Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TLC's Big Sexy

sexy: sexually attractive or exciting

A show that uplifts big, sexy women? A show that declares that women can be big, beautiful, and healthy? Is it too good to be true?

It's real! Maybe. I saw the premiere of Big Sexy tonight, and I loved it. The show has five incredible women who work in fashion in Manhattan. The first episode showcases a plus size fashion show that they managed to arrange within two weeks, and it was fabulous.

The only problem I had (which could change if I watch the episode a second time with a more critical eye) was that it opened with one of the women squeezing herself into a body shaper. The rest of the episode more than made up for it, but that part still sticks with me. It sent me the message "Hey, these women are great, but look how they try to hide the bodies they purport to love!"

If you look up the show, I'd advise checking TLC's site. Already I found several positive articles and blogs about the show, but some of the comments are disheartening at best. I encourage you to watch this show. I know I'm going to keep my eye on it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Kirstie Alley Calls Out Letterman For Telling Fat Jokes About Her

Bold: Showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

This article is about a month old, I think it deserves highlighting: Kirstie Alley Calls Out Letterman For Telling Fat Jokes About Her. The gist of the short article is that Kirstie Alley boldly went on Letterman and humorously criticized him for writing jokes about her. It always irks me when talk show hosts mock a person one night and pander to them the next--when the celebrity is on the show.

How incredibly brazen! I can't imagine doing something like that on national television, even if it were pre-approved (as some commenters suggest). I would love to see more celebrities do something like this: use a talk show host's popularity to highlight how unreasonable the host was before. Kirstie managed to point out that David Letterman was unreasonable and rude, and even he commented that they "probably" wouldn't have made fun of her if she weren't overweight.

Kudos, Kirstie! That was brilliant, and I appreciated it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reference List

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. This is the final post of my thesis.

About-Face. 2010. “Don’t fall for the media circus!” Retrieved April 20, 2010 (http://www.about-face.org).

Ahern, Amy L., Kate M. Bennett, and Marion M. Hetherington. 2008. “Internalization of the Ultra-Thin Ideal: Positive Implicit Associations with Underweight Fashion Models are Associated with Drive for Thinness in Young Women.” Eating Disorders 16 (4): 294-307.

Anderson, Daniel R., Aletha C. Huston, Kelly L. Schmitt, Deborah L. Linebarger, and John C. Wright. 2001. “IX. Self-Image: Role Model Preference And Body Image.” Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 66 (1): 108-118.

Clark, Levina and Marika Tiggemann. 2007. “Sociocultural Influences and Body Image in 9- to 12-Year-Old Girls: The Role of Appearance Schemas.” Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 36 (1): 76-86.

Clay, Daniel, Vivian L. Vignoles, and Helga Dittmar. 2005. “Body Image and Self-Esteem Among Adolescent Girls: Testing the Influence of Sociocultural Factors.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 15 (4): 451-477.

Cusumano, Dale L. and J. Kevin Thompson. 2001. “Media Influence and Body Image in 8-11-Year-Old Boys and Girls: A Preliminary Report on the Multidimensional Media Influence Scale.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 29 (1): 37-44.

Dohnt, Hayley and Marika Tiggemann. 2006. “The Contribution of Peer and Media Influences to the Development of Body Satisfaction and Self-Esteem in Young Girls: A Prospective Study.” Developmental Psychology 42 (5): 929-936.

Dohnt, Hayley K. and Marika Tiggemann. 2008. “Promoting positive body image in young girls: an evaluation of ‘Shapesville.’” European Eating Disorders Review 16 (3): 222-233.

Dove. 2010. “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Retrieved April 15, 2010 (http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com).

Fruit of the Loom. 2006. “Fruit Guy Fans.” Retrieved April 23, 2010 (http://www.fruitguyfans.com).

Herbozo, Sylvia, Stacey Tantleff-Dunn, Jessica Gokee-Larose, and J. Kevin Thompson. 2004. “Beauty and Thinness Messages in Children's Media: A Content Analysis.” Eating Disorders 12 (1): 21-34.

Kaiser Family Foundation. 2006. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.” Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved April 14, 2010 (http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010.pdf).

