Victoria’s Dirty Secret

With the Victoria Secret Fashion Show right around the corner, the effect that the “angels” of Victoria’s Secret have on viewers’ body image needs to be discussed.  Every year, people all over the world watch this fashion show and compare themselves to the almost unattainable goals of the Victoria Secret Fashion Models.  Every year, the Victoria Secret Fashion show airs; and every year men drool at the “perfect” models and women become more and more self-conscious of their bodies.

I am guilty of watching the fashion show every year, and I am also guilty of feeling bad about my body once the show has finishe2013_victorias_secret_fashiond.  Reading all of the tweets, Facebook posts, and comments on these models has inspired me to finally take a stand against this show.  Emily Wilson, a fellow blogger, posted some tweets that she saw on her timeline about the VS Angels.  They include:

“Time to starve because VS Fashion Show is the 10th!”

“Nothing can make me feel so inferior as a woman than looking at pictures of VS Angels.”

“Like I don’t even feel upset that I don’t look like a VS Model, I feel suicidal.”

“RIP self esteem.”

These tweets portray the self-esteem issues that individuals have due to the fashion show.  As a curvy woman, I am able to back up the feelings of inadequacy and insufficiency after watching this show and looking at the “beautiful” models by society’s standards.  They have gorgeous faces, flat stomachs, long limbs, and perfect smiles.  In last year’s VS Fashion Show, Angel Adriana Lima stated that her routine before the show consisted of not eating any solid food for 9 days before the show, working out twice a day, and drinking a gallon of water a day.  For the majority of the population that have jobs, families, and other responsibilities, this is not a normal lifestyle.  However, individuals still feel the need to attain the body that the VS Angels have.   This unattainability creates self-criticism and a lowered self-esteem for curvier women, especially.

The media portraying these Angels as perfect, beautiful, and flawless enhances the typical body ideal, which according to Smeesters (2009) is not attainable for nearly 98% of the population (p.932).  The media’s pressure for all women to look like this, even when unattainable, is wreaking havoc on female self-esteem and pressuring women to go on dangerous diets to change their body shape.  In a study done by Smeester (2009) titled, The Effects of Thin and Heavy Image on Overweight and Underweight Consumers, it was found that the sociocultural norms that we have created as a society on thinness have a significant impact on women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies.  These Victoria Secret Angels reinforce this “thinness= beauty” ideal that society has created.  This study also came to the conclusion that exposure to images like the Victoria Secret Angels leads women in our society to measure their self-worth by their appearance.

While thinner girls are also impacted heavily by these models, curvier girls have a larger speedbump to overcome in order to obtain higher self-esteem.  For some curvy girls, they will never have the flat stomach or perfect curves that these Victoria Secret Angels have, which could lead them to have even lower self-confidence.

Once reading these blog posts and scholarly article, I have realized that I do not need to be striving to be an Angel.  Each person is beautiful the exact way that they are, and should not feel bad about themselves based on what our society tells us.

Men and women need to realize that these Victoria Secret Angels are not the norm; nor will they ever be.  Yes, the Angels should be idolized for their success, self-confidence, and happiness in their own skin.  However, the population needs to start focusing on this aspect of the Angels, rather than the beauty and “skinny” aspect.

Curvy women are beautiful. Skinny women are beautiful.  Larger men are beautiful. Muscular men are beautiful.  Victoria Secret Angels are beautiful. It should not matter what the size of our clothes are.  Beauty needs to start being determined from our character.

Don’t Strive to be G.I. Joe

G.I. Joe is an action-hero figure that many individuals grew up with, especially boys.  Just as the Barbie doll has been an iconic toy in our culture, G.I Joe has been just as important within our society.  Intern Counselor, Marc Silva, at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, posted a personal article onto their Student Resources page in order to help students’ receive counseling.  His article is titled, “Body Image Dissatisfaction: A Growing Concern Among Men.”  Silva reports on multiple statistics and issues that are facing men- especially body image.  He states, “Over the past 20 years, the G.I. Joe toys have grown more muscular and currently have sharper muscle definition.”  Thousands of curvier males grew up with this G.I. Joe action figure, which could give them an unrealistic and unhealthy image for themselves.

