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The Irrational Representation of Women
There are a handful of people who believe that the portrayal of women in the media isn’t a problem. Some people do not realize that we live in a society consumed by the objectification of women. This is commonly referred to as media objectification and it has been a dilemma for many years. In fact, the issue dates back to the twentieth century and continues to be a problem today (Eating Disorders). Wherever you look, the media objectifies women and portrays them as physical objects instead of human beings. Almost all media sources rely on objectified portrayals of women. These include magazines, television, movies, and even music. There have been studies that have shown that women are commonly objectified in the media, leading to societal problems such as eating disorders, violence against woman and low self esteem in females.
Many women all over the globe are affected by the objectification of women shown in the media (Beauty Pageants). Not only can it give them a complex with their body images, but it can also lower women’s self-esteem. Because of the material that is shown in the media, there is an increase of women who aren’t happy with the way they look. They often strive to look like the women they see on television or in magazines and will go to great lengths to change their appearances to look “prettier.” If our society paid less attention to the way people looked on the outside and spent more time focusing on people’s personalities, there would be a decrease in the number of problems associated with women striving for outward perfection, such as eating disorders. Also, if society cared more about personality traits, women’s self-esteem would begin to show huge improvements and would increase rapidly. It is wrong how material in the media dehumanizes and objectifies women. Therefore, there needs to be more “real” people portrayed in the media.
About 66% of high school girls go on diets to lose weight and about seven million in the United States suffer from some sort of an eating disorder (Eating Disorders). Women are more vulnerable to having eating disorders than men which demonstrates a possible link between women’s objectification and disordered eating patterns (Brody). Usually because they are displeased with the way they look, mostly caused from the media. Many studies have shown that there have been more adolescent girls with an eating disorder than ever before (Eating Disorders).
The result of this worldly problem mainly comes from the influence of unrealistically thin models in magazines and on the television (Eating Disorders). Young girls often feel that they need to meet the unrealistic expectations to become thin like the models. It has been a proven fact that young women and adolescent girls who suffer from an eating disorder are dangerously at risk of having major health problems (Eating Disorders). They also have a higher chance on developing psychological problems as well (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery). If the media focused more on women’s character rather than their outer shell, and put genuine people in the media, there would be less pressure on teenage girls and young women to change their physical features. All of the focus on the fake body images women view has a huge impact on women and their daily lives. Many women set impossible goals to become thinner to look like the models and celebrities they see on the television. A lot of them go to the extreme and develop an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia (Eating Disorders).
It has not been proven that the objectification of females that is found in the media has a link with or an increases incidence of rape or other sorts of abuse towards women. However, there is plenty of research that demonstrates that it does have an impact on many social problems people seem to have (Rockler-Gladen). Some of the problems that are frequently noted to occur are sexual violence, eating disorders, and even pressure on teenage girls and young women to be “perfect”. Research has suggested that when women are portrayed as physical objects, it may be easier for others to inflict sexual and emotional violence towards women because they are not viewed as people with value (Rockler-Gladen). Some people might believe that since women are only physical objects to be looked at, that their feelings don’t matter and their thoughts might be less valued as valid or intelligent.
Another place many people would never think objectification of women would occur is in Disney movies (Coleman). In almost every princess movie women are shown helpless and they are always relying on a man’s strength to save them. This makes women look weak within society. There are only a few movies that do depict women’s independence and strength. However, in the movies that do show portray women as strong and capable, they are usually viewed as cold hearted people who gave up family in order to reach their goals in life (Coleman). The perfect example of this occurs in the movie The Proposal.
The media has such a strong impact on people in our society. By modeling how people act or what they look like, it can actually have control people’s view on themselves and on others as well (Rockler-Gladen). The material that is found in the media makes young teenagers and women feel less self worth and their self- esteem plummets. This is one of the main reasons why many teenage girls want to get plastic surgery (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery). Most of the time, teenage girls want to get surgery because they believe they should look like the unreal people they see in the media. Every day women and young girls are continuously subjected to and pressured by their own objectification as they interact in a world that frequently floods them with weight loss commercials and images of fake, airbrushed bodies they see on the television and in magazines.
Teenagers are too young, and are both mentally and emotionally too immature to consider the major health consequences that plastic surgery possesses. Some who have gotten the surgery done the media has brainwashed them into believing that the feminine figure should look like the ones they find mainly found in the media. About 15% of the teenage girls that want to get plastic surgery done suffer a mental illness called body dysmorphic disorder, also known as BDD (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery). A professor from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia named David Sarwer said BDD is a psychological condition that makes people view their body as “fat” which makes them dissatisfied with their physical appearance, and are more likely to take the dangerous risks of plastic surgery.