Lam, T.H, Stephanie Lee, Samantha Fund, S.Y. Ho, Peter W. H. Lee, and Sunita Stewart. 2009. “Sociocultural influences on body dissatisfaction and dieting in Hong Kong girls.” European Eating Disorders Review 17 (2): 152-160.

Maltby, John, David Giles, Louise Barber, and Lynn E. McCutcheon. 2005. “Intense-personal celebrity worship and body image: Evidence of a link among female adolescents.” British Journal of Health Psychology 10 (1): 17-32.

McCabe, Marita P., Lina A. Ricciardelli, Jacqueline Stanford, Kate Holt, Salley Keegan, Louise Miller. 2007. “Where is all the pressure coming from? Messages from mothers and teachers about preschool children's appearance, diet and exercise.” European Eating Disorders Review 15 (3): 221-230.

McNicholas, Fiona, Alma Lydon, Ruth Lennon, and Barbara Dooley. 2009. “Eating concerns and media influences in an Irish adolescent context.” European Eating Disorders Review 17 (3): 208-213.

National Eating Disorders Association. 2010. “National Eating Disorders Association.” Retrieved April 20, 2010 (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/programs-events/media-watchdog.php).

Smeesters, Dirk and Naomi Mandel. 2006. “Positive and Negative Media Image Effects on the Self.” Journal of Consumer Research 32 (4): 576-582.

Thompson, J. Kevin and Leslie Heinberg. 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 (2): 339-353.

Tiggermann, Marika and Amanda S. Pickering. 1996. “Role of television in adolescent women's body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 20 (2): 199-203.

Redefining Beauty: Conclusion

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. I apologize for the delay; I've been out of town but have returned finally. This is the final section of my thesis. References will be posted tomorrow, and normal posting will resume later this week.

Continued Education
Therefore, it is important not only to educate girls at a young age, but also to continue the education at length. Programs such as Shapesville have shown that it is possible to raise self-esteem and to convey positive body messages. As Dohnt and Tiggemann (2008) agree, “programs that target media internalisation [sic] at a young age are warranted, and the results of the present study indicate that Shapesville successfully achieve this aim” (231). However, one brief session is unlikely to last for a lifetime of positive body images. Just as a person cannot take one foreign language course and expect to become fluent, a girl cannot take one self-esteem enrichment course and expect to accept her body and change her perspective.

Long-Term Goals
As aforementioned, if a female adolescent perceives thinness to be beauty and to lead to happiness, she will go to great lengths. This is unfortunate because some girls will develop eating disorders to achieve this goal. Female adolescents who are unable to attain the unrealistic definition of beauty will be likely to yield to low self-esteem. Conversely, if the definition of beauty is redefined so as to include a broader base of women—hopefully women of all types of beauty—female adolescents will be able to accept themselves, to have higher self-esteem, and to have higher body satisfaction to avoid drastic measures, such as eating disorders or body alterations. If programs like the Real Campaign for Beauty and educational tools like Shapesville become more prominent, the definition of beauty within our culture has the ability to change. Although the change would not likely happen over night or even within a few years, the next generation of female adolescents has the potential to live in a world without bias toward thinness, to consider themselves as beautiful as anyone else, and to achieve the high self-esteem that they need to be happy, healthy, and confident.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Positive Programs to Enhance Self-Esteem: Part 3

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. I apologize for the delay; I've been out of town and still am.

About-Face, an organization whose mission is “to imbue girls and women with the power to free themselves from the burden of body-image problems so they will be capable of fulfilling their varied and wondrous potentials,” goes a step beyond the NEDA’s Media Watchdog program: this organization provides a “gallery of offenders” and “gallery of winners” and encourage viewers to contact the people, programs, or companies in question (About-Face 2010). On the website’s blog, the organization writes articles regarding the latest offender or winner. Although the group may seem radical in its approach to changing the media, they do also advocate media literacy and provide a wealth of resources to enhance viewers’ media literacy, ranging in topic from articles about body image and obesity to cosmetic surgery and eating disorders (About-Face 2010).

