Pop-culture media is negatively affecting adolescent girls and negatively changing the ways that they think about themselves. Television, magazines, movies, and advertisements are all types of media that can affect adolescent girls. The girls who watch television shows featuring slender, attractive actresses may identify with the appearance of the characters of the show, and they may desire to look like the glamorous characters they see.
On television shows that are popular with teenagers, 94% of characters are below average in weight (Strasburger, Wilson).
On television shows, thin female characters receive significantly more positive verbal comments from male characters than heavier female characters (Strasburger, Wilson).
Fashion magazines also reinforce the images of an ideal body exemplified by thin models in advertisements and articles. Women's magazines have ten and one-half times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men's magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women's magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman's bodily appearance-- usually by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery (Chadborne).
Twenty years ago, models weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, they weigh 23% less than the average woman (Chadborne).
According to Audrey Brashich, a former teen model, "American society places great value on looks that are unachievable by most women." Brashich, author of All Made Up: A Girl's Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty says, "It's not surprising that women want to be slender and beautiful, because as a society we know more about women who look good than we know about women who do good" (Hellmich).
The media is convincing adolescent girls that they need to alter their figures to be satisfied with themselves.
Pediatrician Ellen Rome, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Academy for Eating Disorders, argues that "the media reflect and exacerbate the problems," and that "these teen girls watch and read and observe and emulate" (Prah).
Today's media in America affect adolescent social standards, and many adolescents often identify the media as their primary source of information about health issues.
Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that critiques the media says, "Kids are constantly given the message that they're inadequate. By the time a girl is 17, she has seen more than a quarter-million messages about what she's supposed to look like" (Friedman).
Many recent studies have displayed the negative effects of the media on girls' body image.
- A study of 837 ninth-graders by psychologist D. L. Borzekowski, found that the number of hours spent watching music videos was correlated with both their assessment of the importance of appearance and also their weight concerns (Strasburger, Wilson).
- Body-image disturbances seem to play an important role in patients with anorexia nervosa or bulimia, according to a recent meta-analysis of 66 studies performed by Cash and Deagle (Strasburger, Wilson).
- According to a survey of adolescent girls, "69% reported that images of females displayed in magazines influence their perceptions of the ideal body figure, and 47% reported that the images evoked in them a desire to diet and lose weight" (Ata, Ludden, and Lally 2).
- According to an ongoing study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, "in a survey of girls 9 and 10 years old, 40% have tried to lose weight" (Hellmich).
- According to researchers Botta, Lavine, Sweeny, and Wagner, the presence of so many TV commercials for food, combined with other ads' emphasis on beauty, can foster the development of eating disorders (Strasburger, Wilson)
- By the age of thirteen, more than half of American girls are unhappy with their bodies; this number grows to more than three-fourths by the time girls reach the age of seventeen ("Media's Effect").
The popular culture media advertise specific criteria of beauty that may counteract healthy practices. Girls often take drastic measures in an attempt to emulate the countless media images they view. Many end up with very low self-esteem; some develop dangerous eating disorders.
With all of this bombardment, it is no wonder that girls today feel constant pressure to pursue the ideal body. But when does it end?
Go to part 3 of the Body Image Blog Entry to find out ways that we can end the issue of negative body image as a result of the media.