According to (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery), a woman named Kate Burch-Davis said she regretted getting breast implants at the age nineteen. At the time she thought it was a good idea to get the surgery done because she was highly influenced by the negative body images she found in magazines. She became depressed and was dissatisfied with the way she looked. She believed that her breasts were too small. After she got bigger breasts, she became aware of the objectification of women and found herself receiving frequent rude comments. According to her story, it was not long after her surgery that she found herself depressed again with her self-esteem being even lower than what it was before.
A countless number of critics, such as psychologists and other mental health professionals argue that teenage girls should not be allowed to have plastic surgery because it sends the wrong message to American girls (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery) People who believe that plastic surgery can boost people’s self-esteem are wrong. There is not any true evidence that proves that plastic surgery can boost a person’s self- esteem (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery). In fact, in the long run it could do more harm then good.
The modeling industry is perhaps one of the largest industries that promote the problem of female objectification in the United States (Beauty Pageants). One of the most known beauty pageants in the United States is the Miss America beauty pageant. Beauty Pageants completely objectify women by making them strut on the walk way where everyone judges and criticize their appearance. Pageants make women more like physical objects and less than individuals who are real people with intelligent and worthwhile personalities. A study that was researched at John Hopkins University discovered that a majority of the Miss America winners are less than the normal recommended weight for a woman and the contestants have been consistently underweight since the 1970’s (Beauty Pageants).
It has become well-known in many, if not all, beauty pageants for models to show less personality and to show that they are all identical and easy to replace (Beauty Pageants). Beauty pageants take away all the rights of models’ freedom to express themselves in a healthy way (Beauty Pageants). Models have little to no say in anything, and are only expected to follow the orders that are given to them which includes how to smile, where to smile, how to dress and how to walk. In Madrid, which is a leader in the world’s fashion industry, they require their models to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of no greater than eighteen to appear in its fashion week. Models will often starve themselves to reach this because to be a fashion model is viewed by many as an honor (Thin Fashion Models).
Fashion has had a huge impact on the lives of Americans throughout our history (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery). Even in the 19th century people were obsessed about the “perfect body shape” (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery). Women would often wear corsets to achieve what looked like the perfect shape (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery). These corsets laced in the back and were very uncomfortable. They were used to hold in any fat a woman might have and was intended to give off an “hourglass” figure (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery). Most women didn’t know the health effects associated with corsets until the damage was already done. Women who wore them sometimes fainted and continuously wearing corsets could also damage the uterus leading women to miscarry during pregnancy (Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery).
What is our society teaching the young children of America with all of this gender stereotyping? It is important for the media to shows people, especially children, positive role models to look up to for encouragement and support. The media should also influence people in a positive way to increase the feelings of self esteem in the upcoming generations so they can become successful, competent and emotionally healthy adult members of society. This isn’t the right message we want to give the little girl who dreams of becoming a successful leader or corporate executive when she grows up. As long as women teach their children to embrace their inner beauty and try to protect them from the negative influences the media shows then young girls will be less pressured and will able to express themselves more freely which will help her reach her dreams in the future.
Many women in society feel undervalued in terms of intelligence and only feel valued based on physical attractiveness and are often sexualized (Rockler-Gladen). Women sometimes dress in revealing clothes to get attention as a result of their continued objectification. It is almost as if they have bought into the lie that the media has told them that they are worth nothing more than their physical features. The only solution to stop the objectification of women is for women to put an end to it them selves. The only way to be treated differently is to tell people that it’s not okay. This can be accomplished by no longer participating and volunteering in commercials, magazines, modeling that objective and/or sexualize women. Women need to stop buying into the lie.
Beauty Pageants. (2005). Issues and controversies facts on file news services. Retrieved
February 17, 2011, from http://www.2facts.com
Coleman, Brenna. (2010). Media Portrayal of Women: Female Stereotypes in the Media.
Eating Disorders. (2000). Issues and controversies facts on file news services. Retrieved
February 09, 2011, from http://www.2facts.com
Rockler-Gladen, Naomi. (2008). Media Objectification of Women: A definition and
Consequences of Sexualized Female Representations.
Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery. (2009). Issues and controversies facts on file news services.
Retrieved February 09, 2011, from http://www.2facts.com
Thin Fashion Models. (2007). Issues and controversies facts on file news services. Retrieved
February 9, 2011, from http://www.2facts.com