Sample Paper on Harmful Effect of Media Portrayal of Women on Girls

Harmful Effect of Media Portrayal of Women on Girls

Media and advertising companies have habitually included images of sexualized women in advertisements. The standard of physical beauty portrayed in the women has been to a great extent emphasized by ways such as wearing make-us, high heels, having slim bodies, or wearing revealing clothing. Consequently, the young girls observe and try to be like the idealized images as models of femininity.  Such depictions of women have influenced girls to focus on looks and sexuality, and pursue the looks.  Obsession on body appearance and copying the popular celebrities has become the norm. For instance, reporter Persad Michelle wrote in the Huffington Post that “It’s no secret that we all want to look a little more like Rihanna.” Since the idealized look is not achievable and sustainable by many, girls struggle in trying to enhance the appearance. In the cause of comparative and subjective evaluation to the ideal beauty, it leads to psychological, emotional and physical harm. What is the impact of the subjective comparisons to the idealized beauty?

According to Durkin and Paxton (996), human behavior is largely shaped and controlled by the environment and, therefore, what they observe is what they take up and emulate. In the research with girls in grade 7 and 10, Durkin and Paxton found that feeling of dissatisfaction among girls increased after exposure to idealized female images. Visual analogue scales were used, from which answers on self-satisfaction were gauged after watching idealized slim women on a computer screen (997). Media have been a persistent creator of the perception that the ultra thin or slim body forms should be the universal look that every woman desires to achieve. Since the images shown are not easily achievable, girls have resorted to quick physical uplifts through cosmetic surgeries and “magic” pills. The procedures inflict physical harm as they use various methods such as; surgical operations, slimming pills, concoctions of a variety of chemical compounds, dieting and methods that are being invented with time.

During adolescence, girls do naturally gain weight due to sexual development, and therefore, the efforts may require extreme dieting. Such dieting may cause eating disorders leading to anorexia or bulimia (Johnson & Wardle 119). Due to the perceived “thin is beautiful” portrayal, girls get obsessed with weight loss, and in the process the stomach shrinks and can develop dietetic diseases. Weight adjustment through surgical operation can turn fatal due to excessive bleeding. The other method of beautification has been the application of chemical compounds, which could be containing carcinogenic materials such as mercury. Also, chemical compounds can cause the skin to be delicate and susceptible to the damaging cosmic rays. Finally, wearing of high heels causes irreparable damage on knees, feet, and leg muscles. After continued wearing of high heels there is a change in walking style even after taking off the shoes. The development of muscles is interfered with, and results to shorter fibers in calf muscles thereby causing strain, discomfort, and muscle fatigue (Csapo 2582).

As girls compare to the idealized woman, there is tendency to feel dissatisfied, unconfident, discomfort, and ultimately causing self-image problems. Therefore, it leads to obsession and a host of negative emotional consequences such as shame, anxiety, self-pity, hatred, low self-esteem, anger, lack of concentration, and to a greater extent depression. According to two researches by Hargreaves and Tiggemann, commercials that are related to appearances affect emotions women, causing feeling of dissatisfaction and anger (“The Effect of Television Commercials” 287).  The research involved 195 females and 206 males of average age of 15.8years. The results were collected by self-reports in the change of emotions of anger, happiness, depression, anxiety, and confidence after watching the commercials.  Also, lower self-confidence and dissatisfaction as well as bad mood are associated with people who compare their looks to others, due to the schema effect (The Effect of “Thin Ideal” Television 367).  Additionally, the comparison disrupts mental activity, leading to psychological distress (Johnson & Wardle 120). With the increased and accessible sexualized media images being broadcasted, societal pressure is increasing on the young girls (Serdar n. p), thus, hindering healthy emotional development.

In conclusion, the portrayal of beauty by media has had negative physical, psychological and emotional effects on girls. The idea of an ideal woman being slim, light skinned, or who wears revealing clothes, has been inculcated in the society. Thus, it continues to pressure especially the young woman who is seeking self-identity. Such depictions of a woman as a sexual entity, and the focus on appearance do great harm to girls. Fashion is also developing, whereby women are hiding less and less losing the initial use of wearing clothes as protection from nature.  Since the influence is social, the society needs to change the unfair perceptions about beauty.  There should be a shift from associating beauty with certain standards of appearance because bodies are unique for various people and also change with times.  Media play a big role in influencing culture, and it is important that they help in changing the societal attitude on girls

Works Cited

Csapo, Robert., Maganaris, Constantinos., Seynnes, Oliver., & Narici, Marco. “On Muscle, Tendon and High Heels.” The Journal of Experimental Biology 213.15 (2010): 2582-2588. Print

Durkin, Sarah J., and Paxton, Susan J. “Predictors Of Vulnerability To Reduced Body Image Satisfaction And Psychological Wellbeing In Response To Exposure To Idealized Female Media Images In Adolescent Girls.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research 53.5 (2002): 995-1005. Print.

Hargreaves, Duane., and Marika, Tiggemann. “The Effect Of Television Commercials On Mood And Body Dissatisfaction: The Role Of Appearance-Schema Activation.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 21.3 (2002): 287-308. Print.

Hargreaves, Duane., and Marika, Tiggemann. “The Effect of “Thin Ideal” Television Commercials on Body Dissatisfaction and Schema Activation during Early Adolescence.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 32.5 (2003): 367-373.

Johnson, Fiona., and Wardle, Jane. “Dietary Restraint, Body Dissatisfaction, and Psychological Distress: A Prospective Analysis.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 114.1 (2005): 119-125. Print

Michelle, Persad.  “Rihanna Topped Our List Of Cheap Celeb Finds This Week” Huffington Post. 10 April 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/04/cheap-celeb-finds-_n_5924714.html

Serdar, Kasey L. “Female Body Image and the Mass Media: Perspectives on How Women Internalize the Ideal Beauty Standard.” The Myriad.  2005: n. pag. Web. 29 Oct. 2014. <http://www.westminstercollege.edu/myriad/index.cfm?parent=…&detail=4475&content=4795>