Societies’ creation of the perfect image- How has it affected young people’s view of self-image today?
Each and every period in history has had standards of what is perceived as being or being not beautiful. Further, each and every contemporary society possesses its unique concept and idea of the best physical characteristics. During the 19th century, beauty was attributed to dressing in a corset that usually caused complications in the respiratory and digestive systems. In the society we are living in today, people try to diet in order to achieve the societal accepted image of slenderness. This often comes with serious problems in our bodies. Technological advancements particularly the rise of the media has accelerated the concerns of our appearance to obsessions. Due to the influence of the media, people are now accustomed to rigid beauty standards. The media has made people see the extremely good looks as achievable and make them to be real. Due to these societal views on beauty, it is normal for people to look in the mirror. This is usually out of insecurity even for very beautiful people. Such poor development of body image is commonly associates with young people. This is because as they grow and mature, they tend to get more conscious of their appearance.
The media, magazines as well as celebrities have a certain image. If women’s beauty does not bear any similarity to the kind that has been perceived as widely accepted, they often result to questioning their body image. Moreover, a very great role is played by culture especially among African Americans. For these people, they glorify curvy women whereas the Americans view thin women as attractive. It is therefore true that it is the society that shapes what is viewed as beautiful.
These societal and media perceptions as to what is considered beautiful has a reflection on how people react when they look at themselves in the mirror. They have made people to become dissatisfied with how they look like and therefore make them to have a less positive feeling about their appearance. This feeling affects their performance and self-esteem.
Moreover the society has placed pressure on overweight people by making them feel that they are unattractive since they do not conform to what the society perceives as the ideal body shape. This makes the have a very poor body image of resulting to a low self-esteem.
These societal standards have forced people especially teenagers to result to ways that are detrimental to their health to achieve the standards. They turn to ways like vomiting, starving as well as consuming diet foods only in an effort to be thin. The news is full of Hollywood actresses who are suffering from eating disorders. Some of the actresses die eventually as a result of these eating disorders.
These societal standards have a great impact on teenagers and mean little to adults. This is because teenagers are growing and as they grow they get more conscious of their bodies. Due to this increased consciousness, they are likely to succumb to societal pressures on what beauty is.
Most of the people are aware of how the society emphasizes on physical appearance as well as what the society considers beautiful. However, not everyone will internalize the standards. There exist strong minded people who shun these standards. Such people are likely to possess a positive and hence have a high self-esteem.
How the media views women
The media does have a powerful influence on how women view their body image. The media’s view of an ideal woman is one who has achieved the thinness that can only be achieved by only five percent orb even less of the female population. It is quite evident that the beauty standards are now very difficult to attain especially for women. The media judges women more on their appearance than it judges men. The media make the standards of female attractiveness very high as well as inflexible. It constantly and continually bombards women with the images of what an ideal figure and face should be like. Naomi wolf has named it, “The Official Body.”
Moreover the media has constant exposure of these images and this has the effect of making these extreme good looks as a normal thing. If there is anything that is short of this, it will be perceived as ugly. This has made women to strive to achieve these looks to the extent that they have become unrealistic. These standards concerning weight can only be achieved by as less as 5% of women. The standards placed on the facial appearance and body shape can be achieved by roughly 1% of the female population.
Television shows like Melrose as well as Beverly hills have made women believe that they need to be thin just like the women in them. These shows have brainwashed the women into a belief that it is very important to be thin. There are images of female bodies all over. Actresses are becoming thinner each day to an extent of fainting because of lack of food. There are very many women’s magazines that are full with articles giving women tips on how to lose weight. They in fact emphasize that if women succeeded in losing weight they are going to have a good marriage, quality sex as well as a great career.
There have been very many images on televisions, magazines as well as billboards of women who are Barbie like as well the major focus by the media that skinny women are perfect females. This has contributed to the high rise of eating disorders especially in young women.
Movies and television have reinforced that it is important to have a thin body. In fact they have shown that a thin body is equal to their worth.
Due to the very large number of females who are extremely thin and who are frequently viewed on television, a very large number of Americans are feeling overweight, even though many are average in size.
This pressure put on women by the media has had serious effects on them. The media does not put the same pressure on men. The effect of the pressure has resulted in women developing eating disorder. This is particularly so for female celebrities who have become anorexic in their bid to conform to the media requirements. This is not the same for male celebrities as there is no pressure for them to maintain a perfect body shape (Peres 2001) .It is prudent to ask ourselves why these beauty standards are being imposed on women. Some people have held that the whole idea is economic. If they represent an ideal physical attribute that is difficult to achieve the manufacturers of cosmetics are assure of regular and constant profits .The most disturbing aspect of these media images is that most of them are not attainable.
