HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF? An honest answer from todayâ€™s society.
1 in 4 adults feel depressed about their bodies*
*YMCA Body Confidence Survey
“JUST HOW MUCH SEX IS THERE IN A SKELETON?” Germaine Greer, 1970.
throughout the past century, what we are told, and maybe even believe is the ‘ideal’ physique, has changed more times than we have seen the queen on tv. trends come and go, so do whats ‘hot’ or ‘not’ with beauty. it is possible to tell that keeping up with these changes has effected how we think about, feel about and percieve our own bodies. some of us love them, and thrive off keeping in good shape, whilst others can try and never reach their goals. often goals set are uNATTAINABLE FOR MOST, AND CANNOT BE ACHIEVED WITHOUT DAMAGING YOUR HEALTH OR MENTAL WELLBEING.
fashion AND CELEBRITIES ARE the BIGGEST influences regarding why we percieve our bodies so negatively in comparison. THIS GOES along with ideas of social media, films, tv, music, family, friends, peer pressure, relationships or wanting to ‘fit it being a trigger. through an anonymous survey, research has been collected GATHERING FIRST HAND VIEWS ON HOW A LARGE CROSS SECTION OF PEOPLE THINK AND FEEL ABOUT THEIR BODIES. tHIS BOOK aims to show what a portion of society currently think and feel, giving real, truthful, REVEALING AND THOUGHT PROVOKING views of how they percieve their own bodies, RATHER THAN BEING TOLD WHAT THEY ARE VIEWED AS.
Background: theorist, freedman in 1986, made the following statement: “the impact of today’s visual media is different from the effect of the visual arts of the past. Historically, figures of art were romanticized as otherworldly and unattainable. In contrast, print and electronic media images blur the boundaries between a fictionalized ideal and reality … Photographic techniques such as airbrushing,
soft-focus cameras, composite figures, editing and filters may blur the realistic nature of media images even further, leading consumers to believe that the models the viewers see through the illusions these techniques create are realistic representations of actual people.” HE SHOWS ONE WAY IN WHICH WE INCCUR A WARPED VIEW OF OURSELVES, DEGRADING OUR OWN NATURAL BEAUTY IN
ORE TO LOOK LIKE SOMEONE ELSE. iT IS POSSIBLE TO SAY PERHAPS THAT THROUGH THESE REALISTIC REPRESENTATIONS, WE ARE FOCUSED ON ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC LOOK, AND TAKE NECESSARY STEPS TO DO SO. bUT, IS THERE A BOUDARY? do we merge reality and fantasy in some cases, whereby an ideal is created that simply cannot be achieved. over decades we have
reflected this through mass media and fashion alike.
anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and body dysmorphia.
regardless of the route chosen – thinness and beauty.
Not only are we trying to be something we are not, as society and others around us dictate what we are, who we are, what we should do, and what is wrong and right more and more. we are in turn creating more problems for ourselves. one of these problems is the rise in mental illnesses and disorders, such as
It is a subject, which authors and theorists alike are passionate about, and all share similar views in the way the media portray the ideal, as well as the progressive updates of dieting, exercising and online thinspiration sites that are advertising the dangers of ‘beauty’. The end goal remains the same,
“Demands are made upon women] to contour their bodies in order to please the eyes of others. Women are so insecure that they take measures to capitulate to this demand, whether it is rational or not. In each case the woman is tailoring herself to appeal to a buyers’ market” germaine greer. its time to change.
What are we even trying to ‘fit’ in for? you wouldn’t of thought society would discriminate and judge based on how ‘attractive’ someone is ‘said’ to be. however, we live in a cruel world and over time its been made apparent it’s the way the world works, so to speak.
2. Attractive applicants have a better chance of getting jobs, and of receiving higher salaries.
kate fox in 2007, conducted a study on body image in association with the sirc, in order to find out how being ‘beautiful’ or ‘ideal’ can affect your life on a daily basis.
3. In court, attractive people are found guilty less often. When found guilty, they receive less severe sentences.
1. Attractive children are more popular, both with classmates and teachers. Teachers give higher evaluations to the work of attractive children and have higher expectations of them.
(one US study found that taller men earned around $600 per inch more than shorter executives).
4. The ‘bias for beauty’ operates in almost all social situations – all experiments show we react more favourably to physically attractive people.
5. We also believe in the ‘what is beautiful is good’ stereotype – an irrational but deep-seeded belief that physically attractive people possess other desirable characteristics such as intelligence, competence, social skills, confidence – even moral virtue.
studies have shown that ‘attractive’ people don’t benefit from the ‘bias for beauty’ in terms of self-esteem.
(The good fairy/princess is always beautiful; the wicked stepmother is always ugly)
Moreover, over time body and image obsessions can cause a negative effect on oneself, leading to eating disorders, medical problems, poor pesrsonal wellbeing and mental illnesses to arise.
We forget that there are major disadvantages to being attractive: attractive people are under much greater pressure to maintain their appearance.
They often don’t trust praise of their work or talents, believing positive evaluations to be influenced by their appearance.
