There are countless issues constantly growing larger in our society today that are not often taken serious enough, such as global warming, world hunger and homelessness. A major issue more applicable to my generation is the distorted views by teenage girls of their personal image and appearance. This includes but is not limited to their weight, hair color, breast size, color of skin or simply how much makeup they apply. The body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females, yet 47% of girls ages 11-18 grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures and 69% of girls reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape (Mellin) . This distorted and incorrect view that young girls have of themselves have caused many to develop serious self-confidence issues and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa.
This is a tough problem to find solutions to, but by getting the media to use more diverse actresses and models this problem may be helped. By magazines advertising the same tall, skinny, dark skinned woman on their covers, adolescent girls are pressured to feel the need to have to look this way as well. In our society today it can be extremely hard to feel accepted, but by forcing the media to change their close minded opinions, views and advertisements, we can not only change teenage girl’s lives but in some extremely severe cases save them as well. In a world where 90% of every female celebrity is on the verge of being vastly underweight it is easy for young teenagers to feel pressured to be similar. Being overweight as a young girl can cause isolation, verbal abuse and even depression now -a -days.
Because media surrounds us with these unrealistic, photo shopped images even being an average weight as a girl can cause one to feel overweight. A study was done examining girls media consumption and identification with media models, then uses an exposure experiment to investigate whether the different media formats in which ‘body perfect’ ideals are presented affects their impact on body image. The first study showed that neither type nor amount of media use was related to body dissatisfaction, but the second study contracted this by demonstrating that regardless of media type, experimental exposure to the ‘perfect’ body led to significantly higher body and appearance dissatisfaction (Bell, Ditmar). According to socio-cultural theory, negative body image emerges as a result of perceived environmental pressure to conform to a culturally-defined body and beauty ideal. The mass media may be seen as the single biggest purveyor of this ideal, promoting an unrealistic and artificial image of female beauty that is impossible for the majority of females to achieve. (Bell, Dittmar)
Eating disorders are the most serious issue that can seem to go unnoticed today. Young girls have such a strong need and desire to conform with societies ‘ideal’ image of what woman ‘should’ look like, that they will take extreme measures to meet this imaginary standard that the media has imprinted in our minds. Bulimia nervosa, the act of over eating and purging, anorexia nervosa, the act of starving oneself and also taking medications such as diet pills and laxatives in order to lose weight are immensely harming girls and causing them to face serious health issues. Because of the standard that the media portrays, girls never feel satisfied and constantly feel as if they need to lose more weight, even when in some cases they are already extremely underweight. This is no way for a teenager with their entire lives ahead of them to live; These eating disorders can cause girls to fall into a deep depression and have countless other psychological problems. Recent studies suggest that people with bulimia nervosa (BN) are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and actions. Scott J. Crow, MD and colleagues at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and the Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch of the National Institutes of Mental Health, Washington, DC, recently reported a study in which suicidal ideation was found to be most common among teens with BN than among teens with other eating disorders.
The study showed that suicidal ideation was more common among teens with BN (53%) than among those with another eating disorder, researchers also found a similar pattern for suicidal planning (25.9%) and suicidal attempts (35.1%) among teens with BN (Crow). The solutions for these problems are far from simple, but the media could begin to portray a more diverse type of girl instead of the poor, single stereotypical image. Media should portray and advertise all different types, sizes, shapes, and races of woman in order to help every teenager feel happy and confident with themselves. We should also provide girls who struggle with self-image distortion eating disorders with counseling and cognitive therapy to talk about their issues and feelings freely. The first step to solving the problem is identifying the problem, therefore teachers, counselors, peers, parents, and others should be more aware of signs and symptoms of eating disorders in able to address them to find and provide them with the help that they need. Media promoting such a thin-ideal in young women has resulted in adolescent girls having extreme self-image problems, causing eating disorders. Eating disorders can often times be overlooked or said to be done for attention, but what some may be unaware of is that eating disorders can cause serious health and psychological problems and sometimes lead to death or suicide. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness and are an issue that our society needs to address in a much more serious manner.