However, there are some sections of the media that are not with this current state of affairs. For example, some magazines have tried to buck up this trend. A magazine called Quebec has been using plus size models in the pages that they are displaying fashion. In other countries like Spain, The fashion houses have banned ultra-thin models from participating in the runway. This was done in the year 2006.
Effects of society on self-image
The society plays a very significant and crucial role in influencing one’s self-image. This is because people will only be comfortable when they achieve what the society expects of them. In this case, people will feel comfortable and project a positive self-image when they achieve what the society dictates as physical attractiveness. Social perceptions as well as social expectations for the young people are an issue that affects both men and women (Peres 2001).
Fat actresses have usually received from their fellow male characters very negative comments about the appearance of their bodies. Mostly they suggest that such far people can only dress in sacks and this comment is usually followed by laughter from the audience. These requirement of being skinny have forced people especially teenagers to result to ways that have their health to achieve the standards. These societal standards have a great impact on teenagers and mean little to adults. This is because teenagers are growing and as they grow they get more conscious of their bodies. Due to this increased consciousness, they are likely to succumb to societal pressures on what beauty is. They turn to ways like vomiting, starving as well as consuming diet foods only in an effort to be thin. The news is full of Hollywood actresses who are suffering from eating disorders. Some of the actresses die eventually as a result of these eating disorders.
When people are constantly subjected to this debate and pictures on the ideal physical characteristics, they start to lose confidence especially on their body image resulting to low self-esteem. Body image refers to how one looks at herself as well as how we think other people perceive us. There have been various advertisements with beautiful women and a caption encouraging people to be like the person in the picture. These messages create an impression on people that if they do not look like the picture, then they are not good enough. They form a belief that the only way they can achieve success is if they change their body appearance. When women see skinny women on television, they form this idea that to be skinny is the only way to achieve their happiness. This therefore weakens their body confidence.
The views of the society especially among the young people are influenced by the media, magazines as well as celebrities. Women’s beauty is expected to bear a resemblance to the beauty as represented by these media. If it does not bear any similarity to the kind that has been perceived as widely accepted, they often result to questioning their body image. Moreover, a very great role is played by culture especially among African Americans. For these people, they glorify curvy women whereas the Americans view thin women as attractive. It is therefore true that it is the society that shapes what is viewed as beautiful (Becker 1995).
These societal and media stereotypes on what is considered beautiful has a major reflection on how people react when they look at themselves in the mirror. They have influenced people to be obsessed with changing how they look like and if this is not forthcoming, they develop a less positive feeling about their appearance. This feeling affects their performance and self-esteem.
As a result of these societal misconceptions on beauty, people are now accustomed to rigid beauty standards. The society especially the media has made people to see the extremely good looks as achievable and makes them to be real. Due to these societal views on beauty, it is normal for people to look in the mirror to confirm their beauty. This is usually out of insecurity even for very beautiful people. Such poor development of body image is commonly associated with young people. This is because as they grow and mature, they tend to get more conscious of their appearance (Peres 2001).
This has been an issue that has affected people and how the view their body image. It is particularly common in young women who have been brainwashed by the society misconception that an ideal woman is one who is petite. Due to this, they spend sleepless nights dieting in order to achieve the ideal shape. There are two groups of people battling with weight issues. They are as discussed (Becker 1995). This battle with weight issues usually occurs for both anorexic and obese people. The reason why people have developed these weight issues can be attributed to the way society views beauty as well as how the media has tried to depict what beauty is. As a result of these outside factors, people develop low body image and as a result start having issues with their body weights. They often result to unhealthy measures to fight these weight issues (Peres 2001).
Anorexia refers to a situation where a person avoids eating food for the fear of becoming fat. It is usually an eating disorder usually as a result of disturbance of one’s body-image. This is usually an obsessive fear of getting fat. People exhibiting anorexic traits usually have a self-image that is distorted that has altered the manner in which the person perceives her body (Becker 1995). These people feel hungry but refuse to eat to satisfaction. There is a research group in America called, ‘The American Research Group on Anorexia and Related Eating Disorders that has found out that almost two in out of six college girls are using weight control methods like vomiting, fasting , skipping some meals as well as doing excessive exercises in order to stay thin. Majority of celebrities have been reported to be anorexic. In fact a couple of them collapse on stage due to lack of enough energy in their bodies. To add salt to the injury celebrity deaths out of anorexia have been reported in Hollywood and even outside Hollywood (Becker 1995).