“Secrets can take many forms -- they can be shocking, or silly, or soulful.” *
*Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret.com.
Remaining anonymous allows for the truth to be revealed and shared without hesitation.
The images shown are a very small selection of PostSecretâ€™s which have been created by an individual to share a secret about their body image and appearance.
The ‘Idea’ Behind the Anonymous Survey: the idea is simple. perhaps even revolutionary. WITH EATING DISORDERS IN THE UK ALONE DOUBLING IN THE PAST 15 YEARS, AND 1 IN 4 ADULTS FEELING DEPRESSED ABOUT THEIR BODIES, the uk ARE AT AN ALL TIME LOW OF HOW THEY PERCIEVE THEMSELVES. ON A DAILY BASIS WE ARE SUBJECTED TO SEEING HUNDREDS OF IMAGES DICTATING HOW WE COULD LOOK, OR SHOULD LOOK. further influenced by the
media and celebrity culture, the ‘ideal’ varies from a size 0 to a 12 on a monthly basis.
but what do we really think ABOUT HOW WE LOOK? we are only ever told what to think when it regards body image, trying to keep up RATHER THAN SOCIETY with what society is EXPRESSING IT currently telling us THEMSELVES. we should look like. WHAT SOCIETY calls this book views a the ‘ideal’ can be cross-section of impossble IN REALITY. society, noting their real opinions on how this results in a we look and feel predominantly right now. it shows negative view of the nation you’re not body image across alone, and everyone across the nation has a secret about which we battle on a their bodies. not daily basis. conforming is the new ideal.
“How do you as an individual perceive your own body image?”*
*The truth is important.
survey RULES: 1. STATE AGE 2. STATE GENDER 3. REMAIN ANONYMOUS
Body image Perception: the truth
“After suffering from anorexia nervosa throughout my teenage years, I haven’t ‘developed’ as much as I’d of hoped. But I have realised now, fully recovered, that my body is beautiful with or without big boobs.”
“I hate that I’ve gained weight, I hate my cheeks, and the fact I have large teeth. It makes me ashamed to look at myself in the mirror. I wish that I was skinnier. I wish that I had a toned body.” Female, 25.
“I hate that I’ve gained weight, I hate my cheeks, and the fact I have large teeth. It makes me ashamed to look at myself in the mirror. I wish that I was skinnier. I wish that I had a toned body.” Female, 28.
“Happy that my body would be perceived as ‘nice’ but not happy personally with how I look.” Female, 18. “Normal, middle of the road.” Male, 35.
“You have to accept your body changes as you get older; even if you try your hardest to keep the one you once had.” Female, 58.
“My body image is not the one that I would like to have.” Female, 18.
Above - Anonymous Set of Photos. “Short and tubby.” Male, 53.
“Always a bit paranoid and conscious about my body because I used to be pretty overweight as a kid and my weights always going up and down, bit annoying. I’m proud of who I am and my own body obviously but a lot of confidence in body image interestingly/ weirdly comes down to what I’m wearing. If I’m wearing nice clothes, which are also really comfy which is a big one - that makes me feel a lot more confident than some shitty t shirt and jeans.” Male, 22. “Always seen it as average, so not bad, but not that good either.” Female, 21.
“I often feel proud of my body image until I walk out of the door. I think there is so much pressure on looking a certain way, not looking a certain way, being fat, thin, curvy, tall, short. I look at myself and think ‘why can’t I be accepted for how I look’. I’m often told at work to eat more and get the comment ‘doesn’t it make you sick, I wish my hips were as small as yours’ or something of the like. I am quite slim but I do have the normal lumps and bumps that everyone else has. But it seems because I’m not a size 342, I’m not allowed to join in a conversation about losing weight or getting fit. It doesn’t seem fair that women feel so free to comment on my body image in such a negative way, it does make me see myself as ‘too thin, too fat’ and anything else in between.” Female, 23. “I feel great pressure to be fit and healthy. I weigh 9st at 5ft 1inch but feel like I should loose 7lbs. I know my weight is not unhealthy but I do watch what I eat, mainly due to the fact of health and family history of heart bypass. I would prefer to be thinner and more toned.” Female, 21.
Above Image Female, 21.
“I would say I have an extremely bad body image, helped partly by me having a body that wouldn’t look out of place in a Comic Relief appeal. In all seriousness my family have a history of negative body image, gym addiction and eating disorders. My mother and sister have both suffered heavily with anorexia, my sister still battling it by going to the gym for 3 hours a day. How that is supposed to help her gain weight I do not know. My brother is another prime example of a body image disorder, injecting himself with monkey sperm to help increase his muscular frame. I have very mild symptoms in comparison, I just feel like the ugliest in any room, even when in a room with Andrew Lloyd Webber impersonators I am left feeling disgusting. This kind of affects things more than just in a shallow way, being as it does make me feel like I am worthless, leading to several suicide attempts in my teens and early twenties. On a positive note this helped mine and my Dad’s relationship develop from the shell it once was to the blooming flower it now is. Back to more day-to-day operations and dealing with my tragic self-loathing. I have a plan that works quite well, it involves plenty of paper to cover mirrors, preferred stock is 135gsm Colorplan, only the best in helping me get through the day without vomiting at my own reflection. Talking about
vomiting, I carry a sick bag with me, in case passers by don’t have the manners to hold in their gut juice. All in all, I think I would have killed myself long ago if it weren’t for my large penis.” Male, 24. “I consider my body the ‘Skinny’ type.
