Media’s Influence Continues to Weigh on Females

By Avery Friedt

Media is fantastic. TV, magazines, and social networks all help keep us connected and informed. Unfortunately, the media has reached a whole new level, a level that is causing more harm than good. It is giving young girls a false perception of what they have to look like to be considered “beautiful”. Beauty has become unachievable.

When I open up a magazine, images of impossibly thin models, with flawless complexions and perfectly symmetrical faces gaze back at me. I turn on the TV and see the Victoria’s Secret fashion show going on. Gorgeous women, 5’9″ and barely breaking 110 pounds strut down the stage with a confidence like no other. I scroll through my twitter feed and, since it’s Wednesday, see dozens of pictures of goddess like models and actresses posted with the hash tag “woman candy Wednesday”.

Then, I look at myself. Compared to those girls, I’m enormous. At 5’9″, I’m the same height as those VS girls, however I outweigh them by a good 20 lbs. Where they have smooth curves and flawless skin, I have cellulite, scars, and acne. The slight roll of fat on my stomach that I’ve never particularly minded before now makes me feel like a beached whale. I’d have to get some type of surgery to have a thigh gap like theirs. Overall, I feel entirely inadequate. I will never look like the girls I see everywhere, in all the advertisements, commercials and movies. I could work out and eat healthy, but that won’t change my body type. This thought looms in my head, always. That feeling of not being good enough.

The truth is, however, that I’m average. I weigh exactly how much a girl my height and age should weigh. So why do I, and countless other girls, feel the need to change how I look? Because of what society tells us we should look like. What we don’t realize though, is that almost no one naturally fits society’s standards. Makeup, creative lighting, and photo shop help transform the models and actresses we see into flawless versions of themselves. We’ve all seen untouched pictures of these women, where they look normal. Yet the pictures young girls, including myself, are comparing themselves to are the edited ones. This is where the problems are starting.

Over one half of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control methods, such as fasting, skipping meals, vomiting, and taking laxatives, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. They also say 95% of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8. The desire to obtain the figure society deems beautiful is strong. So strong girls are willing to do permanent damage to their bodies. The side effects of anorexia vary depending on the severity of the case. More minor side effects include extreme weight loss, abnormal blood count, fatigue or dizziness, and brittle hair and nails. More serious cases can cause permanent damage, such as irregular heart rhythms, osteoporosis (loss of bone calcium), and seizures. The worst cases cause infertility, shutdown of major body systems, brain damage, heart attacks, and death. All this to meet society’s standards. ( If you are suffering from an eating disorder, get help. 1-800-931-2237 is a confidential hot line for the National Eating Disorder Association, or talk to a trusted adult, or your counselor. )

The media isn’t all bad though. For instance, Dove has their “Love your body” campaign encouraging women to embrace themselves and love who they are. Their ads feature women of all sizes, and very little photoshop. These types of ads are what we need more of. Girls need to be told to love who they are, not to change themselves. Inspiring girls to be confident and secure with themselves is what the media needs to start focusing on in order to create a generation of strong, empowered women who have the confidence to achieve anything, without having to worry if they look like the girls on tv. That’s the change I want to see. That’s the change we need.

An example of Dove's ad campaigns meant to rethink what is considered beautiful. "Dove Belleza Real" from  Basado en Hechos Reales on Flickr
An example of Dove’s ad campaigns meant to rethink what is considered beautiful. “Dove Belleza Real” from Basado en Hechos Reales on Flickr