What differences do you see between the two pictures of Jessica Alba, one of the most beautiful women in the world?
Today was the first day of the middle school session of Girls In Real Life, and it went a lot better than I was expecting! Our focus was on getting to know each other, then talking about the media and its influence on our perception of beauty. We started by defining media, which, according to dictionary.com, is “the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely”.
While we all know that the media effects our definition of beauty, I don’t think many of us, including me, understand the full extent of it. It was only recently that I started paying more attention- I’ve looked through countless magazines, searching for subliminal messages that say how you are now simply isn’t good enough. Even CELEBRITIES, the people who work out for literally hours every day and eat so “healthy” they count cheese as a “cheat food”, are photoshopped to have thinner waists, more cleavage, and longer faces. Here are some examples of recent pages I found, looking through magazines such as Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Health, Self, and even Girl’s Life:
Think about what kind of message this Special K ad is sending: if you don’t have a body similar to hers (which is probably at least a little photoshopped), then you need to cover up at the beach. For me personally, it makes me feel ashamed to not have an hourglass figure and flat stomach. Why is that look the only look we can be proud of at the beach? Besides, isn’t the point of the beach to go swimming and enjoy the sun with friends anyways? Why do you need a “hot” body to do that?
Again, with the flat stomach. Why is that the most important and “beautiful” thing you could have at the beach? Why isn’t it okay to have a bit of a stomach after eating, isn’t that how it works? Apparently not, and girls must only eat these foods, not the foods they necessarily enjoy, if they want to look good during the summer. Notice how this article is in the “Body Love” section of Cosmopolitan.
While it’s great that Jordin Sparks decided to start eating healthier and exercising, the problem is that she gained attention from being skinnier, not healthier. If she had maintained the same body shape while eating better and exercising, I can guarantee you that she wouldn’t have gotten as much attention. And the problem is, Shape magazine makes it sound like Jordin got more movie offers because of her weight loss instead of her talent, and they’re proud of her for that. What?!
This magazine is telling athletic girls, who are probably the healthiest of all these body types, to fake their way into having a different body type, instead of being proud of what they have. In fact, in this article the only jeans that aren’t meant to hide the “bad” parts of a girl are the jeans for tall girls, the ideal body type in our society.
Last but not least, I found this article on Girl’s Life magazine’s website, under “health and fitness”, that was instructing girls on workouts they can do to look better in their skinny jeans. I was the most angry/saddened with this article, because Girl’s Life is a magazine geared towards 10-13 year olds. At that point in one’s life, they shouldn’t even begin to question whether or not their thighs look good in a pair of jeans. Girls are learning to be insecure with their bodies at such a young age, instead of spending their childhood wearing all of those ridiculous outfits they love that you end up laughing about years later. One of my favorite sweatshirts when I was 10 was this big white lump thing that had a stick person dancing on the front- I never even thought about how I looked in it, only how I felt.
The next time you read a magazine, I challenge you to look for the signs in it that you’re not good enough the way you are, and I can promise you’ll be astounded by it. While almost every women’s magazines these days has a section on “body peace”, it’s mostly drowned out by the ads, articles, and pictures being thrown at you about how you should look in order to be happy. I’m hoping that once we all start to notice it a bit more, we’ll be less affected by it.