The media is a powerful tool of communication. Apart from the basic purpose of conveying information to the public in a reliable, accurate, unbiased and timely manner, it also influences the economic, political and social spheres of peoples’ lives. Consequently, the media plays a crucial role in influencing the direction of public interest. In recent times, there has been increased concern by women about their body image. Many women seem interested in staying healthy, fit and fashionable. The media is a vital source of information on the latest trends being used to achieve this. Fitness programs, fashion magazines and health tips are some of the tools being used by the media that influences women’s body image greatly. “The media communicates its messages through images which tyrannize our fleshy, flawed, embodied, realities. No matter how much we try to control or diet or deodorize our bodies, we cannot hope to match the illusion on the screen or the printed page” (Hutchinson 64). The role played by the media in influencing the trends followed by women about the appropriate body image can hence not be downplayed. People tend to believe that what they see on the media represent the true perception of beauty. Most women especially the young women therefore find themselves pursuing various methods to ensure that they attain the recommended body image so that they feel attractive.
Literature review refers to a review of past studies conducted on the topic of interest. It entails looking at previous work done by other researchers and academicians so as to avoid duplication of research.
Female Body Image in Mass Media
Various studies conducted by researchers have indicated that most people in the country are vulnerable to advertisement and publications about their body images. A large percentage of those who fall victim to this situation are women and in most cases, young women. Most women are obsessed about achieving body images that meet the standards idolized by the media. According to Park (620), the mass media has been depicting the size of a modern woman as decreasing. If a woman does not feel good about her cheeks, breasts, nose or other parts of the body, she can simply go for cosmetic or plastic surgery to modify it.
However, such a decision is always very risky. While the patient is driven by the delight of changing her looks, the probability of such procedures being disastrous or having futile side effects is usually very eminent. Most cases of life-threatening side effects have been exposed with celebrities being victims. Exercise routines have also been publicized by the media as a means of keeping fit and healthy. The media argues that fat people are generally unfit and unhealthy. They therefore propose that doing exercise is a good way of losing body fats that make individuals unfit and more vulnerable to diseases. A large number of women have found ‘working out’ as a wise way of keeping fit and being healthy.
Plastic Surgery and the Media
The media usually shapes perceptions among young women about idealistic attractive bodies. As a result, many women resort to a number of ways to achieve ‘perfect’ bodies. These include plastic surgeries, physical exercise and eating diets. The ideal body continues to be defined by getting skinnier and skinnier. This has often led to dire consequences since the plastic surgeries, excessive physical exercise and eating disorders affects the natural functioning of the body. According to Hess - Biber (96), plastic surgery has become a more than 8 billion a year industry. The media criterion is considered to be standard and women feel the need to have a ‘perfect’ body figure. “Nearly nine million surgical and minimally invasive cosmetic procedures were performed in 2003 according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery” (Hess-Biber 96). Many women are abusing the essence behind cosmetic surgery. Whilst previously it was used for reconstructive purposes, the trend has shifted nowadays to a different purpose where women use it to acquire artificial beauty. Plastic surgery offers solutions to women who would like to change their appearances to conform to the perceived attractive levels.
Effect of Media in Determining Eating Habits
The media influences the types of food that individuals consume. In addition, both the quantity and type of food that individuals eat can have an effect on their reported body image. According to Vocks, Legenbauer, and Heil (20), food intake had a negative effect on a self-report of body image and increased the level of body dissatisfaction. Respondents who exhibited stronger patterns of constrained eating made a larger estimate of their body size. People who seem to be unhappy about the quantity of food that they take feel awful about themselves after viewing images in the media. Given the created relationship between the media and body image, and the media and food consumption levels, the present study attempted to more wholly elaborate the relationships among these key variables.
It was anticipated that individuals who watch unhealthy food-oriented television advertisements would eat more food (healthy and unhealthy) than those who watch healthy advertisements. Individuals who watched healthy advertisements and eat an unhealthy food would have the lowest body image. Individuals who watched a video clip with healthy advertisements and who are offered a healthy food would have the highest body image out of the four conditions. Generally, people who consumed more food irrespective of the advertisement would have a lower body image than those who eat less food. Food is an important requirement for any individuals well being. It is a source of energy and strength and growth. Inadequate consumption of food may lead to improper functioning of an individual’s body. It is not only unfair to deny the body such food requirement but it also exposes an individual to risk of diseases.
