smooth and youthful skin with no signs of ageing and is blemish free. Magazines and in particular social media share many pages and videos of ‘make-up' tips and skin care regimes to help improve appearances and body image.
The media represents the unrealistic ‘thin-ideal' body image constantly that real, ordinary, everyday female bodies have now become invisible, therefore has a profound effect on women and girls to how they perceive their own body weight, encouraging skipping meals, dieting, surgery and triggering illnesses such as anorexia and bulimic.
Sydney's RPH Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, which runs the Eating Disorders clinic, estimates that each year one in every 200 female teenagers becomes anorexic.
Skipping meals will affect each person differently, causing various body reactions. There is no harm in skipping a meal every now and again, but can be of a concern when it is a regular habit as it could result in unwanted metabolic changes in the body. Periods of skipping meals can reduce weight in the short term but ultimately gain back more fat around the stomach area and the body tends to go into survival mode if goes too long without food. Other dangers include the possibility of deprivation of nutrients, poor brain functioning, fatigue, development of diabetes type 2 if breakfast is skipped and other health worries can be obtained. Therefore, why are unrealistic beauty standards been pushed onto females when the influence can be damaging? It is simply, economics.
By year 2017 the dieting industry will have a global value of £220 billion, £2 billion in Britain alone. The mass media influences females to diet and lose weight, with assurances of achieving a body image just like the models in the advertisements. The gap between an actual body shape and the ‘ideal' body shape is broader than ever, pushing females even harder into losing weight. Depending on an individuals approach, dieting can be unhealthy and separates the dieter from the natural human responses the body is signaling i.e. nutritional necessities and overlooking hunger pangs. Losing weight through extreme restrictive diets can cause the feeling of been constantly hungry and lead to an eating behaviour such as binge eating due to withdrawal of food - A person can tolerate hunger for only a short period of time until strong food cravings form. Failure of achieving an unattainable body image like those depicted in mass media can lead the dieter to a feeling of disappointment and result in low self-esteem. A dieting cycle can be the foundation of developing an eating disorder but marketers in the dieting industry do not seem concerned of the health issues and continue to use ‘perfect' body images that are difficult to achieve and preserve to assure continual growth and maintain profits.
Another industry what is demanding and is on the increase of obtaining immense profits is cosmetic surgery. Women are willing to pay in the thousands to undergo plastic surgery to transform and resemble physical features of models and celebrities shown within the media. The constant everyday messages mass media promote – beauty, thinness and dieting, inform females their beauty is not of the same standards portrayed, therefore need to go to extreme measures and modify their bodies with cosmetic surgery. Every year cosmetic surgery is on the increase and thousands of women, and even teenagers in Britain alone continue to opt for procedures to enhance and/or correct imperfections, believing the transformation will boost low self-esteem and confidence. The latest trend of taking ‘selfies' has developed self-awareness leading to more females comparing to others and deciding cosmetic surgery can improve their appearance.
In 2008, more than 160,000 kids had cosmetic surgery. Many wanted to change their noses or the size of their breasts.
A mixture of cultural, social and environmental factors influences eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimic. This affects many females with the mass media contributing to body dissatisfaction and unhealthy obsessions of their own bodies. For many, concerns with body image are a factor in the development of an eating disorder; underlining emotions and not food is what triggers it.
Anorexia is a mental illness and can be extremely dangerous, even life threatening. Restricting the amount of food in addition to excessive exercising is a psychological way of gaining control to parts of their life they feel has lost control. An obsession with body image can delineate own evaluation and judgment, developing an untrue view of what they look like - Negative thoughts progress to complex emotions and causes dieting behavior. Females will restrict energy consumption with an intense fear of gaining weight, therefore will not be able to preserve a healthy weight and will be starved, undernourished and underweight. The fixation with body image can be vast, with concern of specific parts of the body – generally the abdomen, thighs and bottom. The individual will observe a disorted overweight body but in fact, will have an unhealthy, unsafe weight. Anorexia can have an enormous effect on a person and can cause many health problems such as; Infertility, heart problems, kidney problems, low blood pressure, osteoporosis and even death.
