Research: The Media’s Influence on Body Image – Women’s Studies Essay
The journal, “The Media’s Influence on Body Image Disturbance and Eating Disorders: We’ve Reviled Them, Now Can We Rehabilitate Them?”, by Kevin J. Thompson and Leslie J. Heinberg, uses social scientific methods to try
to figure out how the media affects the body image of people, especially women. They researched using “survey, correlational, randomized control, and covariance structure modeling investigations” (Heinberg & Thompson, 1999) to show that the media does in fact play a part in eating and body image disorders.
The journal explains how the use of the average model is wide spread in the media, especially among print advertisements in popular magazines. Beauty or fashion magazines use images of thin female bodies to model clothes or sell products and are viewed by women all over the world. After exposure to such advertisements a women’s body image may become distorted causing dissatisfaction with one’s own body. Popular women’s magazines are often credited for exposing unrealistic, unobtainable body images to women of all ages (Heinberg & Thompson, 1999). The overall purpose of the study done in the article was to examine the relationship between the portrayals of female body image in print advertisements found in popular women’s beauty magazines and the perceived body image of college-aged females 18-22 years old.
One specific variable that Heinberg and Thompson tested was the “internalization of societal pressures regarding prevailing standards of attractiveness” (Heinberg & Thompson, 1999), which seems to have “moderate” or even “meditate” the media’s effects on women’s body satisfaction and eating problems. Media messages that are present in media portrayals of eating disorders are obvious, which lead the researchers to try to find strategies to reverse those viewpoints. “Social activism” and “social marketing” were brought up as methods of fighting negative media messages. The researchers explained through the journal that, “the media itself is one potential vehicle for communicating productive, accurate, and deglamoratized messages about eating and body image disorders (Heinberg & Thompson, 1999).
The researchers/writers of this journal article did a good job with both the writing and the research. They accomplished what they set out to do, which was to help people become more aware about the media’s effects on people, especially women. They also helped the actual problem of eating and body image disorders through their social scientific research by adding to the research in that field, and offering suggestions for areas that could use more research. Even if the tests and surveys didn’t affect the actions of the participants, at least it opened their eyes to the fact that they were influenced by the media, or that their eating habits and self image was unhealthy and probably hurting them. I believe that the researchers feel strongly about their work, because they have other journals and research on the same topic, which they refer to throughout the article. Their research was informative and objective, it didn’t seem to be biased in any way, shape or form, and simply tried to get down to the roots of the problem of eating and body image disorders that has become such an epidemic in this country. I think they did a great job and should keep up the good work. Society needs to know what messages the media is sending to females. It is telling them that they need to be grossly thin, tall and blonde to attain beauty and sexuality, which is just impossible. Even the models themselves are airbrushed or digitally altered. Hopefully people will begin to pay more and more attention to the research that is being done on this topic, so that this epidemic will be stopped before it becomes even more deadly than it already is.
Heinburg, L. J., & Thompson, J. K. (1999). The media’s influence on body image disturbance and eating disorders: We’ve reviled them, now can we rehabilitate them? Journal of Social Issues, 55, 339-353.