Images of female bodies and female sexuality are displayed everywhere. Many images of women portrayed in the mainstream media glorify the ideal image of women and the feminine ideal. This paper discusses the way in which the media portrays the feminine ideal in mainstream media and compares the feminine ideal with the masculine ideal and the ideal image of women depicted in prior periods of history.
The perfection that is idealized in the mainstream media is deliberating to women where images of beautiful women are plastered all around them and they feel that they need to aspire to a perfect celebrity image by being the perfect weight, wearing the best clothes and buying the latest make up that makes them look as beautiful as celebrities such as Scarlett Johansen. Media activist Jean Kilbourne is at the forefront of this media debate and argues that the images of women in the media means that real woman’s bodies have become invisible in the mass media.
“Advertising creates a mythical, mostly white world in which people are rarely ugly, overweight, poor, struggling or disabled, either physically or mentally. ’’ (Kilbourne, Beauty and the Beast). The problem of this `feminine ideal’ is that media images of beauty are unattainable for most of the women that aspire to this perfect image. The portrayal of the ideal body shape in celebrities applies a cultural pressure to be thin and achieve the ideal body shape on women who read magazines and the like.
“They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be. ’’ (Kilbourne, Beauty and the Beast) In contrast to the way that females are depicted mainstream media today it is interesting to look at ways that females were portrayed in prior periods of history. The more robust female figure was glorified in the past as seen in the art works and described in the literature of yester year.
As time goes on the image of the `feminine ideal’ is becoming smaller and smaller. It is not only the female body that is imaged in the media but the masculine form as well. Masculinity is constructed in a similar way to which femininity has been constructed over the past few decades. Mainstream media representations play a role in enforcing the media representations of men and what it means to be a ‘real’ man in society.
Traits that are typical of this ‘real’ man image include but are not limited to self -control, control of others, aggression and physical desirability. In conclusion, it is clear to see that the media now portrays an ideal image for both women and men to aspire to and that it is the media that idealizes and constructs this perfect and sometimes unattainable image. References Kilbourne, Jean. The Beauty and the Beast of Advertising. In Diana George & John Trimbur (Eds. ) Reading Culture (pp. 178-184). New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. 1999.
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