Body Image This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   WhenI was 10 years old, I was carefree. I ran around the playground with my friendsand never cared how I looked, even if there was mud on my face. My best friend,Kim, had a completely different way of thinking.

First, I must describeKim. She was a skinny fourth grader with long brown hair always in a highponytail and huge brown eyes. She was always smiling for no reason. She wasgreat.

She only wore pants, even in the blistering heat of a CaliforniaJuly. I asked her why, and she said her legs were ugly, a comment I dismissedwithout much thought. She would disappear for weeks at a time. When we asked, shealways said she was sick, and then changed the subject. Then one day, she wasgone.

I called and her mom told me she was in Mexico, and probablywouldn't be coming back for a long time. When I asked why, she started crying andtold me Kim was anorexic, and had to go to a clinic in Mexico fortreatment.

I had no idea what anorexia was, so the next day I went to thelibrary. When I found out, I was devastated. All of it made sense, except for onething. She was only ten years old. I called her and we talked for a while, thoughwe never mentioned her illness. Just the idea of talking about it choked me up.

I moved away and didn't call her for a while. When I did, a nurse told meshe had passed away. I cried, and did all the things any friend would do, exceptcall her family. I wasn't sure when she had died, and didn't know what to sayeven if I did.

Two years later, I visited my hometown and called an oldfriend to tell her I was back. She was ecstatic, and proceeded to update me onwhat I'd missed. One of the first things that came out of her mouth was,"Kimmie's back." I asked who she was talking about.

"Yaknow, Kimmie." The nurse, it turned out, was wrong.

Kim isn't theonly girl who's been infected by the world around her. Girls in today's societyare constantly bombarded with media telling them they need to be 5'10", 110pounds, dying their hair, and wearing makeup, low-cut jeans, and navel-baring,extra-tight shirts.

Heroines in movies and TV shows, and major femalemusicians, are nearly always unusually skinny and end up as beautiful spokeswomenfor major hair, makeup, or clothing companies too. Everyone from businesswomen onmajor sitcoms (such as Calista Flockhart of "Ally McBeal" ) to thecharacters on "Sailor Moon" wear tiny skirts, loads of makeup, and bowto the surrounding "superior" men. All of this put together roughlytranslates into the following: You, yes you, are too ugly, too fat and tooauthentic to make it in the real world.

Throughout history, women havebeen told they were more fragile, weaker and less human than man. According toConfucius, "Women are, indeed, human beings, but they are of a lower statethan men." Even feminist Simone de Beauvoir concluded that "Adolescenceis when girls realize men have the power, and that their only power comes fromconsenting to become submissive adored objects."

Women have come along way, though, so why is there now, more than ever, a severe body-imageproblem? Well, let's see. The average person sees 400-600 advertisements everyday in magazines and on television, which means that by age 17, we've seen around250,000 advertisements. One in every eleven has a direct message about beauty.Rarely in these images do we see women looking straight at us, unless they arecrouched, kneeling, nearly naked, or otherwise restricted orvulnerable.

The average woman is 5'4" and 142 pounds. The average model is5'9" and 110 pounds, 23 percent less than the average woman. The problem is thatonly five percent of women naturally achieves the dimensions of these models(now.org and CA Dept. of Health Services).

The National Clearinghouse ofPlastic Surgery reported that 91 percent of plastic surgery patients are female,and that the number of patients has increased 153% between 1992 and 1998. A studyin 1996 found that 33,000 women would rather lose 10-15 pounds than any othergoal. Seventy-five percent of women with "normal" weights think theyare overweight, and 90 percent overestimate their body size and weight. A studyconducted at Stanford University found that 68 percent of the women they studiedfelt worse about themselves after looking at women's magazines. And finally,girls who were already dissatisfied with their bodies showed more dieting,anxiety and bulimic symptoms after prolonged exposure to fashion images andadvertisements.

The problem seems to most affect teenage girls, which isno surprise if you consider all the advertisements aimed at them. Forty-sevenpercent of girls influenced by magazine pictures and advertisements say they wantto lose weight, while only 29 percent of them were actually overweight.Sixty-nine percent say that magazine models greatly influence their idea ofperfect body shape. A study published by Archives of Pediatric and AdolescentMedicine found teens to be greatly influenced by what they see on television,movies and in magazines.

Some researchers believe that advertiserspurposefully normalize unrealistically thin bodies to create unattainable desire,which results in product consumption. Paul Hamburg, assistant professor ofpsychiatry at Harvard Medical School, states, "The media markets desire. Andby reproducing ideals that are absurdly out of line with what real bodies do looklike, the media perpetuates a market for frustration and disappointment. Itscustomers will never disappear."

With that in mind, let's take aquick look at our world. Women earn more money than men in only two jobcategories: modeling and prostitution (About-Face.org). The cosmetic surgeryindustry makes 300 million dollars per year. The pornography industry makes sevenbillion a year. The cosmetics industry makes 20 billion a year. And topping thecharts, of course, is the diet industry, with a whopping 33 billion dollars eachyear.

Body image is a problem in today's society. Girls are starvingthemselves. The media tells girls things they think they want to hear. Contraryto popular belief, however, you, yes you, are perfectly fine just the way youare.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Rachel T. said...
Dec. 20, 2011 at 9:18 am
This article was well written.  It made you think twice about the image of women we see in society today. It had wonderful use logos ethos and pathose also.
 
Bridget said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 9:23 am
Wow... i never had to go through that but i want to make a presentation on teenage girls(middle schoolers) on how advertising affects how they see things and they are beautiful, skinny or chinky. If u have any advice to help me.. I would really appreciate it.
 
jazzzz replied...
Jul. 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm
well tbh i think this article was really interesting...keep it up :)
 
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