Women in today’s society are constantly being bombarded by media in one form or another. It could take the form of a fashion magazine, a favourite blog, a TV commercial or a myriad of other sources. Pretend for a moment you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, bored you hazard a glance over to the magazine rack and what do you see? A plethora of magazines, most covers adorned by thin, happy models. Many women see these models as the pinnacle of health and beauty, often feeling inadequate in comparison. They may strive to become like these women, radically changing their eating habits without fully knowing the potential consequences.
The inability to measure up to this idealistic body standard has also been linked to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. The evolution of technology has played a role in perpetuating the idealistic body image and bringing forth new methods to pursue it. An unrealistic body image has become an object of obsession for many women and this obsession is causing physical and psychological disease among women.
According to Celia Milne’s article; Pressures to Conform “One of the main battlegrounds in the fight for improvement, of course, is eating” (Milne 222). Naturally, a lot of women see a change in eating habits as a way to directly impact their progress to their desired image. Milne points out that “The eating disorder centre says that its surveys show that fully 70 percent of Canadian women are preoccupied with their weight and 40 percent are yo-yo dieting” (Milne 222). Changing eating and exercise habits without proper research can have negative effects on someone’s body. This preoccupation with weight and dieting can lead to unhealthy eating habits and ultimately eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. The pursuit of this “flawless” body standard does not only affect women’s physical state, it can have devastating effects on mental health.
A survey in Psychology Today states that “…24 percent of women said they would give up three years of their life to achieve their weight goals” (Milne 223). This trade off highlights the dangerous mindset that affects many women. A staggering ninety-five percent of women do not and cannot measure up to the body image that they seek (Milne 223). Struggling against these overwhelming odds leads to insecurity, anxiety and low self-esteem
among women. According to Milne, “Part of the esteem problem is inevitably related to the impossible ideals which women are bombarded.” (Milne 223). Women who struggle with body image are a product of their environment, the media obsessed culture prevalent in our society.
In Deborah A. Sullivan’s Social Bodies: Tightening the Bonds of Beauty; Sullivan focuses on how the physical body is shaped by culture and historical context (Sullivan 542). Sullivan goes on to explain “Social institutions, ideology, values, beliefs and technology transform a physical body into a social body. The resulting social body bears the imprint of the more powerful elements of its cultural context. Bodies, therefore, provide important clues to the mechanics of society.” (Sullivan 542). Our society is technologically driven and this impacts the body image women seek and what they can do to try to attain it.
Technology has allowed the media representation of women to drift even further into the realm of unattainable. Photos and videos can now be manipulated with ease, with the use of photo and video editing software. This type of software is becoming cheaper and easier to use and therefore depictions of women modelling in advertisements are so heavily modified, they barely resemble the original source. This type of technology is constantly widening the divide between what we see and what is realistic. Interestingly, while new technology is distorting realistic body standards for women, it is also pushing the boundaries of altering their bodies in the form of cosmetic surgery.
As procedures have become more accessible to the mainstream, many women turn to cosmetic surgery to change their appearance. According to Milne, “From 1994 to 1996, the number of people having tummy tucks rose 103 percent, breast augmentation went up 123 percent, breast lifts increased 60 percent, chemical peels rose 47 percent, retin-A anti-wrinkle treatments grew by 256 percent, buttock lifts rose by 146 percent and thigh lifts went up 93 percent.” (Milne 223). This trend shows that more and more women are using cosmetic surgery as a radical attempt to attain their ideal body image.
It would seem that many women feel the pursuit of a better body more important than the potential complications these procedures may have. The silicone implant surgery (banned in 1993), is blamed by 10 000 Canadian women for health issues such as arthritis, lupus and scarring (Milne 223). According to plastic surgeon Kimit Rai, five or six percent of women who undergo breast enlargement surgery, suffer from discomfort but are willing to endure it because they feel that they look better (Milne 223). Despite the impacts that these surgeries may have on women physically, numerous women would sacrifice potential complications and discomfort to achieve a “better” body.
The “ideal” body depicted in our society is pushed upon women at every turn, push of a button or click of a mouse. It is easy to see why many women develop body dissatisfaction when they are constantly comparing themselves to inaccurate body standards. It is clear that women seeking an unrealistic body image are at a higher risk to develop eating disorders. And it is very apparent that there is a correlation between the pursuit of the “ideal” body and developing issues like depression and low self-esteem. We will continue to see technology playing a crucial role in this battle, whether aiding or abetting the issue. According to Milne “Acceptance is a vital key to dealing with body insecurities.” (Milne 224). To move forward women must break free from overwhelming lure of the media and in turn learn to become comfortable in their own skin.