I dont think is the normal type that people are used to seeing. I would like to be a little more plump, but I’m happy and comfortable about my body I am one of the few people who can eat anything without worrying, and I’m really happy about that!” Female, 21.
“I believe my body image is okay not amazing.” Male, 21. “I am some what pleased with my body
image, in reality my not much has changed since grade 9 shore of some muscle mass going on vacation. I recall having a very lousy self image right up till my mid twenty’s. As a male I suspect that some of my self image issues was directly linked to me speech impediment and lack of being able to have a girlfriend.” Male, 54.
‘I need to lose a stone as I do not like my body image, I see myself as over weight!” Female, 52. “I’m not particularly sure how I perceive
my own body image. I’ve never really been that conscious of my body, as I’ve never been overweight. Obviously there are a few things I’d prefer to be perfect - stomach more toned, bigger and plumper lips, defined cheekbones, longer hair, but I know I’m happy with how I look and that everything will take forever to improve! I think a lot of how I want to look is down to other girls that I see in the media and look up to, for example Cara Delevingne for her eyebrows and bone structure, or lips like Emma Grattidge’s.” Female, 19.
“I’m happy with my body, not ashamed by it although I want to continue to work on it, by going to the gym etc. I don’t really know what I want my body to look like, just to be more toned. I think I look pretty good and can look better but we all start some where.” Male, 21.
“How do I perceive my own body image? How I look is important to me, which I know people see as futile but the first impression is often the way you are judged and I don’t want to give off a poor first impression. I spend time choosing what I wear and how I look because I want to and I like to. Just like other people like skating or bikes, one of my passions is fashion. In terms of my body image I am confident in my clothes but not as confident without them. I think I am quite attractive, however, I know I can act with a very unattractive arrogance, usually when I am feeling defensive. I do not think I have an attractive body, although there is nothing wrong with it I think it could be better. I don’t think I would ever change anything because I don’t believe in that type of thing. I have a lot of respect from people who do not judge people outright on their appearance and think I can learn from them. I am a confident person, however, I do get very nervous in situations I am not used to and thinking I look the part helps me to believe I can do something. I am picky about how I look but that is just me and people who say it’s pathetic and just ego-boosting are either jealous or have nothing better to do.” Male, 19.
“There is always room for improvements
for me. I feel that I am lucky in some ways with what I have but would change a few things if I could/ had the chance and was safe to. So basically I’m negative about my body most days without even realising, it always runs through my head as I’m getting ready to go out, there’s always something that isn’t right!” Female, 24.
“I wouldn’t say I’m happy about it, but I am not ashamed of my image. I accept what I have and make it work for me.” Male, 23.
“Not very good, hard to live upto perfection shown on tv and magazines that have clearly been airbrushed within an inch of normality! Would be nice to see size 12 on the catwalks as not everyone is lucky enough to be thin, adding to depression in women who can’t achieve that look. Always striving for better body image, will I ever be happy? Probably not!” Female, 21. “I have had 3 children, and over the years my body has changed for better and for worse. I have come to realise that diets don’t work, quick fixes don’t work and after 55 years, you have to accept what you once had and what you currently have.” Female, 55.
how about some food for thought? “I am relatively pleased with my body,
but naturally, am my own worst critic. I really don’t care what anyone else thinks, but am very hard on myself. I am focused on living a healthy lifestyle in mind, spirit and body. My priority is to keep my health in line, and the physical appearance is secondary. I maintain a very healthy diet and fitness has always been a priority. Of course I wish I could ‘fix’ the physical flaws that I see, but maintaining a positive and healthy character is far more important.” Female, 45.
“My body is in pretty good shape. Don’t get me wrong, I’m flabby in certain places, jiggly in others and need more core strength. I like it. I have a womanly shape with a nice size bust and bottom and a smaller waist in between. It’s a nice mix of health and voluptousness. I try to stay in balance meaning when my jeans get a bit tight or spillage happens over the waist band, it’s just time to cut back on everything but fruits and veggies. You never want a belly bigger than your bust or to wear double digit clothes sizes.” Female, 19.
90% of Women have Body Anxiety. Half of all 16- to 21-year-old women would consider cosmetic surgery and in the past 15 years eating disorders have doubled. A new documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Miss Representation, about the under-representation of women in positions of power – women who are high “self objectifiers” have low political power. They’re less likely to run in politics, and less likely to vote: if value lies in their imperfect bodies, they feel disempowered. 69% of Men “often” wish they looked like someone else. 1 in 4 of us are on a diet at any one time.
