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Media’s Negative Impact on Women's Body Image

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Thesis Statement: ‘Body image is the perception that a person has of their physical self and also the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception. These feelings can be both positive and negative, and are influenced by both individual and environmental factors.’(PSYCHALIVE,2019). I believe that the media has negatively impacted women’s body image.

Traditional and Contemporary Media’s Impact on Body Image

The ideal of what is deemed as ‘beautiful’ has changed over the years. Previously, the ‘ideal female body was considered to be the famous nudes painted by Rubens in the seventeenth century: which would nowadays be considered as “chubby” Over the past 50 years, the cultural ideal around the world has progressed steadily towards increasing thinness. (Abnormal psychology, chapter 9, pg.266-267). Therefore, society through the increasing use of media has ingrained the notion in young women that in order to be ‘beautiful’ one needs to be thin. When a girl is born, she is handed over a Barbie doll- a tall, thin, blue eyed doll with a perfectly clear and radiant complexion. During preteen and adolescent years, the young girl again sees beautiful, thin models on the ramp. Media images of unattainably thin yet voluptuous body can be found almost everywhere, be it on television, social media, print etc. The socio cultural ideal of thinness is a likely vehicle through which people learn to fear being or even feeling fat. Sociocultural factors, in particular the role of media, have recently received perhaps the most attention as a possible contributor to body image disturbance and eating dysfunctions. (fallon,1990; heinberg,1996). There is strong support for the idea that traditional forms of media e.g. magazines and music videos affect perceptions of beauty and appearance. The mass media plays a very critical role in women’s self-image by informing what people consider to be attractive. (Jennifer S. Mills, Amy Shannon and Jacqueline Hogue). Television and social media has instilled the notion in women that to be thin is to be beautiful, successful and popular while being fat is associated with negative connotations such as less smart, unpopular, greedy and shy. Television has a powerful influence and it usually portrays unrealistic ideals. The vast majority of female television characters are thinner than the average woman, with less than 10% of women appearing on television being overweight. ‘Also photographic techniques such as airbrushing, soft-focus cameras, composite figures and filters used in both the television medium and magazines may blur the realistic nature of media images even further, leading people to believe that these models are realistic representations of actual people. This will thus further cause a dislike for one’s own body’. (Thompson and Heinberg,1999, p.339-353)

The Dangerous Impact of Having a Negative Body Image

A research by Groesz indicates that exposure to media portrayal of unrealistically thin models can influence reports of body dissatisfaction. It reviewed results from 25 experiments that presented images of thin models to women and then asked the women to report on their body dissatisfaction. This research indicated that women reported a decline in body satisfaction after viewing these images (Groesz, Levine and Murnen,2002). Teenage girls spend a lot of time viewing fitness and beauty magazines. A study by Nichter, showed that adolescent girls endorsed their ideal as the models found in fashion magazines. The ideal teenage girl was described as being 5’7,100 pounds, size 5 and with voluminous long blonde hair. Reaching such an extreme ideal is both unattainable and dangerous and clearly puts the teenage girl in the anorexic and amenorrheic range (BMI is less than 16) (Nichter and nichter,1991)

Over the years, websites, blogs and magazines have started to play a vital role in promoting the ideal of ‘extreme thinness’. Websites that are pro- ana (short for anorexia) and pro -mia(bulimia) have emerged .in these forums, women support and encourage other women to lose a dangerous amount of weight.

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Another research looked at the roles of other types of social media’s impact on body image too. Beth et al conducted a study on 199 adolescent females in order to determine whether certain media formats have a more detrimental impact on women’s body image. In this experiment, there were 5 media consumption categories: TV, Internet, music videos, magazines and computer games. The results indicated that the mere presence of the body perfect in the media led to a momentary increase in both appearance and body dissatisfaction. This study demonstrates that exposure to the ‘thin ideal’ in any context is damaging to the teenage girl’s body dissatisfaction (Beth Teresa bell and Helga Dittmae,2011)

The inverse correlation between social media and satisfaction with body image

Research has indicated an inverse correlation between increasing use of social media and satisfaction with body image. According to an article in Neuroscience, a study was conducted by York university on young women showed that women felt dissatisfied with their bodies after viewing pictures of friends that they consider to be comparatively more attractive. (Neuroscience news,2018). An article in Web MD reported a study that showed how contemporary media such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are bad for a woman’s self-esteem. This study indicated that women who spend more than an hour on social media tend to be less happy with their bodies. These women will also feel as I being thin is more attractive and will be increasingly self-conscious. The study also stated that these women will have an unhealthy relationship with both body image and exercise. (Web MD). Today also published a research piece by Florida house experience that showed the dire consequences of scrolling on social media. This study indicated that women are most heavily influenced by social media and television. 88% of women stated that they compare themselves to images in the media. They also reported that they feel less confident about their bodies after that. (Today). an article published by The conversation again emphasizes on the fact how social media has turned the ‘Ideal’ body into something unachievable. According to this article, the increasing use of social media has made women all the more aware of the discrepancies between their body types and those that they see on the media. This only leads to a worsening of self-esteem and increased body dissatisfaction. furthermore, trends like ‘fitspiration’ have become increasingly popular. The problem with this is that the pictures in this are usually accompanied by text that contains guilt inducing messages, this further worsens women’s body image and makes them engage in negative behaviors such as fad diets, restrictive eating or purging. (the conversation,2018).

Having a negative body image can have severe repercussions. Teenagers nowadays have developed a very unhealthy relationship with food and often feel an immense amount of guilt when they gain even the slightest weight. According to Julie m. sparhawk this line of research is important because it helps in discovering the link between poor body image and the media’s portrayal of women. This could allow for successful interventions to be evaluated and implemented. (Julie M. Sparhawk,2003). Intervention can help in decreasing the cases of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Both serious disorders that can even lead to death of not treated effectively. Intervention can help in promoting a more positive body image.


Research has repeatedly shown that media has a detrimental impact on one’s body image. Looking at media portrayals of women who are thin and petite has been shown to cause an increasing amount of dissatisfaction with one’s own body. Trends like thinspiration and fitspiration have led to a worsening self-esteem in women and led to more and more women developing eating disorders and developing a negative relationship with their body. It is important that more research is done in this arena so that possible interventions can be taken.

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Media’s Negative Impact on Women’s Body Image. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“Media’s Negative Impact on Women’s Body Image.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
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