Shapesville, written by Andy Mills and Becky Osborn and illustrated by Erica Neitz, “is a children’s picture book that has simple, rhyming sentences and bright illustrations to engage the children in the story and make the program developmentally appropriate” and that “celebrates positive body image by encouraging self-acceptance and diversity” (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008:224). The short book teaches girls how to care for their bodies and minds. Readers learn about the five food groups to build strong bodies and about special talents to build self-esteem. One study in Australian private schools showed that girls who were read Shapesville could list the food groups and were more willing and able to list special skills or talents they possessed (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008). This newfound ability to recognize what set them apart from the crowd is important for their self-esteem.

Unfortunately, due at least in part to the aforementioned proponents of negative body image, at the six week follow-up, most girls were no longer internalizing the positive body image lessons for appearance satisfaction as they had reported after the end of the reading session, but they did retain knowledge of accepting others regardless of appearance and of remembering five food groups, which previously none of the girls could recite entirely (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008). While each could recall at minimum a vague understanding of what she learned, most regressed to the same low self-esteem she had shown before. Moreover at followup, the girls reported that they no longer wanted to look like television or pop stars as they had before reading Shapesville, an important factor in determining a female adolescent’s willingness to internalize media image and to succumb to low self-esteem or poor body image (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008:229; Maltby, Giles, and Barber 2005:28). Assuming that a girls’ environment plays an important part in maintaining her negative body image, it would follow that replacing her into such an environment without continual education and support would minimize the effects of a one-time program.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Positive Programs to Enhance Self-Esteem: Part 2

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper.

Dove is conducting the most pervasive program to promote positive body images. In September 2004, Dove launched the Campaign for Real Beauty (Dove 2010). Dove discontinued using ultrathin models to opt for more realistic, healthy-looking women for their commercials. Although it has been nearly ten years from inception, the Campaign for Real Beauty continues to display healthy women in commercials featuring products such as deodorant and body lotion. The Dove website explains that every purchase of a Dove product goes toward the Dove Self-Esteem Fund that supports programs for the Campaign for Real Beauty. Using the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, Dove is able to produce television advertisements that educate the public on how marketing companies use air-brushing and computer-enhancing programs to create unrealistic ideals that bombard female adolescents (Dove 2010).

After the introduction of the Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove delved into a more active role in helping young women to realize their own beauty. Dove achieves this is by partnering with the Girl Scouts of the USA to spread the positive body message. The program targets girls between the ages of eight and seventeen and consists of self-esteem boosting workshops, culminating in a ceremony in which the girls promise to love themselves and their bodies (Dove 2010). Dove’s program, Uniquely ME!, shows girls the difference between reality and the Hollywood perception of beauty. The girls are able to see how computers can alter images so that the images no longer contain real women; workshop participants have the opportunity to see unaltered photographs of models beside the computer-enhanced images and to discern the differences between the two (Dove 2010). On the website, parents can download free self-esteem tools to continue building the self-esteem of their daughters.

National Eating Disorders Association
Girl Scouts of the USA also offered to collaborate with another group: the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). The Girl Scouts of the USA authored a piece of federal legislation, HR 4925, the Healthy Media for Youth Act, and requested that the NEDA become a partner in this initiative:
NEDA partnered with Girl Scouts of the USA, the bill author, on the initiative, which states that the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, shall review, synthesize, and conduct or support research on the role and impact that media has on diet, nutrition, exercise, body image, and eating. If passed, the bill will also authorize research on how food marketing and obesity campaigns affect girls' and boys' image, nutrition, and exercise, especially among eating-disordered youth populations. (National Eating Disorders Association 2010)
On March 24, 2010, HR 4925 has been referred to the Subcommittee on House Energy and Commerce, where it has remained for the last month. Recently passed legislation, HR 35902, should assist in furthering the efforts of the Girl Scouts and the NEDA by providing more information to the public on the nutritional contents of their meals.

Furthermore, the NEDA works hard to combat negative body images in the media in hopes of preventing young women from turning to eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Uniquely, the NEDA asks the public to take an active role in contacting the media to let stations, networks, and corporations know that no longer with the American public accept the use of unhealthy models in commercials and shows. The NEDA’s Media Watchdog Program, created in 1997, provides helpful links for readers, such as “What to Look for in the Media,” to assist United States citizens in making the media aware of their concerns in an educated, informed manner (National Eating Disorders Association 2010). The website boasts that “over half of the protested advertisements have been discontinued” (National Eating Disorders Association 2010).

