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Burglin 1 Lindsay Burglin SWMS 225 Lecture Section 34915 18 March 2010 Abstract: American society maintains numerous pressures and expectancies regarding physical appearances and levels of attractiveness. Under patriarchal social construction, males are largely exempt from such demands. Conversely, the most victimized female population has been nearly forced into submission and compliance, as failure to conform results in the potential for numerous forms of persecution. Females are judged more harshly than males, and therefore feel much more anxiety in terms of physical beauty. Result, female body dissatisfaction is most commonplace. Thus, in the attempt to reach the unattainable level of perfection and thinness propagated by the media, women have increasingly implemented unsafe and unhealthy practices, such as eating disorders or the habit of smoking. Even more regretful is the fact that most media images are, unbeknownst to the general public, severely doctored, allowing already thin models to appear unrealistically gaunt. Therefore, women are seemingly being set up for failure as they pursue a nonexistent objective, merely causing a larger decrease in self-esteem levels. Such an emotional epidemic threatens to spread globally through online Western advertisements. A dangerous situation, the dispersal of such negative ideals could possibly lead to an international media tyranny over women’s confidence, increasing female suppression. Under the media’s dominant rule, female progression is slowed as women are isolated from the women with whom they compete and the men who judge them. Moreover, females are made to be their own worst enemies. Such a ploy is profitable within the beauty industry, as it increases product sales, but is detrimental to female wellbeing and advancement.

Burglin 2 The Struggle to be Female Beauty, a non-universal social construction, has served as a primary means of inhibiting women in numerous aspects of living. Conceptions of external beauty have drastically shifted to an unrealistic paradigm as advances in various disciplines have permitted the archetypal individual to transform into a plastic, disproportionate figure. Progression in endeavors such as Photoshop has since permitted the mass projection of an unfeasible, wholly artificial paradigm for physical appearance. Alas, these doctored images serve as the standard of beauty within our society. In contemporary American culture, females struggle with body image much more than males due to increased societal pressures and cultural expectancies paired with the continual comparison of females to the unattainable. The beauty industry has targeted feminist movements as a primary competitor. Often it has been argued that as women advance professionally, their appearances greatly suffer the consequences. Thus, strategic advertising warns of the toll professionalism can take on one’s body, with stress being a principle source of unattractiveness. Moreover, in an effort to recover any lost profit, the industry attacks females with the notion that both employment and success cause an individual to be considered seemingly masculine (Faludi 1991, 201-204). Said accusation unnerves the female populace greatly. While disparaging insecurities may be a clever business tactic, it is simultaneously highly unethical. In asserting that success causes a female to be unappealing, women are not merely discouraged from professionalism, they are subjected to the conception that professionalism is the source of female problems. Further, the implication is that in order to rid herself of such unattractiveness, a female must abandon the workforce and conform to the societal criterion for beauty. Such a suggestion is an emotionally detrimental inconvenience that prohibits female progression. Likewise, it is a nearly impossible feat. Perception of beauty is objective, and no

Burglin 3 universal opinion exists on the matter. Rather, opinions vary greatly. Therefore, women are being persuaded and blackmailed into abandoning professional ambitions for the pursuit of something that is, in fact, nonexistent. The beauty standard is adaptive, constantly changing in a combative approach, as it takes into consideration the current position of women. In times of severe feminist activism paired with an incline in the pursuit of female independence, it has been shown that a slightly more liberating perception of female beauty has been allowed in the past (Faludi 1991, 201-204). On the occasion that the female populace rises as a uniform group, promoting women’s advancement and equality, the beauty industry seemingly appears to become fairly powerless. Realizing this conflict, the industry seeks to weaken the female position. Beauty companies now avoid such female opportunity altogether as they attempt to revoke progression by pressuring women to surrender their positions in the workplace or to refrain from ever entering. Very few females actually capitulate to the beauty campaign’s calculated implication and proposal of removal from the workforce. Few can afford to quit working for appearance’s sake. Still, this form of personal assail takes a toll on levels of self-esteem in women. Numerous studies have been done to test the correlation between beauty, confidence, and women’s health. Not surprisingly, a large portion of the studies reveal that women are glaringly critical of their physical appearance, and are often desperate to modify it in some way. This heightened female criticism and lack of self-esteem has been argued as not only directly related to problems with body image, but rather, as the sole origin of body image issues (Reese et al. 2005). If an individual demonstrates more confidence in herself, then she will be less affected by harsh media campaigns. High levels of self-assurance serve as solid bases for female growth and nonconformity. Recurrently, however, it has been discovered that such high levels of confidence is not the norm, and therefore females are much more affected by the surrounding negative

