– I recently wrote this paper that was an assignment for a friend of mine. Even after college I am still writing papers for friends! Lol. I thought before deleting it on my laptop, it is interesting enough to share. xoxo.
Does society’s promotion of a thin body as the ideal female form contribute to anorexia? Absolutely. Society has a huge influence on women, causing an overwhelming pressure of striving to look a certain way. On social networks, magazines and television we are constantly being hounded by America’s fascination of the ideal woman and young girl; her biggest requirement is being thin, and anything less she’ll have to learn the hard way that it is considered undesirable and as failure as a woman. The media broadcasts the “thin ideal” in every way possible. Not only are the models on the covers of magazines and in billboards embodying the “thin ideal” image, even the characters on our screens are portrayed as thin and beautiful. For example, the Shrek movie; where the “ugly” princess is green, overweight and more masculine and the “beautiful” princess is thin and superbly feminine influences kids at an early age that “fat” is bad and thin is good. It gives the message that in order to be popular, enviable and looked at as beautiful, you have to be skinny while manipulating their mental stability.
Anorexia is defined as having an intense fear of gaining weight, it is an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat. There is a disturbing ultra-thin body trend that demands women and girls to achieve a gap between the thighs when they stand with their feet touching. Anne Becker, a psychiatrist and eating disorder specialist at Harvard Medical School, dived into the obsession of the “thigh gap” when her young daughters read it on a magazine. A great example of society influencing young girls and women how they should look like, by simply having a thigh gap she becomes a member of an “exclusive club” whilst trying to reach an unattainable and dangerous goal. In our magazines, fashion runways and social media they all carry the responsibility of showcasing young girls and women how they should look like, in which pressures them into going to great lengths to transform into who they are being shown and constantly reminded of how they are supposed to be, they begin to believe if they don’t look like the models they see or celebrities they look up too, that something is terribly wrong with them. It causes insecurity, anxiety and eating disorders. They begin to learn at an early age to yearn having control of their life by controlling their food intake and focusing on their hunger of being who they are told to become, and starving themselves of who they should be, which is simple as being themselves.
Women in the US are under constant strain to fit a certain ideal of beauty. Seeing images of flawless, gaunt females everywhere makes it hard for women to feel good about their bodies, and be confident in the skin they are in. The cultural obsession on weight and celebrity appearances has promoted an unhealthy view of body image. “Media coverage that does not mention cases of very low weight results in a 33 percent growth in the likelihood that the fans will become anorexic. When the coverage clearly discusses anorexia, the tendency for searches is relatively small. When thinness is praised as a sign of beauty, web surfers try to copy them. When the way they look is identified as a disease, not many are keen on aping them.” When you flip through the pages of a magazine, you’ll find women looking unrealistic, when you compare actors/musicians on your screen versus when you see them in print, you’ll see two different bodies. As thin as they already are, they still get photo-shopped to appear even thinner. When you type ‘anorexia’ online, you’ll find tips on how to become one, advice from others on how to develop into the perfect anorexic and what you will also find to be disturbing is all the young girls and women who are seeking to become anorexic or already is one, all have one common ground that binds them together, it is their fixation on achieving the perfect body based on what they distinguish from the media. In fact, in Israel Adatto’s Photoshop bill was legalized in 2012, to ban the use of photo-shop to “remake” the images of models in advertisements; studies have proven throughout scientific backing finding those who search on the web for celebrities and skinny models leads to the increase of eating disorders, due to people becoming intrigued by celebrities who ‘appear’ to look starved. It becomes an illusion, and very complicated to break out of the deluded bubble they are in with all the artificial advertisements and expectations of what you are thought to aspire to be. The price of beauty and having anorexia comes with great consequences, such as medical tribulations and possibility of death.
