Monday, March 9, 2009

"Mirror Mirror"

     "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", but in today's world, that beholder is often the media. From TrimSpa commercials to air-brushed magazine models, every aspect of propaganda and entertainment unconsciously tells teens and young adults how they should dress, eat, talk, and think. Thanks to certain media sources and other influences, teens everywhere want to be taller, blonder, and skinnier.
        Though men feel the pressures too, woman's magazines have nearly 11 times as many ads and articles relating to weight loss as men's magazines ( According to research done by Boston University, girls as young as nine years old are beginning to experiment with common dieting practices such as exercise and restricting food intake.
        Many times, the "image" of beauty is distorted. Often, the models that teens see highlighted on the front and inside of magazines have gone through computer programs that hide flaws and enhance other features. Research shows that exposure to thin models in air-brushed ads is linked to depression, low self-esteem, and the development of unhealthy eating habits ("Dove Campaign for Real Beauty").
    Teen Magazine reported in 2003 that 35 percent of girls between the ages of six and 12 have been on at least one diet and that at least half to three-fourths of "normal" weight girls truly believe that they are overweight.
    Idolized celebrities spend endless amounts of money to possess the "perfect" body. From hiring personal trainers and personal chefs, to spending time at high class fitness facilities, all celebrity weight-loss methods prove to be expensive ones. Magazines, movie stars, and models all seem to set an unrealistic standard of leaving for the "average" person.
    Although the media's role as a pressure on youth is not a recent one, perception of what is "beautiful" is always changing. For example, in the 1950's, Marilyn Monroe was glorified for her curvy body and hourglass shape, while the next decade brought a new kind of Idol, Twiggy: the 90 pound fashion icon who made "stick thin" the new craze.
    Throughout history, various types of media have dictated the social norms of American culture. In a study titled "The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideals in Children's Fairy Tales", 168 of The Brothers Grimm fairy tales were examined. The authors, Grauherholz and Baker-Sperry, explored the extent to which feminine beauty was highlighted in the tales. The study found that 94 percent of all tales acknowledge physical appearance and of that, appearance was mentioned nearly fourteen times per story. 
    Nearly all fairy tales have a beautiful princess or attractive prince against a wicked witch or ugly villain. Through fairy tales, children are taught that "unattractive" people, such as ugly stepsisters, are punished, while "beautiful" individuals are rewarded; this results in children's skewed judgement, based solely on looks, later on in life.
    Another familiar example is Barbie. With her perfect features and disproportionate body, Barbie gives children an unrealistic image to look up to. 
    With the media, celebrities, and even childhood heroes promoting an unrealistic image of beauty, it is often hard for teens to focus on what is important. A friend once said, one should "always concentrate on the positive things about oneself".
    "Someone might have a great smile, or pretty eyes, and those are some of the first things you notice about someone," she said, "it's not all about the body, it's about personality and how you treat other people. 
    When one is happy with the way he or she looks, others see a happy, confident person no matter what shape, size, height, or color. For those who are still simply not happy about the way they looks, the time and energy used to obsess over body image can be displaced elsewhere more positively. Above all else, treating oneself with respect and maintaining a healthy body is the most important thing one can do.  

Want more? Check out some of these sites:


Cassie The Venomous said...

Great post!

It really is a bummer that such image-related pressures are put on individuals in today's society. It's even worse that many realize the way some models look is unrealistic yet still strive to imitate the image those unrealistic humans present.


A Freebird said...

This is why I like Shrek :)