Societies perception of beauty has changed throughout the ages, in the Victorian era a wasp waist, a full head of hair and pale skin was sought after and only obtained by the wealthiest of women. By the twenties a corset was cast away for a fringe dress and cropped hair, in the fifties femininity was regained again and tiny waist were sought after. And now we’re here. In an era many would say is defined by magazines, television, and the internet. However, this is nothing new, for ages media has defined what is beautiful. Media creating the definition of what’s desirable is harmful, people, particularly to young girls. They are susceptible to this kind of manipulation by the media and can go to dangerous risk to fit this strict defined idea.
By allowing media to define what is considered beautiful we’re allowing young girls are their already fragile self esteem to be affected negatively. According to models.com the average commercial model’s heigh ranges from 5’6 to 5’11, way above the average woman’s height of 5’4. Why is it that the representation of beauty and the standard to which women are held to is so far from reality? Young girls are constantly exposed to media’s idea of beauty. Victoria’s Secret models are plastered across billboards, the only representation they see on tv are of stereotypically attractive women whose only role is to be the main character’s love interest. Girl’s of a ethnic minority are even more affected by this because their only representation lies in stereotypes. We need to pay attention to this because women can’t continue to believe that there is only one type of beauty, if they believe this mental issues will continue to affect them such as anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorders.
Media has defined what is the most important aspect of women, mostly beauty. Women have been boiled down to their appearance so in turn that is what most women believe is the most important. This is an example of Agenda-Setting. Agenda-setting according to A First Look at Communication Theory is the mass media’s “ability to transfer the salience of issues on their news agenda to the public agenda”. Women are constantly exposed to the public’s idea of beauty. You have to look like you care about your appearance but you can’t look like you’ve put effort into it, you need to be slim but not overly skinny, makeup is a necessity but it can’t look like you’re wearing any. It’s a constant cycle of contradictions that are completely unattainable by anyone whose job isn’t their career. But even those with a career in the beauty industry don’t fit this unattainable mold.
Our perception of beauty is also distorted by television. According to Lindsay Gulisano Cultivation Theory “has to do with the idea that television has the power to shape our perceptions of reality and their world around us by affecting our attitudes and certain ways of thinking. By being exposed to television constantly women’s viewpoint’s are altered and their view of themselves is harmed. They don’t fit the mold. Even when disordered are glorified on television they still don’t fit that mold. Now the idea of eating disorders being glorified is ridiculous but when this glorification starts at Disney Channel it becomes all too real. In Disney’s Shake It Up a characters says “I could just eat you up, well if I ate” this is followed by laughter. No criticisms, no questioning, just laughs. as if it’s a common everyday occurrence. According to Rader Programs “a People magazine survey showed that 80% of female respondents felt that women in movies and television programs made them feel insecure about their bodies” and “the rate of eating disorders in Fiji surged following the introduction of Western television programming.
We need to understand and change the way women are represented in the media, no one can fit this mold, not even the women themselves. It’s harmful to girls and can lead to eating disorders that can quickly turn fatal. According to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health eating disorders have the “highest mortality rate of any mental illness”, and “20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder”. We can’t let this go on. We can’t continue to allow little girls to die.