We all want to feel comfortable and confident in our own bodies. No one ever wants to feel like they are being judged on the way they look. We see it every day in movies, television, the internet, and more. The media and its social aspects have brainwashed our society. Social media are “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content” (Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, 2004). The media has influenced the way society views people’s body image, men and others included, but it takes on a bigger role in the lives of women and girls.
Young women and girls face the concept of body image in their everyday lives whether it is out on the streets or on social media platforms. For years young women and girls have been told to look a certain way, dress a certain way, and even act a certain way at times. Young women’s and girl’s mindsets have changed how they view themselves. They believe that one should play the rules and change themselves in order to fit society’s standards. “The global trends to make [a] body beautiful and attractive through cosmetic surgeries have increased in the past decade and more than 10 million women [have] gone through plastic surgeries and procedures” (Davis, 2013). The most common surgeries that women have undergone in the last decade include breast augmentations/enlargements, liposuction/tummy tucks, Botox, and butt lifts. Self-objectification, “when individuals treat themselves as objects to be viewed and evaluated based upon appearance” (Rollero and Piccoli, 2017) and “Body-surveillance, understood as constant monitoring of one’s body, represents one of the crucial behavioral outcomes of the process” (Brajdić Vuković, Marija, et al 2018). This is the point that Fredrickson and Roberts were trying to get across with their objectification theory. Fredrickson and Robert’s theory “argues that girls and women are socialized to internalize an observer’s perspective of their physical self.
Body image in the media can cause a negative impact on society because of its strong roots tied to depression, fat-shaming, and self-dissatisfaction. Thus, as a result of a culture that sexually objectifies the female body, they learn to objectify themselves and self-evaluate based on physical appearance” (Brajdić Vuković, Marija, et al 2018). When it comes to
“Self-objectification and the accompanying body-surveillance [they] were found to be negatively associated with self-esteem and health-promoting behaviours (Moradi and Huang 2008), as well as with overall well-being (Sinclair and Myers 2004). Self-objectification was also linked to depressed mood and disordered eating (Tiggemann and Kuring 2004; Ata et al. 2007). In addition, self-objectification can negatively affect the quality of life of girls and women through ‘opting out’ (withdrawing from life-engaging and lifesustaining activities due to feeling bad about oneself), self-harm and decreased sexual enjoyment” (Brajdić Vuković, Marija, et al 2018).
This just shows that when one feels pressured into fitting a certain mold things can sometimes take a drastic turn. Whether it leads to depression of not being able to meet those standards, starving themselves to keep a certain weight and not go over it, or even just a slight decrease in their sex life due to them not feeling beautiful or sexy enough for the person they are with. Another group of individuals who may have a hard time dealing with body image is women who have been or are pregnant. Due to their stomach now having forever stretch marks and their stomach not conforming back into the shape it once was, or them just getting “fatter and fatter”, it can take a toll on them mentally and cause them to see themselves in a way they never have before or make what they used to see even worse in their eyes. Looking at a magazine cover from decades ago you would see Marilyn Monroe on the cover showcasing curves for what they are, beautiful; but now a majority of the time on a magazine cover what is showcased is what everyone thinks of when they see Victoria Secret models, long-legged and slim. Any woman or young girl that comes across these visuals who doesn’t fit those standards would automatically think she doesn’t belong or that something is wrong with her. Situations like these are what start women and young girls on these so-called helpful diets to get the body that they all want. Sometimes it is not even dieting that gets them there, it is anorexia and bulimia. It is said that “anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents” (Jhaveri and Patki, 2016). Surprisingly though “an estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males” (Jhaveri and Patki, 2016). It is shocking to see how different the percentages are for males compared to females. Females with anorexia or bulimia sit at a pretty 5% only, whereas males are two times greater at 10 to 15%.
Men and their issues related to body image usually don’t get recognized or they tend to be overlooked in society. In society, men today tend to feel pressured into fitting society’s idea of what the perfect man should look like. From having abs to having bigger muscles, to maintaining or keeping a certain weight. It has been found that “adolescents and men involved in sports felt [more] pressure to conform to bodyweight expectations based on the sport being played, rather than concerns about a specific body type or physical appearance” (Burlew and Shurts, 2013). When one plays a sport or even carries on life casually, the use of steroids could easily make its way into their life. Studies have shown that:
“That the desire for weight gain among young men was more widespread than had been reported. Although 21% of male freshman students described themselves as underweight, some 40% wished to weigh more than their current weight (Drewnowski & Yee, 1987). Given increased media emphasis on muscular build, this percentage may have increased in the intervening years. Apparently, so has the use of anabolic steroids (Yesalis, 1992). Anabolic steroids are not something to mess around with they can be severely life-threatening at times especially if you misuse them. If you take too many of them it could lead to kidney or even liver failure. Steroids are not your best friend no matter how big or bulky they can make you. The use of steroids is most common for that of late middle schoolers and high schoolers but it can also be found in the everyday lifestyle of people that go to the gym or bodybuilders. According to the text there were published reports (Lucas, 1993) stating that: “between 3% and 12% of male high-school students had used anabolic steroids. Steroid use was also said to vary among different sports. High-school and college football players reported the highest use, whereas track and field athletes used them least (Lucas, 1993)”
Not only does body dissatisfaction play a role in the lives of those who play sports but it affects all men, which includes gay men in society as well as those who have been rejected in their lifetime. In the article Men’s Makeover, it states that: “Compared with heterosexual men, gay men are more likely to express dissatisfaction with their appearance and are at greater risk of developing an eating disorder. The focus on appearance is ingrained in gay culture; gay media emphasizes unrealistically muscular and lean models to sell beauty products to an expanding and powerful consumer base.”