The media gives an elusive depiction of beauty to women. Beauty is described by encouraging women to get thinner and thinner. Diets that do not sufficiently provide for the needs of the body are recommended to obtain rapid results without taking into account the detrimental impact on the body.
Exercising and the Media
Exercising is a good way of keeping fit and staying healthy. The media usually shows fitness programs that help individuals attain certain ‘desirable’ body structures. These programs usually appeal to many women who ‘hit-the-gym’ in order to achieve certain publicized body images. The exercise routines are usually constructed to enhance certain body structures. The society consists of a weight discrimination that is stressed by the media (Triplett 13). Overweight people, especially the women have been made to feel ugly. This has affected their self-esteem. Recent research conducted has revealed that the ideal woman’s body weight is way below the average healthy weight. This means that if women continue to pursue these trends, they will be exposing themselves to risk of underweight-related health conditions.
Specifics on Proposed Study
This study intends to find out if the women who undergo plastic surgeries are influenced by the media. It also intends to determine if the women who exercise for health and fitness are influenced by the media and lastly if the diets taken by women are as a result of media influence.
The study will develop a sample size that comprises women of various ages proportionally. This sample will further be stratified into those women that have undergone plastic surgery, adopted eating diets or started exercise activities as a result of influence from the media. These women will be selected from different parts of the country. Informed consent was obtained from the respondents. Information was collected from two main methods. These are interviews and use of questionnaires. The duly filled interview forms and questionnaires will then be subjected to regression analysis. A regression model will be derived and the model parameters used to determine the level of relationship between the dependent and independent variables.
This study will discuss the media lead to various issues that are associated with the media that influences the desired body image by women. Three factors will be studied in greater detail. These are whether the prescribed eating diets by the media have detrimental effects on the women, whether the media is successful in influencing the women’s’ decision to go for cosmetic and plastic surgery and how the media influences fitness habits by the women.Restate Hypothesis
This study intends to find out whether the media plays a significant role in determining the ‘perfect’ body image for women. It will undertake to study to what extent women go to change their physical appearance to meet the media’s depiction of ‘beauty’. It will undertake to find out whether this hypothesis is supported or not supported.Limitations
The study will be constrained by time and resources which will limit the scope of research work conducted. This is because while a large sample size is desirable, only a reasonable sample size will have to be chosen. In addition, information about effect of media on women’s’ body image is highly subjective.Unexpected Factors
The study may be faced with difficulties of undisclosure on the part of the respondents: the respondent rate may fall below 100% rate.
This problem of the media’s detrimental effect on women’s obsession about body image has to be altered. Women need not be concerned about not having particular body images. They should not be pre-occupied about attaining certain perceived desirable body images. Provided their bodies do not expose them to any kind of health-related problems, they should accept their body sizes. Exercise routines should be done to become physically fit and stay healthy but not become thin. Most of the women in the society are unable to meet the beauty standard popularized by the media. This has led to frustration on the part of these women who most of the time ends up causing grievous side effects to their bodies.
The models that are normally portrayed by these media are usually underweight and generally very unhealthy. These are not the ideals that women should be encouraged to emulate. It is thus about time that the women are sensitized to appreciate the natural state of their bodies and avoid any changes that may subject them to risks that may lead to illnesses or even loss of life in extreme cases. The media on their part should be more sensitive to the message that they convey to their audience. The media owes a responsibility to the people to provide information that is useful to them. When the information that is publicized by the media is such that it affects the welfare of the people by negatively influencing their perception, then the media is failing in its responsibility to the people. It is about time that individuals are encouraged to feel comfortable in their bodies. Beauty is not about appearances. Beauty is inane and the media should assist people in appreciating their worth.
Della, Vigna S, and Ethan Kaplan. The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting. Cambridge, Mass: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2006. Print.
Durham, Meenakshi G. The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2008. Print.
Park, S. The influence of presumed media influence on women's desire to be thin.Communication Research, 32(5), 594-614.(2005).
Schooler, D., Ward, M., Merriwether, A., & Caruthers, A. Who’s that girl: Television’s role in the body image development of young white and black female. Psychology of Female Quarterly, 28(1), 38-47. (2004).
Triplett, L. The Blame Game: A first glimpse at the socially acceptable causes of female fatness. Conference Papers --International Communication Association, 1-27.(2007)