Another alike eating disorder, usually concealed and kept a secret, and is potentially fatal, is Bulimic. An individual affected by the illness, commonly females aged 18-19 but can occur any age, will become part of a permanent eating cycle that involves consuming large amounts of food promptly followed by fasting, or self induced vomiting to eliminate the feelings of guilt, shameful behaviour and the anxiety of weight gain. Bulimic will put intense stress on the body, increasing serious health complications such as; Heart attack, fertility issues, arrhythmia and death. Recurrent bouts of binge eating can tear the stomach lining causing acid to leak into the entire body causing fatality and frequent vomiting can erode enamel off teeth causing tooth decay.
Both Anorexia and Bulimic are the most clinically diagnosed mental disorders but another additional medical eating disorder has been identified; EDNOS – Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Stated.
The EDNOS does not involve individuals starving, vomiting or binge eating - It is an individual with a disordered eating behaviour who echo some, but not all of the same traits of an Anorexia, Bulimic sufferer. A disordered eating behaviour is usually the beginning of developing an eating disorder, established through dieting together with obsessive-compulsive thoughts about calorie consumption and body image whilst the behaviour is nevertheless just as dangerous. Females who suffer with a disordered eating habit can be affected physically, emotionally and socially, consequently separating themselves from socializing environments that includes others eating food. Health problems can develop including anxiety, depression, and a progression to a clinical eating disorder, malnutrition, osteoporosis, headaches, weight gain, muscle cramps, poor concentration, diarrhea and constipation.
Eating disorders in children are hard to identify and diagnose due to the nutritional requirements changing with growth spurts and the constant changes to body weight. It is predominantly dangerous for a child of any age to suffer with an eating disorder as problems can escalate rapidly together with development concerns. Youngsters obtain so many constant messages within the mass media about how to exercise and what to eat; children are feeling under pressure just as much as adults and teenagers. Therefore, is the media responsible for females, especially youths, for having low self-esteem and lack of confidence? Is the media responsible for the development of eating behaviours and disorders?
Is the media responsible for females, especially youths, for having low self-esteem and lack of confidence? Is the media responsible for the development of eating behaviours and disorders?
In a culture with saturated media, the powerful influence upon women and younger girls is a continuous debate.
Females of all ages come under immense pressure from the media, friends, partners and even parents to maintain a great body shape (Figure 3).
The body images portrayed in the media can then push a female to go on a diet to begin a journey to gaining a similar body shape like that of the model, but low self-esteem and lack of confidence generally contributes to any issues or difficulties in life; workplace or school, relationships etc. to which can make an individual extremely unhappy and vulnerable. Research shows depression, low self-esteem and the development of eating disorders can be related to the unrealistic, unachievable body images exposed through the mass media.
Laura Bates (2014) states that a new research reveals that “almost 10 million women in the UK feel depressed because of the way they look and 36% avoid exercise because of the insecurity about their looks (Bates, 2014). Karen Ruth Brown (2006) conclude that ‘mass media such as magazines promotes these idealized body images and produce insecurities and body dissatisfaction” (Brown, 2006).
Females, especially young girls are developing disorded eating or an eating disorder as a result of the media promoting the super slender body, and with advertisements encouraging consumers to purchase high in fat foods at the same time, is leading to more individuals becoming obese.
The Good Childhood Inquiry found that ten to 15% of young people reported that they were unhappy with their appearance (Children's Society, 2012)
The space between an ordinary female and an ‘ideal' female is widening, to which causes an increase in anxiety and to help overcome the feeling of anxiety, a decrease in body weight seems to be the answer. A diet is the first chosen method to losing weight but can also be a route for causing dieting behaviours such as binge eating or compulsive eating, resulting in a troubled relationship with food.
Up to 30 per cent of Australian women are on diets at any one time, according to the National Health Survey. Seventy-seven per cent of women have tried to lose weight, according to a La Trobe University study. Forty-two per cent 13-year-old girls in a Sydney survey are on a diet.
The ‘ideal' body shape portrayed in the media is only owned by 5% of females as research statistics confirm, and around 92% of females choose to diet in order to reach the ‘perfect' body because of unhappiness regarding own body shape.
