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.