Over a third of men (36.8%) and over half of women (50.4%) report that they compare their bodies to people on TV. There’s a famous study which looked at teenage girls in Fiji after television was introduced to the island for the first time in 1995. After three years with TV, the girls who watched it the most were 50% more likely to describe themselves as “too fat”; 29% scored highly on a test of eating-disorder risk. On average we see 5,000 Photoshopped Images a week! Rates of depression in women and girls doubled between 2000 and 2010; the more women self-objectify, the more likely they are to be depressed.
“The way I perceive my body image is strange, sometimes I’m really happy with it and other times I hate it. I do feel in a way that the media controls how we think with issues like this and this could be consciously or subconsciously.” Female, 19. “No major issues. Relatively happy.” Female, 21. “I feel good about my body Image. Im
pretty much the exact weight I want to be, I would like to be more toned and have larger muscles, but thats more for strength than cosmetic reasons.” Female, 21.
“I have areas that I would definitely improve, especially when everyday you are surrounded by the ‘perfect image’ by celebrities and social media sites.” Female, 28.
“I feel comfortable in my own skin, finally at this age. I have never considered myself to be conventionally attractive and have instead constructed a more dramatic and striking image. I think a lot of body confidence is connected to personality and having a positive energy about you. I find people that are different looking far more memorable and interesting.” Female, 42. “My body is not too bad considering I’m 41 and have two kids. I’m 5’7’’ and a size 12 so can’t really complain. When I compare myself to other women my age I think I’m doing ok.” Female, 41.
Right: Robyn Lawley, Plus Size Model
“I am currently studying fashion. Which is probably mainstream to perhaps being in smaller size or should I just say skinny. And I am skinny nor fat. I am apparently between. And I love my body the way it is. I am losing weight or gaining weight really easy, so it is easy for me to control my own body. I think at least people should appreciate their body as their own approach to love themselves. I mean, no one will love your body like you love your own body. You need to appreciate it. I guess thats just it. I don’t really care what size is people on. As long as people keep appreciate their own body; such as eat good food, treat their own skin and hair, putting make up. If people could just do that, they will automatically feel good about themselves. I am always trying to take care of my body by eating good food, using natural product for my hair and skin even nails, I am not drinking much, not smoking, I arrange my sleep time. I take care of my body as my appreciation for my self, because in order to love your self you should be able to take care of your body.” Female, 18.
“I feel much better now that I am trying to do exercise on a regular basis.” Male, 39. “Like my height, happy with my face (but don’t like that it’s getting wrinkly) don’t like certain parts of my body. Boobs too small (a little lifeless after having a child), tummy is flat with no stretch-marks which pleases me but HATE my bottom! Legs are no concern. I try to dress to disguise my bottom as I’ve had lots of comments about it over the years. At times when I’ve been super-fit I’ve been happier with my body and will even look at myself in a full-length mirror. I’m satisfied when I’m a ‘small’ size 12 and enjoy taking the compliments when I am. When my weight creeps up I don’t feel as attractive. It feels like a constant battle to be comfortable in my own skin.” Female, 42.
“Most the time I look in the mirror and think it’s ok. But wobbly round a few edges, I wouldn’t mind a smaller bum bigger boobs but if I’m holiday i wear a bikini. I don’t worry about it. I don’t really care what people think as long as they don’t stare and my body doesn’t turn heads for good or bad. I’m just an average looking woman.” Female, 27. “soft.” Female, 29.
“I try to avoid mirrors at all costs (I
even close my eyes when I walk past a full length mirror in my house). I feel like I never look good. I feel like I am a weird shape and that my clothes look strange on my body. I guess I am an average 32 yr old woman :)” Female, 32.
“Depends on mood, if happy/positive. I can feel relatively happy, other times I can feel down on my image. I find it difficult to gain muscle when training at the gym, (naturally slim and tall) which doesn’t help inspire me to change to what I’d prefer (slightly more muscular).” Male, 22.
“Fine. Not perfect, not bad, but generally fine.” Female, 31.
“Overall okay, a bit more coverage than needed but I’m gently working on that.” Male, 43.
“I am sometime happy with my body.
“In my head, my body is smaller than I think and I often walk into things because I have misjudged my size. When I see a photo of myself or see myself in a mirror, I am amazed by how huge I am. So, although I spend a lot of time “feeling fat”, I am fatter than I think I am :)” Female, 40.
I have a large stomach (left ofer from two pregnancies). I would rather have my beautiful children than a beautiful body though.” Female, 37.
“Just fine mostly- except when I eat too much!” Female, 24. “Morbidly obese,ugly and increasingly hairy.” Female, 39. “My body image is fairly positive, I’m pretty happy with it. Wish it could be the same as when I was 25 but it’s ok for my age I think. Not great by any means, could be better.” Female, 35. “Overweight.” Male, 52.
“Fat.” Female, 42. “I see myself as curvy, but not as slender as I’d like to be. Flabby definitely comes into it!” Female, 22. “Fat where I shouldn’t be and scrawny where I don’t want to be.” Male, 46.
