Retouched photos destroying girls' self-esteem, body image

Last updated: 03/26/14 4:54pm


A sense of self-loathing, shame, unattractiveness and low self-esteem can happen as early as elementary school, especially for young girls. The cause for this type of anguish isn’t always bullying or being left out of a clique. The sources of body image issues vary, but there is one that gets the biggest amount of blame.

Our society is inundated with images of the ideal woman, making it easy to blame the media, the fashion industry, and the entertainment industry. That ideal is not a true reflection of what the majority of young girls and women look like.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, only 5 percent of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.
Young girls and women are seeing 5 percent as the majority, average and normal body type.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, approximately 70 percent of girls in grades five through 12 said magazine images influence their ideals of a perfect body.

Can simply changing how women are represented help to improve media’s influence on female body image? Some studies suggest that it may help.

A psychological study conducted by Rheanna N. Ata, J. Kevin Thompson and Brent J. Small of the University of South Florida was held to determine whether including specific disclaimers in magazine advertisements’ would affect body image and dieting intentions in female undergraduate students.

The disclaimers read as follows, “Retouched photograph aimed at changing a person’s physical appearance.” or “Warning: Trying to look as thin as this model may be dangerous to your health.”
The study concluded that media labels could be used to decrease women’s identification with the images shown. The article and research was published in the Body Image journal for Science Direct,
Volume 10, Issue 4, September 2013.

Other studies suggest that by simply promoting positive body image women’s self-image can be improved. American Eagle’s lingerie line, Aerie, and its latest advertising campaign took this approach. Each advertisement featured a young woman of a different body type. The photos had not been retouched, as in there was no body modification or excessive airbrushing. The taglines read, “The girl in this photo has not been retouched. The real you is sexy.” or “Time to think real.
Time to get real. No supermodels. No retouching. Because the real you is sexy.”

Aerie’s target market is young women ages 15-21. This is a prime age for body image issues. The National Institute of Health estimates the lifetime prevalence of anorexia and bulimia among 13- to 18-year-olds is 2.7 percent. Eating disorders are most common in the teens and early 20s.

The Aerie campaign was well received and seems to have had a positive impact. To truly reflect the women of society in the media a larger variety of women and body types needs to be represented.
If more media outlets took simple steps to promote positive body image it is possible that we could see less negative body image in young women.

Published Mar 26, 2014 in Opinions

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