In 2002, the National Institute of Mental Health awarded a $10 million grant to examine the genetics behind anorexia. A study of the DNA of more than 3,000 people found that the eating disorder may be caused by mutations that interfere with the processing of cholesterol, disorderly mood and diet. Yet, it stands to be proven that anorexia links back to being ultimately caused by social pressures. It is a complex illness caused by genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological and social factors. The environmental strain that lies heavy on girls and women’s shoulders, will never allow them to deter away from the illness. Generations before us, there has always been a vast fascination over women’s bodies, but more than ever we live in a generation where having an eating disorder is an accomplishment, and the message that we are exposed to that follows us everywhere from society, schools and social media is to obsess more over how you look and compare yourself to how another person’s body is and less of feeling secure in who you are and being an individual.
A new media craze is the numerous “reality shows” that has taken over our television networks and we welcome into our homes, shows like “America’s Next Top Model”, “The Hills”, “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and The Real Housewives” franchise, depict and represents the average woman in America. These women are the leading examples of how our culture’s standard for beauty has reached an unhealthy level. Not only do these women possess extremely thin bodies, but they constantly discuss dieting, we see them go through surgeries to lose weight, and hear them share on how they should be thin to stay beautiful. In a world where supermodels have always bombarded our culture with negative body image references, we now have these “reality shows” with “real people” portraying the same message in a wider spectrum. How can we prevent young girls and women from having anorexia? How can we tell them to shut the noise of the outside world that is shouting at them to be skinnier so she can then be considered beautiful, and instead, listen to their own voice telling them to be happy with you? The answer is we can’t. It is up to the person to make their own decisions, and up to the people around them to be encouraging in their long road to recovery. It has been impossible to uplift women’s self-esteem when the society keeps crushing it with high expectations. The only way we can is if the media changes its destructive messages of glamorizing being thin, exposing positivity, realistic goals and real women of the world who are built in many different shapes and sizes, and convincing them they are beautiful the way they are, instead of showing them all the ways to become beautiful.
There is also an argument of biology and genetic makeups are greater risk factors for developing anorexia than society. Some experts believe that there is an anorexic brain and a healthy brain, and that you don’t choose to be anorexia, it chooses you. Researchers believe they have come up with “clues that suggests anorexics are wired differently than healthy people.” In anorexia it affects your entire body, such as the brain and nerves, you can no longer think right, and you become paranoid about what you eat and don’t eat, no matter how thin you are when you look in the mirror you see a distorted and bigger version of yourself. Nevertheless, the causes of this illness is difficult to break down to just one reason, there are several factors that contribute to its development, aside from social pressures, such as a genetic predisposition, chemical imbalance and history of a traumatic event that redirects your brain function. While others will always believe that the disorder starts solely in the brain, comparing healthy children to anorexic children’s brains getting diverse signals and believing it is difficult for one to change since it is out of their control. Some people also perceive anorexia as a way to cope with problems they feel that is out of their control. Of course, there will be cases where some people are triggered by anorexia from early on, and has nothing to do with the media, however, society scrutinizing women for their appearance has been going on for generations before us, and has and will always have a major influence on all eating disorders. Anorexia is an incredibly complicated illness with assorted opinions and researching, in which will always be difficult to understand, but it is mainly composed of a variety of abnormal behaviors that are brought on by unhealthy thinking; this thinking is brought by the media, family/friends, personal experiences and much more.
In today’s world, society is leading young girls and women to believe that they aren’t perfect, and perfection is what they should seek after. The thin ideal being portrayed in the media is a constant reminder of the negative body image being taught to adolescents in our culture and continues to be supported by the rest of our population. There is media access to tips and advice of becoming anorexic. Body image and self-esteem issues has been incredibly derived from the media, as we have just dived into, people comparing their actual physical body to those in the media and experience guilt and shame if they don’t achieve their vision of an ideal image to match the standards of society. I believe more studies should be done on the affects of the increasing “thin ideal” on models used to portray the image. If we cannot come together as a society and change the way we perceive beauty, there will always be serious health consequences and deaths that lead up to eating disorders, not only in the physical sense but also in a mental one as well. Ultimately, my wish would be for all girls – younger than me, my age and older – to know that society does not matter and we should not let anyone define us and they are perfect the way they are, for the reason that there is only one of them in the world, and make it your best self and forget the rest.