Media Influence On Female Body Image Media Essay

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In the past decades, there has been an increase in the concern of females and the body, this situation is highly blamed on the media and its sudden focus on thinness. Many researchers has blamed the print, television and other forms of the media for this propagation of thinness in the media, with fewer researches focusing on the internet, products advertisement campaigns particularly either on websites, blogs and social media platforms such as Facebook.

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This research project examines the media influence on female body image using qualitative method of doing research. It focuses mainly on internet advertisements to investigate how the media, through internet advertisement in particular has influenced females to rethink their body image especially their shape, looks etc. This paper utilized critical discourse approach to carry out a textual analysis of some selected products advertisement campaigns in relations to beauty, body shapes and appearance. The result found significant concepts and strategies applied in several advertisements to influence consumers, and how the constant bombardment of this adverts on the internet drives female to acquiring the “ideal body” as portrayed in these advertisements.

It also found that advertisement have recently gone beyond gaining consumers (females) attention, to developing interest and desire resulting in consumers taking actions, based on how persuasive the advert get. Furthermore, the analysis revealed the power that the thin image (model) in media (advertisement) carries and how obsessed our culture is with thinness. Even though some females may be able to differentiate reality from fantasy, this research found that the media has strong negative influence on females body image based on how it is constructed.

CHAPTER ONE: RESEARCH OVERVIEW

1.0 INTRODUCTION

The introduction of mass media (such as television, magazines, newspapers, and the internet; also social networks such as Facebook, Twitter) as a means of communication has become part of human ways of life, as seen in the Western world. The most common possession of these media saturation in the postmodern era is the prevailing portrayal of societal beauty ideals to its audience (Tiggemann, 2006: 2). The media producers uses this medium (such as internet) to share their works and ideas across the globe (Gauntlett, 2008:1).

Recent research conducted by (Gauntlett, 2008), indicates that young females frequently make use of the media for different purposes (e.g. interaction with friends & family, playing games and for academic reasons). The relationship between the media and its audience is characterised by the role of ‘user’ or ‘participant’ than ‘audience member’. This ensure some level of interactivity (between the sender and the receiver) in the media, especially (on the internet) in new media platforms such as Facebook, yahoo messenger, Skype, blackberry messenger, whatsapp, and other interactive websites (Gauntlett 2008: 2).

A research by Bignell (2001) indicates that the new media produces and modifies the old media. For instance, the primary duty of media in the past was to disseminate information without getting feedbacks, but with the introduction of internet, the audience/viewers has the opportunity to give their feedbacks on advertised products and other related matters.

According to (Gauntlett 2008), individuals in Western societies spend more time with television than an average African person. They do so, watching advertisements, fashion shows, reality show etc., and they also read newspapers and gossip magazine and other forms of publication. Similarly, they surf internets, watch movies, play games and find it difficult to avoid the popular culture. This is achievable because the media producers have derived ways of capturing the viewer attention and they understand the masses want (Laughey 2009:33).

The evolutions of media have paved way for series of advertisement using print (such as newspapers and magazines), internet and television. Images of thin females are usually used to sale products, this is mostly done in the western world and it is viewed globally (Poorani 2012). This advertisement helps to re-shape the lives and body of the advertiser which is portrayed worldwide. On the other hand, this have a negative effect on the contemporary world as their women begins to feel inferior (Poorani 2012). Having said that, it could be argued that the traditional way of showcasing beauty is no longer acceptable as many believes that the modernized ways are the acceptable way (Poorani 2012). Reasons being that, the media advertise female in different ways and encourage them to attain certain standard of beauty and body shape in order to be qualified and acceptable in the society.

Therefore, the mass media act as arbitrating construction amongst persons and their body, through powerful messages that portray and internalise physical stereotype of beauty as valued and acceptable especially through advertising (Calado, 2011). Advertising is referred to as the art of arresting the human intelligence by persuading them to acquire certain media products (Bardikian 2000). The use of advertisement dates back to 3000BC, where the Babylonians used store signs and street barkers to promote their wares and business (Zoubkov, et al. 2004). In Recent years, the mass media further introduced advertisement into our daily lives and as advertising technique continue to grow classier each year; it has created consumerism, by turning luxuries into need thereby creating needs where there was none before (Shah 2008).

The sad trend of this constant bombardment of advertising and the consumerism is that it tends to portray that the natural appearance of females in the world have lost its value, and as such should be replaced by the artificial beauty which is aided by make ups (Robertson 2008:2).

Zoubkove et al in his write up said “For the majority of people, exposure to advertising is as normal as the breath of life, which is more or less like living near the road. Similarly, it constantly presents a visual reminder of how we should look, think, and live (Zoubkov, et al. 2004)”.

