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Thin Ideal

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Thin Ideal

“THIN IDEAL”

The impact of media images on men and women in America is a formation of an unrealistic illustration of the thin ideal. The media has painted a picture of “the perfect body”, people who choose to accept these ideals develop a fantasy and fictitious image of what the ideal body is. In our society, where the mass media is the single strongest transmitter of unrealistic beauty ideals, it is often held responsible for the high proportion of women and men who are dissatisfied with their bodies.

Now there is a new America with a new obsession, one can never be too thin. This new lifestyle has affected our relationships, activities, and our way of life. Seid points out “We pursue thinness and fitness in response to a now-invisible aesthetic and moral structure. We believe them to be healthier, more beautiful, and good. The unusual alliance between our beauty and health standards gives the imperative to be fat-free a special potence and has bred an ancillary conviction that thinner is also happier and more virtuous.”(Seid, 1989) There is a fine line between healthy and thin. Sometimes we try to associate these media driven beautiful bodies as being healthy, when in essence they are just a fabrication of what is actual health.

The thin ideal is the actual body type a man or women portrays through the media which encompasses a thin build, model look, and an acceptable standard of beauty. The thin ideal increased rapidly through publications such as Playboy centerfolds and Miss America Pageants. Kalodner explains, “Alarmingly, they found that approximately 60 to 70 percent of these models weighed 15 percent below their expected body weight.” (Kalodner, 2003) This brings huge health concerns, and what the media portrays to be perfect and ideal is really sick and unhealthy. Moreover Kalodner clarifies “The majority of models have 10 to 15 percent body fat, while the normal percentage of body fat for healthy women is 22 to 26 percent.” (Kalodner, 2003) The question now becomes why would we strive so hard to place ourselves at such a health risk?

America maintains many socio-cultural and psychological factors in Western society which generates a preoccupation with the body. These factors encompass perceived fitness/health, attractiveness, and a feeling of self-worth. Society places a huge stress on appearance and the so called slim factor; this creates a preoccupation and a willingness to try almost any weight-loss strategy. Aligned with the cultural issues there are many psychological concerns that fall into the idea of being slim and fit. Garner explains, attractiveness figures prominently in an individuals feeling of self-worth. Moreover, “More attractive persons are likely to have been more popular and to have been rewarded as children and to be more successful in school, career, and intimate relationships.” (Garner DM, Rockert W, Olmsted MP, Johnson CG, Coscina DV, 1985) In addition the cultural view of attractiveness is directly associated with perceived attractiveness and self-worth. Conversely, people who suffer from psychological struggles like low self esteem, relate their deficiencies in all areas relevant to appearance.

Today there is new added pressure to not only be lean but to be fit. Since ancient times society has praised those who embody the ideal of what is beautiful. We associate this thin ideal of beauty to hold many positive attributes, which makes a person more desirable. This social value of Attractiveness can be better understood under the social comparison theory. Closely related to the thin ideal, this theory developed by Leon Festinger in 1954, is the idea that individuals learn about and assess themselves by comparing themselves against one another. Also, social comparison theory helps explain why people yearn to emulate the models they see in the media. There is a pragmatic relationship between social comparison and body image. The linkage between social comparison and body image is best seen when individuals rate themselves against models and celebrities existing in the media. According to one view by Marsha Richins, “consumers see these idealized images and (consciously or unconsciously) compare their more mediocre selves and lives with the idealized images”. (Richins, 1991) Social comparisons to these idealized images then appear to promote a discrepancy between the attractiveness of self and other, leading to a more negative evaluation of self.

One of the biggest forms of mass media today is television, and a lot of women and men are affected by these images daily. Moreover, television creates particular labels, behaviors, and social values that can change a viewer’s perception of reality. Some programs illustrated ideals of the body such as Baywatch,

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