One of the first things the reader sees when visiting the Cosmopolitan website is a brief article by Korin Miller titled “Sneaky Little Ways to Burn Calories”. The Cosmopolitan, a magazine that calls itself the world’s most interesting lifestyler, obviously supports the global trend towards thinness. Millions of girls and adult women reading popular magazines subject themselves to the influence of the thin body ideals that are created and actively promoted by the media. Male readers are not secured from these influences and face similar body image risks. Thinness has become the main criterion of male and female beauty in almost all countries of the world, but its impacts on men and women’s physical and emotional health are hardly positive. Eating disorders have become a regular companion of many women and men who want to become thinner against all odds. Today’s mass media promote powerful ideals that result in body dissatisfaction among women and men. At the same time, today’s standards of thinness do not make sense for an average person, and it is high time women and men expressed their disagreement with the body standards and beauty norms so widely accepted by media.
Body image, media, and eating disorders
It has become very popular among the media to create and promote an ideal body image. With the growing popularity of magazines, journals, newspapers, and online resources, they become much more powerful in their impacts on the individual and collective perceptions of physical beauty. Popular magazines and newspapers feature thin models, whose appearance seems perfectly accurate (Duenwald). The Barbie dolls and the pictures of Marilyn Monroe add to the complexity of the beauty problem. Today’s media create a culture of physical beauty that is confusing but mostly unambiguous. These media tell women that they can never achieve anything in life, unless their body matches the established standards of beauty. “The heroin chic waif made popular by Kate Moss in the early 1990s competes with the voluptuous Baywatch babe personified by Pamela Anderson and the athletic soccer stars who celebrated a World Cup victory by tearing their shirts off” (Derenne & Beresin 258). Certainly, there is nothing bad in thinness but not in the way and form it is presented by the media. Few women realize that the body image created by the Barbie girl is highly disproportionate (Duenwald). Nonetheless, the recent interview with the Ukrainian Barbie in Forbes once again suggests that women can do impossible things with their bodies (Soldak).
Throughout the history of the media industry, most beauty ideals created by popular journals and magazines had been very difficult to attain (Derenne & Beresin 258). Those who were better off socially and financially always had better chances to meet the established beauty criteria. Women have learned to sacrifice their comfort and, with time, even physical health just to look what they think is beautiful (Derenne & Beresin 258). Since the invention of the corset, through the difficult times of the Second World War, and until present, women consistently tried to preserve their beauty and move themselves a little bit closer to the widely accepted beauty ideal. However, never before had the image of a beautiful body been as unrealistically thin as it is today. Simultaneously, the media become more powerful in their impacts on the audience. 70% of women acknowledge that beauty magazines are the most important sources of information about beauty (Thompson & Heinberg 162). Not surprisingly, girls are willing to give up eating and drinking in their pursuit of thin beauty.
Media ideals of beauty lead to the development of eating disorders in women and men. The relation between the media standards of beauty and eating disorders has been abundantly documented. Under the influence of the thin body ideals, women tend to underestimate their body size (Myers & Biocca 108). They internalize the attitudes and beliefs about thinness and, at the same time, grow extremely dissatisfied with their own bodies, because the thin body ideal created by the media is almost impossible to achieve (Thompson & Heinberg 164; Thompson & Stice 181). Women become preoccupied with thinness. They seek to lose weight by all possible means. Eating disorders develop because women fail to balance their physical desire to eat and emotional striving to meet the desired standard of physical beauty. Bulimia and anorexia nervosa have become a serious threat to girls’ and women’s health. Men are also subject to these influences. Those who have higher body mass index are more likely to experience dissatisfaction with their bodies and use numerous weight loss strategies to become closer to the public ideal of male attractiveness (McCabe & Ricciardelli 225).
Apparently, it is high time women and men stood up to express their disagreement with the unreasonably thin standards of beauty imposed on them by the media. Today, women are gradually realizing that the media play a dangerous game with their bodies. More women write to magazine editors, asking them to forget about overtly thin fashion models and include the images of bigger women (Duenwald). The Seventeen Magazine has already drafted the so-called Body Peace Treaty and made a promise to show girls they way they are (Haughney). Glamour has featured several full-size models on its cover. However, the movement against thinness should not turn into a movement for fatness and obesity. Women still need a stimulus to keep themselves fit. Today’s media should find a new balance of beauty against thinness and, at the same time, against obesity. The media should vote against eating disorders and teach women how to live their lives healthily and love their bodies the way they are.
The thin body ideals promoted by popular media are disproportionate, damaging, and difficult to achieve. Under the influence of thin body images, women become extremely dissatisfied with their own bodies. They internalize the misbalanced body ideals promoted by the media and try to become thinner by all possible means. Eating disorders develop as a result of girls’ trying to lose weight against all odds. In the world of popular media, eating disorders have already grown into a global epidemic. It is high time women and men rebelled against the disproportionate thinness praised by the media and realized the value of healthy living.