Furthermore, it has been argued that media channels are constantly in the habit of propagating conflicting stories and ideas to the viewers (consumers) (Myers, et al. 1992). Females are made to believe that there is a certain and accepted ways of leaving in order to fit into the complex society, this views has disregarded consumer’s individual self-worth. As Sohn (2009) opined, the media have paid particular attention to thin females in recent years , reasons being that they capture the minds of the viewers and helps to market product easily.

1.1 A BRIEF HISTORY OF BODY IMAGE

The understanding of modern perspective of body images centres on a clear insight on the long and rich lineage of body image construct, the issues of body image dates back to over 50 years, with different scholarly attempt to understand the idea of body image (Pruzinsky, et al. 2004, p.3). While Fisher et al. (1968 & 1970) reflected on the then pervasive psychodynamic view of body image, Franklin (1969) argued for the study of multifaceted body image experience, placing emphasis on the use of scientific methods and the integration of theoretical developments, and applied body image concept to the study of physical disability. Furthermore, David (1989 & 1990) emphasizes on the role of the modern psychodynamic thought in the illumination of the functioning aspects of body image.

In addition, a neurologist, Schilder (1935/1950) also argued persistently from a bio-psychosocial approach to body image, emphasizing the need for a neurological, psychological, and sociological insight examination into the multifaceted nature of body image, this coincides with Fisher’s recommendation for future research to be carried out on body image experience (Fisher, 1990 p.12). Furthermore, Thompson’s prolific contributions differ in some respect in that its central focus reflects on the scientific and clinical interests in eating disorders and obesity. In addition, Jackson’s (1992) work focuses on the physical appearance and gender. She further reviews the empirical and clinical literatures on body images concepts. Also, Pruzinsky, et al. 1990, 1995 & 1997 editions equally support this position in theory by contributing massively to the argument on Body Images (Pruzinsky, et al. 2004:6).

Empirical evidence reveals that many scholars have conducted research on the said topic. Some argued that females are influenced by the media, peers/parent and the environment negatively while others oppose this fact. The question that persists to this effect is “why are females easily influenced by the media?” In an attempt to answer to this basic research question, this research paper examines how the media influences females in terms of their body shapes. To achieve this and to gain an in-depth understanding on the said topic, internet advertisements will be used as a case study, the goal is to critically analyse the discourses surrounding female images in advertisements.

1.2 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH

The main aim of the research is to determine the social factors responsible for body image distortion amongst females. In this paper, the first section gives a brief overview of the research, stating the aims, the objectives and the motivation behind the research. The second section critically evaluate the concept of the media and body image construction in females, the fourth section analyses how female images are structured in the media to influence body image creation amongst female viewers, through critical scrutiny of advertisement campaigns on body image advancement and how these images helps in the construction of female body image (femininity), finally, the last section of the paper draws from all chapters to form the concluding part.

Key words: media, advertising, body image, femininity

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW

2.0 INTRODUCTION

This chapter is geared towards reviewing literatures concerning body image, advertising, mass media, femininity, psychology. Body images, mass media, advertising are defined, and the link between media and females in terms of body concern and body construction are discussed, this is done with the aim of arriving at the aim and objective for the study. The construct of body image is used extensively throughout the study; therefore the first focus point of this discussion is body image, Also the link between the advertising as a type of media and female body image is described in order to examine and explain how advertising are constructed to influence female body image.

2.1 BODY IMAGE

For centuries, scholars and researchers have defined body image from different perspectives, according to Fisher (1990), body image is the perception of one’s body attractiveness, body size distortion, the perception of body boundaries and the perception of accuracy of body sensation. Cash & Pruzinsky (1990), explain body image as the feeling of one’s thought and perception about their body as well as age, race, function and sexuality, Schilder (1950) further added that body image is a reflection of attitude and interaction with others, while Grogan (1999) sees body image as a picture of one’s body originated from the mind.

Body image is multidimensional; it is a symbol of a multifaceted construction of ideas that pertains to individual perceptions, attitude as well as associate behaviours (Stewart & Williamson 2004). Psychologically, body image is seen as a salient factor of interpersonal development especially with females (Levine & Smolak 2002). According to Grogan (1999) body dissatisfaction is developed when negative thoughts concerning body shape are nursed.

They debated body image as being multidimensional, comprises of a cognitive and an emotional dimension. Cognitive body image consists of beliefs and self-statements about the body. Emotional body image consists of experiences of appearance, whether the experiences are comfortable or uncomfortable and if there is satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the body. Body image is a subjective experience; it depends on how the individual interprets one’s self (McCabe et al. 2002 cited in Sparhwak 2003:7).