In addition, the NEDA website contains an impressive array of educational tools for children, parents, teachers, and concerned viewers who want to make a difference in what the media portrays to young girls. The resources pages include information to target demographic groups by gender, age, and profession so that viewers may streamline their experience on the website and find information quickly and easily. Aside from general educational information, viewers may watch videos regarding eating disorders or attend webinars, interactive seminars provided through a combination of webcam usage and chat rooms (National Eating Disorders Association 2010). The NEDA is committed to providing accurate information so that people of all ages and occupations can become media literate (to understand the unrealistic images projected through the media) and improve the body image concepts presented in the media by voicing concern.

2HR 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, includes a section entitled “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants” that will force restaurants with over twenty chain establishments to provide nutritional information to patrons in an easy to understand and readily accessible format.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Positive Programs to Enhance Self-Esteem: Part 1

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper.

Social marketing (the idea to make the marketing industry more socially relevant) does not necessarily have to use the media to challenge or to change the messages; support groups, families, and peers can and should be used, as well (Thompson and Heinberg 1999:349; NEDA). Thompson and Heinberg enumerate four key issues that these groups could target to work toward redefining beauty:
  1. Preventing the behaviors that result from internalization of media images
  2. Promoting internalization of positive, healthy norms that are present and promoted by the media
  3. Informing consumers of strategies used to perpetuate unreasonable norms (e.g., airbrushed photos, computer-modified images, etc.)
  4. Providing information about the negative correlates of extreme weight loss behaviors (1999:349)
Several groups, some of which do work directly through the media and some of which take a more grass-roots approach by working with families, have sought to do this and continue to make great strides in correcting the damage done to female adolescents’ self-esteem as described below.

Fruit of the Loom
In 2009, Fruit of the Loom produced a commercial portraying healthy, moderately-sized women. The women are wearing Fruit of the Loom Fit-for-Me undergarments, a line designed for “full-figured women” (Fruit of the Loom 2006). A voiceover sings a lyric created specifically for the commercial: “There’s a smile that you show me, pulls me closer to you / As the moonlight reflects in your eyes / And the touch of your hand, dear, enchants me, romances me / Let’s leave the rest of the world far behind” (Fruit of the Loom 2006). The image is heartwarming until the audience learns that the voiceover is one of a group of men wearing giant fruit costumes known as The Fruit Guys. At this point, the commercial becomes a farce; all other commercials featuring the giant fruit are comical, and that perception bleeds into what could have resulted in positive body messages. Furthermore, the addition of the “Fit for Me” sign at the end of the commercial denotes that the women were used because they are full-sized women and not simply because they are beautiful models. Still, the commercial is a positive change from other Fruit of the Loom commercials which continue to show only underweight, scantily-clad models.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Negative Effects on Adolescent Self-Esteem: Part 3

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. Today's post is actually one of the more upsetting parts of the paper, in my opinion.

Impact of Children’s Movies and Literature
Perhaps more disturbing than images in commercials or programs for young adults which may inadvertently affect pre-adolescents are messages engrained in movies and literature made specifically for children. Many of the “classics” contain negative and detrimental body messages. A study by Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, and Thompson undertook a content analysis of the top twenty-five children’s films and twenty children’s books. The researchers made an interesting discovery:
In many of the classic videos (60%), a character’s love for another character depends on his or her physical appearance. For example, the prince in Cinderella invites the “beautiful” maiden to a ball so he could select his bride. Also, in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast, a female’s appearance attracts a male who is unaware of her other qualities until after falling in love with her. This suggests that his initial attraction is based on her appearance. (Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, and Thompson 2004:27)
In fact, in both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the leading female characters are in a deep sleep (after having been cursed by witches) when the male hero rescues them with a kiss. The men are presumed to have fallen in love with the women for their beauty before they even hear the women’s voices.

Even Beauty and the Beast, a story about a bibliophile who falls in love with her beastly captor after making a deal to keep her at the Beast’s castle to bargain for the life of her father, has the stereotypical happy ending of the Beast, a hideous creature, returning to this handsome state as a wealthy prince. The story has a positive message when Belle looks beyond the Beast’s appearance to see the gentleness within him, but the message is dashed when we realize that the Beast was a handsome fellow who had been cursed by an ugly hag. We pity the man who loses his attractiveness yet condemn the witch who cast a spell to make him as unattractive on the outside as he was on the inside.

