The issues surrounding body image and the portrayal of women in the media have been prevalent in our society for decades. Women have been affected by the changing images and depictions of beauty that have circulated throughout advertising and media history.
Media consumption affects the way people feel about themselves and in turn gives a rise to a negative body image. A large number of the female population suffers from low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and intense dissatisfaction with the way they look.Research suggests that although the problem is prevalent among males and females, 95% of all who are diagnosed with Eating Disorders are women, which is why it is fair to conclude that societal expectations and media play a greater role in the development of eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction in women.
A recent study conducted in Claremont McKenna College concludes that throughout history the notions of body image and self worth in women have evolved according to the alternating trend of specific advertisements.Photo-based advertising sells values, images and concepts of normalcy. Through perfectly posed graphics, advertisers attempt to set up a virtual reality and dictate what is considered normal for society as a whole. They attempt to tell us who we are and who we want to be by sexualizing women as a way to sell a product. Unfortunately, in doing so, they create a harmful environment for women’s self esteem which results in body-hatred, disordered thoughts, body dissatisfaction and other forms of social anxieties.
Throughout history, women have been exposed to photo-heavy media that has helped shaped their perspective of themselves and those around them. Although beauty has evolved through a variety of body types, the thin and slender ideal has always remained significant in identifying the factors that determine femininity and beauty. Today, a greater number of women in advertisements are rail-thin, but in reality, these slender models have been airbrushed with most companies using expensive and advanced technologies to correct blemishes and hide figure flaws.
The Dove Evolution Ad Campaign succinctly summarizes the tricks and techniques involved in manipulating bodies in advertising. It gives us the message that a large percentage of ideals that women are attempting to mimic are, in reality, not as perfect and flawless as they appear to be. Photo editing software has the ability to completely transform an image in the blink of an eye. Not only are women appearing smaller in advertisements, but also more ads, magazines, and televisions shows are emphasizing on the need to have flawless, unblemished skin and impeccable features. Women portrayed in the media are rarely real, yet the female audiences still use these artificial images to create their own version of ideals. It also unfolds how advertisements have blurred the line between the achievable and unachievable body types. These physically unattainable bodies as shown in the media heighten a sense of anxiety among women and push them to modify their bodies using artificial methods, such as, plastic surgery, liposuction, face lift surgery, etc.
After establishing the critical role that advertising plays in the lives of women, it is logical to assume that the problem will further exacerbate as the centuries pass on. It is often easy to forget, amid the excessive exposure to airbrushed models, that it is entirely beautiful to have pores, marks and blemishes. Women must learn to remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. In my opinion, the only logical way to scale down the effects of such manipulative advertisements is by promoting a healthy image of women in the media. An image which is real and doesn’t evoke social anxieties in females. There have been a few campaigns by pressure groups and popular brand labels on social media that aim to promote a healthy image of the female body by using plus sized models. If done on a bigger scale, the ideal female body image will slowly change from unrealistic to a more realistic one.