The first cognitive dimension of body image includes, body importance and dieting behaviour, and perceptual body image. This relates to thoughts and beliefs on body shape and the affective dimension including personal feelings towards body appearance (Sparhwak 2003:7). The Second cognitive dimension is the body importance and dieting behaviour which can be described as behaviours associated with grooming and dieting. Finally, perceptual body image is described as the accuracy that an individual has when judging its shape, size and weight. Various research indicates that researchers have the same views on body image; pointing to the fact that body image is multidimensional in construct but different when it comes to the dimensions (Sparhwak 2003:8).

Body image is not stationary and open for amendment (Sparhwak 2003:8), according to Pruzinsky et al. (1990) constant watching of television influences an individual sense of judgement. Grogan (1999) after several studies concluded that body image is not only influenced by the media but by numerous factors such as friends, family, teachers, peers and even the society. He further asserted that females that think negatively about their body are those with bad experience of body image, either from peers, family, friends, or society at large. In addition to what Grogan (1999) said, negative body image may lead to several health disorders including anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa, anxiety, depression, lowered self-esteem, dysfunction.

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2.2 THE MASS MEDIA

The media is recently portrayed as a ‘medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression; and is most willingly related to in associations of ‘mass communication (Grant 2000)’. It is believed that Mass communication has a continuous influence on human either consciously or unconsciously. Some of the extensively identifiable forms of media includes; print and electronic media such as “television, magazines, newspapers, books, radio, video games, CDs and tapes, as well as internet, billboards, posters, movies and videos” (Grant 2000). Presently, there are lots of debates regarding body image in relations to its portrayal through the media especially in the twenty first century. Several researchers have argued on the said topic, also it has been observed that body dissatisfaction is caused by the media as well as other influencing factors such as ethnicity, social class, peers, family background and the surrounding environment (Amalikn 2010:1).

The technological development (such as the internet) on the other hand has helped to increase the rate of advertising which in turn increases consumerism as a major way of living (Robertson, 2008:3). The human minds begins to buy into the media and the media messages the moment the ideas of how much something is worth having begins to develop, this is done through several advertisement which the internet source has gain much attention in recent years (Battacharya, 2003).

‘A number of influences have been highlighted as formative in the development and maintenance of body shape and body weight related disorder (Fairburn et al.1997). These factors include, teasing and critical comments on someone’s appearance either from parents, peers or social comparison tendencies (Frankos et al. 1994). Yet, sociocultural factors such as the role that the media internet advertisements in particular, have recently been pointed out as an important donor to body image dysfunction (Fallon 1990 & Heinberg 1996)’.

2.2.1 BRIEF EVIDENCE OF MASS MEDIA

In the last century, eating disorder theorists and feminist scholars have argued that fashion magazines, movies, television, and the social media platforms are the major contributors to eating disorder among individuals (Smolak et al. 1998). The standard of beauty at present evokes low self-esteem and inferiority among the average women in the society (Fallon 1990 & Heinberg 1996). This has raised series of questions and blemish on the media for promoting thinness as a measure of beauty (Thompson et al. 1999:340).

According to Freedmen (1986), a comparative analysis carried out indicates that the present visual media is different from the previous one, in terms of technological advancement which makes images more clear and attractive; the visualization helps in capturing the minds and attention of viewers easily. This technological advance in the media world (in terms of print and electronic media images) has made it impossible to differentiate reality from fantasy (Thompson et al. 1999: 340). In addition, Hargreaves (2002) states that digital editing has created a false world that is impossible to achieve, this is evidently seen through editing and filtering of the original copy of the media images before distribution. This act portrays to the consumers that the original and authentic version of images is being presented in the media (Thompson et, al. 1995, 1998, cited in Heinberg, et al. 1999:341).

2.2.2 UNDERSTANDING THE MEDIA

The media is a means of communication between the sender and the receiver. In recent years, it has been argued that the media has a negative influence on body image. The primary role of media is to propagate information across to viewers. This information is often understood base on individual perspective and sense of reasoning, and most individuals tend to be influenced by the media in the negative direction.

According to Laughey (2009), media is a tool that reflects people’s likes, therefore, media providers should endeavour to capture the mood of individuals in order to know their wants, and understand their views. The competitive media market is highly influenced by the ‘popular culture’. This invariably has becomes the focus of concern since it is perceived to have a major influence on other nationals and the world at large (Laughey, 2009 p.33).

2.3THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The predominant theoretical frameworks adopted in this research are media effect theory and social theory.

2.3.1 MEDIA EFFECT THEORY

Media effect came into existence in 1920 (Media Effect Theory, 2013). It was first proposed by Frankfurt school of social research, based on the Marxist German Intellectuals reaction to Nazi propaganda and US advertising suggesting that individual’s way of thinking should be controlled by large corporations as well as the state (Moss, 2013) . This theory believes that the mass media makes people powerless and find it hard to resist the messages it carries (Moss, 2013). Having said this, (Media Effect Theory, 2013) argued that media effect theory is how the media affect society and how society affects the media, Some negative implication of this theory are when people do “copycat”, (Media Effect Theory, 2013) For instance, when individuals (old and young) begin to “copycat” the celebrities, in terms of their movement, clothing styles, speeches, and shapes etc. and the blame is directed to the media. The theory helps to explain moral panic in relation to representation (Moss, 2013).

