ever flick through a magazine and wish you had hair like… lorde (oh i love her curls), eyes like lea michele, a body like anyone in hollywood?!?

even though we know media has such an agenda when it comes to image, we’re buying.  even unintentionally.  we allow these thousands of images to determine and define what we, the collective “we”, say is beautiful.

and its unrealistic.

and for most of us unreachable.

even if we worked out 3 hours a day and ate lettuce dipped in protein juice.



have you seen the Dove True Beauty Evolution clip… where it takes a “normal” woman and turns her into a supermodel for a billboard ad?



Unattainable Body Image & The Media

Although advertising, the most powerful arm of the mass media, is all around us, many of us believe we are immune from its effects. This mistaken belief is one of the reasons it is so effective. The average American sees three thousand ads per day. Almost all commercial media aimed at women are supported by advertising revenue from the fashion, beauty, diet, and food industries, and their survival depends on their ability to please their sponsors.

Magazine editors, in a fierce competition for readers, know that to make a sale, they need only play on our doubts or create new ones, making us think we have "problems" that don’t really exist ("What’s He Really Thinking When He Sees You Naked?"). Every part of the female body is picked apart and scrutinized, with most articles telling us outright which products we should buy to fix – or at least camouflage – our numerous "flaws."


Researchers have found that ongoing exposure to certain ideas can shape and distort our perceptions of reality.


Sociocultural standards of feminine beauty are presented in almost all forms of popular media, barraging women with images that portray what is considered to be the "ideal body." Such standards of beauty are almost completely unattainable for most women; a majority of the models displayed on television and in advertisements are well below what is considered healthy body weight. Mass media’s use of such unrealistic models sends an implicit message that in order for a woman to be considered beautiful, she must be unhealthy.

There has been a plethora of research to indicate that women are negatively affected by constant exposure to models that fulfill the unrealistic media ideal of beauty; however, it is not clear how these images actually come to affect women’s satisfaction with their physical appearance. Female Body Image and the Mass Media: Perspectives on How Women Internalize the Ideal Beauty Standard


Photoshopping has taken these unreal ideals to a scary new level. Henry Farid, a Dartmouth professor of computer science who specializes in digital forensics and photo manipulation, agrees. “The more and more we use this editing, the higher and higher the bar goes. They’re creating things that are physically impossible,” he told ABC News in August 2009. “We’re seeing really radical digital plastic surgery. It’s moving towards the Barbie doll model of what a woman should look like — big breasts, tiny waist, ridiculously long legs, elongated neck. All the body fat is removed, all the wrinkles are removed, the skin is smoothed out.”

What we see in media, and what we may be internalizing as normal or beautiful, is anything but normal or beautiful. It’s fake. It’s a profit-driven idea of normal and beautiful that women will spend their lives trying to achieve and men will spend their lives trying to find. But until we all learn to recognize and reject these harmful messages about what it means to look like a woman, we all lose.


Images in the media today project an unrealistic and even dangerous standard of feminine beauty that can have a powerful influence on the way women view themselves. From the perspective of the mass media, thinness is idealized and expected for women to be considered "attractive." Images in advertisements, television, and music usually portray the "ideal woman" as tall, white, and thin, with a "tubular" body, and blonde hair (Dittmar & Howard, 2004; Lin & Kulik, 2002; Polivy & Herman, 2004; Sands & Wardle, 2003; Schooler, Ward, Merriwether, & Caruthers, 2004; Tiggemann & Slater, 2003). The media is littered with images of females who fulfill these unrealistic standards, making it seem as if it is normal for women to live up to this ideal.

Only a very small percentage of women in Western countries meet the criteria the media uses to define "beautiful" (Dittmar & Howard, 2004; Thompson & Stice, 2001); yet so many women are repeatedly exposed to media images that send the message that a woman is not acceptable and attractive if she do not match society’s "ultra-thin" standard of beauty (Dittmar & Howard, 2004, p. 478). Female Body Image and the Mass Media: Perspectives on How Women Internalize the Ideal Beauty Standard



Comparison & Body Image

There are many different sources to which individuals can look for social comparison, but mass media is seen to be one of the most commanding influences, especially for women. Television, advertisements, magazines, and other forms of popular media provide a plethora of references for upward social comparison. Images in the media generally project a standard to which women are expected to aspire, yet that standard is almost completely impossible for most women to achieve (Schooler et al., 2004; Thompson & Coovert, 1999). Women almost always fall short of standards that are expected of them regarding physical appearance. Particularly for women, it is difficult to go through a day without viewing images that send the message, "you’re not good enough." The pervasiveness of the media makes it very challenging for most women to avoid evaluating themselves against the sociocultural standard of beauty (Milkie, 1999). Most companies that target women in the media actually attempt to foster social comparison with idealized images, in order to motivate women to buy products that will bring them closer to the ideal (e.g. diet products, makeup, hair products). If women see a discrepancy between themselves and the images they view in advertisements (which the almost definitely will), they will be more inclined to buy the products that are advertised (Thompson & Coovert, 1999). Female Body Image and the Mass Media: Perspectives on How Women Internalize the Ideal Beauty Standard




A Model’s Insight:  Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. TEDTALK

“There’s very little that we can do to transform how we look, and how we look, though it is superficial and immutable, has a huge impact on our lives”

“Well, for the past few centuries we have defined beauty not just as health and youth and symmetry that we’re biologically programmed to admire, but also as tall, slender figures, and femininity and white skin.”

“They are constructions, and they are constructions by a group of professionals, by hairstylists and makeup artists and photographers and stylists and all of their assistants and pre-production and post-production, and they build this. That’s not me.”