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What Influences Body Image of Women

Unlike in the past, the media and associated socio-cultural forces have coerced the 21st-century woman into thinking what is ideally right or wrong in her body picture. Some women are completely at ease with flaunting their elegance. Most women, on the other hand, are fearful that the world will view them based on their appearance and they believe that today's culture shows an ideal picture of a female. In the United States and many other parts of the Western world, the ideal portrayal of a woman involves those with flat tummies and skinny waists. On the other hand, some women feel inspired by good looks from celebrities, models, and their peers. This acts as a source of inspiration for them to achieve that ideal and healthy body image. Therefore, this essay examines the different perspectives regarding what influences the body image of women.

Halwell uses meta-analyses to examine the effect of media exposure on a woman’s image. The evaluation confirms that exposure to socio-cultural messages about thin bodies is idealized in the media, thus influencing the way women view their bodies. The study shows that women can improve their body image by taking into factor four essential qualities, namely, body acceptance, protection from rejecting appearance ideals, positive evaluation of the body, and respecting the body needs. To establish whether positive looks protect teenagers from undesirable media coverage effects, Halliwell experimented with 112 university women who were selected randomly. Each one of them was casually requested to view ads containing ultra-thin fashion models. From the observation, females who conveyed high ranks of body gratitude did not show any adverse effects of media exposure. On the other hand, ones affected by thin-model internalization were low in terms of appreciation of their bodies. These bunch of women reported appearance discrepancies that were salient when prompted to view the advert models. (Halliwell 2) Essentially, the results show that positive body image is likely to protect women from negative environmental appearances message.

Targeted advertising has been cited as a major contributor to the toxic effect on body image. Roeder notes that people usually claim that they ignore adverts but the information is actually getting to them on a subconscious level. The average American encounters over 3,000 advertisements and television commercials on a daily basis. At the center of all these adverts is idealized female beauty. Other than affecting their self-esteem, this reality has far-reaching consequences. In schools, for instance, students are subjected to body shaming; a habit that is associated with self-harm, bullying, eating disorders, and in worse cases, suicides (Roeder 3). Research by Whyte shows that female viewers depict a decrease in self-evaluation and increased negative mood due to social comparisons resulting from adverts. The meta-analysis was carried out on 177 Canadian female undergraduates from Southern Ontario. Self-evaluation of appearance was proportional to their negative mood after exposure to the thin-ideology (Whyte 12).

Similarly, Krupnick argues that when girls are bombarded with images of skinny and flawless supermodels, they react in two ways. Firstly, some women take these images negatively and they tend to impact on them in a negative way. The research by Krupnick shows that some regular women react differently (either blatantly or subtly) to the images of advertising models. Individuals who react blatantly fortify their self-image as a defense mechanism. On the other hand, subtle women react to these model-bodies in an infuriating way. The after-thought of their ‘bad’ body gets under their skin. (Krupnick 3). On the other hand, some women get a positive vibe when they see they see these images. It makes them feel good about themselves. These individuals feel that such female celebs are a motivation for them to work harder on the bodies, an approach that Krupnick calls ‘thinspiration’. (Krupnick 2).

Knorr explores the impact of social media on a woman’s image. The relentless reminder of ‘not being attractive enough’ raises significant self-regard issues. The use of instagram, snapchat, Facebook, tbh, and hot or not have significantly influenced the way in which women view their bodies. When teenagers and the younger generation post selfies and photos on social media, they expect substantial thump-ups (Knorr 2). Therefore, what starts as a fun way of sharing experiences turns into obsession of approval by the internet community. Ultimately, low stark in arithmetic may wreak havoc on the self-image of these women. This situation is caused by the fact that girls compare themselves with popular images in the media (Knorr 2). If they come short compared to these celebrities, they become particularly vulnerable to negative energy by their social media counterparts. Statistics by Knorr shows that thirty five percent of teenage users are afraid of being tagged in less than attractive pictures. Secondly, 27 % accumulate stress regarding how they look in the posted photos (Knorr 3). Thirdly, 22 percent of these individuals view themselves as ugly when their photos are ignored in the social media platform (Knorr 6). More so, the use of social media attracts worse conditions, such as addiction, eating disorders, and increased stress. Eventually, these habits contribute to poor health and, consequently, unattractive body image.

Age and education are also drivers that influence the perspective in which women view their bodies. Research shows that younger women face direct influence of body dissatisfaction. Adulthood predictors show that older women with higher education levels are more acceptable to different body shapes as opposed to their younger counterparts (Kirsh 45). Older women are more positive because they perceive lesser societal pressures. Women entering middle ages have become more conscious on the realization that they should not conform to the society’s standards. Rather, the key to a beautiful body is healthy diet and regular exercise. On the other hand, the younger and less educated generation has the pressure to conform to the ever-changing body image portrayed in the fashion industry (Knorr 2).

