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Self Image in Women

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Essay title: Self Image in Women

Abstract

In the 21st century women have proven to be strong, independent and equal. Recent study in social cognition has focused on what specific environmental conditions would help promote the forming of gender stereotypes in regards to social perception and behavior. Television advertisements, and magazine articles and images are highly suggestible, persuasive elements of everyday life that do help form and strengthen gender stereotypes and self images. Analysis of television advertisements has shown that many ads contain gender-stereotypic ideas and pictures. Americans cannot escape being affected by these ads, as more than ninety percent of all American families own televisions, and the average person views over seven hundred advertisements each week alone. In this study we attempt to prove that those who watch more television also are more likely to exhibit negative self images; and that no matter how hard women try, they are still viewed as a lesser being. Similarly, there is a relationship between watching television and having gender-typed attitudes toward gender-stereotyped chores. A focus group will be conducted with 90 participants, reguarding viewing patterns of female middle, high school, and college students.

Chapter 1 Introduction

Recent study in social cognition has focused on what specific environmental conditions would help promote the forming of gender stereotypes in regards to social perception and behavior. Television advertisements are highly suggestible, persuasive elements of everyday life that do help form and strengthen gender stereotypes. Analysis of television advertisements has shown that many ads contain gender-stereotypic ideas and pictures. Americans cannot escape being affected by these ads, as more than ninety percent of all American families own televisions, and the average person views over seven hundred advertisements each week alone.

From Barbie to Victoria’s Secret, women are exposed to media images of “the thin ideal” from a very early age. Television, movies, and magazines all perpetuate the idea that an ultra thin woman is the ideal. This striving for an unattainable ideal has had a negative effect upon a woman’s body image. Body image is the way people perceive themselves, and the way they believe others perceive them (Cash, 1990). From Miss America to Playboy centerfolds, the ideal female has become thinner while the average American woman has become heavier over the last forty years. In the 1960s television and fashion magazines became the authority upon image. Fashion photography wanted stick thin models that did not compete with the clothing.

This emphasis upon thin has lead to an extreme increase in diet articles and advertisements which all encourage weight loss. Body image and self esteem has been measured by a number of scales. Franzoi’s Body Esteem Scale, The Feel-Ideal Discrepancy, The Body Shape Questionnaire, and The Shape and Weight Based Self-Esteem Inventory are all scales used to identify the increasing dissatisfaction among women about their body image and self esteem. This dissatisfaction comes from a combination of internal and societal influences because the societal image of “the thin ideal” has become internalized (Dorian, 2002).

Social Comparison theory claims that people compare themselves and their significant others with other people and images that they see as being representative of realistically attainable goals. What happens when the influence of media images has women now making the comparison of themselves and unrealistic goals? Why has society placed such importance upon physical beauty so much so that women begin to see their self worth as dependent upon the physical? (Dorian,2002).

For example, societal values changed drastically in Fiji when satellites and television was introduced. After 38 months of exposure to these media images, females, of average age 17, changed their societal values and body image to reflect the western values of which they had been exposed. The girls were now more body conscious and more into dieting whereas before there was little talk of dieting and body satisfaction was much higher. Similarly, the same effect was found in Iran where western television was banned. Women were only shown on television with almost all of their bodies covered. It was found that Iranian women had higher body satisfaction than their American counterparts (Dorian, 2002).

Wilcox and Laird studied the reactions of forty-one women exposed to images of normal weight models. These reactions were recorded on scales measuring body image and self esteem. The researchers also had the women adopt different facial expressions of emotion to see if their feelings were influenced

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