live in a media saturated society, where around 95% of people own a TV and
watch for an average of 3-4 hours per day. By the end of the last century over
60% of men and 50% of women read a newspaper each day and nearly half of all
girls, from the age of 7 read a girl’s magazine each week. In addition, people
interact with a wide variety of other media such as music delivered by cd’s or
videos, and communications via personal computers.
The media has a significant influence on our personal
perceptions of beauty, leading to a decrease in self-esteem and a large
increase in eating disorders and anorexia, as well as a rise in demand for
cosmetic surgery. It has a profound impact on us as a society, despite not
being able to recognise how and when it does, it has a thorough effect on many
women and the way that they perceive themselves and their bodies. However, it
could be argued that in recent years, body image has also had a significant
impact on males and the way that they visualise a ‘real man’s’ body, with
experts suggesting that 40% of binge eaters and a quarter of anorexia and
bulimia sufferers are male – compared with 10% a decade ago. Along with the
rise in so-called “manorexia” is the body dysmorphic condition of
“bigorexia” – men who become more muscle-bound in their obsessive
pursuit of the perfect six-pack body. As a young member of the society, I am
profoundly influenced by this debate and I would like to investigate the
evidence within this issue further.
What is body image?
L.G. Borzekowski and Angela M. Bayer define it as “the internal
representation of one’s own outer appearance which reflects
physical and perceptual dimensions.” Body image is closely related to self-esteem and
self-concept, the current portrayal of body image through the media can be
argued to be contributing towards low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction in
many adolescents and men and women.
Body dissatisfaction is a term used
to express the feeling people may have when their physical appearance doesn’t
suit one in which they idolise. Experts Grabe, Hyde and Ward state that body
dissatisfaction has been linked to “critical physical and mental health
problems” and that a person experiencing this is at great risk for developing
an eating disorder. The media may influence one’s body image in such a way
through the constant portrayal of the ‘thin ideal’.
In this essay I will review the
evidence of the relationship between the media’s portrayal of body image and
the impact it has on the society, with issues including mental and physical
health. I intend to use secondary research such as newspaper reports, articles,
official statistics and case studies in order to discuss this and develop my
own primary research in order to analyse young people’s perceptions. Lastly, I
will address a conclusion and make any necessary recommendations that I believe
can contribute to making a change in the way that the media illustrate body
image in the minds of society.