Women vs. Media: The Undeclared War by: Molly & Emily

// Posted by on 04/21/2014 (9:24 PM)

Sociocultural standards of feminine beauty are displayed in almost all forms of popular media. These images pervade society, females specifically, with images that portray what is considered to be the ideal body.  Such standards set by media outlets illustrate beauty as almost completely unattainable for the average woman. A majority of the models displayed on television and in advertisements are well below what is considered healthy body weight. Further, these models are often airbrushed, or altered using photoshop and other advanced technology that allow these media outlets to manipulate the reality of the image. Mass media’s use of such unrealistic models, combined with this technology, sends an underlying message to society that in order for a woman to be considered attractive, she must ultimately be unhealthy.

The idea that a person can never be too thin, too rich, or too young further perpetuates an unrealistic standard of beauty. With this being said, this mentality has contributed to a decline in the females’ satisfaction with body image and possibly lower self esteem. We also propose that the boom in social media platforms is directly correlated to a rise in eating disorders in women. Information, “support groups” and blog sites encourage eating disorders and have created a cyber atmosphere in which girls suffering from eating disorders can relate with one another, therefore normalizing living an unhealthy lifestyle. Check it out:

(You have to click on different discussion boards in order to see what people are commenting)

There’s evidence below…. actually read them ALL!

We plan to further examine the effect of social media on women through the lenses of the following theories: social comparison theory, cultivation, and sexual objectification theory. Researchers Tiggerman and Slater suggest, “the process of social comparison may provide the mechanism by which exposure to media images induces negative effects.” They theorize that social comparison theory examines how individuals are constantly evaluating themselves in comparison to others on many different dimensions. This comparison results in the judgment of either an upward comparison, which is when an individual compares himself/herself to someone who fares better than they do in a particular area (causing them to feel worse), or a downward comparison, comparing himself/herself to someone worse off in a situation, which results in the opposite (feeling better about yourself). Television, advertisements, social media forums, magazines and other media resources provide excessive ways for women to experience upward comparison. 

In the International Journal of Eating Disorders conducted a study in which 84 women were divided into two groups. One group was instructed to use Facebook as they normally would for a twenty minute time period. The other group was told to research the ocelot (a rainforest cat using Wikipedia and YouTube). Unsurprisingly, the women who spent twenty minutes on Facebook reported greater body dissatisfaction than those who looked at cute cat pictures. This evidence further supports our hypothesis that social media negatively affects body image in women.

George Gerbner, a founder of Cultivation Theory, defines cultivation as “the independent contributions television viewing makes to viewer conceptions of social reality.” Gerber posits that media’s impact builds over time through frequent and repetitive exposure. Simply put, television viewers and media consumers are more likely to perceive the real world in accordance with what is expressed through mass media. For example, as females consistently view images of tall, thin women shown through various forms of media, there is a cumulative effect that many women will believe this unrealistic standard of beauty to be “REALITY.” This in effect causes thinner females to be perceived as “normal” and women not fitting that category as “abnormal.”

In phase 2, we will look more into depth of the above theories, as well as considering sexual objectification theory. We also hope to find statistical evidence of Facebook’s (along with other forms of social media) effects on eating disorders/happiness/self-esteem specifically. We will also make note of the increased prevalence of pinterest and tumblr boards specifically focusing on dieting/exercising and other posts relating to body image. For example, we will be following “Thinspiration’s” posts that are to “thinspire” people with eating disorders. Additionally, we will address the role of media’s tendency to objectify women through commercials and other advertisements. We are excited to look at how the ideal body image has changed over time and how media markets those changes (Barbie, mannequins, desirable facial features, airbrush, etc.). The documentary, Miss Representation will also be referenced to further support how women are perceived and depicted through mass media conglomerates. We will also include a plethora of statistics that will knock your socks (or the pounds) off! We hope to conclude our project by offering ways to cope with unrealistic standards as seen in the Digital Age as well as with the expectations reinforced through mass media.

This is a link to our tumblr where we have archived posts from our research (anorexia blogs, pinterest boards, and various advertisements objectifying women)

**Please take the survey below before class!**

Cyberspace and Self-Image

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Alexandra said...

After reading your research and looking into the pro-ana/mia boards, I was shocked. I have always been aware of how social media and the increase in online behavior has shaped the way women and girls view their bodies. It was clear going through high school how the advent and popularity of facebook shaped girls thoughts and actions. The fear of being tagged in a picture you don’t remember or didn’t get to approve first would drive girls crazy. I have had friends who spent so much time and energy editing their profiles and their pictures, it consumed their emotions and thoughts. I think the rise in online activity and the concept of taking pictures for facebook has caused young girls to be more aware of their bodies and insecure about the way they look in pictures online.

In addition those boards were terrifying and depressing. This is such a negative outlet for women and men. I think that something that is missing from your project, while it does not need to be the focus, is the rise in male eating disorders as well. This issue used to be thought to just affect women, but I believe the more and more men are being affected by the pressures of the media to look a certain way.

// 04/22/2014 at 11:24 am

Eliza said...

I always knew women were way to concerned about their body image, however reading these stats, I had no idea how bad it truly was. We can all point figures, however we all do it. We all look in a mirror and instantly we are thinking both positive and negative thoughts. Typically with women, our mind is controlled by these negative thoughts. We look at food and have that inner voice telling us to not eat it because “we feel fat.” It is so messed up. Women can watch men eat whatever they want and not feel judged, however when we walk down the halls of schools, we all feel somewhat watched.
Those advertisements and billboards of models are images that are impossible to create. We all think they are real, however due to computer enhancements, that women on the poster does not exist. Due to these ADs, women with eating disorders have continued to grow and will not stop until mainstream media does. I think talking to women around campus will really help compile your research and give you a great basis of how typical college women feel about their body image.

// 04/23/2014 at 9:26 pm

Kevin said...

The link that I attached above discusses the effects women’s magazines have on the body images of teenage girls. As we discussed in class, it is strange to see women placing so much pressure on each other. Since women’s magazines praise these idealized, airbrushed female forms, they are telling normal, healthy females that they essentially are not good enough. It appears taht this can be especially taxing on teenage girls. This article states that teenage girls will often take the advice and suggestions of these fashion magazines every bit as seriously as they do that of their best friends. Thus, women’s magazines are in many ways role models for these young women, and painting such unrealistic pictures of beauty is really doing a disservice to their younger audience. Especially considering the fact that “Seventeen” maginze (tailored specifically for seventeen year old females) had to start an initiative simply to lessen the altered pictures they show of women, it seems that these magazines are being pretty poor role models at this point. I think your project will continue to raise some very interesting questions regarding the obligation these companies have to young women. As displayed in the article I attached, presenting such idealized, unrealistic depictions of the female form is taken very seriously by these younger women, which consequently can have very serious effects on their body image.

// 04/24/2014 at 12:35 pm