Burglin 4 messages in the media. Women are becoming progressively more distressed by body size. Gradually, the average female weight has increased, likely resulting from an increase in available resources. However, the standard weight of prestigious and admired models has concurrently plummeted, reaching exceptionally unhealthy levels (Brown et al. 2005). The differentiation of actual size in the general population and runway size has proved problematic as the female populace strives to attain the promoted underweight stature. As females are subjected to the thin-ideal via images of emaciated models propagated in the media, body dissatisfaction becomes much more common (Siero et al. 2007). American women are subjected to millions of advertisements or images containing negative messages, the majority of which are subliminal or merely implied. Amplified exposure allows for the retaining of these unfavorable, stereotypical thoughts, strengthening the media harassment of natural women. While the media maintains frail as the ideal female figure, the majority of Americans are, in fact, overweight. This being so, the mass media is failing to represent the general public (Hill et al. 2009). Rather, it is rejecting the image of the populace. Perhaps a symbolic action, the appearance of models (actual embodiments of the societal standard of beauty) is extremely physically distinct from that of the typical American woman. The greater the differentiation between the two, the more removed average women feel from attractiveness. Troubled by the expectancies and pressures applied from both the advertising and beauty industries, females often attempt to achieve the gaunt appearances publicized regularly. In the attaining of such appearances, dangerous and unhealthy practices must be employed. Frequently, in the pursuit of drastic weight loss, women develop eating disorders or begin smoking to reduce appetite levels. Research on Body Mass Index levels has revealed that women of a healthy weight are actually unhappy with their size and feel that weight loss would make them more attractive (Hill et al.

Burglin 5 2009). This may be a reflection of the fact that models are twenty percent underweight. Thus, a wholesome exterior is no longer acceptable. Instead, it is undesirable. The effects of undesirability extend much further than personal dissatisfaction. Economically speaking, good looks appear to increase an individual’s value as it was recently proven that people deemed attractive earn higher salaries than those deemed ordinary in appearance. Even still, people with ordinary looks earn higher wages than those thought to be unsightly. Surely, one’s degree of attractiveness is determined by one’s conformity to the societal standard of beauty as projected by the media. Outside comparison of females to media images is a common practice. Unfortunately, women deemed overweight in contrast to the accepted medium are negatively thought of and are often subjected to damaging typecasts. Bosses may perceive weight gain in females as a lack of ambition or determination to succeed in professional endeavors (Hitchon et al. 2004). Assuredly, similar weight gains in males tend to go unnoticed or merely unmentioned. More disappointingly, however, is the fact that the physical image that professional females are typically being evaluated against has been doctored with computer technology. Through digital manipulation, ordinarily thin models featured are made to appear even smaller, becoming more artificial and unrealistic. Consequently, a dual conflict is created. Women, while attempting to achieve the appearance of falsified images are similarly being held to a fictional ideal, one that is utterly unfeasible. Indeed, power within the beauty industry is gradually being shifted from rail-thin models to still thinner computer fabrications. This merely increases body dissatisfaction and unhealthy practices within the female populace (Hitchon et al. 2004). Moreover, the conflict is worsened by the fact that processed images need not reveal their artificial nature, an unethical practice within the industry, as it is completely misleading and dishonest. Female negativity and condemnation serve as the only outcomes of this destructive

