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Is Body Image Affected By Mass Media?

2165 words - 9 pages

Throughout the twentieth century, mass media has helped shape American culture; however, not only culture is affected. Media has begun to change the way people view themselves and others. Body image is a significant part of a woman’s self-perception: it affects her self-esteem, her confidence, and her health practices. For generations since women gained the right to vote, media has taken an ever-tightening hold on body image. Women have been convinced for decades that in order to be a part of this male-dominated culture, they have to be able to do everything a man can do while wearing gorgeous clothes, staying slim, and doing other things to make themselves “beautiful.” Mass media has an immense impact on body image, and this relationship has far-reaching effects.
Mass media began with Johannes Guttenberg’s printing press. Citizens of the lower class gained a more widespread access to information than they had ever known, surging forward the intelligence of commoners. With this enhanced intellect came more advanced inventions, thus disseminating information even further. From the late 1800s and throughout the 1900s, technological innovations brought about recording devices, cinematography, broadcast media, such as radio and television, and digital media. Media as a whole has come under speculation in the past but never has it been criticized enough for what it truly does to its audience. Those who control each medium are given unconditional power to pick and choose what information is broadcast by that medium. This practice is called agenda setting and can lead to what is known as cultivation of perceptions. Cultivation is an overwhelmingly infectious practice due to the fact that a select few influence the opinions of many. Mass media has evolved from an informational modality to a means of subtle conditioning and morphing of its audience’s consciousness. When its power is not abused, mass media is a wonderful luxury, but when it falls into the hands of the egotistically motivated, it becomes a weapon of mass destruction, vaporizing any chance of allowing a woman to choose her own opinion about her body – or anything else for that matter.
Outside influences have a tremendous impact on body image. These influences range from family and friends to culture and religious beliefs. Parents’ roles in a child’s life tend to be the most influential – especially mothers’ roles in the lives of their daughters. When a woman has been influenced by the culture and media that surround her, she falls into a continuous cycle of weight gain and loss. Upon seeing their mothers struggle with body image and weight problems, it is implanted into young girls’ minds that the cycle is normal. Some mothers even recognize the problem that they have and apply this knowledge to “try to protect their daughters from falling into the same trap and try to push them further to be thin” (Almoayed 1). This constant push and pull causes a thorough confusion in the child’s mind...

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