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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… Read more


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)

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Cyberspace and Self-Image

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