Celebrities, gossip magazines, advertisers, and the fashion and fitness industries – all stand accused of an over-reliance on promoting a body ‘ideal' which is either unrealistic or unattainable for over 95% of the population
Young girls especially, who are going through puberty, will be at the very peak of social comparison where body image is significant and extremely fragile in addition to the exposure of ‘perfect' images within the media.
Runway fashion models set the trend of having a super slim body and female models weigh approximately 23% less than the average female in society, compared to 8% over twenty years ago – meeting the BMI (Body Mass Index) criteria for having an eating disorder. “Most models weigh approximately 23 percent less than women of healthy weight.”
The thin ‘ideal' body image promoted in the media cannot be directly responsible for being the root cause of female individuals developing an eating disorder, as other factors such as family history or traumatic events, genetics and even the environment, can all contribute - especially those who suffer with body image anxiety to start with. It is too easy to blame the media and the serious condition is undermined.
‘A significant number of anorexics and bulimics have been victims of rape, molestation and incest,' according to the clinic. Often their families are having problems, sometimes hidden and not admitted to, but many people with eating disorders come from loving families that are healthy and supportive.
A study from Price Foundation, a private European foundation discovered genetics can be responsible for an eating disorder – obtaining the relationship between a disordered eating behaviour, additional psychological disorders and anorectic personality traits such as Obsessive Compulsive personality, Neuroticism, Perfectionism etc. - results suggested a strong genetic tendency revealing a chance it can be hereditary.
Thus one plausible means by which genes may influence individuals' risk of developing Eating Disorders may be through heritable personality traits.
Currently an increase in reported anorexia cases has been obtained to services but there is no concrete evidence to a rise in females who suffer with anorexia. A lot more people are aware of the illness and are more probable to observe the symptoms in a sufferer, and offer help and support rather than to fight the illness alone but anorexia is an eating disorder, not a slimming disease, so in perspective, dieting cannot lead to the development of anorexia. It is extremely difficult to validate the exposure to slender models is the reason to why teenagers in particular, develop anorexia.
Long-term emotional problems are believed to be both cause and effect of the disorders, although sufferers and doctors agree that the social pressures to diet and to be slender can trigger or encourage the conditions
In the past 3 years in the UK alone, the number of teenagers who have been admitted into hospital with an eating disorder has increased by 89% and has the highest death rate of any other psychiatric illness from being undernourished or have committed suicide.
More reports in bulimia have been recorded but again, the rise of awareness of the illness and additional services are available to offer help and support.
The Anorexia and Bulimia Foundation of South Australia has reported that the number of eating disorders has more than doubled since the 1960s
Research has been completed by Central YMCA and the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England in an effort to examine the behaviours and attitudes from media content and evaluate the impact to which magazines have been an influence to generating a dietary behaviour because of constant exposure and an indication of what the ‘perfect' body shape should look like (Figure 4). However, an understanding that most females actually believe their body size is bigger and overweight, the media contributes to females having the feeling of been bigger than their actual healthy figure, prompting overestimations of own body size, therefore the possibility of leading to an eating behaviour.
Research is continuously growing and a disordered eating behaviour can develop, with the mass media being the initial trigger, especially for adolescents or heavy individuals.
Constantly being surrounded by these images and striving for the ideal body-type represented by them damages self-esteem and promotes unrealistic goals, unhealthy eating habits, and dangerous methods of weight control.
Magazine articles are unfair – sufficient information and guidance on the latest dieting method, though no advice given for the dangers and effects of unsafe diets. Body dissatisfaction with females can also be influenced from the many magazine articles that are critical and insulting towards celebrity body shapes, creating more pressure and anxiety from the messages the media send out, therefore the media should take responsibility.
It is extremely difficult to divide the development of an eating disorder and if the influence of the media contributes to the outcome.
Many experts feel that media – TV, the Internet, magazines, and blogs – have a major influence on eating disorders.
Studies in young girls reveal the relationship between low self-esteem and eating disorders can increase as they mature – the intense pressure activated by social media, growth in websites designed for anorexia sufferers and the upsurge of celebrities.
A growth in young females exploring the Internet for information and using social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest has increased by huge numbers and are the main contributors to the decline of body satisfaction and confidence amongst teenagers, a UK report states.
