The Effect of Gender on Body Image Essay Example

Nowadays, we put a lot of efforts to correspond beauty standards. Depending on our kind of image, we occupy a certain position in society. Succumbing to cultural pressure, trying to get a thin “ideal” body, especially for woman means facing the risks of developing mental disorders like low self-esteem, eating disorder, anorexia, and depressive symptoms. As media spreads the message of how the world has to be, it mentally suppresses the manifestations of variety. Attractive people are less often found guilty, receive higher salaries and get more inclined, get more favorable reaction and the privilege of “beautiful is good” stereotype (Fox & Kate, 1997). Statistics shows that most people follow the social understanding of beauty that is based on the view that thinness is the main component of ideal looking.

A Harvard University study showed that up to two thirds of underweight 12-year-old girls considered themselves to be too fat. By 13, at least 50% of girls are significantly unhappy about their appearance. By 14, focused, specific dissatisfactions have intensified, particularly concerning hips and thighs. By 17, only 3 out of 10 girls have not been on a diet – up to 8 out of 10 will be unhappy with what they see in the mirror. (Fox & Kate, 1997)

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The picture of beauty becomes more and more extreme regarding thinness with time. By now, women have to weight 23 % less than in the 19th century. It will go on until we review our own attitude.

Race plays an important role in self-identification. Comparing body image among the women of African-American, Asian, and Caucasian origin, studies show that Caucasians prefer a smaller ideal body size and have more disordered eating behaviors as well as more body discrepancy than African-Americans or Asian-Americans. Caucasian woman are more dissatisfied with their body image than other ethnic groups. “While young Caucasian women were affected more by anorexia and bulimia, African-American women were more likely to be affected by binge eating disorder. According to past studies, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are up to six times more prevalent in white women than black women. The new study revealed a strong indication that racial preferences in regards to body perception may affect the incidence of eating disorders.” African-Americans had a larger body size than Asians and Caucasians, but later the rate of it lost significance. It is likely that African-American women are more satisfied with their larger bodies, because they experience less pressure for thinness within their culture. “In one study, Euro-American men chose significantly thinner female figures and reported wishing their girlfriends would lose weight, more so than did African American men” (Greenber & LaPorte, 1996). Powell and Kahn (1995) found that black and white men selected a similar size attractive female figure, yet black men reported greater willingness to date women with a larger body size and felt less concerned than white men that they would be criticized for doing so.

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Men and woman are not equally concerned about their appearance, because female beauty standard is narrower. For comparison, females of almost all ages try to comply with beauty standards, and males usually pay attention to their appearance when they get first signs of aging. In both cases, they are trying to look younger while young girls try to become more attractive and mature.

The concept of ideal body image is a template that generates media culture. We can see pictures of people of all ages, and they draw our attention visually by their model look. Mass media usually send us only unrealistic and unattainable image of women that are underweight. This image thus effects women’s attitude and changes opinions about their own bodies, because these images push people to comparison. Nearly 2 % of all women correspond to this body image.

The danger of beauty standard perception is that people who often look at these images subconsciously start feeling themselves unworthy or even worse than people from those pictures. It changes not only the opinion about their own body, but make people set priority of good-looking on the first stage. Of course, it entails bad consequences. At least, they stay themselves but dissatisfied about how they look; at worst, they can get impaired health.
I think people should rethink their submissions about beauty, reject racial prejudices, change media perceptions about the world, and extend the way we see the world as the media is one of the most important translators of sexualizing images. For instance, it is not normal if we remark any kind objectification on TV, in music videos, video games, movies, music lyrics, the Internet, magazines, and billboards that first and foremost forms our subconscious view of ourselves. Adults can suffer while conforming younger beauty standards that also increases the rates of sexual harassment, violence, demands, and child pornography.

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Also, we should rethink what moral values are laid in educational process. For example, parents may contribute to sexualization maintaining an attractive physical appearance more than achieving success in learning, allowing to buy clothes designed to look physically appealing which may be imposed by teen-magazines, etc. On the contrary, parents should stop the intention of children’s self-objectification speaking about the consequences. We also should pay attention to self-objectification and deal with it through the discussion with close people; if you are deadlocked with any question, refer to a specialist. Being a black woman, I consider that fighting discrimination is still relevant until all prejudices, hostility, doubts, and stereotypes disappear and until we learn how to recognize and deal with media impositions, manipulations, different cases of physical and emotional violence, etc.

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