The Impact Of Mass Media On Eating Disorders In Young Girls

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Our society nowadays is heavily prompted through the media, and the images it shows. Even though it may be indirect, the media provides unhealthy messages about body sizes, gender attractiveness and weight control that make young women view themselves negatively.

Magazines, television, movies, and advertisements influence young women on what they believe their body image should be. The images the they show set the standard of what is considered physically attractive in our society. With the uses of photoshop, media depicts falsified images of models and actresses that create an unrealistic body type that the average women would not have. Brands like Victoria’s Secret and Brandy Melville promote their products and clothing to fit a thin and slim body type, which gives young women an unrealistic view on how their body should look and be rather than what it is. Eating disorders are more prevalent in certain groups focused upon fitness or body appearance. (Alexander, 1998). The problem with the media introducing unrealistic body types to young women is that if you don’t look like the women in the media you are seen as being ugly, overweight, and unattractive.

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Another way in which the issue of eating disorders relates to mass media is through social groups such as athletes and dancers. A lot of women who are pressured through their art also seem to struggle with eating disorders. Ballet dancers, for example, must be slim in order to dance well, so many dancers develop eating disorders as a weight control technique. (Alexander, 1998). Another example of how women are shaped by the media is the case of Mary Cain, she was considered the fastest runner in America of her generation. In 2013, she was signed by the best track team in the world, Nike’s Oregon Project, run by its star coach Alberto Salazar. Then everything collapsed. Her fall was just as spectacular as her rise. Instead of becoming a symbol of girls’ unlimited potential in sports, Cain became yet another standout young athlete who got beaten down by a win-at-all-costs culture. (Kelsall, 2019). She was subject to emotional and physical abuse; her coaches would give her birth control and laxatives to help her lose weight to the point of her health becoming an issue.

Mass media gives tips for weight management, including dieting, pills, plans and weight loss programs, promising that it will make us happier and provide a better life, however these methods have a price that is attached to them. For most of the young women who are wanting to lose weight with a plan, pills or diets don’t have the money to pay for these services, so they resort to the only way they know will help them lose weight. They’re concern with body image may result in anorexia nervosa (refusal to eat enough to remain healthy) or bulimia (regular, self-induced vomiting) (Lenton, 2017,117-119). This teaches girls from a young age how critical it is to be skinny and may inadvertently sell an unhealthy lifestyle.

In my opinion the worst thing a young woman can do is suffer with an eating disorder, there are ways to get help if you feel like you’re on that path of having an eating disorder. You should get help because once you have an eating disorder it’s extremely hard to take care of yourself in almost every way. Over the past twenty-years, anorexia and bulimia nervosa have reached epidemic proportions within adolescent and young adult population. (Nagel, Jones, 1992).

The symbolic representation of gender in the mass media also creates and reinforces gender stereotypes. (Lenton, 2017,116). It usually begins when little girls see princesses and princes in movies while growing up. They then start to believe that they have to look a certain way and have to be saved by a prince. These are the stereotypes that as children we didn’t realize we were conforming to.

To conclude, the mass media has a fair amount to do with the development of eating disorders and why their becoming such an issue in our society. A solution to this problem could be to start promoting positive body images in all ways and forms we can. More than 70 million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders and that number will just grow if we do not get a hold of this issue.  


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