Anorexia normally develops among individuals at the onset of puberty. These people will usually suffer from a very extreme weight loss and their weight is usually 15% below that of a normal person. It is common with adolescent girls who continue to believe that they are fat albeit being extremely thin.
Obesity is a condition of being overweight. There is a lot of fat-phobia and prejudice leveled against obese people making them to have a poor body image hence affecting their self-esteem. This feeling of low self-esteem is particularly high in women than men. Studies have shown that the feeling is greater than when one is suffering from a severe disease (Becker 1995). Further the studies have shown that this feeling of low self-esteem is not cause by being overweight but rather because of how the society perceives fat people. In countries or place with no fat-phobia obese people have no these feelings. The issue of obesity has been prevalent for a longtime especially among children and adolescents. Despite this increase, there is pursuit of thinness among girls who view thinness as attractiveness. This cultural emphasis on thinness coupled with the stigma attached to obesity is likely to lead to the youth especially young girls to have a feeling of dissatisfaction about their bodies. These people are likely to engage in eating disorders in bid to lower their weight.
Weight issues before and now
In the year 1917, a woman was considered physically perfect if she was 5feet in height and whose weight was 10 stone. Moreover approximately like 25 years back models ideal weight was supposed to be less than that of an average woman by 8%. Today, the ideal weight of a beauty queen is supposed to be 23% less than that of an average woman. In fact most of the models we see on the catwalk are so skinny that one is amazed what they eat to have such a body. These appearances have had a negative impact on women as they strive to achieve such a body shape no matter the consequences (Becker 1995).
Earlier, an ideal woman was a curvy woman. This situation helped women to stay healthy as they did not have to starve themselves to conform to the society’s misconceptions. But either way, it was a headache for the slender women as not everyone is capable of being curvy. This shows that it is not good for the society to define what is ideal but rather people should be appreciated for who they are and not what they look like. There was an article appearing in the New York Times in 2008 which discussed how models are getting thinner and thinner each day. The paper said that such models are required to have a very small waist of about 28 inches and a weight of about 150 pounds. Due to these demands, the article acknowledges that there has been an increase in eating disorders among young people.
It should be note that it doesn’t matter how the society project beauty. Whether the society prefers curvy or skinny women will still have negative effects. This is because; all people can never be the same. We have both curvy and skinny women. Therefore, if the society prefers curvy women to skinny women, the skinny women are likely to result to low body image and vice versa.
How artists show weight issues
There are many images showing celebrity faces as well as body parts. These artists are role models of very many people who are usually their fans. We usually watch videos of artists singing of very beautiful girls that they are in love with. All these girls are skinny. When people especially teenage girls view these videos, they get an impression that beautiful girls are supposed to be skinny. These videos show body sizes that are impossible to attain hence creating a pressure on people. Artists pose in magazines like playboy, pinups thereby creating the society’s obsession with body image. Moreover most of the fashion designers and their shows mostly exhibit clothes that are to be worn by thin women (Becker 1995). It is rare to find a fashion show that exhibits outfits for all groups of people. By so doing, they help in emphasizing the notion that only being skinny is the ideal definition of beauty. Since artists are role model for young people, they tend to imitate what they do, wear or look like.
Bearing in mind that a majority of these artists are skinny, pressure is put on their fans most of who are young to be thin so that they can be like them. Instead these artists should reach out to their fans to avoid dieting but rather live healthy lives. This way, young people will be encouraged to live healthy lives and to avoid conforming to societal stereotypes. Artists should especially bear in mind that they are role models for young people and that these young people are likely to copy what they do (Becker 1995).
One should be careful not to confuse this type of art with concept art. Conceptual art is the type of art where the ideas that have been used in the work come first before any concerns that are material as well as aesthetics that are traditional. This is to mean that in this type of art, the most important thing is the concept.
This type of art basically emerged in form of a movement in the 1960’s. It emerged as a reaction that was against a type of art called formalism. This type of art originated from France by a French artist called Marcel Duchamp. His most famous conceptual art was a basin used in the urinal. Traditionally, such a common object could not be said to be a piece of art. This is because it had no elements of uniqueness. However his work as art was recognized by an artist called Joseph Kosuth who held that all pieces of art are conceptual owing to the fact that art can only exist conceptually.
