The ideal standards of female beauty are repeatedly represented in almost all forms of popular media today. These so-called standards, however, have proved to be unattainable by women for the most part; the majority of the models used in advertising are well below what is considered to be the healthy body weight. This, in addition to airbrushing, results in a society which is incessantly exposed to images that are not only unhealthy, but are unrealistic even for the models themselves. It has been shown that exposure to these unrealistic ideals produce negative effects on women, particularly in regards to body image and the resulting eating disorders, i.e. anorexia.
It has also been shown, however, that women of all ages seem to be particularly vulnerable to physical dissatisfaction despite media-influence. This is due to the fact that the importance of physical appearance is asserted and reiterated in the early stages of female development. It appears that the media have quite knowingly exploited this fact, or in other words, the media has been cleverly constructed around it. They play on women’s discontent of their body image, to reinforce this feeling through constant exposure of unrealistic ideals, all so that they may provide them with the product, or ‘solution’, that will bring them closer to the ideal.
Although we have shown that media is constructed by or around society, it is perhaps blatant that media shapes us as a society. In the case of female body image, media has used women’s insecurity of their bodies and reflected and amplified it back to them―constructing a sometimes frightening view of how women perceive themselves in today’s society. It becomes easy to blame the mass media when you look at it this way, but on the other hand, studies show that women who have been taught not to compare themselves to these unrealistic ideals are less likely to suffer such negative effects. Can we blame society then, for neglecting to educate women about such things?
In addition to this, media has not always supported the skinny, anorexic ideal; the perfect woman has always and will continue to change over time. The perfect woman is subjective to her generation, whether it is considered to be healthy or unhealthy. For instance, after the World Wars the perfect woman was considered to be fuller in her female parts, a woman who appeared to be more able to produce children. In my opinion this is an excellent example of when the media supported a great cause, which inevitably led to the post-war baby boom. Prior to the First World War, the ideal woman was considered to be a ‘flapper’, one who retracted from the classic, feminine look, (and even wore bands around their breasts in order to flatten them) this was a result of the feminist movement for equality.
The mass media’s depiction of beauty today is in fact unhealthy, and possibly damaging, but they are only the messengers of their respective generation. It is easy to blame the media for the problems in our society; instead we must take it upon ourselves to use the media as a tool for what we need it to be. The media is constructed by or around us, but ultimately it will shape us; if we are not careful we might be the ones who do the worst for ourselves.