Over the past 10 years, mass media and the access to social networks has evolved substantially causing the effects of negative self-image and what is considered beautiful. Body image expectations for both African-American male and female share the battles of society’s expectations, yet African American women body images come with a stricter and more unhealthy stigma; growth of social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter brings these expectations of self-image into our homes and our children minds. “The Internet is easily the most pervasive form of mediated communication that we encounter in our lives. Even traditional forms of mass communication drive us toward the Internet” (Bryant, Thompson & Finklea, 295).
Social networks influences negative self-image and expectations of what is beautiful to society. Beauty expectations has a long standing history into our lives, but comparing the increase in body augmentations, extreme dieting and even bulimia nervous in our generation is heavily related to mass media. Over exposure to social networks may contribute to the development of low discrepancy for sexual desire with partner, negative views toward self-body image, and even the need to seek illegal avenues for plastic surgery.
As humans, we tend to rate ourselves pretty harsh and I believe social media networks have caused an increase for the expectations of body image. Recently, the media has had a huge impact on relationships, the proper raising of children and especially the ideal body that an African- American woman should have. Although, I do highly believe that we should improve woman’s health, I also know that every person doesn’t look like the model we see on television. In the African American culture, recently, it has been a turn of times and the media thin-ideal is being curvy within our community. Every new music video and social media networks put the black woman with the tiny waist with huge thighs and butt as the perfect woman. The impact of the media is causing a change in African American women views on their lives, body and overall expectations as what a black woman should look like. It is well known that obesity and being curvier than other races is well documented within society, yet it’s now becoming an issue with our society to enhance these features that we are so well known for. Even for the common thin-ideal woman that is often portrayed in the media is typically 15% below the average weight of women, representing an unrealistic standard of thinness (tall, with narrow hips, long legs, and thin thighs) (Johnson, Tobin, & Steinberg, 1989).
Yet within the African American culture, video vixens promote their bodies as a sign of owning who they are and controlling the situation regardless of what they may have on. Still another perspective is that of Melyssa Ford, “the highest paid video girl to date” (Byrd and Solomon, 2005) who describes her vulnerability on video shoots, objectification by men, and the process of reclaiming power over her own body, which she describes as her commodity. Without denial, Melyssa Ford is a well-educated woman and one of the few vixens who have used her body to open doors to new opportunities, but believing her body is the golden ticket is the main issue that I have with the media influence. These contrasting perspectives demonstrate the complexity of issues (e.g., the range of perceptions about woman’s objectification) and pose critical questions for scholars who seek to understand contemporary Black women’s experiences (Byrd and Solomon, 2005). The idea that the African American woman has been created as an object and should have a particular body to be accepted into their culture as the ideal African American woman. Black culture has always been the more voluptuous curves in women, yet those women were considered cornbread fed and the ones who weren’t blessed with these assets, didn’t go out their way for unethical surgical practices.
The social media negative influence on African American women growing up within the 21st century has made it seem the simple life is depending on the curves of your body, instead the knowledge of your mind and the power in your beliefs. Proper parenting is started at home, yet with social networks being such a part of our children’s lives, the media is also in the homes. In the process of the media influence, I believe the importance of the media understanding the black culture and the expectations of a woman’s curves also cause many medical issues that we are associated with, such as: Type I and II diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. With overweight being accepted in most black families homes, the media and social networks should deter as much as possible from promoting the oversexed woman is the ideal woman. The effect social networks has on the children coming behind us is powerful and I believe the power of the media should be used more effectively. There is evidence that social media influences behaviors at home because women such as Ford promotes her body as her job, just as woman who is a part of the corporate community, but her body expectation is for her job, natural African American women are not all curvy. I had the opportunity to speak with several close friends who utilize social networks as often as I do and I wanted to know their take on their own body image when looking at different women on Facebook or Instagram.
Do they feel the need to conform and seek that particular body? Do they feel less beautiful that moment when looking at these women? Although all of them stated they didn’t feel any less beautiful and was comfortable within their skin, they did state it causes them to want to stay in the gym more or avoid a meal for the sake of staying the “ideal body type” as an African American woman. But 2:3 of the women claimed they did have a lower sexual discrepancy when it came to being with their mates and questioned themselves during sexual intimacy after looking at these women. 1:3 of the women even resulted in having plastic surgery for a breast implant after seeing the changes in a models career off of Instagram because she felt like this would increase her chances of finding a husband. “Social comparison theory is one of the few theories that are commonly used by mass communication scholars to understand the relationship between media exposure and body image disturbance” (Zhang, Dixon & Conrad, 266). The ideal African American woman portrayed in the media and on social networks is difficult, almost impossible, for the majority of the women if you want to live a normal, healthy life.
When you have a certain type of body within the African American community, the woman seems to be more glorified by men and catches the attention quickly. Yet, often African American women who have curvy shapes find themselves not liking the attention because of comments. The effects of lower discrepancy are basically the lack of compatibility between two individuals and this may increase with the harsh media influence. I believe social networks and media influence has caused African American women to want a voluptuous body because apparently this is what gets a man attention. “Stice and Shaw (1994), suggested that as women internalize the thin-idea/media image, they tend to experience heighted body dissatisfaction, set unrealistic body dimension goals, and ultimately engage in disordered behaviors designed to achieve the thin-ideal body image (Hawkins et al, 2004). The increase of plastic surgery within the Black American culture probably has increased within the last five years due to the wanting of large buttocks and smaller waist which media makes to believe this is what a Black woman should look like.
The media so- called expectations of the perfect African American woman can’t be the only problem when it comes to the issues the culture experiences toward wanting a certain look. Possibly, the future research will get the attention of media and social media executives to realize their power over the younger generations to develop positive influences and promote healthier lifestyles. In this research, I was able to find that African-American women often compare themselves to images on social networks and although it causes them to work out more, it isn’t necessarily causing a healthier lifestyle and positive self-body image.
Bryant, Jennings, Susan Thompson, and Bruce W. Finklea. Fundamentals of Media Effects. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2002. Print. Byrd, Ayana, and Akiba Solomon. Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips and Other Parts. New York: Penguin Group, 2005. PsychINFO. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. . Hawkins, Nicole, P. Scott Richards, H. Mac Granley, and David M. Stein. “The Impact of Exposure to the Thin- Ideal Media Image on Women.” University of Houston- PsychINFO. Taylor & Francis, Inc., n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. Johnson, C. L., Tobin, D. I., & Steinberg, S. L. (1989). Etiological, developmental and treatment considerations for bulimia. Special issue: The bulimic college student: Evaluation, treatment and prevention. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 3(2-4), 57-73. Stice, E. “Risk Factor for Eating Pathology: