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Unattainable ideals Paper

Words: 730, Paragraphs: 11, Pages: 3

Paper type: Essay , Subject: Body Image

Despite the health risks of some procedures, cosmetic surgery has boomed in commercial cultures. In Brazil the number of plastic surgery procedure jumped between 1996 and 1999 by 50 percent, to three hundred thousand, with the majority for purely aesthetic reasons. (Guernsey 2006, p. 180). In the United States the number of women who had breast enlargement surgery increased from thirty thousand in 1992 to eighty seven thousand in 1997.

While number of men getting tummy tucks and nose reduction also increased, women represent 86 percent of the total 7. 4 million cosmetic surgeries performed in the United States.Outside the West as well, women now go to great lengths to conform to a white, Western physical ideal. Young women in East (Guernsey 2006, p. 181). Asia undergo cosmetic surgery to create creased eyelids, while in China dieting has become a fad for urban teenage girls. With raising standards of living and an expanding market for beauty products, the Chinese body ideal has changed from large to small, “When I was young, people admired and were even jealous of fat people since they thought they had a better life,” the manager of a Chinese weight loss center recalled. She explained in 1999 that fat is now considered “awful.” Binge eating is commonly connected to bulimia, with cycles of binge eating and vomiting closely intertwined (Blackburn et.

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al 2006, p.


It is also commonly connected with the culture of being overly concerned of “looking fat” that is initiated by family, friends and the media (Guernsey 2006, p. 181). The extent to which women feel dissatisfaction with their physical appearance is evident by adolescence. In the contemporary United States over half of thirteen-year-old girls and three-quarters of eighteen-year-old girls express dissatisfaction with their bodies.A 1986 study found that 70 percent of fourth-grade girls reported concern about their weight and that about half of them dieted. By age eighteen 60 to 80 percent of Americans girls, but only 15 percent of boys, had been on diets. According to British therapist Susie Orbach, up to 60 percent of six-to-nine-year-old girls worry about their body shape and size.

(Liu Yufanf, 1999, p.

23) A study of both white and Asian girls in Great Britain revealed that a preoccupation with thinness among nine-year-old girls had a direct beating on the development of eating disorders.Liu Yufang, a diminutive young woman in China, expressed the sentiments behind this widespread phenomenon: “I always want to lose weight. Everyone I knew is trying to be thinner. ” Women who do not meet the standards of the ultra-thin models are more than likely to compare their own bodies to those of the thin models in advertisements. According to Gayle R. Bassenoff, author of this study, “Women who already have low opinions of their physical appearance are at an even greater risk for negative effects from media images. ” (Liu Yufanf, 1999, p. 24)Distorted body image is the result of comparison with unattainable ideals.

This motivates people on the preoccupation with dieting.

Three quarters of a large sample of American women considered themselves fat, even though one-quarter were not technically overweight and an-other 30 percent were actually underweight. Of those now diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia in the United States, 90 percent are female. Obsessed with the intake of food and control of their weight, these women can lose more than 25 percent of their body weight, either through dieting and exercise of through eating bingers followed by purging.Long-term effects include loss of bone density and heart problems. Some, such as singer Karen Carpenter and gymnast Christy Henrich, have literally starved themselves to death. Although the anorectic women are usually portrayed as a white, middle-class American, other women are by no means immune from eating problems.

In the United States, Becky W.

Thompson argues, Latina and African American women may use food to anesthetize the traumas of racism and poverty.Between one-thirds of the American women of color she studied had been sexually abused, and Thompson found that these women were likely to dissociate from their bodies. As one of her subjects, Rosalee, put it, “dieting is one of those last-ditch efforts to make everything all right in your life when that is not the cause of the problem to begin with. ” Dieting, Thompson suggested, provided a way to transform the abused body, while purging represented a rejection of the body held responsible for its own abuse (Media’s Effect on Body Image).

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This sample essay is completed by Harper, a Social Sciences student. She studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. All the content of this paper is just her opinion on Unattainable ideals and should not be seen as the way of presenting the arguments.

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