How the Media Affects Women’s Self Esteem In today’s society and even past decades, women have been expected to live up to certain societal standards. Photo-shopped models in magazines, commercials, and other forms of advertisement define what is socially acceptable. Stick thin leading ladies epitomize the acceptable figure for women to attain. These different media, as well as these portrayals of beauty, are the constant goal for women around the world, especially young women, and the impact has been a negative one. Young girls grow up believing that looking like those models in the magazines will make them happy, wanted, and accepted.
The media are propagating this belief while the culture and pace of life are contradictorily pushing women to lifestyles of unhealthy eating habits and a lack of exercise. Each magazine that is geared towards women has multiple pages of advertisements with size zero models front and center. These models represent the type of women that the rest of the world finds attractive and pressures every day women to try to look the same. Young men and women don’t always realize that even the models are digitally enhanced and form impossible expectations of themselves and others.
The magazines talk about embracing your body, but contradict these statements by showing that only one body type is worth printing. Additionally, dieting and exercise articles in magazines have been on the rise. Now, not only do you need to be pretty and petite, you also need to be fit. The idea is that if someone is thin, then they are in control. If someone is overweight, they are thought to be lazy and have no self-control. Women feel like they need to not only meet the proportions of the model, but also match the style.
In her book, “Fat is a Feminist Issue,” Susie Orbach states that the image the media portrays of women is ever changing. Every year there is a new look or a new fad. Women are constantly required to keep up with the current fashion in order to feel accepted. Curiously, men do not face the same pressures as women do when looking through a magazine. Society has tacked the stress of perfection specifically onto women. I am not saying obesity and lack of confidence is strictly a woman’s problem, just that the amount of men that face these issues is much smaller in comparison.
Most men see male models in magazines and they do not feel pressured to look like them. Beer bellies are acceptable on an every day male, but muffin tops are looked down upon on an every day woman, even a woman who has already birthed a child. Magazines are not the only problem however; even most of the female characters on television are small and attractive. It is very rare to see a television show based around a larger woman unless it is a weight-loss program or a comedy. The media tries to put this idea in women’s heads that they can always be smaller, prettier and more athletic.
Women starring in movies who do not fit into this category are portrayed as deserving ridicule and scorn. To escape teasing, most girls go to unhealthy measures to attain these petite figures. Girls are going to extremes; instead of exercising and eating right, they resort to eating nothing at all or binge eating. Eating disorders have increased exponentially especially in the younger generation. Even Disney movies are guilty of subconsciously drilling in this ideal physique. Have you ever seen a larger princess?
The Disney princesses’ physical appearances are the embodiment of the societal expectation for women: thin, beautiful and occasionally exotic. They are animated versions of the media models. The princes are initially attracted to the princesses because of their beauty and sometimes their singing voices. The princesses are usually more reserved in giving away their affections; they are not attracted to the princes until they prove themselves through some honorable act. John Berger states that “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.
This determines not only most relations between men and women, but also the relation of women to themselves. ” Many women believe that the only way to attract a man is through their appearance. They believe that if they are not skinny or pretty then they will never find a man. Young girls surrounded by these unrealistic ideals of beauty grow up into women with low self-esteem. These women aspire to conform themselves to these images they see in magazines, television shows and movies from the time they are born in order to attract a man and feel like they are worth loving.
This goal is made harder to achieve because of our surroundings and culture. Drive a mile down the road and you will most likely drive by at least three fast food restaurants. Girls and women are usually on a tight schedule dealing with school, sports or kids. This leaves little time to sit down and actually make a decent dinner. Even getting a salad with dressing at one of these places is 1,040 calories, according to David Zinczenko, author and editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine, and that is not including the drink.
With the chaotic stresses of everyday life it is just not possible for most people to have three healthy, balanced meals seven times a week. The media is really what shapes our beliefs. Magazines and movies shove their ideas of beauty in our faces and make us believe we are not going to be seen as beautiful to other people unless we conform. This creates a culture where men’s expectations of women and women’s expectations of themselves are unrealistic. Living in this type of culture is unhealthy and leads to low self-esteem and bad eating and exercise habits.
Works Cited Balko, Radley. “What You Eat Is Your Business. ” Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst 395-98. Graff, Gerald, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, eds. “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing with Readings. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2012. Print. Krugman, Paul. “Confronting Inequality. ” Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst 586-604. Orback, Susie. “Fat Is a Feminist Issue. ” Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst 448-52. Zinczenko, David. “Don’t Blame the Eater. ” Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst 391-93.