“I am a model and I hate parts of my body. it effects every aspect of my life from my confidence as a model (which I do to stop myself from hating my body). it effects my relationship as I need a lot of affection and I’m never happy with how I look. I try not to let it stop me from being a good role model for my 5 year old daughter, I tell her she’s beautiful every day”* *Female, 28.
“Fairly slim and tall with a growing belly (noticeable only to me I’m told!). Pretty comfortable about myself - as I age and fat levels increases I sometimes think I should do more exercise. But I can’t say it’s a big concern.” Male, 31. “My body is awesome. My body has
suffered 2 suicide attempts in my teens and worked damn hard to make sure I stayed alive. My body suffered self harm. Then, when things got good, my body went through the battering of early menopause. So you know that muffin top? And those chunky thighs? And cellulite? Sod it. My body is powerful. That wobbly tummy can be covered up with a pretty skater dress. My jelly-like arms are home to a ton of beautifully soft cashmere cardigans. Sure, I’m big but I AM AWESOME!” Female, 22.
“I’m happy with my body and try not to
compare myself to certain women in the media, most people don’t have the time and resources these women have. Saying that Millie Mackintosh does make me want to try yoga! Ha.” Female, 30.
“I don’t have a particularly negative view of my body image because I’m not in bad shape for someone of my age. However, I do compare myself to my former younger self and others around me and that does get me down!” Female, 41. “Fat, bumpy and old!” Female, 30. “I hate my flabby arms and tummy.” Female, 44. “I feel the media has pressured me as a
size 12 to be slimmer, however in recent years social media has made this much worse. I do not feel that I HAVE to be slim, but both media and social media has made me feel like I would be more easily accepted in society if I were.”
“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing — they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.”* *Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot.
“Ok. Much better now than I did when I was younger. I definitely used to see myself through the self-loathing prism, looking for and being disgusted by every perceived imperfection. Now I know the lumps and bumps are there but I don’t mind, I think I look pretty good, just a bit haggard! (would do a few treatments if I could afford it - at present my beauty regime is minimal!). I would like to have the time and money to get a bit fitter, and I still struggle with IBS, but overall I would say my body image is pretty good. Having children and being in a good relationship definitely makes you care a lot less! I am the happiest I have ever been :)” Female, 42.
“I don’t feel confident about my body
“I still love the skin I’m in, though I’m starting to feel the wear and tear of my age. I’ve got great hair, beautiful skin, tan well. I’m too fat, my ass too big, but I know how to work it all to my best advantage. My body is me as much as my personality is, and I accept it as so. Life’s too short for any different attitude.” Female, 41.
others. But I’ve only ever had brief periods in my life when I’ve been happy with my body.”
especially in pictures. Do you count face in this? I have acne which really affects my confidence. For about 20 years I sporadically can’t look people in the eye.” Female, 38.
“I was in a car accident 5 years ago and because of my injuries was unable to move around much, so now that I am getting better, I paid for a gastric band and have lost 3 stone since October, so I am now getting happier with my body image.” Female, 53. “It does the job, sometimes better than
“ I feel very negative about my body
image, I’m out of shape and unfit, I used to be beautiful - IMHO - in the right light! but not any more. I don’t have the time or the money to do any serious gym. My feelings about how I look stops me buying clothes that I would like and I feel far more self concious in social situations than I used to..” Male, 48.
“I have always suffered with not liking the way I look - wanting to look thinner, have smaller legs, smaller boobs etc. from a young age. However now being the tender age of 28 I am only just starting to accept that I am who I am, my body will never be as small as I wanted it to be so the most I can do is put my body in the best condition it can be. To do this I carry out my favourite stress reliever....dancing! I set myself challenges to improve my strength in my body through using aerial hoop and pole dancing. I can honestly say this have physiologically put me in the best position I have been in my whole life. I am proud of the way I look and am ever prouder of how if I work hard like I am my body can be in excellent condition. Society expects us to look a certain way - we’re either too fat or too thin, half of the country is on fad diets that even if it makes you loose a couple of pounds, it doesn’t do a thing for you mentally. The mind is a powerful source and in my eyes the only way you can truly be happy with your body is either by accepting that you are the way you are and be proud or make a pledge to change your lifestyle.” Female, 28.
Words of Wisdom:
“Step Away from the Mean Girls… …and say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks. Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others. This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look
into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you’re too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.”*
“How has the 21st Century Media Affected Women’s Perception of Body Image and the ‘Ideal?’”