Most gay men, compared to heterosexual men, are usually smaller/thinner in weight. This may be due to the majority of them going through with their eating disorder whether it be bulimia or anorexia.
When it comes to the term body image it solely focuses on women and girls in our society. Body image even focuses the slightest bit on the men in our society but it is 2019 so why do we rarely mention the issues on body image that the LGBTQ community face every day. Transgenders are the most talked about out of the people in society today, but not in the best way that is. A transgender is “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth” (GLAAD Media Referenced Guide, 2017). It is so frowned upon to claim to be a part of the LGBTQ community in this day and age to some people that sometimes the individuals just try to hide who they truly are. Sometimes, because one is so dissatisfied with who they are before they change, they tend to let their minds get the best of them. According to Bozkurt and others research: “Male transsexuals appeared to be less stable and more psychologically disturbed than were their female counterparts, had a lower sex drive and were poorly informed about sexuality, became psycho-logically stabilized once they lived out and enacted a cross-gender role and identity and became more stable after hormone and surgical interventions.” (Bozkurt et al, 2006)
Transgenders are usually the most judged out of the whole LGBTQ community because they look the most different or because they like to cross-dress for their own happiness. Research also states that most transgenders before they transitioned were so angry or upset with their genitalia that it reflected in their attitude in their everyday life, hence why they usually decide to cross-dress. They go through the most change in a lifetime compared to others and they have the scars to prove it. It is a proven fact that compared to most regular men and women transgender individuals have a harder time dealing with their body image. People who are also a part of the LGBTQ community that have gotten backlash from society in the past decade have been the gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Even to this day sometimes there are people in the media that cannot handle a same-sex couple being in love. If it is not from the backlash online or in the media then it is in real-time in the streets by strangers. “In 2008, law enforcement agencies in the United States reported that there were 9,691 victims of hate crimes, 17.6% of whom were targeted because of a bias against a particular sexual orientation” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2009). Even just watching the news years back the media was filled with different stories of same-sex couples getting beaten just for being on the same train as homophobes. Then, “on October 28, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the hate crimes bill into law, making it a federal crime to assault an individual based on sexual orientation or gender identity” (Katz-Wise and Hyde, 2012). Yet that did not stop some from continuing down that path of cultural victimization on the LGBTQ community. When it comes to sexual orientation-based crimes, aka bias crimes, they: “May be associated with more negative mental health outcomes than non-bias crimes (McDevitt, Balboni, Garcia, & Gu, 2001). Sexual orientation-based hate crimes are an extreme type of victimization that may be more psychologically distressing than other crimes, in part, because victims also experience an attack on their sexual identity” (Katz-Wise and Hyde, 2012). These hate crimes mostly come from people with homophobia and sometimes the people with homophobia are just a little jealous of the couples in love they see in front of them.
When it comes to body image in the media we can improve it to make a better future by choosing to accept the flaws of others. It is going to take some time to get to where we need to be but there are numerous ways to create a more positive outlook on one’s body image. The first step into creating a positive response to body image is to stop comparing yourself to others. Two pivotal steps, although they both contradict each other, that play into fixing a person’s body image is to stop avoiding your body and stop checking your body. To further explain those steps, stop avoiding your body means that you should get to know each individual curve. As for stop checking on your body that means that if you spend a tremendous amount of time looking at yourself in the mirror, quit. Checking on yourself constantly is no better than never looking; they both cause a negative impact on certain individuals. People that suffer from a negative body image need to realize that there is a difference between feeling bad about their bodies and feeling fat due to their bodies’ weight. The key step in providing society with a stronger view on body image is for individuals to practice self-acceptance. Whether the self-acceptance is on themselves or acceptance of another. Society has already made advances in the right direction and with just a little more of a push, in due time society can get there.
All things considered, body image impacts any and everybody in this world, whether you are a man, woman, or part of the LGBTQ community. Everybody goes through many situations or circumstances. We are all different, yet the same when it comes to one thing; we have all been judged at least once in our lives. We have had a hard time dealing with body image for years but we are finally breaking ground and trying to love ourselves a little more. Although society and social media depict the “perfect” body, there is no such thing. All bodies are beautiful no matter the shape, size, gender or race.