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Media Portrayals of Women


There is an objectification of women trend that is developing within the entertainment media over the last few years. Specifically, there is a strong attention on women where they are perceived as sexual objects in movies, TV, and music videos ins...Read More


~Posted on Feb 2018

Media Portrayals of Women

There is an objectification of women trend that is...

There is an objectification of women trend that is developing within the entertainment media over the last few years. Specifically, there is a strong attention on women where they are perceived as sexual objects in movies, TV, and music videos instead of being seen as women. This is harmful to the social fabric because the media is generating social stereotypes for men and women that can lead to unhealthy social as well as physical habits (Cole & Jessica 54). This issue is particularly prevalent since the more the media utilizes sexual content relating to women as many viewers appear to buy into them. Therefore, the media shapes the sense of dating, sex, romance, as well as what is ‘ideal’ in the society. The objectification of women within the media is allowed to continue due to the fact that sex sell, and it is what a large proportion of people in the society has proven they want to view in the entertainment media. This paper will look into how the portrayal of women by the media leads to unhealthy eating habits and poor self-esteem among the young people.

Low self-esteem, depression, as well as eating disorders are among the leading health concerns that are facing girls in this contemporary society. These problems are related to sexualized portrayal of women in the media. Media messages have a tremendous influence on the ideals of the society, especially when it comes to women. Although women are under-represented in the media, whenever they appear, the attention is often on the looks they possess. Reichert & Jacqueline (24) asserts that less speaking roles in children films are offered to females and most of the female characters are characterized by physical beauty instead of their intelligence or personality. Carilli & Campbell states:

“advertising is successful, not only because of its audiences’ largely dismissive attitudes toward the industry’s effectiveness, but also because it relies upon cultural stereotypes that its audiences associate with lived reality as they encounter and enact them in their day-today lives” (3).

The sexualization of women, which is the illustration of women as valued by sex appeal is everywhere in the contemporary. In some instances, these images are altered electronically so as to enhance the attractiveness. Whereas young girls ought to be learning as well as having fun, 54 percent of them are often concerned about their looks, whereas 37 percent of them are anxious about their weight. Studies relating to teenage girls show that constant thinking of body image influences the mindset as well as academic performance of girls.  It as well makes them to develop eating habits that are unhealthy.

The way in which the media culture portrays women makes them to develop anxiety that eventually makes some of them to develop low self-esteems. The media appreciates the thin image of women and devalues any woman straying outside this false “norm” of having a thin body. In order to deal with this low self-esteem, many women literally starve themselves while pursuing the unachievable goal. The media’s objectification of women affects the society in different ways. Advertising as well as media images that encourage women to place emphasis on looks and sexuality are detrimental to both their emotional and physical health. According to Cole & Jessica, “women develop the sense of seeing their bodies as not their individual self, instead as sexual objects (34).” This unhealthy chain of thoughts can develop into cyclical problems like eating disorders, depression, as well as low self-esteem. These problems are openly related to sexualized images in the advertising and media entertainment.

Beauty sells, which makes it an issue when the media produces images for women that are unattainable. Eating disorders are frequently, though not directly, linked to negative body image. Whereas a negative body image might incite women to diet so as to lose weight, it is not essentially the negative body image that is the cause of an eating disorder; the person who is suffering has to be biologically inclined to developing one (Frith & Kavita 33). There are numerous factors that contribute to poor body images of women. We live in a society where thinness and beauty are exceedingly valued for women. It is common to see images of ridiculously thin women in the media- popular magazines, TV shows and movies. The media glamorizes thin bodies for women. This is the message that the media sends to teenagers during a time when they are very vulnerable to peer pressure and good looks. As a result of this influence, it is possible for poor body images might start developing at a very tender age. It is unethical for marketing firms to constantly place ideals that are unrealistic in the face of young women.

The media’s objectification of women makes them to develop mental and physical depression. When the media exposes young women to images of thin and attractive models, it increases body dissatisfaction of many women along with bringing out negative feelings. Continuous exposure to these images brings about numerous negative connotations in women’s self-image. Research shows that mental depression starts at a young age, as children learn from what they see in the media and it follows them into their teenage. According to Reichert & Jacqueline

“If a child grows up seeing thin women used in advertisements, they take this as a reality and make an effort to imitate both their appearance and actions” (45).

When they find out that this appearance is unattainable, they get down on themselves and start feeling inadequate. Depression in many girls arises from the exposure to the ultra-thin air brushed photographs in advertisements. However, they ought to be informed that many measures have been taken to alter these images in advertisements so as to elucidate that humans do not naturally appear like the illustrations in magazine covers, TV’s or billboards.

Marketers will do anything they can so as to sell a product as well as make a profit, and nearly anything can be sold provide it is appealing to our sense of beauty. There are definitely some direct messages related with women’s body size and weight in the media; fashion models, celebrities, as well as show hosts are frequently perceived by role models, particularly by teenagers. This is because they seem to demonstrate what it means to be both successful and popular. The body weight and size, beauty and appearance of these celebrities are related with their wealth and popularity. According to Jhally & Jean (14), this concept is referred to as the “thin ideal media”, which has attracted a lot of interests by social psychology researchers. The phrase “thin-ideal media” emanate from media images, films, as well as shows containing very thin female leads. The thin-ideal media is something that comes up often in fashion magazines, pop culture TV shows and clothing catalogs. This concept highlights the notion that thinness is a desirable thing, even when it is potentially damaging to the health of an individual.

The statistics are stunning: according to research by Lont (45), four out of every five 10-year-old children say that they are afraid of being fat. However, where did these children learn about overweight, hence making them to worry a lot about dieting as well as being thin? The number of young people who wish that they were thinner is increasing with the increase in media’s sexualization of women.

“By the time many children are in high school, one out of ten develop eating disorders, which is an abnormal eating pattern where an individual consumes too little or too much which devastatingly affects their physical as well as emotional health” (Frith & Kavita 23).

Cole & Jessica asserts that approximately 90 percent of people with eating disorders are women who are between 12 and 25 years. Young girls are taught by the media that they need to diet so as to look like the celebrities that they admire in the media. When these weight-conscious girls grow up, they turn into eating-disordered women who have unhealthy body images. These women have the obsession of maintaining a weight that is low enough to become physically detrimental.

The media utilizes the sexuality of women as a selling pitch for the audience that they intend to reach. In most advertisements, women are perceived for their bodies and faces rather than the significance of advertisements in which they are featured that will portray their personality. “Promoters of products utilize the sexual attribute by attempting to relate their brand with the subconscious mind of the consumers” (Frith & Kavita 21). As a result, the media is not selling the messages in their advertisements but they are merely selling sex, and through this, they make women to be perceived as objects of desire as well as sex. The advertisements in the media become the clothes that women put on and the body image that they struggle to emulate. The actual concern is that this image is neither healthy nor real. Suggestive sexual images in the media keep on feeding into these ideals that keep developing in our social fabric.

In conclusion, the trend of objectifying women by the media seems to continue as it is both entertaining and profitable. Nevertheless, this media culture is detrimental to the society for mental as well as physical reasons. Young men and women are stuck attempting to having a perfect body as the media presents an ideal body at the expense of their mental state and physical wellness. As a result, these young men and women are faced with eating disorders and depression by trying to fit in the image of beauty that is portrayed by the media. It is not helpful for one to feel inadequate because of the manner in which the media is representing women as this will only lower one’s self-esteem. It is apparent that the objectification of women by the media has its negative effects.

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