With G.I. Joe as their role mode, more and more male and female individuals are putting themselves at risk in order to look like this action figure.  For instance, G.I. Joe Extreme action figure, if extrapolated to a height of 5’10, would have larger biceps than any bodybuilder in history.  Many researchers are worried that an action figure like G.I. Joe pushes people to use the risky muscle-building drugs, such as steroids.  Men’s body image concerns have skyrocketed recently, which could easily be caused through the media and what the millennial generation has grown up to.

Phillipa C. Diedrichs completed a study titled, “GI Joe or Average Joe?” In this study, Diedrichs came to the conclusion that the ideal body for men has been transformed over the years through the media. The ideal male body is now characterized by large defined muscles, low body fat, and a v-shaped upper body.  Not all curvy males are able to achieve this insane body type, which could cause serious body image issues.  These issues could lead to lower self-esteem, which could lead to the illegal use of steroids or over-exercising in order to attain this figure and “bulk up”.

From a curvier women’s perspective, the Barbie Doll has had serious effects on my body image issues as I have grown up.  Due to the fact that I have had such issues with the pressure that Barbie has put on myself, I can only imagine how G.I. Joe affects males.  Just as Barbie and the media has changed women’s ideal body view, G.I. Joe is just as big of a role model for young men. Not all men need to have the muscle mass that this action figure has, nor do they need to look a specific way.  Curvier men are also considered beautiful- not just body builder types.  No curvy male needs to feel inadequate due to the pressure that G.I. Joe action figures create.

Sources:

Diedrichs, P. 2010. GI Joe or average Joe? The impact of average-size and muscular male fashion models on men’s and women’s body image and advertisement effectiveness. Science Direct, 7(3). p. 218-226. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2010.03.004

Body Image Dissatisfaction: A Growing Concern Among Men http://www.msoe.edu/community/campus-life/student-resources/blog/2013/08/21/body-image-dissatisfaction-a-growing-concern-among-men

Actions Speak Louder than Jean Size

Television shows and movies are a huge part of growing up and social life.  Celebrities are idolized by the public, and everyone has their “celebrity crush” or favorite actor or actress. These actors and actresses are constantly criticized by the media for their body.  If an actress is not skinny enough, they will be harassed and tormented in tabloid magazines.  They will not be considered as “beautiful” and every flaw of their body is pointed out.  To avoid these nasty comments from paparazzi and the public, actors and actresses hire personal trainers, buy the most expensive diet foot, and go to extreme lengths in order to stay skinny and “beautiful”.

Carrie, a 23-year old blogger created an extremely popular blog titled, Wish Wish Wish, where she speaks about all things beauty.  Carrie is a curvier woman, and is proud to be a voice for the women that identify with her.  In one post Carrie states, “…size shouldn’t matter, but it’s only inevitable people obsess over how they look when so many ‘influences’- celebrities, actors- are so stick thin and leading a seemingly ‘perfarticle-1296161-0A808135000005DC-788_634x855ect’ life.  It’s almost as though it’s normal- worrying.”

As a curvy woman myself, I can personally admit that my celebrity crushes are extremely thin and beautiful- Selena Gomez, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston.  There are not many actors and actresses on television that are curvy or looked up to.  For instance, the average female media personality of actresses weighs 23% less than the average woman in American (Goodman, 2005).  Therefore, the actors and actresses that we have been looking up to and idolizing are somewhat unattainable goals for my fellow curvy women and men.

The leading women in shows and movies are almost always thin, and have certain positive attributes that seem to always be accompanying them.  For example: having well-glamor, success, competence, involvement in romantic relationships, and having more positive interactions with others (Goodman, 2005). Because of these certain characteristics that most female actresses have, women feel the need to look as aesthetically pleasing as the actresses and models do.  If a woman looks like the successful, beautiful, and well-liked actress on their favorite show, then they will then have a higher chance of gaining the same positive attributes.

Many individuals in society need to realize that being thicker and curvier than the average celebrity does not make them less of a person.  Being as skinny as the actresses and actors in the media does not define an individual; their character does.  The media needs to begin focusing on the healthiness of actors, and not necessarily the weight of them.  So many people idolizing these skinny and “beautiful” actors and actresses backs up the media’s claim of skinny being “beautiful”.  A change in the population’s thoughts and perceptions on these celebrities needs to be brought about.

