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Woman Today

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Today American women can never be too thin or too pretty. In most cases thin associates with beauty, so the present ideal is a thin, fit, healthy young woman. In magazines complied with models and advertisements, billboards on the highway, and actresses on TV, the message of what women should look like is everywhere. The inescapable presence of these images in effect shapes the image of women today literally increasing procedures of plastic and cosmetic surgery.

“Guy’s don’t like fat girls.” The dreading sentence I’ve grown up hearing since middle school. It’s unfortunate that the media influences American society to the point that it defines the “ideal woman.” According to Sharlene Hesse-Biber, author of Am I Thin Enough Yet? , “Cultural messages on the rewards of thinness and the punishments of obesity are everywhere. Most women accept society’s standards of beauty as ‘the way things are” (535). Advertising is a powerful educational force in our culture due to the simple fact of exposure. Economics is also a significant factor in the development of the ideal image. There is a wealth of businesses that depend upon the American desire for thinness to survive. Exercise and diet companies are an example. In order to create a market for their product, they attempt to make women feel inadequate about their own bodies through advertisement. According to Dopkin and Sippy, “In 1993, the diet industry took in $37 billion pushing its products, programs, and promises into the shopping carts and belief systems of American women.”

Other companies that cater to the current “large” population sell beauty, tactfully. “There are currently more than 17,000 different diet plans, products, and programs from which to choose.” (Hesse-Biber 537) In magazines such as Glamour, they offer the “Best Jeans for You!” in categories such as “skinny”, “pear shape”, and “curvy”. Even though the magazine offers styles to women who are heavier, it ultimately comes down to the choice between wanting to be skinny or “curvy.” Either way, it’s the diet, exercise, or control product that will get women on the way to the thinner, and better, more popular, sexy ideal.

One reason this “ideal” has manipulated the American society in particular, is that it appeals to some basic American values. This country prizes things like individuality, self-help, hard work, success, and self-control. Women are given the message that if they just work hard enough at dieting and exercise, they can be thin, beautiful and happy. Women, especially, are told that their efforts in perfecting their bodies will be rewarded by success in both their professional and personal lives. Hesse-Biber points out, “Even a woman with a successful and lucrative career may fear that her success comes at the expense of her femininity.” (535) If they fail at achieving the ideal, they are told to try harder.

This manipulation of perception on what is “ideal” leads to concern in relation to the teenagers of this country. Television has become one of the most influential technologies of all time, replacing real role models and teachers. The media teaches them what is attractive, what's feminine, what's cool, what's sexy, what's romantic. Desperate Housewives is not just a soap opera; it's an instruction in how one should be. Once again, just by sheer exposure time, the TV has more effect on a child than his/her parents. Parents may provide verbal instruction and prohibition, but teenagers no longer learn primarily through verbal, but through pictures and images with a funky background beat like in the Gap commercials.

The absurd thing is that the public is somewhat aware of this manipulation to no effect. They know that to be as thin as the women on TV, is close to impossible,

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