The Media's Effect on Women's Body Image

Topics: Eating Disorder

If one were to turn on their television today, they would be swarmed with images of unbelievably skinny women. From the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”, to online images of extremely thin models, the media does a fantastic job of portraying skinny women with an “ideal” body shape in lead roles and on the front pages. The media’s promotion of unrealistic body images negatively affects women’s self-esteem and body perception which effects their mental and physical health. Research has proven the relationship between media images and eating disorders in women.

For example, on the island of Fiji, a trend was noticed between the amount of media influence and the amount of eating disorders on the island. Prior to 1995, and before widespread media influence, Fiji only had one reported case of anorexia. By 1998, dieting rates skyrocketed from 0% to 69% after watching the thin actors on Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, two of the most popular shows there at the time.

Due to similar cases, many studies have been done to test the relationship between media exposure and the rates of eating disorders. The results show that exposure to media such as soap operas, movies, and music videos have proven to lead to higher percentages of body dissatisfaction and desire to be thin” The media not only has an effect on women’s physical health, it has been proved to have an effect on their body image as well. Mass media is constantly present via: ” television and movies, magazines, and advertisements” .

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All of this media influence can become detrimental to a woman’s self-esteem, defined as ”..a person’s general sense of worth or acceptance, is recognized for the critical role it plays in mental health and psychopathy”.

Through many studies in the past years, Polce-Lynch says “Connections have been made between media’s influence and negative psychological impact. These include eating disorders, body image problems, and the construction of negative gender stereotypes“. Media has a very large impact on women’s mental health leading to body image problems and low self-esteem these are quite detrimental especially when there is nothing to override the medias countless images of thin women. However, arguments have been made that the media does not have to have such a harsh effect on women physically and mentally. Although it has been shown in many instances that media is capable of having a severe effect on women’s physical and mental health, experts argue that the media are blamed much of the time for promoting images that make women feel badly about themselves and their body image.

This view can be too simplistic because women do not have to subject themselves to these images. It is completely voluntary, and sometimes exposure to these images can be pleasurable and do not lead to eating disorders in most women. However, this view is telling how to avoid the risks that come with media by avoiding the media and all the images of thin women that come with it, an impossible feat in today’s advanced and technological world. Media influence can be found almost anywhere, from television to magazines to the internet and more. All of the images promoted of excessively thin women can have a harsh effect on women’s physical and mental health. These images lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem, body images problems, extreme drive for thinness, and more negative results. If the media were to portray images of women with a realistic body shape, or a variety of different body shapes, most likely, fewer of these health problems for women would be concern today.

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The Media's Effect on Women's Body Image. (2023, Feb 22). Retrieved from

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