A study from Israeli researchers found that the more time teen girls spent using Facebook, the higher their chances for developing a negative body image and an eating disorder.
Social media is severely influential although the impact of it has not yet been completely examined by scientists, as it is moderately new to which findings are yet to be investigated, however has the potential to be harmful if no correct methods are in place. All media is normally held responsible amongst teenagers for body dissatisfaction but in a study, many young girls confirmed the main cause was actually comparing with peers.
A 2008 study by the Girl Scout Research Institute revealed that media, including magazines, and fashion were big influences on girls' body images. But friends and family were even bigger influences
Bullying online is rising “ Increased use of social media has also resulted in a rise in cyberbullying” and awareness of this is important as many young girls been bullied will never have a break from the upsetting behaviours from others. In 2014, the Department for Education published E-Safety in the National Curriculum for all key stages within Primary and Secondary schools focusing on internet safety to help stay safe with social networking and raising awareness regarding cyber bullying.
APPENDIX 1 – letter from school
In 2007, 41% of girls aged 14 and 15 years specified they were body confident and had self-esteem, the Schools Health Education reports, compared to 33% in 2014 – dramatically fallen over a period of 7 years. Girls within the age group were particularly more concerned with body image and appearance than schoolwork, home-life and money. The report also discovered 41% of 15 year old girls did not have any food or drink at breakfast time and 2/3 believed they were overweight.
Other studies disclose a short-term consistent exposure to the ‘perfect' body shape relates with individuals developing increased anxiety and reduced self-esteem yet there is no particular research findings of the media clearly contributing to the reason of females having body dissatisfaction issues or a disorded eating behaviour of some form due to the media's exposure and pressure. The research indicates online activity could be connected to the decrease of both self-esteem and confidence in young females.
Texas A & M International University completed research on 237 females requesting each individual to answer specific questions. The girls aged between 10 and 17 years old gave three names of favourite shows on television and rated attractiveness of actresses and to measure the exposure of beauty.
Assessments of each females weight and height, feelings about own body shape, peer competition, social media usage and satisfaction of daily lives were reported. The exact same assessments were carried out 6 months later on 101 of the same females.
Results discovered peer competition was the major factor for influencing negative views significantly with own body image, possibly developing symptoms for an eating disorder in the long term, to which social media and the television are non-influential, yet previous research stated social comparison amongst females is due to the usage of social media sites. Another relevant study confirmed some individuals using a social media account with lots of friends may appear to have lower self-esteem and unsure where they currently are in life.
In some circumstances, social media may contribute to low self-esteem and “unhappiness”. Researchers at University of Michigan followed 80 undergraduates on Facebook. They found that the more time students spent on Facebook, the less happy they were in the moment and less satisfied they were with their life in general.
Being aware and alert of the media's intentional goal aimed to the most vulnerable individuals to lure them into purchasing the product(s), can achieve more self-security, self-esteem and confidence when conscious of any triggers. Understanding appearances on the outside will not improve inner qualities and been aware of the process of how the images were created together with the ability to divide the images and personal feelings apart will help females to become sensible, self-assured customers without been affected and believing in the images been advertised.
Many supportive advocacy campaign groups such as: Endangered Bodies, I am that girl, Media Savvy Girls, Women's Media Center are just a few who have faith in the lengthy process of attempting to change how the media depict females through emphasizing all problems and concerns linked to negative body images, therefore efforts are currently been made both nationally and internationally to try and make advertisers take responsibility for promoting idealistic images.
A campaign in particular; ‘Truthinads', have successfully managed to encourage several clothing manufactures to put a stop to promoting models that have been digitally enhanced in Photoshop in their clothing catalogues (Figure 5).
In 2012, ‘DOVE' launched a campaign to educate girls and women with self-esteem and to create a positive attitude towards their bodies. The programme was delivered in the UK to more than 800,000 individuals and partnered with the Beat Eating Disorders Association to help improve confidence.
The National Eating Disorders Association developed a programme for media education resulting in a noticeable increase in confidence and positivity towards own body after seeing images of female bodies in the media - the programme was successful and evident it helps females recognise the unrealistic images.
