Beauty and the Beast: Ideal Beauty and the Media
Beauty is visual, but in most media images, it is the same visual – the eye popping features and stunning proportions of a few hand-picked beauty icons.” – Nancy Etcoff, PhD It’s everywhere. It is that little voice in your head that tells you how many calories you can eat, what kind of clothes you can buy, and what beauty products to use. We are constantly reminded of how imperfect we are by the media. Magazines, television, and movies all glorify achieving “Ideal Beauty.” But what is ideal beauty? When did we get so wrapped up in how we look? How did all of this start? How big is this problem? Ideal Beauty in the Media
Unmasking the Beast <ul><li>The media has actually been influencing ideals of beauty for longer than we think. We are only forced to take a closer look at it now because of the problems it is causing. Even though technology has changed how we are informed about current trends or styles, humans have always had a need to feel beautiful by society’s standards. In this presentation I am going to examine the media’s effect on ideal beauty from the past to the present. I plan to examine the following points: </li></ul><ul><li>A brief history of ideal media beauty </li></ul><ul><li>What determines current ideal beauty </li></ul><ul><li>Why the media is becoming a problem and what is being done about it </li></ul>
The Renaissance People of the Renaissance era loved curves. The curvier a lady was, the more fertile she was said to be. (This was vital to producing sons.) There is no doubt that most of the great beauties of the time would be considered “too fat” for our modern standards. One of the most important factors in beauty during the Renaissance was a woman’s face and complexion. Ideal beauties were always blonde and had pale skin. High foreheads were considered extremely attractive because it was thought to resemble the representations of the Virgin Mary. To achieve this, many women plucked their hairlines back. From artwork of the time, we can get a better idea of the ideal beauty.
The beginning of the 18 th century ushered in a new beauty ideal: a woman was only as good as her hair-do. Women wore wigs made out of horse hair and wool and sometimes was as tall as 30 inches. Even though this style was fashionable, it was also dangerous and annoying. Since hygiene wasn’t like it is today, the wigs were usually infested with lice. Women often had headaches from the weight of the wigs and also had to be careful not to hit chandeliers in ballrooms. The 17 th and 18 th centuries saw the introduction of many beauty products we still use. People of the time did not bathe, but doused themselves in perfumes. Women with large eyes were also revered, but to achieve this look they dilated their eyes with Belladonna. The make-up they used often contained poisons like mercury and lead. This era also saw the introduction of fake teeth, hair, bosoms, and especially calves. The 18 th century made this beautiful Georgian & Rococo
Victoriana Victorians took great care to achieve the beauty ideal of their time. The great trendsetter of the time was actually Queen Victoria, and the Victorians admired both a mixture of fading, “fainting” beauty and statuesque elegance. The “fragile” trend led Victorians to admire corsetry, which is a sense, held the women up. Starting at age 3 or 4, girls would be fitted with corsets made out of whale bone and steel. Corsets were hard to breathe in, and women often felt faint and would gasp for breath if the laces were too tight. (This only enhanced the beauty ideal.) For the Victorians, women were not moral without their corsetry.
A New Era Begins... Towards the middle of the 20 th century, a media revolution took place. Suddenly, beauty began to come from the Hollywood starlets on the silver screen. Marilyn Monroe revolutionized beauty ideals with her curvy figure. Since the turn of the century women had been fighting for their rights. Boyish looks and fashion became the style in the suffrage movement. When the 1950’s arrived, the femininity returned with Marilyn as the poster child for all-American feminine beauty.
Rise of the Media Today, we are exposed to more media than ever. With television, movies, and magazines influencing our ideas about beauty, it is no wonder we feel pressured. Unfortunately, the pressure that comes from the media sometimes can be too much to handle. The idea behind the modern beauty standard for women is being a sex symbol. Women are often over-sexualized in media by unrealistic portrayals. However the age group most effected by the standards of the media are teenage girls.
Characteristics of the Ideal Attractive Unattractive Attractive Traits Female Male Study from the University of Regensbury in Germany <ul><li>Suntanned skin </li></ul><ul><li>Narrower facial shape </li></ul><ul><li>Less fat </li></ul><ul><li>Fuller lips </li></ul><ul><li>Slightly bigger distance of eyes </li></ul><ul><li>Darker, narrower eye brows </li></ul><ul><li>More, longer and darker lashes </li></ul><ul><li>Higher cheek bones </li></ul><ul><li>Narrower nose </li></ul><ul><li>No eye rings </li></ul><ul><li>Thinner lids </li></ul><ul><li>Browner skin </li></ul><ul><li>Narrower facial shape </li></ul><ul><li>Less fat </li></ul><ul><li>Fuller and more symmetrical lips </li></ul><ul><li>Darker eye brows </li></ul><ul><li>More and darker lashes </li></ul><ul><li>Upper half of the face broader in relation to the lower </li></ul><ul><li>Higher cheek bones </li></ul><ul><li>Prominent lower jaw </li></ul><ul><li>More prominent chin </li></ul><ul><li>No receding brows </li></ul><ul><li>Thinner lids </li></ul>
Influence on Adolescents Adolescent girls are one of the biggest victims of the media. The media provides girls going through puberty with confusing messages. These messages can have serious consequences which include: Low self-esteem Risk for Anorexia and Bulimia Early Sexualization Objectification Identity Confusion
Influence on Teenagers Cont. <ul><li>By age thirteen, 53% of American girls are "unhappy with their bodies." This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen. (Nation Institute on Media and Family) </li></ul><ul><li>One in every three (37%) articles in leading teen girl magazines also included a focus on appearance, and most of the advertisements (50%) used an appeal to beauty to sell their products. (Kaiser Foundation) </li></ul><ul><li>58 percent of female characters in movies had comments made about their looks, as did 28 percent in television shows and 26 percent of the female models in the accompanying commercials. </li></ul><ul><li>In a survey of girls 9 and 10 years old, 40% have tried to lose weight (Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) </li></ul>
Case Study: Fijian Girls and The Media In 1995, Dr. Anne E. Becker, director of Harvard Eating Disorders Center of Harvard medical school studied a phenomenon involving young Fijian girls and the media. She surveyed a total of 63 native Fijian girls about their bodies. None of the girls had ever been exposed to American television. A short time later, satellites began to broadcast American television shows to the island. <ul><li>Average age of subjects was 17 </li></ul><ul><li>The TV shows that were introduced included Melrose Place, Xena, Warrior Princess and Beverly Hills 90210. </li></ul><ul><li>In Fijian society, to call someone “skinny” would be a major insult. Being thin was considered to be a sickness. </li></ul>
Case Study Continued Three years later in 1998 63 girls of similar age and weight were surveyed about how they viewed their bodies. Here’s what the study found: <ul><li>15% in the 1998 survey reported that they had induced vomiting to control their weight vs. 3% in 1995. </li></ul><ul><li>29% scored highly on a test of eating-disorder risk vs. 13% in 1998. </li></ul><ul><li>Girls who said they watched television three or more nights a week in 1998 survey were 50 % more likely to describe themselves as ''too big or fat.'‘ </li></ul><ul><li>Girls in 1998 were 30% more likely to diet than girls who watched television less frequently. </li></ul>“ So in order to be like them, I have to work on myself, exercising and my eating habits should change.”- Fijian Girl
Fighting Back In light of recent studies, people are finally beginning to see how detrimental beauty is to the health and well-being of women, especially adolescents. As a response, some companies, like Dove, are promoting the idea of individual beauty. Although this is a small step in the right direction, it is going to take more to fight the media beast. Our starting point lies in finding ways to love our bodies rather than hate them.