Media Standards Of Womenbeauty: We Are Not Disney Princesses
Social media and television have become a daily routine in our current American culture. Whether it is sharing a selfie on Instagram, posting a status on Facebook, or watching a movie or favorite TV show; media plays a huge part in everyday lives in American society. Even though media is a useful tool it can have consequences, especially for women. Women are constantly seeing photo shopped pictures of other women with seemingly flawless bodies, clothing, and an all-around perfect life. This not only causes self-esteem issues for women, but men are also expecting women to live up to these standards. What if it was said that by just being pretty there could be an impact on a job and how much someone gets paid?
Women are constantly being pressured on how to look and how to act. They may not even realize that media, such as television and internet, have a big part in social and beauty standards. This leads to the main issue, media does have an impact on women’s beauty standards and women’s self-esteem. The assumption of the network is that beauty image is becoming more demanding and defining of women. The world of beauty is going to drastic lengths to provide our best selfie. Unfortunately, the internet does not always present what people are like in the non-virtual world. According to the article Does Media Type Matter? The Role of Identification in Adolescent Girls’ Media Consumption and the Impact of Different Thin-Ideal Media on Body Image, the mass media may be the single biggest purveyor of promoting an unrealistic and artificial image of female beauty that is impossible for the majority of females to achieve. Women are seeing pictures that are so edited that there is basically no way for anyone to achieve this body image.
The article, Does Media Type Matter? discusses the mass media uniformly idealizes an unrealistic image of female beauty which is predominantly thin, yet impossibly toned and curvaceous, accompanied by perfect skin, teeth, and hair. In fact, women are going to extreme lengths to achieve these goals for their bodies. One of these ways is undergoing plastic surgery. According to The Demands of Beauty, a study showed that of 5, 000 women; over 55% would undergo cosmetic surgery if they could afford it. Cosmetic surgery has become a huge trend with the influence of major celebrities such as the Kardashians, Megan Fox, and Angelina Jolie. But unfortunately, many women are getting plastic surgery for the wrong reasons. According to the article The Demands of Beauty, the word “normal” is used as a descriptive term to determine what surgery is justified, even though there is no standard for what might be normal for any given body part.
In fact, the only way “normal” can be used is when it refers to the body, is when describing how it functions, not how it looks. For example, when discussing what is normal for a women’s breast, we discuss how it functions especially when the woman is a nursing mother. Doctors focus on whether the breasts are properly releasing milk, not the size of the breast. Widdows and Maccallum reported in their article The Demands of Beauty, that The Internal Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery annually publishes estimated figures based on plastic surgeons’ survey responses. The total number of surgical and non-surgical procedures carried out in 2010 was estimated to be 14. 1 million, rising to a staggering 23. 6 million in 2016. Over half were non-surgical procedures. Although it is 2018 and people are preaching to accept peoples’ choices, some beauty trends can be extremely dangerous. For example, skin-lightening is a popular beauty practice for those who want to achieve lighter skin. Overall, the main point is that women are going through great transformations for a look that isn’t even humanly possible in a natural form.
As discussed earlier, the media is well known for altering images to give the impression that this unrealistic standard is what all women should look like if they want to be considered “beautiful” in today’s society. This means women have to be thin, but toned with curves and not an imperfection to be found in their skin, teeth, and hair. Media plays a huge part in our everyday lives, but what happens when too much time is spent on the internet? According to the article Does Media Type Matter, girls with high media model identification who were exposed to thin ideal, reported with higher body dissatisfaction. As Bell and Dittmar discovered, in one of their studies of looking into what type of media was the most popular for young women (college-aged participants), they found that reports of weekly internet use was higher than any other media type. To go further into this topic, one of the biggest social media webpages of this generation will be used, Facebook. In the article, Social Comparison, Social Media and Self-Esteem, SNSs (Social Network Site) provides the perfect platform for “meticulous” self-presentation. Users can selectively allow content onto their profiles, post pictures, and describe themselves in ways that best represent their ideal self-views. In other words, people on sites such as Facebook can make themselves into the person they ideally want to be. Sounds like no harm there, right? Wrong. From the same article, Facebook users believe that other users are happier and more successful than themselves, especially when they do not know the other users well offline. It seems that people might be comparing their realistic selves to the idealized online selves of others views. As most of us know, the internet can be a very misleading place. One never truly know another unless individuals have actually met in real life.
To continue, in Social Comparison, Social Media and Self-esteem, there was a study conducted with college-aged participants. In this study the participants were to look at these modified profiles that the authors set up. These participants were not informed the profiles weren’t of real people. The profiles were made to give the impression the fake users look like they had extraordinary lives, were successful in every aspect, and looked flawless. After the participants viewed the profiles they were asked to describe how they felt. Many of the participants experienced dissatisfaction with their own lives and wanted to be more like the people of the profiles they just viewed. In other words, participants with more exposure to Facebook tended to evaluate themselves more poorly. According to Social Comparison, Social Media and Self-Esteem, self-esteem can be affected with long-term exposure to social media in everyday life. In short, as people are increasingly relying on SNSs for a variety of everyday tasks, they risk overexposure to upward social comparison information that may have a cumulative detrimental impact on well-being.
