What Are You Going To Do About It?
For my term-end project in Media and Culture I looked at how the media affects our self-esteem and body-image. I created a community on LiveJournal and despite the fact that it still doesn’t have any members (it’s slow to get people to join communities on LiveJournal); the opportunity is there if people do want to join.
I’ve been posting quite a few times a week, mostly on school days where it’s easier to find time to access a computer. The criteria for posting in the group is to post about how the media, being TV, magazines, movies, etc make us feel about our own personal body image.
Most of the time media doesn’t really affect my sense of self TOO much, but when it does, oh man it hits it hard. Some days I’ll watch TV and when I’m done, I’ll feel like I need to do about a hundred sit ups before I’m allowed to leave the house. Other days, depending on what’s on, I’ll watch TV and end up feeling great. They days I like best are when I’m not affected at all. I don’t think it’s too good for society that media can affect us like that.
And it’s obvious that something is indeed concerning us enough to make changes to ourselves. According to sadd.org, about one in one hundred teenaged girls will have anorexia, and four in one hundred will have bulimia. According to http://www.hopewell.on.ca/eds.htm, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Now we must ask ourselves: what is causing all of these issues in our teenaged girls? I think that, among other factors, media is the most concerning. Media influence is preventable and changeable. It shouldn’t be used for evil, to influence girls to lose weight and achieve a ‘perfect’ body image.
That’s what I see on the cover of magazines. Specifically, on magazines aimed at teenaged girls. Think of Seventeen Magazine, or Cosmogirl, or TeenVogue. The headlines always run something like “lose weight in 10 days!” “Get rid of excess belly fat!” or something to encourage us to be thinner. It’s gotten a little bit better in recent days, but mostly, magazines still preach skinniness. There’s never a fashion spread of a plus-sized model, or even a regular-sized model. I understand that fashion media is about extremes, but to go to such an extreme all the time as to make girls forget what normal is? I think that’s wrong.
To have such extremes in the media as to only see “too thin” or “too fat” has a huge effect on a young girl’s mind. Instead of knowing and accepting and liking the norms of body types, she ends up seeing only two things: skinny or fat. Yes, there are naturally thin people, and yes, there are naturally big people. But where are the naturally average people?