In general, beauty was equated with happiness, love, kindness, and other positive characteristics; conversely, ugliness alluded to trickery, malcontent, and negative characteristics. Symbolically, beauty evoked thoughts of positivity while ugliness (anything that did not fit within the narrow definition of beauty as thinness) lead to negativity. Furthermore, while female physical attractiveness and having a slender body creates an image with positive characteristics, obesity is associated with “negative traits in 64% of the children’s videos and 20% of the books” and “obese characters are commonly depicted as evil, unattractive, unfriendly and cruel” (Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, and Thompson 2004:27). Another feature of the study revealed that none of the films and only one of the books depicted exercise as a form of losing weight (28-29). Interestingly, it would seem that the media suggest that people are naturally thin as a manifestation of their good qualities, and obese people are cursed to remain overweight due to inherent, bad qualities.

Three movies that did not have as much negative stereotyping were E.T., Indian in the Cupboard, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, three of only six non-animated film from the top twenty-five list (Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, and Thompson 2004). Unlike most of the other films, which revolved around beautiful men and women (or female and male animals) falling in love, E.T., Indian in the Cupboard, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory focus their attention on children as opposed to adult relationships. This could suggest that films created specifically for children about children are less likely than the others to perpetuate the negative stereotypes. This would imply that although the symbol of beauty affects young children, it is not meant to affect them necessarily. Children are not expected to conform to the ideals of beauty, yet they must understand the ideals so that they can portray them when they are older.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Negative Effects on Adolescent Self-Esteem: Part 2

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper.

Impact of Body Distortion
In fact, some girls develop distorted images of the differences between underweight and normal weight bodies.1 One study illustrated this concept by showing young girls images of underweight, normal weight, and overweight girls (Ahern, Bennett, and Hetherington):
Participants labelled [sic] many of the underweight images as “normal weight.” This supports the idea that women’s concept of normal weight has shifted so that they accept increasingly thin ideal as representing the norm. This is further confirmed by the observation that two of the images of normal weight women were consistently labelled [sic] as “overweight.” However, there was consensus (over 85%) on 5 of the underweight women. (2008:298)
As described, many of the underweight images were marked as “normal weight” by the participants. Perhaps more telling of body image distortion is that at least ten percent of the “normal weight” images were consistently marked as being “overweight” (Ahern, Bennett, and Hetherington 2008:298).

Moreover, girls use this distortion, along with the notion that thinness leads to happiness, to determine that thin girls have more friends. A study by Dohnt and Tiggeman involved showing pictures of underweight/normal weight duos and normal weight/overweight pairs to pre-adolescent girls (2008:225). The girls were asked to choose which girl would have more friends and which one they would most like to play with. They had the option of choosing one of the girls or both for their responses. Unsurprisingly, the girls suggested that the normal girls would have more friends than the overweight girls and that they would prefer to play with the normal weight ones. No statistical significance existed between the normal weight and underweight duos, for the girls seemed to choose both to have more friends and would choose both or either for play (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008:227).

1Underweight, normal weight, and overweight are based on Body Mass Index, BMI, a calculation based on height and weight—BMI = [(weight in pounds * 703) / (height in inches)2]—and endorsed by World Health Organization and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The definitions used here are Underweight = under 18.5, Normal weight = 18.5-24.9, Overweight = 25 and above.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Negative Effects on Adolescent Self-Esteem: Part 1

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper.

Impact of the Media
While one must recognize that correlation does not necessarily or immediately prove causation, multiple studies have shown a link between media viewing and distorted body image and/or body dissatisfaction for young, female adolescents both within the United States and throughout much of the developed world (Cusumano and Thompson 2001; Thompson and Heinberg 1999; Tiggemann and Pickering 1999; Maltby, Giles, Barber, and McCutcheon 2005; McNicholas, Fiona, Alma Lydon, Ruth Lennon, and Barbara Dooley 2009). Most models and actresses on television are not representative of the population in terms of body size or weight; many are underweight (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger, and Wright 2001). Girls are bombarded with these distorted images and tend to take them as reality. Even if a child can distinguish that television shows are fiction, she may not realize that the body images projected are fiction, as well. In fact, 35% of adolescent girls named a person from entertainment media, sports, or public life as a role model in one study (Anderson, Daniel R., Aletha C. Huston, Kelly L. Schmitt, Deborah L. Linebarger, and John C. Wright 2001:115). It is apparent that negative body image is an epidemic. Therefore, helping women rebuild their battered body image is an essential part of strengthening society.