Burglin 6 campaign. This specialized devastation is currently more prevalent than ever before. The wounding and menacing practices of today’s media not only dictate the standards of beauty, but also the concept that women are to be continuously objectified. This constant objectification also contributes to unhealthy female practices, such as various eating disorders. Additionally, it leads to other personal issues, such as depression, anxiety, and a decrease in the quality of relationships (Cowan et al. 2006). Objectification is a multi-dimensionally injurious practice that leads to drastically decreased levels of self-esteem. Resulting, it may be deduced that the more females are objectified, the more critical their condition within the social realm. Cooperatively, all of these proximate factors combine to create a dangerous cycle. Men are largely excluded from this as they, within the construction of a study, revealed being psychologically and behaviorally unaffected when exposed to the idealized propagated media image concerning men (Fawkner et al. 2002). Conversely, the female populace is plagued with objectification and self-confidence hindrances. Negative portrayals of beauty objectify females and cause injury to self-esteem levels. The permitting of altered images to penetrate the mass media merely continues objectification, as originally real women are doctored to artificial configurations of amassed ideal parts. Plummeting female confidence ensues. Young girls are subjected to the same detrimental images, and are witness to their mother’s self-perception and appreciation, or lack thereof. In turn, the next generation of females is already being subjected to the imposed construction of beauty. Furthermore, they are being socialized with the knowledge that women are, and will continue to be, objectified and in the presence of low confidence levels (Gnong et al. 2009). The media cannot be expected to cease unethical, yet financially profitable, practices for the wellbeing of females. This so, the current vicious cycle will continue until there is a realignment of beauty ideals in the United States. In contrast, the threat of spreading harmful

Burglin 7 Western beauty perceptions globally is realistically more eminent than the prospect of a healthy paradigm shift. The Internet is internationally functional and effective, and Internet shopping is becoming more prevalent. The majority of Internet shoppers are female, consequently exposing females to more online advertisements. This is dangerous in the sense that advertisements are stereotypical and very gendered. Female beauty standards apply and women are often depicted in some submissive role (Dimitratos et al. 2008). With such a large global following, the expansion of unrealistic Western beauty ideals and gender inequality may be accepted in other cultures. An increase in global sexism is a big threat that would prove catastrophic for future female progress. Gender identities are socially constructed and the advertisements projected by the United Stated serve as the Western societal model of expected living, a model in which females are critically stereotyped. The higher levels of body image issues in females at the hands of society and the mass media may seem like an arbitrary occurrence. Yet, a possible ultimate explanation suggests otherwise. In a currently patriarchal society, the constant projection of ultra-thin females, or females deemed exceedingly attractive by public standards, potentially serves as a means of continued male domination: There is no legitimate historical or biological justification for the beauty myth‌ It claims to be about intimacy and sex and life, a celebration of women. It is actually composed of emotional distance, politics, finance, and sexual repression. The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men’s institutions and institutional power (Wolf 1991, 13). The beauty myth handicaps women. Preying on personal issues and insecurities, it psychologically, emotionally, and physically exhausts and manipulates. The myth permits men to be valued at a higher economic price. Wage disparity is preexisting, however attractiveness may now revoke a portion of an individual’s earnings. Women are scrutinized more harshly in

Burglin 8 regards to looks, and thus have a greater potential to lose income- granting men the upper hand in business affairs. Furthermore, under reign of the imposed beauty myth, females become completely isolated as they are placed in competition with each other and at the judgment of men. Collectively, these factors weaken female morale and the potential for female advancement. Sans unity within the gender, there is no hope for an equality-seeking movement; one that could potentially end male dominance within the economic and professional spheres. Thus, the suppression of women is continued as the beauty industry breaks female spirit and the longstanding practice of male dominance is permitted and promulgated. The behavioral and emotional responses of both females and males have been meticulously researched, tested and documented in pursuit of further knowledge of body image issues. Thus, the cultural impact is largely known. Yet, more could be done within the realm of generational studies examining the socialization of young kids. The next generation is being exposed to the same advertisements, and is witness to negative response by their parents. Supplementary research may demonstrate to what degree children retain their parent’s insecurities. Also, if it may be determined when self-esteem issues commonly begin in both females and males, precautionary action could be taken to inform youth of the media agenda, and to potentially prevent harmful practices in said children before they ever begin. Most studies focus on an adult group. Since the problem continues to persist, perhaps a preemptive strategy is the best solution. However, it is necessary for much more research to be done within the domain of this younger demographic prior to the creation of this plot. Cognitive processes should be increasingly taken into consideration throughout this study, as not much research is available regarding the biological differences accounted for in the investigation of body image issues. Failing to acknowledge the variable and potentially large differentiation between male and female cognitive processes in interpreting and retaining societal representations and pressures

Burglin 9 regarding appearances could prove to be an exceptionally large calculated error. Provided a substantial cognitive difference does, in fact, exist, programs aimed to aid in self-esteem levels must develop different agendas geared towards each gender. Females should be examined further as the results of media assault have proven most detrimental to the female population. Beauty is a varying social construction used by the media as the primary means of restraining females. Progressively more and more women are expected and pressured to surrender their individuality as they attempt to conform to the cultural mold. Unrelenting, the media projects altered images of unrealistic females and anticipates the remaining female populace will pursue such proportions. This objectification and expectation of rejecting oneself has led to increased body image issues among American women. This media hostility directed at women merely amplifies over time as advertising becomes ever-increasingly common and harsh. The structure of American patriarchal society exempts men from being targeted so critically. Rather, as it weakens female morale and unification, these sexist campaigns continually reinforce male dominance and female oppression.