Together, let’s change the reasons we look up to certain actors and actresses in the media. Beauty should be determined by how individuals act, not by what size jeans they wear. 

Sources:

Goodman, J. (2005). Mapping the sea of eating disorders: A structural equation model of how peers, family, and media influence body image and eating disorders. Visual Communication Quarterly, 12(3/4),  194-213. doi:10. 1080/155551393.2005.9687457

http://wishwishwish.net/2014/08/lets-talk-body-image/

 

Curvy is not “inadequate”.

For some women, an extremely lean figure is just not in the cards. McCall Dempsey just happened to be one of these girls.  She has written a blog all about her journey through life and through beating her eating disorder.  From discovering and admitting to her disease- to overcoming it.  Her blog is titled “Loving Imperfections” and her story is incredible.

Throughout high school, McCall was ridiculed and embarrassed because she was not considered “skinny enough” or “pretty enough” based on society’s standards.  This led her to develop an eating disorder- first anorexia, and then bulimia.  She kept a food diary, a workout journal, a weight journal, and an overall diary.  McCall stated that this disease consumed her life and took away some of the best times of her life.  Finally, she realized that she could no longer succumb to society’s pressures and checked herself into a treatment facility.  She is now healthy, happy, and has one of the top health blogs according to Health Line.

McCall has several blog posts about her previous body dissatisfaction and reasons for it.  Staring at unbelievably thin models in magazines and looking up to skinny, beautiful celebrities definitely had an impact on her self-loathe.  In addition to her story, McCall’s blog led me to the National Eating Disorders website, which has “Stories of Hope”.  These stories are personal narratives of those that are recovering from eating disorders.  In several of the posts, women described themselves as “curvy” or “big boned”, which made them feel inadequate or “fat” due to what many people believed to be beautiful and skinny.  The media has convinced the population that thin= beautiful.  The insane and unattainable figures of men and women in the media have convinced people that they need to push these standards on to their own bodies; no matter the price.  As media becomes more and more popular all over the world, disordered eating is also becoming more prevalent. Coincidence?

Several studies have been done over the years that have shown a strong correlation between body dissatisfaction and mass media exposure.  Body dissatisfaction is then shown to cause eating disorders.  One research study conducted was a longitudinal study on adolescent girls that had barely been introduced to television.  Three years after the researchers made television become a part of the girls’ lives, it was recorded that “11.3% of the girls in the sample had confessed to vomiting with the goal of controlling their weight,” (Lopez-Guimera, Levine, Sanchez-carracedo, & Fauquet, 2010).  Once television was introduced, it was also found that 74% of the girls reported feeling fat and the percentage of girls with high leveled disordered eating attitudes more than doubled from 13% to 29% (Lopez-Guimera et al).  It has also been found in other research studies that girls who frequently read articles about diets and weight loss in beauty magazines are seven times more likely to practice unhealthy weight control behaviors. These same girls studied were also six times more likely to engage in “extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors (Utter 2003).

It’s no secret that the media affects culture and opinions in the public.  However, should we give media the right to make us feel inadequate and unsatisfactory?  Curvy is just as beautiful as skinny is; the media does not get to decide this. McCall’s story of overcoming her eating disorder and making the decision to feel beautiful again is an influential story that we should all be reflecting on and taking into consideration.  Her story and the stories I read in “Stories of Hope” really affected my way of thinking about media and its influence.  I will no longer give media the authority to make me feel inferior. McCall helped me to realize that beauty is something that cannot be seen, and definitely cannot be defined by the media.

 

Sources-

Lopez-Guimera, G., Levine, M.P., Sanchez-carracedo, D., & Fauquet, J. (2010). Influence of mass media on body image and eating disordered attitudes and behaviors in females:   A review of effects and processes. Media Psychology, 13(4), 387-416.

Utter J, Neumark-Sztainer D, Wall M, Story M. (2003). Reading magazine articles about dieting and associated weight control behaviours among adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health32(1). 78–82.

 

Blog- http://www.mccalldempsey.com