UNDERSTAND how we think about our bodies. Over the past century the media has successfully managed to change how women perceive their bodies, as well as others. This essay discusses theory behind the factual truth presented to use. Theorists Fredrickson & Roberts (1997), Thompson & Heinberg (1999), Greer (1970 & 1999), Freedman (1986), Heinberg (1996) & Mazur (1986), Nichter & Nichter (1991), Stormer (1999), Shorter, Brown, Quinton & Hilton (2008), Wolf (1991), Lacan (1949), Lind (2009), Fugella (2002), Grant & Philips (2005), Slater & Tiggemann, (2002), Moradi & Huang’s (2008) and Toscani (2007) have been analyzed in order to gain a further understanding on tremendous topic of discussion, both past and present. A number of theorists and authors have considered how the 21st century media have used imagery to sexually-objectify women to the advantage of men resulting in, theories of self-objectification, the gaze, the mirror stage, and eating disorders, as well as other mental illnesses. Fredrickson & Roberts (1997), Thompson & Heinberg (1999), and Greer (1970 & 1999) have all commented upon the fact that the media plays a crucial part
of body image perception and mental illnesses, in a sociocultural context. For instance, Fredrickson & Roberts, conducted social and psychological experiments which “asserted that women to varying degrees internalize [an] outsider view and begin to self-objectify by treating themselves as an object to be looked at and evaluated on the basis of appearance” (1997) showing the backlash of media and photography, and their perceived views of themselves. Thompson & Heinberg (1999) have supported this through researching into the media and it’s role within a socio-cultural realm. Together they stated that “a socio-cultural model emphasizes that the current societal standard for thinness, as well as other difficult-toachieve standards of beauty for women, is omnipresent and, without resorting to extreme and maladaptive behaviors, but impossible to achieve for the average woman” (Fallon, 1990; Heinberg 1996) (see image 1) explaining the link to mental health and the need to constantly reach a goal. Whilst theorists analyzed the effect of the media on women, authors and feminists have also commented upon the change in the female ideal, supporting the evidence
shown above. Germaine Greer commented upon the change, however in a more hard-hitting, feminist pun - “just how much sex is there in a skeleton?” (1970) mocking in ‘in’ figure, donned by the elite, celebs and the fashion industry, promoting an international visual ideal, whilst hiding the hurtful truth behind the sharp figure, which has captivated the youth of today. The noted three authors and theorists mentioned above, all recognize a link between the media, photography and the changed perceived views of the ideal female physique, resulting in physical changes which cannot be acquired without great motivation, inspiration, distorted body image perception and extreme physical activity. Fredrickson & Roberts (1997), and Thompson & Heinberg (1999) look analytically at the mental issues related to eating disorders and similar mental obstacles, whilst Greer (1970) pays more attention to the perceived view of those not affected from an outsider’s view, whilst mocking those who are trying to fall in line. Greer shows passion in her writings when discussing the male view of the female figure. She discusses how a Kate Moss skeleton-esk figure
can be more appealing and sexual than the then ‘in’ figure of beauty, such as that of Marilyn Monroe, for example. The change over the past century has shown the ideal as a cursive figure, as well as a slim figure however the same issues have always surfaced, keeping in with the new, and the idea of perfection and acceptance. Greer has always argued that women should remain healthy, however remaining conscious of the socio-cultural effect of media, negating that “every woman knows that, regardless of all her other achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful” (1999). She is condoning the reasoning behind women’s desires to be beautiful, whilst recognizing that “every human body has its optimum weight and height and contour, which only health and efficiency can establish. Whenever we treat women’s bodies as aesthetic objects without function we deform them” (1970) elaborating on issues regarding mental health and self-perception of ones aesthetic. Thompson & Heinberg (1999), noted during their research into the media’s influence on body image disturbance and eating disorders, that what is shown through mass media to the public promoting the present day ideal, is not necessarily what is seen on the other side of the camera. Theorist Freedman (1986) was noted stating, “the impact of today’s visual media is different from the effect of the visual arts of the past. Historically, figures of art were
romanticized as otherworldly and unattainable. In contrast, print and electronic media images blur the boundaries between a fictionalized ideal and reality … Photographic techniques such as airbrushing, soft-focus cameras, composite figures, editing and filters may blur the realistic nature of media images even further, leading consumers to believe that the models the viewers see through the illusions these techniques create are realistic representations of actual people”. This shows how powerful photo manipulation and photography can be with misdirecting the viewer to an ideal, which ironically doesn’t eve exist itself. The effect of photographic illusion, is supported by Heinberg (1996) & Mazur (1986), as they recognize the sociocultural pressures around an individual, whilst noting, “the mass media are the most potent and persuasive communicators of sociocultural standards” (1999) and therefore a reflection of being a main contributor to mental illnesses and eating disorders internationally. This is further supported by a study carried out by Nichter & Nichter (1991), whereby teenage girls “endorsed their ideal as the models found in fashion magazines aimed at [this target audience]. The ideal teenage girl was described as being 5’7”, 100 pounds, and a size 5 with long blonde hair and blue eyes. Researching such an extreme ideal is quite unrealistic for most women and also dangerous, given that the
body mass index of someone with such proportions is less than 16, clearly in the anorexic and amenorrehic range”. Amenorrhea is the loss of the menstrual cycle for women whose weight drops to a critical range. This echoes the extreme change in ideal, the power and the persuasion of the fashion industry, endorsing a physique, which is not achievable, unrealistic and very unhealthy and dangerous, at the cost of promoting, and pressuring a ‘beauty’, which could ultimately be a death wish. The dimensions and specifics stated show a stereotypical model aesthetic, similar to that of a Mattel Barbie doll. The daily pressures of looking beautiful remains a vital thought for women world wide on a daily basis. The media performing on an international platform has the power, money and pressure to press and advertise the ideal, whilst disregarding the harsh facts and evidence of being the ‘perfect’ size woman. The 3 authors mentioned above, group key elements together regarding the media, reflecting its strikingly powerful influence on eating disorders and body image perception after being brainwashed by different ideals for decades, with ever changing physiques coming into play – “The woman is tailoring herself to appeal to the buyer’s market” (Greer, 1970) allowing physiques and trends to come and go, causing further health problems and self image issues to occur and reoccur over time.