In contrast to the aforementioned arguments, social media is a tool that can be employed to influence the perspective in a positive manner. To spread positivity, global campaigns and hashtags should be the order of the day. Advocacy online groups that encourage self-love have vastly influenced the social media community. Therefore, tackling body image issues has become easy because the affected individuals no longer feel isolated. For instance, large scale body campaigns encourage girls to embrace one true self. One prime example is the Dove Campaign of Real beauty (Kirsh 13). The organizer used media campaigns and empowering videos in a bid to successfully change the narrative on what it means to be beautiful. Organizations, such as Victoria Secret, have recently come under fire for displaying a handful of their models by labelling them ‘The perfect body.” Ultimately, they came up with a revised version of the ad. In fact, the following adverts encompassed women of diverse body types, heights, skin tones, and shapes (Knorr 3). This shows that counter-campaigns produce overwhelming results. As a result, more women will begin appreciating their bodies, and victims of body-shaming will be significantly reduced.

Importance of online communities cannot be emphasized enough. Body image advocacy using online platforms can create means in which individuals can share their struggles without the fear of being judged. The reason for this is that individuals facing the same struggle share their grievances and they receive validation against negative communities. Making purposeful change and practicing self-acceptance are some of the sure ways of maintaining a positive body outlook. By changing the way one looks at themselves, one can positively influence how other people behave towards them (Knorr 2).

Another positive factor that influences the way individuals view their body image is the numerous empowerment programs that have been initiated to better what is being advertised in the social circles. Girl are now able to bring their strong side on self-acceptance. This has the benefit of bringing more attention to a variety of body images. According to Krupnick (37), the content of an article should bring different perspectives to different people. Not everyone should interpret things in the same way. The same ideology is applicable to women with different body shapes. Rox proposes mentoring programmes that builds body confidence. There is dire need of programmes that provide advice to lesbians, transgender, and bisexual individuals who have esteem issues. More so, the motivation of changing habits is related to the discrepancy between the ‘ideal’ image and one’s body complexity (Kirsh 12).

Media literacy and parental guidance are some of the ways that can positively influence body image. It is impossible to remain immune to adverts and the media. However, teenagers should be enlightened that whatever they see on social media and Television is merely edited and photo-shopped image (Kirsh 45). Practicing self-care when using media, such as Facebook, can empower women against negative comments. Surrounding oneself with positive-minded people will ensure positively engaging conversations. It is also important that parents embrace the influence of social media on young people. It is the accepted currency of communication in today’s world (Kirsh 12). Therefore, guardians should come up with creative ways in which they can balance the pressures that come with the use of social networks. More importantly, it is vital for the parent to empower awareness and inform young people’s choices. It is also imperative for parents to remind their children that they are more than what they look. While this may elicit eye-rolls, it will help in counteracting the never-ending veer of perfect body image. Lastly, guardians need to talk to their children about what their bodies can do. This will divert the negative focus and help them see how amazing their bodies are (Kirsh 23).

Conclusion

To conclude, it is clear that there are numerous factors that influence the body image of women. The paper explores both, the negative and positive elements that influence their perspectives. It is virtually difficult to disregard the effect of social networks on teenagers and even mature women. Societal influences and constant simulation from all sorts of media tend to influence the satisfaction of their own bodies. Positive body image is a requisite for a woman’s overall self-approval because the way one sees themselves is exactly how the world will see them. A positive attitude translates into self-acceptance, and it is likely to attract more friendship than enmity.

Works Cited

Halliwell, Emma. "The Impact of Thin Idealized Media Images on Body Satisfaction: Does Body Appreciation Protect Women from Negative Effects?" Body Image, vol. 10, 01 Sept. 2013, pp. 509-514. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.07.004

Kirsh, Steven J. Media and Youth: A Developmental Perspective. Chichester, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016. Internet resource.

Knorr, Caroline. “How girls use social media to build up, break down self-Image.” CNN, Cable News Network, 12 Jan. 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/01/12/health/girls-social-media-self-image-partner/index.html. Accessed 13 November 2017.

Krupnick, Ellie. “Women's Self-Esteem Affected By Idealized Female Images... But Not In The Way You Think.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Feb. 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/27/womens-self-esteem_n_2774083.html. Accessed 13 November 2017.

Roeder, Amy. “Advertising's toxic effect on eating and body image.” News, 18 Mar. 2015, www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/advertisings-toxic-effect-on-eating-and-body-image/. Accessed 13 November 2017.

Rox, Philippa. “Does social media impact on body image?” BBC News, BBC, 13 Oct. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/health-29569473. Accessed 13 November 2017.

Whyte, Cavel, et al. "A Confound-Free Test of the Effects of Thin-Ideal Media Images on Body Satisfaction." Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, vol. 35, no. 10, Dec. 2016, pp. 822-839. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1521/jscp.2016.35.10.822.

September 21, 2021

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