Perfect Illusions Make for Unhealthy Body Image “The Barbie- doll body type” offers a great example of a perfect illusion. Researchers from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) generated a computer model of a woman with Barbie- doll proportions. They found disturbing evidence backing Barbie’s unattainable beauty. For instance, a woman with the proportions of a Barbie doll would find her back to weak, not able to hold the weight of her upper body. Her body would also be too narrow to contain more than half a liver and only a few centimeters of a bowel.
The life size woman would experience chronic diarrhea and eventually die from malnutrition. These statistics of reality seem nothing close to glamorous, yet countless young girls still seek this similarly underweight body-type. This is just the beginning of messages sent to young women by the media promoting the drive for thinness, dieting, and beauty. These messages tell “ordinary” girls that they are in need of an adjustment and that the female body is an object to be perfected. Unhealthy body image and habits in adolescents will continue until there are major changes in the way young women are portrayed in the media.
The changes in the physical and physiological characteristics of adolescents make them particularly more vulnerable than any other age group. The illusion of the perfect body type they grew up with is now meeting puberty. It is speculated that a female with Barbie-doll proportions would be so thin that she would not be able to menstruate, due to a lack of body fat percentage necessary to do so. Yet in reality adolescents have to battle with puberty, menstruation, and the excess weight that comes with it. In the middle of this, the early adolescent begins to form views on what appearances are desirable or attractive.
During this cognitive development the media continues to shape adolescents “body ideal” mainly through the resources of magazines and television. According to the NEDO, there is evidence that a 15-month subscription to a fashion magazine increased body dissatisfaction, dieting, and bulimic symptoms amongst adolescent girls. Although most people in some general sense know that media models are a creation of hair stylists, flattering clothing, make up, and camera angles, young girls are typically unaware of the extent to which models are altered.
In magazines more often than not photos are altered to meet the “standard” set by the media culture. Retouching software makes models look thinner, taller, have whiter teeth, unblemished faces, and brighter eyes. In an article from New York Times Eric Wilson state that, advances in digital photography have made it so easy to manipulate photographs that cover models often resemble weirdly synthesized creatures or, as the photographer Peter Lindbergh described them this week, “objects from Mars. ” Yet according to research done by the NEDO says that the average US resident is exposed to approximately 5,000 advertising messages a day.
This evidence would mean that on average US adolescent females would be exposed to at around 1,500 unhealthy body-ideals each day, not knowing the truth of what was done to make the ideal really look the way it does. Some companies are proving that alternative advertising images avoid harm and are equally effective. The idea that only thinness sells” created by companies such as Chanel can be contradicted by the success of the Dove Corporation. Dove campaigns for real beauty, studying how women perceive themselves and how the media affects it.
In Dove’s ads women of all shapes and sizes are photographed with messages promoting healthy body images. “What women in this study tell us is that a sense of legitimacy and respect is wrapped up with beauty in today’s world. Whether this sentiment dismays or delights us, it poses a serious challenge,” says Orbach on behalf of the Dove Corporation. “… For the idea of beauty to become truly democratic and inclusive, then beauty itself must be revitalized to reflect women in their beauty as they really are rather than as portrayed in the current fictions that dominate our visual culture. The success of this campaign and its dedication to changing the way women including adolescents are portrayed in the media is a new standard to be followed. Such success by Dove Corporation are backed up by the support of their study in which Nancy Etcoff states that more than two-thirds (68%) of women strongly agree that “the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t ever achieve. ” This new standard of the way women including adolescents are portrayed needs to be set as the new standard for media.
Media needs to change their loom to advertising taking a realistic approach to young women’s bodies, cutting out all the process of digital retouching to create the opposite. Unhealthy body image and habits in adolescents will continue until these major changes in the media are set into affect. . If not young women will continue to be exposed to more and more perfect illusions, which are just that, illusions of what ideal body image should be.
Works Cited Etcoff, Nancy. “Only two percent of women think they’re beautiful. ” Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Dove Corporation, 05 September 2008. Web. 26 September 2010. “Body Image and the Media. ” Information on Women and Girls. National Eating Disorder Association, 31 December 2005. 20 September 2010. Wilson, Eric. “Smile and Say No Photoshop. ” Fashion and Style. The New York Times, 27 May 2009. Web. 27 September 2010.