Whilst Thompson & Heinberg (1999) stated that the mass media and photography have played a tremendous impact on the constant need for females to desire a physique which is unattainable, for most, whilst being dangerous and harmful to oneself, they argue that internalization of rising social pressures adds more pressure and again can lead to miss-direction, eating disorders and other mental instabilities amongst women and teenagers causing them to strive for body image change. They carried out several studies to back-up their theories. Thompson & Heinburg, joined sides with Stormer, another theorist (1999) when they “used the Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire, which they created, to discover a correlation between internalization and body dissatisfaction and eating disturbance, and that internalization predicts variance even when simple awareness of pressures and other risk factors as such as teasing are accounted for” (Heinberg, 1995). This point is supported by Shorter, Brown, Quinton and Hilton (2008) whereby further prompts relative to media, appear to be starting points for body dysmorphia and resultant eating issues and disorders – “people reap rewards in society based on complying with societal ideals and norms. People make social comparisons in order to acquire socially desirable qualities” (2008). This point is further supported by a statement Shorter made (2008),
stating that “people then go on to compare themselves to others that match-desired prototype and make changes accordingly” (Shorter, 2008, pp. 1365) regardless of the extremes which people which may fall in to and obey. The three theorists and authors noted, all support facts and evidence, showing how the media has a direct impact on the desired physique of those who strive to ‘fit in’ with the ideals of the media and society of the present day whether they are realistic to achieve or not. It is a subject, which authors and theorists alike are passionate about, and all share similar views in the way the media portray the ideal, as well as the progressive updates of dieting, exercising and online thinspiration sites that are advertising the dangers of ‘beauty’. The end goal remains the same, regardless of the route chosen – thinness, whether for yourself or a dominant male figure. Feminist and Author Germaine Greer (1970) summarizes the point regarding those who strive towards a sociocultural considered perfect ideal, which has been created as a result of the fashion industry and mass media advertising – “Demands are made upon [women] to contour their bodies in order to please the eyes of others. Women are so insecure that they take measures to capitulate to this demand, whether it is rational or not. The thinnest women either diet because of an imagined grossness somewhere or fret because they are not
cursive: the bounciness of their curves, or diet to lose them. The curvy girl who ought to be thin and the thin girl who ought to be curvy are offered more or less dangerous medications to achieve their aims. In each case the woman is tailoring herself to appeal to a buyers’ market; her most exigent buyer may be her husband, who goes on exacting her approximation to the accepted image as a condition of his continuing desire and pride in her … Whether the curves imposed are the ebullient arabesques of the tit-queen or the attenuated coils of art-nouveau they are deformations of the dynamic, individual body and limitations of the possibilities of being female.” you are exposed to something so often, it’s common to fit in with the masses, and follow the ideal trends of culture and beauty. To do so one must analyze one and make changes where appropriate. To fit in with the sociocultural visage created and labeled perfect doesn’t just mean beauty it means a societal conformation to a categorized ideal. Whereby we think we will free if we fit in and conform, however we are being shaped together in a prison like society. Jacques Lacan supports the points made by both Greer and Wolf in his ‘Mirror Stage’ theory essay (whereby one can recognize themselves in a mirror from the age of 6 months); “In the anxiety of the individual confronting the ‘concentrational’ form of the social bond that seems to arise to crown this effort, existentialism must be judged
by the explanations it gives of the subjective impasses that have indeed resulted from it; a freedom that is never more authentic than when it is within the walls of a prison; a demand for commitment, expressing the impotence of a pure consciousness to master any situation; a voyeuristic-sadistic idealization of the sexual relation” (1949, p. 508). Expanding on Lacan’s Mirror Stage theory, it is important to recognize how the theory is associated with the media and disordered eating. Our physical being can be seen from a tender age, allowing us to criticize ourselves and acknowledge where changes should or need to be made. Lacan, along with other psychologists and theorists, such as Freud, stated that “the mirror itself is a ‘double’, where the person is oneself and the image the person sees is another self … Since this produces a double image, what is visible may actually be invisible or altered through our own perceptions” (Lind, 2009). Lind presses the point that as a child we are naïve to our self-image perception and generally remain happy with our physique and reflection, or gaze. However, psychologist, Felluga (2002) supports Lacan and Freud in their theories of the mirror stage, by noting that “as an adolescent or an adult, the image of ourselves is often replaced with an idol, someone that we wish was the image ourselves for whatever reason” whether this be for ourselves, the market or our target audience, who generally tends
to be the male population, striving to be noticed by the male gaze. Wolf and Greer have both supported this theory of a male focus, which drives us to change our aesthetics to suit those of the ideal advertised through mass media in a sociocultural environment we are being held captive in. The severity of the dangers regarding being caught up in the mirror stage, is supported further by Grant & Philips putting Lacan’s theory into modern day sociocultural and medical context; “Often people with Anorexia or Bulimia suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which is clinically defined as by being preoccupied and obsessed with imaginary defects in appearance. It’s two most common behavior’s of Body Dysmorphic Disorder include comparing appearance to the appearance of others, and thus losing the recognition of the self, and “excessively checking the perceived flaws in a mirror or in other reflecting surfaces” (2005). By suffering from this type of mental illness, the mind becomes used to the image you are conscious of being, and believes the distorted view of themselves in the gaze and their reflection, being unable to recognize the beauty in their true reflection. Lacan and Freud with their theories of the mirror gaze and the mirror stage have proven that a reflection of oneself can be a blessing or curse if suffering from an illness, which becomes an obsession to achieve the unattainable without extreme measures.