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists (RCP), request a forum to be set up by the government with a variety of suitable professionals such as; Eating disorder specialists, magazine editors, politicians, advertisement companies and any other appropriate bodies required to prepare a new ethical code.
The media's influence is a controversial topic and is of concern to whether it is responsible for body dissatisfaction and accountable for negative feelings amongst females, especially young teenagers. However, the media's impact can have a positive effect such as an improvement of social skills - most teenagers are shy and socially awkward to which the media can help build confidence and increase knowledge, directing young females through modern society successfully. Many young teenagers live a secluded lifestyle; therefore political and cultural awareness from news channels with what is happening around the world is vital and useful – generating responsible young citizens.
Nevertheless, mass media does not create the impossible beauty standards set, only promotes to consumers what makes a profit. Many reports show how much influence mass media has on females and the changing of perceptions, but is it reasonable for society to continuously blame the media for triggering insecure emotions amongst vulnerable females.
The ‘model' body has been presented for centuries within the media, changing shape throughout the years, and females have continuously tried to achieve the same ideal displayed. The constant bombardment of messages promoted in the media of perfect thin ‘ideals', beauty and dieting, educates regular females their body is to be continuously improved, therefore adjustment is always needed. The media concentrates on using unrealistic beauty standards to form power, especially to the vulnerable individuals who believe in the ‘ideal' images - making a profit. The thin ‘ideal' considered beautiful in the media, is respected by society, however can produce negative feelings and dissatisfaction towards own body image, leading to dieting, cosmetic surgery, disorded eating behaviours and the possibility to developing an eating disorder such as anorexia and bulimia. The media shapes the world, making females compare to one another constantly with friends, family, celebrities and even strangers on a daily basis, resulting in motivation to achieve the perfect, successful, beautiful image portrayed in the media – extremely intense pressure placed on females in today's world.
Research is always evolving and statistics developing to which different studies have researched into finding if the media are responsible for body dissatisfaction, restrictive dieting behaviours or the development of an eating disorder, although it is extremely difficult to divide the development of an eating behaviour and the influence of the media. Research has been investigated to find if other factors could contribute such as genetics, family history and traumatic events – all to which can be a factor. Research discloses a substantial number of sufferers who are having problems or have been a victim of crime such as incest, abuse or rape, can also be the root cause to developing an eating disorder as many victims of a traumatic experience, struggle on a daily basis with feelings of embarrassment, responsibility, dissatisfaction with own body and no control, hence the root cause for developing issues with eating.
Furthermore, other studies reveal genetics can be responsible and common personality traits hereditary. Perfectionism, impulsiveness, sensitivity and obsessiveness are all personality characteristics that are connected to certain genes; generally existing before a disordered eating behaviour has developed, making personality traits vastly heritable. Evidence from genetic research confirms females are more at risk of developing an eating disorder if born with specific genotypes and females who have grown up in a family with a member suffering from an eating disorder is approximately 7-12 times more probable to also develop the illness.
Both anorexia and bulimia admissions have increased significantly in the past couple of years, yet can the media take responsibility for their influence or can it be the increase of awareness and knowledge of the illness?
All kinds of media have created an obsession with body image in which the influence and impact on some females has helped to develop a disordered eating behaviour of some type. However, even though the media contributes to body dissatisfaction and dieting is the most common influence for development of an eating disorder, due to the constant exposure of thin ‘ideals', an eating disorder or a disordered eating behaviour is much more complex and difficult, therefore the media cannot to be fully responsible for the development of one - the illness is not to be confused with a diet and many other underlining factors can trigger an eating behaviour - life circumstances, past experiences, genetics etc. can allow an individual to develop an eating disorder of some kind, to which regardless of the influence of the media, would still affect an individual the same way.
In today's current society, social media is a major influence, especially for young females as the pressure to be beautiful and have the perfect figure is so vital. Comparison of appearance with peers on a daily basis is clear it affects self-esteem, dissatisfaction with body and the possibility of developing a disorder eating behaviour. Social media is continuously growing and having access to view friends, families, strangers and celebrities on social media from anywhere in the world using a mobile phone, computer or tablet, makes it extremely difficult to not be a part of it, increasing bullying online.
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