In the study of media effect, there are three major theories, which includes; cultivation theory, uses and gratification theory and social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2002). But for the purpose of this paper, uses and gratifications theory will be critically evaluated in order to determine the prospective influence of the media on female body image.

2.3.2 USES AND GRATIFICATIONS THEORY

Uses and gratification theory is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Moss, 2013). According to Laughey (2009) this theory is used to describe media consumer needs and expectations. The ideology behind this theory lies in the movement from fear off effect to fulfilment of needs. In general, the theory identifies individuals as people with needs; this need can be described as social or psychological needs (Laughey, 2009 p.49). At this point, it is noteworthy to say that the said individual need generates expectations that can only be satisfied by the media. (See illustrated below).

Figure : Uses and gratification illustration Source: (Moss, 2013)

Uses and gratification theory treats individuals as active and intelligent in their media choice and uses, it also reverses the assumption that individuals are held captive by the media. According to Laughey (2009), He argued that the media is like a set of tools that consumers freely utilise at any time to fix any necessity. Furthermore, Laughey (2009) questioned the ability of some media products to meet individual’s needs and expectations; this is because at times, the media usually fall short of individual needs and expectations. An example of such is when a young woman purchases a product due to the way and manner it was portrayed on the media and the product did not meet her expectations.

2.3.2.1 BODY IMAGE AND SOCIAL THEORY

The issue of identity creation is often observed during adolescence period and it has being recognised as a crucial stage of gender development. At this point, it is noteworthy to say that personal identity and consumer behaviour are inter-related, reasons being that a great number of people derive their happiness in the attainment of ideal cultural standards, this is achievable through mass media (e.g. internet). The acquisition of the mediated perfect body image is the basic criteria for the reflection of individual’s worth in the modern environment (Shaw et al, 1994:45).

There are several social theories that best explain body image concerns and dieting among women. This theories includes; social identity theory, social learning theory and social comparison theory. To gain more valid insight on the said topic, these theories will briefly reviewed.

2.3.2.1 Social Identity Theory

These theories suggest that self- image includes both the personal and social identities. In social identity, an individual attain certain status through socializing with others and being a functioning member of a group to which they belong (Shaw et al. 1994:46). Having said that, one could argue that the internet advertising comes under the social desirability, this is often seen in the way and manner in which female images are presented in the media and accepted by many. This on the other hand renders the portrayed body type highly desirable by other females and as such evoke copycat.

2.3.2.2 Social Learning Theory

This theory focuses more on the influence of role models on gender self-identity, mostly created during the adolescence period. This theory suggests that representation of models by the media tends to pressurize their female counterpart to conform to such body image. This forces individual to create their identity based on the role model they want to emulate (Shaw et al.1994 p.46).

2.3.2.3 Social Comparison Theory

This theory suggests that there is need for the use of other source of information as a guide for the evaluation of one’s abilities and attitudes (Silverstein, et al. 1986). With that in mind, one could say that the media serves as a constant reference point for the women’s evaluation of their body image (DiDomenico, et al. 1992). On the other hand, using media as a reference point female assessment of their body could cause dissatisfaction and anxiety among larger population of women (Shaw et al. 1994 p.46) However, these theories applies not only to women but men who are also consumers of media messages, with body image a major concern.

2.3.3 THE ROLE OF SOCIO-CULTURAL THEORY ON BODY IMAGE

According to Davis and Katzman (1999), people can be influenced by culture (e.g their food, clothes/wears, and appearance in terms of hair style etc). Sparhawk (2003) found that women especially young girls are more often influenced by the skinny body principles. This is further illustrated in the constant proclamation of thinness as a measure of beauty by the media. Similarly, King and Tsiantas (2001) refer to the socio-cultural theory as the pressure on women from parent, peers and the media to acquire/maintain certain body standard.

At this point, it is worthwhile to revisit the social comparison theory which place emphases on comparative assessment of one’s appearance to other (p 141). Socio-cultural theory is a combination of ideas and concepts acquired from social and cultural factors (such as media, family, and friends). According to Tsiantas et al. (2001) body disturbances is influenced by the internalization of socio-cultural messages on thinness. Schwartz (1986) also supported the fact that dieting has a significant effect on female beauty, as it shapes and helps them (female) maximise their potentials. Stice (2002) traced socio-cultural influence on body image back to 18 centuries. He argued that the pressure on body image is enveloped by the notion of thinne

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