Media's Harmful Effect on Body Images

by Morghan H on December 3, 2012 - 6:57pm

Media’s Harmful Effect on Body Images

            In cultures throughout the world body images have been an extreme danger for both men and women. Women all around the world have had many negative consequences seeking these “perfect” images. Currently in our culture the ideal and perfect body image is the “Barbie Doll” look. This look includes being extremely skinny, long hair, slender long legs, large chest and buttocks and a beautiful face. In magazines, movies and television models and actresses have all displayed this look for their fans making this body image become very popular for our culture. However, the Barbie doll look has had many negative consequences. Major issues include body disorders such as anorexia and bulimia and many plastic surgery complications. The rates of these complications have continued to increase causing many people to become extremely ill or die. This extreme desire to have this Barbie image is harming our woman. Women in China also have faced a very harmful body image known as foot binding. Foot binding was done to create an extremely small foot. In order to gain such a small foot young girls must go through extreme and agonizing amount of pain for about two to five years. The way they achieve this foot is by continuously breaking the toes and arch of the foot and then binding it; this process is repeated until the foot was only three inches long. This leads to infections, crippling, walking and stability problems. This is an extremely harmful body image for Chinese women. Men also have negative body issues that have been influenced by our cultures. Culture has designed the perfect man to be very muscular and in shape. They are seen attractive by women if they are skinny, strong and have a lot of muscle indentations. However, it is very hard to achieve this look due to fatty foods, lack of exercise, etc. So men have turned to steroids for help which has become very dangerous due to abuse. For example, body builders have begun to abuse the steroids by taking too much of them which can cause anger and rages, sterility and in some cases death. Men are in danger because of this “muscle man” image. These examples show how both men and women have been at danger due to the body images that our society has created over time. These issues are very important because the rate of harm continues to increase each year. Changing the “ideal” look of men and woman would stop the increasing rates of body disorders, sicknesses and death. The world’s cultures have created very dangerous body images for women and men.

Men have been suffering through severe weight issues due to the “ideal” body image. Television, magazines and people are all factors that are pushing men to body image extremes such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and steroid abuse. Scientists created a study to test the effect that media and culture has on men’s weight. Participants were selected from the internet to answer questions such as does your best friend influence you to lose weight, does media make you want to be thinner, looking at your friends do they make you want bigger muscles, etc. They separated men into three group’s normal weight, overweight and obese. It is interesting how much people’s peers also affect their body weight because they have been affected so much by the pressure for the ideal body weight as well. The results of this study showed that almost every man who participated suffered from culture and media influences. Obese respondents were found to be more affected by media images and comments from their friends. Normal weight men were found to use more supplements to try to perfect their bodies compared to the other two groups (McCabe 2010). Overweight men have neutral results compared to the other two groups with issues such as supplements, binge eating, etc. (McCabe 2010). Obese men are more likely to be affected the most from the media and friends, binge eat, be teased and have the least satisfaction with their bodies (McCabe 2010). Since reading these results there are a number of actions that could be taken to approach men with these bodies’ issues. Since obese men were found to have the most harmful side effects I think society should realize this. Many people go through traumatizing experiences due to people calling them names and making fun of their weight, if people focused more on using positive words to help them loose the weight maybe men wouldn’t have such a hard time with their body image. Society has slowly begun to take action to this issue by advertising using commercials, ads, posters, cards, etc. In these they show how computer programs make models bodies this “ideal” image. They show a models true body and then place a picture next to it of their computer programmed body showing that it isn’t real, these role models bodies are actually not the way they are portrayed media. Addressing the way media portrays the body, advertising to show younger generations the truth about these body images and fixing the way people talk and make fun of others for their body appearance could create a movement that would help stop this struggle. Culture and media have a huge effect on body image for both genders.


MaCabe, Marita. McGreevy, Shauna. 2010. “Role of media and peers on body change strategies among adult men: Is body size important?” European Eating Disorder Review 19(5):438-446.



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