It is known that our own views of ourselves aren’t the only contributing factor to dramatic changes in our appearance to meet the socially accepted standards of beauty and the ideal. As mentioned, males are noted to be a known contributor, as well as how we mentally recognize and view our reflection of ourselves. Self-Objectification is known as one of the main contenders, with theories of occupation and environments adding to mental illnesses and disordered eating. Slater & Tiggemann, (2002) suggested that “situations, environments, and subcultures accentuate awareness of observers’ perspectives on women’s bodies, such as ballet dancing, beauty pageants, modeling and cheerleading” leading to obsession with self image, and the opinion and views of others, feeling the desire to fit in and be in line with others in the same situation, allowing analysis of body image to rise. The outcome is further supported by Fredrickson & Roberts, (1997), whereby “turning to women’s internalization of cultural selfobjectification, objectification theory postulates that selfobjectification will be related to various psychological consequences, and these psychological consequences will mediate the relationship between self-objectification and disordered eating, depression, and sexual dysfunction (see image 1)”. To add further support to the theories noted above and throughout this essay, Moradi and Huang’s (2008) review
of self-objectification theory research, “revealed that self-objectification has been found to be related to lower internal bodily awareness, more disconnection from bodily functions, decreased flow rates, difficulties in task performance, increased body shame, more appearance anxiety, and both eating disorder and depressive symptoms”. It is evident that which ever theory chosen to analyze the need or desire to be thin, ideal and beautiful, results in a list of consequences which affect one mentally and physically without necessarily knowing oneself. It is possible to blame the media entirely on the advertised ideals in the 21st century, however, as discussed, there are many theories and view points on the topic of the ideal and the evident pressure for society to fall in line and conform, which all constitute good arguments individually. Every woman deserves the right to be beautiful, without feeling pressure from a socio-cultural society that dictates what is right, and what is wrong in regards to image and feeling attractive. However, this seems unattainable in a modern day environment whereby women are more negative about their bodies and self-worth than ever before. In a recent survey conducted by Rader Programme, it was stated that “the majority of runway models meet the Body Mass Index (BMI) criteria to be considered anorexic” whilst Psychology Today conducted a survey in 1997 claiming that “of 3,452 women [who responded], 23% indicated that movie or
television celebrities influenced their body image … and 22% endorsed the influence of fashion magazine models” (Garner, 1997) which again supports the severity of the topic at hand and the power of the mass media world we are captivated by. In response to how the general public are treating their bodies in order to reach the unattainable ideal, photographer Oliviero Toscani (2007) released an advertising campaign (see image 2) to advertise anti-anorexia, using famous French model/actress Isabelle Caro as his model. The image was so shocking at first sight he had to make a public statement to enforce his reasoning’s; “I want to photograph what exists and we don’t want to look at -- that intrigues me a lot. And there are people who, when they look at a picture, they get angry at it. But they should get angry at themselves for not having the courage to look into the problem.” (Toscani, 2007). Caro suffered from the severest form of Anorexia, and by the age of 25 when she participated in this photo-shoot is emaciated. 3 years later at the age of 28, sadly she passed away struggling to fight the illness. However, when at the worst stage in her illness she chose this at the perfect time to go ahead with the “no anorexia” campaign led by Toscani, stating that “Thinness generates death … It is everything but beautiful.” She also stated that “she hoped her naked picture would show girls the “morbid reality” hidden beneath the “beautiful costumes and hair-styles” of the fashion magazines.” (Caro, 2008).
Whichever way eating disorders and self-image concerns are looked at, it is apparent with overwhelming evidence, that the mass media provides the perfect starting point for a mental illness or self-objectification to thrive off, and grow, leading to disordered eating and body dysmorphia, whereby in many cases it can reach extreme severity or death, as a result of wanting to fit in and be considered the beautiful, ‘perfect’ and ideal woman.
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