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Pretty Can Be Pretty Ugly

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“That girl”. We all know who she is; we see her thousands of times a day. Sometimes she’s plastered over the billboards or strutting across the TV screen; sprawled out on the hood of the latest hotrod car or flaunting her size zero waist in the fashion magazines. Golden skinned, stick thin, and photoshopped to perfection. Yeah, that girl. How many times have you looked at her and thought, “Wow, she’s really gorgeous,” or “What a babe!”? Probably a lot. How many times have you compared her to someone in your life? Be it you or your crush, your best friend or the girl next door. Probably a lot. And how many times have you thought to yourself, “She’s pretty and all, but how could anyone expect real-life women to look like that?”? Probably nowhere near enough. “That girl” not only represents her modeling agency, but the glistening gold standard of beauty that American society craves; A title composed of a big heaping bowl of eating disorder, a side of sexualizing clothing (or lack of clothing), drizzled with Botox and a dash of photoshop enhancement to top it all off. The women in the media may be stunning, but you’ll be stunned to learn of the detrimental impact of “that girl” in American society.

Most people look at the girls in the media and see beauty, this perfect example of what girls should strive to be. But what they do not realize is that flawless, radiant bronze skin is airbrush makeup and self-tanner. Those gorgeous eyes, they probably aren’t that breathtaking glistening hazel in real life, and her sweeping lashes are made of plastic. Their petite little waist lines, voluptuous breasts, and long slender legs come from unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits, often times procedures, and of course a touch of photo enhancement. The people of American society oo-ing and ahh-ing over this woman perceive her image as this immaculate, natural, achievable magnificence when, in fact, the images portrayed of her are masterfully hand crafted. In real life, “that girl” isn’t 5’7; she’s around 5’4. That bronze, unblemished skin is 5 shades paler and peppered with freckles. That size zero waist becomes a size five and her C cup breasts turn into B’s. The women seen in the media aren’t real women at all; by the time their pictures make it public, they’ve been transformed from models to mannequins, walking, talking synthetic objects of “beauty”. America, it is absolutely crucial to understand that “that girl”, she doesn’t exist, not in real life anyways. Wait, why is it so crucial? Another thing that the general public of the United States may not know is that those picture perfect women negatively influence each and every member of their audience.

Understand that young girls strive to be the perfect girl. They want to be slender, defined, large busted, and tan, to name just a few. God forbid they gain a dress size or wake up with a blemish on their already pretty face. It is widely understood that girls are self-conscious human beings. What is not so widely understood is that very much of this desire to meet certain physical criteria can be directly related to media exposure, and media is a very influential device. Ninety-four percent of female characters in American television are thinner than the average American woman. Fifty-three percent of high school age girls are unhappy with their physical appearance, or would like to be skinnier. One to four percent of young girls in the United States suffer from anorexia nervosa; that’s roughly 1,656,000 young women. One to four percent of young girls in the United States suffer from bulimia nervosa; also around 1,656,000. That totals a whopping 3,312,000 girls suffering from eating disorder across the nation. Studies show that the media is directly linked to lowered self- esteem, decreased performance in school and other activities, psychological problems, depression, eating disorders, and in some cases suicide. Barbie doll women in media and advertisement flaunting their figures and batting their dashing aquamarine “eyes” or contacts, rather, might be saying, “Buy this product” or “Eat at this restaurant” but to girls and young women, all they’re saying is “Look at me, I’m flawless. Don’t you want to be just like me?” All of these misleading images of women in the media are harming the mental and physical health of young girls in American society.

An especially shocking fact about the media’s impact on girls is that it strikes at an unexpectedly young age. Twelve? Thirteen? No; around the age of six. Young girls, just mere children, are exposed to a more alternative source of media: Toys, among other children directed products. Dolls, animated video media, books and other adolescent miscellaneous all expose very young girls to very adult perceptions of attractiveness. Products such as Bratz and Monster High dolls, both whose thighs are as thin as their calves and waists half the girth of their heads, exhibit “sexy”, otherwise described as degrading or sexually objectifying, attire such as fishnet stockings and stomach bearing, cleavage bearing tops. Another highly influential product on young girls are animations such as Disney princess films and corresponding products. Pictures of gorgeous princesses with their petite little waists and big, bright eyes etch themselves into the psych of small girls. The influence on the very impressionable targeted age six to eight consumer range are immense. Another term for this exposure and its respective influence is sexualization: When a person’s value comes only from his/her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified. Hey, Mom, how do you feel about the fact that your six year old daughter can’t even play “dollies” without being subliminally influenced that “sexy” is standard?

An alternate perspective of the situation is that of the male in American society. It may not be expected that young men are influenced by the very same media images as young women, but they very much are. Although most men don’t take up anorexia or aspire to be slender as a pole, they are affected in the sense that they have a distorted perception of what is a realistic expectation of beauty. Constant exposure to images of media-standard women sets an irrational understanding of what it means for a woman to be considered attractive. The more half-naked, half-silicone women that a young man sees, the more difficult it is to differentiate between realistic beauty and through-the-roof high expectations. Aside from embracing impractical attitudes toward attractiveness, young men are also influenced in that they begin to view girls less as human beings, and more as sexual objects.

Sexual objectification of women, even starting at adolescent ages, has a detrimental impact on male and female interaction. As males begin to view females as desire-fulfilling creatures, females in turn feel the need to present themselves as even more desirable. Young ladies feel the urge to not only look gorgeous, but match or even exceed facial beauty with body sex appeal. Much of America’s feminine youth is considered, typically subliminally, sometimes outwardly, as inferior to males in the respects of humankind. This influences girls to feel subordinate to men, and decreases their potential self-worth. By lowering women’s position as human beings, this is detrimental to healthy sexual development of both young males and females, and the ability to build and maintain a healthy relationship.

It is very apparent that the messages depicted in media are harmful to America’s youth, so what can be done about it? Ask the media to stop shoving unrealistic, physically enhanced, sexually degrading images in the face of society? Sweeten it up with a “pretty please and a cherry on top”? Of course not; impossible. The media depicts images of women like that for a reason, to sell, sell, sell. Companies are going to do what works to gain a profit, and sexy works. A rational approach to bettering the situation is to communicate. You can communicate with your peers, your family, and your community, the message that the images of women in the media are not to be perceived as reasonable or attainable. Raise awareness and understanding of the fact that the women in the media are virtually irrelevant to anyone and everyone in the real world, and should not be used for comparison. Parents and older siblings can also make efforts to decrease and prevent objectifying media exposure to children, both boys and girls.

The effects on the people of American society, encompassing child aged boys and girls, teenage young men and women, and male and female young adults, are all influenced in unhealthy ways from media and advertising. The media is responsible for eating disorders, mental health problems, unhealthy sexual development, subliminal gender inequality, among many other previously addressed issues. As the media grows more scandalous, the psychological impact grows more harmful. If this continues, America will be faced with a pandemic of negative media influences. Action needs to be taken, and our society is capable of rising above the superficial confines of the appearances projected in the media.





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