Burglin 10 Brown, Amy, and Helga Dittmar. 2005. Think “Thin” and Feel Bad: The Role of Appearance Schema Activation, Attention Level, and Thin-Ideal Internalization for Young Women’s Responses to Ultra-Thin Media Ideals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 24, no. 8 (December), did=977588721&Fmt=4&clientId=5239&RQT=309&VName=PQD (accessed 14 March 2010). Cowan, Gloria, Daniel M. Downs, and Shaan James. 2006. Body Objectification, Self-Esteem, and Relationship Satisfaction: A Comparison of Exotic Dancers and College Women. Sex Roles 54, Iss. 11-12 (June), index=5&did=1175829881&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=6&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD &RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1269933475&clientId=5239 (accessed 14 March 2010). Dimitratos, Pavlos, Kalliopi Mathioudaki, Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki, and Yorgos Zotos. 2008. Images of Women in Online Advertisements of Global Products: Does Sexism Exist? Journal of Business Ethics 83, Iss. 1 (November), did=1581385541&Fmt=6&clientId=5239&RQT=309&VName=PQD (accessed 14 March 2010). Faludi, Susan. 1991. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. Fawkner, Helen J., and Nancy E. McMurray. 2002. Body Image in Men: Self-Reported Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors in Response to Media Images. International Journal of Men’s Health 1, Iss. 2 (May), did=689744471&Fmt=3&clientId=5239&RQT=309&VName=PQD (accessed 21 March 2010). Gnong, Andréa, Patricia Leavy, and Lauren Sardi Ross. 2009. Femininity, Masculinity, and Body Image Issues among College-Age Women: An In-Depth and Written Interview Study of the Mind-Body Dichotomy. The Qualitative Report 14, Iss. 2 (June), did=1912951251&Fmt=3&clientId=5239&RQT=309&VName=PQD (accessed 21 March 2010). Hill, Gina Jarman. 2009. Media Images: Do They Influence College Students’ Body Image? Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences 101, Iss. 2 (Spring), did=1879873901&Fmt=3&clientId=5239&RQT=309&VName=PQD (accessed 21 March 2010). Hitchon, Jacqueline Bush, Sung-Yeon Park, and Gi Woong Yun. 2004. “You Can Never Be Too Thin”—or Can You? A Pilot Study on the Effects of Digital Manipulation of

Burglin 11 Fashion Models’ Body Size, Leg Length and Skin Color. Race, Gender, and Class 11, Iss. 2 (April 30), (accessed 21 March 2010). Reese, Serena. 2005. A Postmodernist View of Women’s Psychosocial Body Images. NAAS Conference Proceedings, VName=PQD (accessed 20 March 2010). Siero, Frans W., Diederik A. Stapel, and Debra Trampe. 2007. On Models and Vases: Body Dissatisfaction and Proneness to Social Comparison Effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92, no. 1 (January), %20Vases%3A%20Body%20Dissatisfaction%20and%20Proneness%20to%20Social %20Comparison%20Effects&author=Debra%20Trampe%3B%20Diederik%20A %20Stapel%3B%20Frans%20W%20Siero&issn=00223514&title=Journal%20of %20Personality%20and%20Social %20Psychology&volume=92&issue=1&date=20070101&spage=106&id=doi:&sid=Pro Q_ss&genre=article&lang=en (accessed 29 March 2010). Wolf, Naomi. 1991. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

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Supplemental Bibliography Bem, Sandra Lipsitz. 1993. The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Mealey, Linda. 2000. Sex Differences: Developmental and Evolutionary Strategies. San Diego: Academic Press. 1994. In the Eye of the Beholder: Today’s Ideal of Beauty is Specific to Western Culture. Today’s Parent 11, Iss. 7 (October), did=441702801&Fmt=3&clientId=5239&RQT=309&VName=PQD (accessed 21 March 2010).


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