The Body Image: The Evolution of Unrealistic and Unhealthy Standards of Beauty

By Natalie Marzano, Entertainment Editor

The media world of today has the power to influence anything and everything, especially the minds of teenage boys and girls. The media produces ads in magazines, on billboards, and virtually everywhere else. Advertisements often picture men and women showing off their “perfect” or “ideal” bodies.
These ads are all over the internet, in magazines and on tv, making it difficult for teenagers to avoid. Early teens especially are at the age where fitting in is most important. There is also a lot of pressure from parents and coaches for athletes to be “in shape”. The pressure from coaches directly affects the self esteem of middle and high school students. But this pressure to be physically perfect was not always an issue.
The ideal body has fluctuated throughout history. In the 1800s big was beautiful; food was harder to obtain and only the men and women who were well-off could afford to eat luxuriously. Artists painted the rich women, therefore showing off their big bodies. Women were attracted to larger men and men were attracted to larger women.
By the 1940s, the love for curves slimmed down only to come back in the 50s. Iconic women like Marilyn Monroe showed off their hourglass figures in ads and movies making everyday women strive for the same curvy shape.
In the 70s and 80s men and women started to go for a more muscular look. Women looked at Farrah Fawcett and Jane Fonda. Men sought out to look like Rocky. In the 1980s Calvin Klein started their underwear and cologne campaign directing it toward men. These ads made men more aware of their bodies and made them work harder at making it socially perfect. In the 90’s the issue of body imaging started to really become a problem. Young women looked at magazines and television to see models like Kate Moss who look like they haven’t eaten in two days. Kate Moss even said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
This quote gave women the wrong idea; they thought that starving themselves would make them feel good. Other young girls and women didn’t know how to react and just felt bad about themselves. Also in the 1990s the media continued to produce movies, magazines, and video games with large, bulky, often shirtless men. Young boys and even men with smaller structures were discouraged by the so called cultural ideal body.
Today, both teenage girls and women compare themselves to females like Victoria Secret’s model, Adriana Lima. Every year girls watch the Victoria Secret Fashion Show admiring all of the models while also criticizing and critiquing themselves. The twitter world takes over on the night of the show; twitter feeds are filled with tweets like “RIP self esteem.” or “why did I even turn on the tv, why did I even… k great now I’m crying. crying burns calories right?”.
Today, men and women of all ages are pressured by the media, by their families, and by their coaches or friends to work harder or diet more to lose weight. Everyone wants the cultural ideal body. We must realize that every body type is ideal because it is unique and fit for one person.


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