Moreover, one experiment showed that certain body types affect young women differently (Smeesters and Mandel 2006). Women who viewed extreme body types, either thin or obese, were more likely to suffer from negative feelings of self-esteem. However, women who viewed body types that were moderately thin or moderately overweight reported higher self-esteem because of upward comparison (Smeesters and Mandel 2006). Additionally, “exposure to moderately thin (but not extremely thin) model has a positive impact on one’s self-esteem” (Smeesters and Mandel 2006:581). One might make the suggestion from this evidence that the media should consider using moderately-sized women in their programming to avoid feelings of self dissatisfaction among young female viewers. This measure would help to extend the definition of beauty to at least healthy but thin women.

Impact of Parents and Peers
Of course, media are not the only proponents of negative body image in female adolescents (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2006; Clay, Vignoles, and Dittmar 2005). While the media may be the largest or most visible perpetuator of negative body images, a female adolescent’s family, friends, and peers often help to reinforce the negativity in her life (Lam, Lee, Fund, Ho, Lee, and Stewart 2009; Clark and Tiggemann 2007). McCabe, Ricciardelli, Stanford, Holt, Keegan, Miller studied the roles of mothers and teachers on children’s body appearance satisfaction (2007). While teacher’s reported minimizing discussion with students regarding the students’ appearance, mothers admitted to being more critical of their daughters than their sons and were vocal about the criticisms, both to the interview and to their children:
In fact, mothers promoted exercise as a means of weight control for girls. Even if this was not overtly stated to the girls, the consistent view of the mothers was that their daughters needed to exercise so that they would become fit, and not become overweight. Even at this young age, mothers are already communicating different messages to boys and girls. (McCabe, Ricciardelli, Stanford, Holt, Keegan, Miller 2007:228)
Whenever the mothers commented on exercise for the boys, they intended the boys to exercise to gain muscle rather than lose or maintain weight (McCabe, Ricciardelli, Stanford, Holt, Keegan, Miller 2007:228). One must note that the mothers of these girls were likely indoctrinated with the idea of thinness is beauty and are socializing their children in the same way that they would teach their children about any other aspect of their culture.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Introduction to Adolescent Influences

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. Today's post is the opening section.

In 2009, American children and adolescents between the ages of eight and eighteen watched more than forty hours of television per week (Kaiser Family Foundation 2006). This information would suggest that television would have a significant influence on children, particularly when considering that children only spend around thirty hours a week in the classroom (assuming a six-hour instructional period for five days a week). As Tiggemann and Pickering (1996) state, “it is difficult to believe that a medium which gets so much exposure will not have an influence on the minds of young women” (202). The rest of the time outside of school, sleep, and television is spent with friends and family, two important peer groups in an adolescent’s life. Many television shows portray women who are unrealistic at best and air-brushed at worst. Female adolescents tend to internalize these messages and attempt to become like the unhealthy women. Although the media have played a major role in creating a deficit in the self-esteem of female adolescents, it is possible to rebuild positive self-esteem through workshops, programs, educational tools, and familial support to remind young girls that beauty can be redefined.

Definition of Terms: Self-Esteem and Body Image
The definition of “self-esteem” as used in this paper will incorporate two specific terms in a sociological context: self-esteem and body image. Random House Dictionary describes self-esteem as “a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself”; however, such a definition is too broad for the scope of this paper. Merriam Webster describes body image as “a subjective picture of one's own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others,” which is not quite broad enough. Because self-esteem is a measure of one’s entire self-worth, it encompasses body image, an important factor for determining how media and other groups affect the self-esteem of female adolescents. Therefore, the definition of “self-esteem” will refer to “a subjective interpretation of oneself (physically and cognitively), determined at least in part by noting the reactions of others and internalizing such outside influences.”