How it works
This type of art has removed the need for having objects. The works of conceptual artists are only known through documents like photographs as well as written texts. They usually emphasize on concept rather than on other qualities like the aesthetic value of a piece of art. It further centers on language and holds that language is the very first wave for conceptual artists. This is to say that their excusive medium in their art is language. This use of language removes the need for use of and handling of materials to create a piece of art.
Examples and explanations of conceptual art
There are very many conceptual artists in the world today. However, for the purposes of this discussion, we shall only focus on two conceptual artists. We shall use them to explain and show examples of conceptual art. They are discussed as follows:
Jenny HolzerShe is a conceptual artist from America. She was an abstract artist originally and her work was focused on painting. She later became a conceptual artist. The example of conceptual art she uses is words and ideas on a public space. The visible medium she used was LED. However she also uses bronze plaques, t-shirts as well as condoms. She used to write her own texts for her use but now she uses texts written by other people. Her most famous works of conceptual art are ‘Truisms’ which was written in 1972, ‘inflammatory essays’ that was based on texts written by other people, a living series written in 1980’s in which she used bronze plaques as well as billboards and also a ‘survival series’ as well as a text called ‘under a rock’ among other works.
She was also an American conceptualist whose majority of work was black and white photographs that had captions that were declarative. Her type of conceptualistic artistry involves merging of photographs with text that is usually aggressive and engaging the viewer to struggle for power. She uses her imagery and juxtaposes it with texts with criticisms about sexism as well as the circulation of power among cultures. Her work is an example of conceptual art whereby texts are used as the main concept in a piece of art.
Conclusion and findings
To start with, it is good to appreciate that the society has greatly erred by defining what beauty is. The society should instead focus on one’s inner character and leave the physical characteristics lone. It doesn’t matter whether the society prefers skinny or curvy women since each preference will have an effect on the less preferred category. Without these definitions, people will be able to appreciate their bodies. But it is not easy to dictate to people what they should do. It therefore clear that to fight this low body image as a result of these perceptions should begin with an individual.
Society’s stereotypes on what is the ideal physical appearance have had a negative impact on body image especially of young people as seen in this discussion. If something is not done to educate the young people on the dangers of conforming to these stereotypes, they could end up losing it all .Most of the influence for these young people is coming from the media. The media should be encouraged to promote healthy living and to advise young people to lead a healthy lifestyle as well as avoid imitating what they see on television. They should further emphasize that a person should be judged from the inside and not merely from physical appearances.
Most of the people are aware of how the society emphasizes on physical appearance as well as what the society considers beautiful. However, not everyone will internalize the standards. There exist strong minded people who shun these standards. Such people are likely to possess a positive and hence have a high self-esteem (Peres 2001).
It is very unfortunate that our today’s society, people do not remember that it is usually what is in a person inside that count. It is prudent to realize that we should accept people for what they are and not what they look like. Any time that one decides on dieting, we should shun that thought and instead join a self-esteem class. It is good to learn to accept ourselves as this will help us to begin to love our bodies not withstanding our sizes.
It is every person’s responsibility to try hard and rise above these societal expectations and instead stand on their self-worth and valuation. Since young people are not mature enough to disentangle from the society’s perspective, they require their parents to protect them.
There is also need to impact knowledge in our children that they should be proud of who they are. They need to be reminded that people will never be the same but rather they will be of different sizes and shapes. They should therefore learn to appreciate all people. Moreover, they should be constantly reminded the values of eating healthy foods for their bodies. The move by some magazines to include plus size models in their fashion pages is commendable. This is because it will assist in boosting the body image of the plus size. This is owing to the fact when these women appear on magazines, an impression is created that even plus size people are attractive (Becker 1995).
Moreover, there is need to educate teenage girls of the dangers of anorexia. They should be made aware that anorexia cause one to develop bones theat are shrunken, loss of minerals, an abnormally low body temperature as well as irregular beating of the heart. When these dangers are highlighted then many young people will be deterred from developing this condition. This effort can be supplemented by using people who were anorexic but changed, to persuade others against it.
Finally, it is important to instill the value of independent mindedness and high self-esteem among the young people. It is also good to note that even though most of the people are aware of how the society emphasizes on physical appearance as well as what the society considers beautiful, not everyone will internalize the standards. There exist strong minded people who shun these standards. Such people are likely to possess a positive and hence have a high self-esteem.
Becker, Anne E. Body, self, and society: the view from Fiji. 2nd Ed. Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1995. pp24-pp78
Perse, Elizabeth M. Media effects and society. New York. L. Erlbaum Associates. 2001. pp248-pp279