As discussed earlier, increasing exposure to media or more significantly internet media, can cause major body-image dissatisfaction. Bell and Dittmar stated women who already have body issues are more vulnerable to negative effects from exposure to thin ideal media. Even though in The Demands of Beauty, vulnerability attaches to beauty at many stages of life, it is most common that women in their adolescence are the most vulnerable when it comes to media and body dissatisfaction. In the article Exposure to Media Images of Female Attractiveness and Concern with Body Weight Among Young Women, the ideal image of feminine attractiveness is rigid with a particular emphasis on thinness. This journal also brings up how many authors have suggested that media images of attractiveness may be responsible for the normative discontent among young women regarding their own bodies. This journal conducted an experiment to prove their point that attractiveness in the media can cause dissatisfaction with young women. The participants were college-aged women who viewed commercials that included attractive models. After viewing the commercials the participants reported how they felt about their body-image. It appeared that after viewing the commercials many women scored themselves in the high body dissatisfaction area.
To continue discussing body-image issues, many people would argue that media has changed since the 90s or even early 2000s. Many would agree. Many also believe that different body types and different views of beauty have been incorporated in television, movies, magazines (Example: People Magazine), and internet pictures, but there are still many issues when it comes to beauty. According to Rachel Shteir, the author of Taking Beauty’s Measure, the trickiest category that beauty studies “tackle” is weight. This is because weight is now a global health problem. Those who are overweight suffer discrimination and “social ostracism” from an early age. This means that even though more curvy women are being represented in the media, people who are considered curvier or overweight still are criticized and bullied for their appearance. Another appearance issue, due to the media, is the appearance of women wearing or not wearing makeup. I am sure many women have experienced the dreaded question when we decide to show off our natural faces versus wearing make-up; “Are you sick?” or “You don’t look so good today. ” The list could go on and on. What if it were to be said that make-up can be an important key to a positive first impression.
In the journal Taking Beauty’s Measure, The New York Times stated that makeup makes a women appear more likeable, competent, and trustworthy. Again, many people would argue that it is 2018, times are different and attitudes about wearing a natural face have become more positive, but unfortunately this journal was only written in 2011, and many have still faced the dreaded question many times. Society may have advanced, but it still has a long way to go. What if it was said that someone’s appearance could have an effect on a job or even pay? As discussed earlier, appearance in weight and face can determine how people treat someone in life. But what if someone’s pay was at stake? According to the journal Taking Beauty’s Measure, attractive men earn more for their looks than women do. A survey reportedly shows attractive men make 14% more than their “less attractive” colleagues, whereas attractive women make 3% more than theirs. There is already a pay gap for men and women, but now there is even more of a gap if someone if considered attractive or not at their place of employment. Rachel Shtier states in her journal Taking Beauty’s Measure, that many people believe that even a smile can transform a less beautiful face into a beautiful one. In other words, it not only hurts emotionally and psychologically to not be pretty, but it also can hurt someone’s paycheck.
As discussed, the media has played a huge role in emphasizing what women should look and act like. This can cause women to not only suffer from depression and major body dissatisfaction, but it can also affect how women are treated in the professional working world. One big question is how did society get these beauty standards engraved into its normal views? Is society taught these standards from a young age? What if something such as simple as Disney Princess movies could influence the views of women? According J. Golden and C. Jacoby, the authors of Playing Princess: Preschool Girls’ Interpretation of Gender Stereotypes in Disney Princess Media, sixteen of the most popular Disney animated feature films between the years 1937 to 1995, revealed that Disney females were more likely to do housework than their male counterparts. For example in the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the main character Snow White was the one who was seen doing house hold chores while the dwarves went off to work. Even though many new Disney Princess movies have been released since then, such as “Brave” and “Frozen” which emphasize the power of women, many would state that Disney Princess movies also include good messages about being kind and adventurous. Unfortunately, those films are still too new to be considered more popular than the other classics. Golden and Jacoby conducted a study to observe preschool-aged girls during their play time. For play time they set out some costumes. Some costumes were of Disney Princesses such as: Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, and Rapunzel, and some non- princess costumes such as: Wonder Woman and Violet from “The Incredibles”. During the young girls’ play-time, the girls who dressed up as Disney Princesses made many beauty remarks such as, “Look at my beautiful dress! “and “I am so pretty!” The participants who wore the non-princess costumes did not make any beauty remarks.
Another action that was observed was how the participants in the princess costumes moved. Many of these participants made many feminine body movements such as twirling, dancing and hand posing. There was even a participant who got caught up with two boys play fighting and shouted “Careful I’m a princess. ” One of the boys then escorted the participant to “safety” as if she were playing as a damsel in distress. After observing the participants, the authors asked a few question to the young girls and their parents. The results showed, parents mean response was suggesting that a child participant, on average, was exposed to Disney Princess screen media about once or more a week. After talking to the participants, the results revealed that the young girls considered beauty to be one of the princesses’ most dominant traits. All of the girls reported that princesses were pretty and many explained that they liked princesses or would want to be a princess because of her physical appearance. This journal supported its claim by proving that Disney Princesses can have a negative effect on body image. As discussed, there are many issues with today’s beauty standards that link back to the media. Some examples include highly photo shopped pictures being posted on social media, such as Facebook and magazines; to how women should look figure-wise and whether wearing make-up or looking pretty can affect someone’s pay. A big question is, what can our society do?
Sure, nobody will go to the extreme to ban Disney Princess movies, but there are simple solutions to help defeat this issue that has consumed our society and has rubbed off on the men and women who live in it. First, the media needs to be more inclusive of all views of beauty and need to accept that many of these photos that are being posted are not real. The bodies in the photos are heavily photo shopped and the majority of women will never be able to accomplish the “perfect body” even with intense plastic surgery. Parents and educators can also be more involved because they have an opportunity to shape both girls’ and boys’ understanding of gender-stereotypes to foster a healthier, more realistic idea about gender and femininity. These messages need to start from a young age and be continued throughout all stages of life, because in this society being pretty hurts.
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