Introduction of Theory: Symbolic Interactionism
Two major concepts from symbolic interactionists heavily influence the research of this paper: the definition of the situation and significant symbols. William Isaac (better known as W.I.) and his wife Dorothy Thomas proposed the definition of the situation, or Thomas Theorem, that if a person perceives a situation to be real, it is real in its consequences. In Don Quixote, the lead character reads novels about heroics and chivalry, believing every fictional act to be true. Because he believes them to be true, he then believes that he, too, can achieve such feats and drives himself mad by completing various quests. George Herbert Mead conceived the idea of significant symbols, which are symbols that create a specific similar response from various people. Language is a critical significant symbol. For instance, if a person screams “Duck!” everyone in the area will cower and look around them for a flying object. If the screamer has saved a person, they will be thanked. If the screamer was simply yelling for no purpose, they will be admonished. Similarly, in this context, if female adolescents perceive that beauty (meaning thinness) will lead to happiness, popularity, and love, they will go to great lengths to attain the beauty.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Redefining Beauty

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. Today I'll begin with my abstract.

The current definition of beauty is far too narrow. American society dictates that a woman is only beautiful if she is thin, regardless of any other characteristics she may possess. In fact, most people assume that a thin (beautiful) woman will have positive characteristics, such as kindness, whereas overweight (or even normal weight) women will have negative characteristics, such as cruelty. The media supports this notion by utilizing women in commercials and on television programs who are underweight.

Unfortunately, female adolescents do not realize that the women on television are not realistic or representative portrayals of the female population. They perceive that the women are appropriately-sized and that such a size will lead to happiness, so they must suffer the consequences: low body satisfaction, poor self-esteem, and sometimes eating disorders.

Surprisingly, a movement has arisen within the past decade to combat this epidemic. Organizations like the National Eating Disorder Association and companies like Dove are working to combat the negativity that the media projects onto young girls. They provide information, workshops, and constant support if the parents or teachers would become involved.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Friend Makin' Mondays: Girly Stuff

Friend Makin' Mondays is a regular feature from All the Weigh, a blog which I heartily recommend! If you'd like to participate, please visit her blog and leave a comment including or linking to your responses.

1. Do you like to shop? Sometimes, unless I encounter something like the Old Navy fiasco from a couple days ago. Now that I know what kinds of clothes will fit and which brands are better at providing fashionable clothes for bigger women, I enjoy it more.

2. How often do you wear makeup? Not often. If I find myself with extra time in the mornings, I might put on mascara and eyeliner, but that's atypical. Usually I only wear makeup when I want to look particularly nice.

3. How do you feel about nail polish? I wish I were better about wearing it, but it's such a hassle to me. I dislike the process of removing it and then having to repaint every week just because the paint's starting to chip or my nails are growing out.

4. Do you consider yourself to be a feminist? Absolutely! People tend to misunderstand (and misappropriate) this term to suggest that all feminists actively fight "the man" and men in general. Also, some people think that feminists look down on housewives and stay-at-home moms. In truth, most feminists today think that it's all about choice: If you choose to be a housewife or SAHM, that's great! The problem arises when women aren't given a choice.

5. What’s your biggest challenge as a woman? What a peculiar question. I suppose my biggest challenge is fighting the societal expectations of what it means to be a woman. I'm thoroughly upset when people suggest that my life must be lacking because I'm "not a mom" or comment how I'll "make a great mom" or "be a great wife" someday. While I respect that many women choose to marry and bear children, I hate having to explain why I don't already have a husband or kids and then being berated for it.

6. Do you wear skirts and dresses? I'd like to wear more skirts and dresses, but I lack good/appropriate shoes to go with them. Right now, I'm still in jeans mode.

7. How do you feel about high heels? I'm convinced that the right pair would make me fall in love with heels. That said, I haven't found them. I'll keep looking!

8. Do you subscribe to magazines? No. I find that most articles I would want are available online.

9. Do you shave your legs/wax/use depilatory creams or go au naturale? In winter, I only shave my legs if I need to wear a skirt or a dress for an event. It gets really cold, and any extra layer helps. In the spring, summer, and fall, I shave more frequently depending on the temperature. Once every week or two is my summer norm.

10. What do you like most about being a woman? Being able to wear what I want and pursue my dreams without being labeled in the same way that men are. Granted, women don't have very many advantages in this society, but we do have a little more freedom when it comes to doing what we love.