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Body Image

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Body Image

Body Image

The purpose of this study is to further explore and examine the influences of mass media on male's and female's personal body image satisfaction and the awareness and internalization of societal pressures regarding appearance. For a number years evidence surrounding the insecurities that women have towards their own bodies has been widely published. More recently, it has been suggested that men are falling victim to media and

societal pressure, and are developing insecurities traditionally associated with women. Much of the body dissatisfaction that we see today can be attributed to the enormous disparity between our current cultural beauty ideals and our actual bodies. Although most of the research surrounding the influences of media on body image has taken the form of analyzing exposure through the examination of such things as magazine content, recent

research has begun to focus on an individual's awareness of societal pressures, as well as one's acceptance, or internalization, of these societal standards (Cusumano & Thompson,1997).

Every culture has standards of beauty. Through the ages and around the world,people have evaluated the appearance of themselves and others. A person's body image is his or her concept of their physical appearance. The mental representation which may be realistic or unrealistic, is constructed from self-observation, the reactions of others, and a

complex interaction of attitudes, emotions, memories, fantasies, and experiences, both conscious and unconscious. A pleasing appearance has often been associated with higher status, better opportunities to attract a mate and other positive qualities. We live in a society that thrives on first impressions. Many people interact with large numbers of new people everyday, especially in their work lives, and we often have little information about

who these people are, but we do know how they look. We try to size them up based on how they are dressed, how they talk, how they move and their overall physical appearance. People tend to judge a fat person as lazy and self-indulgent and a thin person as organized and disciplined and these stereotypes are reinforced by the media. A study done by Franzoi and Herzog (1987) examined what body parts and functions young adults use in judging physical attractiveness and how they are related to self esteem. They found

that aspects of male self esteem dealt with upper body strength and aspects of female self esteem dealt with weight concerns. They further indicated that men generally have more positive attitudes toward their bodies than women do.

Levine and associates (1994) reported that 70% of the teenage women who

regularly read fashion magazines considered the magazines an important source of beauty and fitness information. The mass marketing of body images through print media and television advertising has been well documented as a powerful force in creating the 90's perception of the tall, thin, and toned ideal for women and the medium-sized, muscular ideal for men (Rabak-Wagener, Eickhoff-Shemek, & Kelly-Vance, 1998). As media increases as a vehicle for information to develop our identities it expands its potential to create and reinforce particular values, stereotypes and behaviors as well as alter societies

perceptions of reality (Fouts & Burggraf, 1999, Sipiora, 1991, Leobert & Sprafkin, 1988). The more people are exposed to these values, stereotypes, and behaviors the more it is reinforced that there is an association between the ideal body image, physical attractiveness, desirability, personal self-worth, and success (Fouts & Burggraf, 1999). The implication is a society that appears to associate body size and shape as direct aspects of their identities and self worth; if a man or a woman is unhappy with the way they look,then they are unhappy with themselves.

In one of the most classic research studies in the area of body image, Garner, Garfinkel, Schwartz, and Thompson (1980) investigated the changing body shape of Playboy centerfolds and are considered to be the epitome of the female body. The researchers collected hip and bust measurements as well as the weights of the centerfolds for a twenty year period (1959-1978). The results indicated that the centerfolds weighed significantly less than that

of the average female and that the bust and hip size had decreased over the period of time (Cusumano & Thompson, 1997). In 1992 Wiseman, Gray, Mosimann, and Ahrens attempted to replicate the research of Garner et al. (1980) and expand it by making it a more recent ten year span (1979-1988). Their results indicated weights for the Playboy centerfolds were 13-19% lower than the weight assigned as normal based on actuarial tables. A decrease in bust and hip measurements was also seen (Cusumano & Thompson,(1997). The researchers of this study point out that maintaining a body weight that is 15%

lower than one's expected weight is a criteria for anorexia nervosa.

One of the best explanations for the increase in body dissatisfaction and the increased prevalence of eating disorders seems to be the societal pressures pushed by the media. The role of the media and the thin standard of attractiveness for women promoted by the media has been shown to lead women to rate their bodies more negatively (Hamilton & Waller, 1993), which, in turn, leads to an increase in low self esteem, depression, and eating disorder symptoms (Irving, 1990, Stice & Shaw, 1994).

Different vehicles of media have been researched, with magazines and television seeming to be the most widely studied and film close behind. A study of Hollywood films by Smith, McIntosh, and Bazzini (1999) established that attractive characters were portrayed more favorably than unattractive characters in such dimensions as friendliness and intelligence and that exposure to highly stereotyped films can elicit stronger favoritism

towards the ideal stereotypes in real life situations.

In using television and magazine advertising research has shown that a person's body image is elastic and can fluctuate in response to media content that focuses on the presentation of the ideal body shape (Myers & Biocca). A study done by Lavine, Sweeney, and Wagner examined the effects on body dissatisfaction after exposure to certain ...

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Keywords: body image issues, body image meaning, body image and social media, body image disorder, body image quotes, body image fleet, body image and self esteem, body image questionnaire

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