Media and Eating Disorders Media  Term Paper

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What is even more disturbing is the images of beauty we see of television that are given wide acceptance and are presented as world's idea of a beautiful woman are getting thinner consistently. For example, beauty pageant participants are always thin with not even a single one of them overweight or slightly 'chubby'. Miss America contestants have consistently adhered to media's false image of beauty as they continue to get thinner each year. The body mass index (BMI) of Miss America finalists and winners has continued to decrease since 1922 and has now reached a range which for most real women falls in the category of 'undernourished'. (Devlin & Zhu, 2001). Models in fashion magazines and TV commercials are 25% thinner than an average woman in America. (Wood, 2001). More females than males have problems of body dissatisfaction as 66% of U.S. women complained of dissatisfaction with their bodies (Devlin & Zhu, 2001). It was also found that at any given time 70% of women can be found on some kind of diet (National Eating Disorder Information Centre [NEDIC], 2001). Disturbingly, Forty-to-sixty percent of girls in high schools view themselves as overweight and aggressively try to adhere to kind of strict dieting program. (EDAP, 2001)

It is very unsettling to see that one third of girls in high schools exhibit signs of eating disorders due to increased social pressures and an urgent need to attain the ideals of beauty presented on television and in magazines. ("Eating disorders: Update," 2001). Cultivation process is so influential that it is now more than ever before that U.S. is witnessing an increasing number of eating disorder cases. By 2001, 5 to 10 million women and girls were suffering from active eating disorders in America alone (EDAP, 2001), while every one in four female college students were found with some eating disorder (Hicks, 1998). The two most common eating disorders are bulimia and anorexia nervosa which are now affecting an alarmingly high percentage of females. Some study claim that of all the people who have developed bulimia or anorexia, at least 90 to 95% of them are females (Dittrich, 2001).


The correlation between media exposure and distorted body image/eating disorder correlation was found in most researches on the subject. Playboy magazine models also consistently conforming to the social notion of 'thin is in' and proliferation of dieting articles is only helping in promoting the culture of thinness. MTV and other music channels are vehemently criticized for dehumanizing women in music videos. Cultivation theory has withstood the test of time and most researches further lend support to the arguments first raised by Gerbner and Gross. The only gap that exists between latest research and cultivation theories of the past is in the form of internalization. Internalization of social standards is a relatively new concept, which is found to have considerable impact on the link between media exposure and body image disturbance. It has been found that while media supports false images of beauty and ideal body shape, internationalization of these images is what actually causes anxiety or lack of it, as the case may be, in viewers.

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