Throughout the century, the ideal image of a woman has changed drastically, which can be directly attributed to the powerful persuasion of media. This ideal image has transformed from a voluptuous, size 14, 1950’s Marilyn Monroe to a 5’9, 100 pound, 1990’s Kate Moss. The most shocking aspect is specifically what young girls are now doing to achieve this “Kate Moss” image. Through the utilization of advertisements and stars on the big screen, this female portrayal directly targets the physical and mental well-being of females in cultures across the globe.
Throughout history, typical characteristics of the ideal woman have fluctuated between a muscular, curvaceous physique and a small, narrow-waisted physique. In colonial times, women played a crucial role in family survival. At this time, women commonly promoted themselves as physically strong, able, and fertile; however, after the turn of the century, it was more desirable for a woman to be small, frail, and tiny-waisted. Social status became a major factor in this movement. Upper-class men would seek to marry women with these characteristics because the more fragile and unable women were to work, the more justified these plantation owners were to own slaves (Derenne 258). This point in history showed some of the most drastic measures taken to achieve this ideal image, where women appeared sickly and were exceptionally prone to headaches. Finishing schools across the country were teaching young women of status how to properly faint. Some women even went as far as to having their ribs removed – keeping in mind that this was a time of poor medical technologies. Corsets were also at their peak of popularity, which constricted women so greatly that they became short of breath and – in some cases – dislocated visceral organs (Derenne 258). This slim figure, though with significantly less extremes, continued through the beginning of the twentieth century, where the feminist movement gave birth to women of angular, boyish figures.
During World War II, men were sent off to war, leaving behind a predominantly female nation. At this time, the ideal woman retorted back to the same values of strength and competency. Upon the return of the men at the war’s end, the infamous Baby Boom gave birth to more than children. Curvaceous and feminine women were desired across the nation, with famous model and actress, Marilyn Monroe, paving the way as the face (and body) of normalcy.
In the present day, this concept of an ideal woman has slowly gravitated back towards the nineteenth century stereotype of having a frail, rail-thin body shape; however, social status is no longer the leading factor behind the movement. With the newly established capabilities of television access, commercial advertisements, and mass distribution, the rate of eating disorders skyrocketed. According to the American Obesity Association, 65% of adults and 30% of children are overweight. 30% of the adults and 15% of the children in the same...