The Representation of Women’s Bodies in the Media
Thin is anorexic, dark skin is dirty, eyes too small, nose too big, breasts too small, hair with no fro, ears stick out, warts belong on the toad and wrinkles belong to dried prunes not on the face or hands of a woman. Hallelujah Botox where have you been I have been waiting for you my whole life! Let us consider the well-being, the human cost in association to the messages elicited by the mass media. This deliberation will be done by providing an overview of how women’s bodies are represented, what problems have risen because of this representation, what the advantages of mass media are, and finally what is changing. Beauty has become something that is constructed not something that ‘is’. Mass media has gone too far with the methods in which they represent women’s bodies and how beauty is observed.
Until recently, programs and movies shown in the media have portrayed women in a way that brought mixed reactions and raised a couple of eyebrows. Women should stay in a marriage no matter how unhappy the woman is or abusive the relationship is for the sake of the children and the husband who would some day change. Women are sexual objects whose nakedness is a source of pleasure and entertainment for the male gender. They are to receive orders and never ask questions unless asking what to do next. When looking for women to marry, bear in mind that fat/big is ugly and thin is beautiful, and so on (Beauvoir, 2009). All these things have affected the people in one way or another. To the women, these things were repeated so many times until they started believing in them. To the men, the more they were shown, the more they felt that what they were doing, whether wrong or right, was right.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the media has quite an influence on the majority of the people in the world. It has an influence today as it had some years back or even more. There are people who follow it to the letter (Matlin, 2008). A diet is good because it was shown on the television; a musician is a role model because he was hosted by the local radio station that dress is the best because it was seen in the top magazine in the country, and so on. For this reason, people trend to judge other people or other things depending on how they have been presented by the media. If a politician/celebrity is well painted by the media, then he/she tends to have a lot of funs and followers. However, if none that is talked about him or her is good, then he/she will tend to be disliked by people (Coontz, 2011).
Fashion magazines display their designs being worn by women who have figures that are not achievable by quite a number of people. The beauty pageants’ winners have slim figures as compared to the majority of the women who are more curvaceous and have fuller figures. All these things set many questions in ones mind. Does this mean that the other women having different figures from those shown in the media are ugly? Do the media define who a woman is, who is ugly and who is not? It is important that people put a boundary and know what to take in and what to leave (Scholz, 2010). Modeling magazines only show slim and skinny women s the most suitable to wear specific types of clothes. The fat girl in the neighborhood or school has an unhappy life because she is always being laughed at by others. Such issues are being reflected by the on-going soap operas.
As the years progress, the media has portrayed products that promise tremendous transformations when used. Skin lighteners, teeth whiteners, diets that promise instant weight loss, makeovers, amongst others, are some of the things presented by the media that drive women over the edge (Rice, 2006). At times, they bring programs that show women who have gone through plastic surgery and the experiences they are having after. Why these advertisements and programs target the women, is quite a topic of research even today. Maybe because the women value their physical appearance more than the men do, they are more gullible, more vulnerable or use the media more than the men (Pipher, 1994). Overall, the media seems to target the female gender when coming up with these advertisements or programs more than the men.
For most of the years, anorexia has been suffered by women. However, it has been proved that the men have also started suffering from the same. In fact, they at a risk of suffering from the disorder as much as the women are. Most of the women suffer from this as they are influenced by the media. As stated earlier, the media is playing a big role in defining the beautiful woman. The slim one is the beautiful one and the one who is bigger and has a fuller figure is the ugly/not so appealing one (Ellison, 2006). In the process of achieving these unachievable figures to some, they end up being anorexic. The advertisements on the fast foods restaurants in town end up making some become obese as they end up eating unhealthily just to make sure they are hanging out with their friends in these restaurants.
Movies have painted the woman as the one always on the receiving. The one receiving orders from the male represented as her husband, boss (when she is the secretary), property owner, father, brother, molester, and so on. In an action movie, the woman will be brought as the person whom men use to relieve their sexual desires, but not one of the fighting characters. What is with the women wearing skimpily or almost naked as if they were denied to wear clothes? In some scenes, they are shown while practically naked. Let us take an example of a music video. Both male and female musicians, especially those in the secular music, show women singers wearing skimpily or almost taken. The most interesting thing is that these women are very comfortable and happy about it. In fact, such scenes are highly paid the women fight for the opportunities (Valenti, 2007).
However, in the last couple of years, the media has projected the woman on another level. Movies have women play the president character, the character showing the brilliant scientist, portrays that she got where she is by hard work and merit. Actions movies are having women characters but not just s sexual objects, but as fighters. Women magazines show an all round woman. One who can be in the career world, a wife, and a mother. She can also stay fit and healthy while still at it. There are magazines and programs that are showing women how to take care of their cars. This is giving them more charge over their cars (Scholz, 2010).
The media played a big role in the early days to help the people know about their rights. The activist groups were a centre of attention by many media stations, which helped man people know what was going on and get involved in the activists group. Speeches delivered by Martin Luther king in the 1960s, enabled the African American community become more united and fight for their rights. Those who were opposing the changes were able to see the seriousness of the people through the television and hear it over the radios. The newspapers also printed quite clear articles about the activist. The women activists have used the media to enable the women know their rights and encourage them to move out of abusive relationships. The famous Oprah of the Oprah show has greatly used a television program, which had been airing almost on a daily basis until recently, to educate the women and the whole society in general (Duffy & Rosenberg, 2006).
Such shows have encouraged more women to take the lead and have a stand, as they are independent. Programs that encourage the women to climb up the career ladder, the social, ladder, the political ladder, and so on, are more watched today than they were before. The media has not only encouraged the women to view life at a different angle, but they have also encouraged the male gender to take things differently. The men can now take care of the children without feeling intimidated as it is portrayed in shows, soap operas and articles in the magazines, there can be a woman boss, the woman can earn and the man stay at home for a number of reasons, amongst others (Scholz, 2010).
Some shows in the television are also showing that there is no problem with having a model that is plus size. Women and men are both accepting bigger and fuller figures and that slim is not always beautiful while fat/big always ugly. Children are learning how to accept themselves more at an early age and are also taught about when to ask or call for help through media articles, television and radio programs. The media can be helpful or harmful; it is always good to know when to draw the boundary.
Beauvoir, S. d. (2009). The Second Sex. Toronto: Random House.
Coontz, S. (2011). A Strange Stirring. New York: Basic Books.
Duffy, A. & Rosenberg, L. (2006).Violence against Women (Chapter 7) from Feminist Issues: Race, Class, and Sexuality Mishawaka: Muze, Inc.
Ellison, J. (2006).Model Athletes: Advertising Images of Women in Sport in Canada , 1950-2006. Retrieved from Canadian Woman Studies: An Introductory Reader. New York, NY: Inanna Publications.
Rice, C. (2006). Chapter 6, “Exacting Beauty: Exploring Women’s Body Projects and Problems in the 21st Century. Retrieved from Feminist Issues: Race, Class, and Sexuality. Mishawaka: Muze, Inc.
Matlin, M. (2008). The Psychology of Women 6 ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Pipher, M. (1994). Reviving Ophelia. New York: Penguin Group.
Scholz, S. (2010). Feminism. New York: Oneworld Publications.
Valenti, J. (2007). Full Frontal Feminism. Berkeley: Seal Press.
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