Wherever we look, we are bombarded with images of female bodies, women and girls – and their attributes – used to sell anything, from food to cars.
We could see how in our society, film and television actresses are getting younger, taller and slimmer. Women’s magazines are full of articles highlighting the urgency of losing those extra 10 pounds to finally reach happiness . Besides, did you realize how almost all of the models have the same type of hair and makeup?
How can we impose unattainable beauty criteria on young girls when the majority of them are nothing like the models we offer them? By presenting an ideal that is difficult to achieve and maintain, we ensure growth and the profitability of the slimming and cosmetic industry. (It is estimated that the slimming industry alone generates $ 60 billion (US) each year by selling sporadic slimming treatments , as a result of which 80% of people regain the pounds lost during this diet). Advertisers know that if girls and women are dissatisfied with their looks, they are more likely to buy cosmetics, new clothes, and diet products – so a huge media industry has been built by feeding, quite simply, this dissatisfaction that eats away at most women.
Overexposure to these images affects girls by pushing them to buy beauty products and slimming diets, but the consequences of this situation are even more serious. Research shows that when girls and women are constantly exposed to these images of young, slender, smooth-skinned women, they risk developing depression, low self-esteem, and poor eating habits: one of these studies show that half of girls between the ages of 16 and 21 say they want to have surgery to improve their appearance and almost half of girls aged 9 to 12 say they want to be thinner and have already followed a diet or know the principle of it . Poor self-image can have serious consequences, research published in 2009 reveals that girls who are dissatisfied with their figure are far more likely to attempt suicide – whether or not they are overweight
The consequences are serious and very real.Young girls must therefore be helped to acquire a critical mind but also to understand how a media representation of the female body is constructed and why these images make the headlines. Even better, they must acquire the strength to challenge these media images and demand a realistic representation of the female body. As young girls are exposed to these messages from an early age, we need to start media literacy much earlier, from an early age.
The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market. Marketdata, survey May 2011.
Clark, L. & Tiggemann, M., 2006. Appearance culture in nine- to 12-year-old girls: media and peer influences on body dissatisfaction. Social Development, 15(4), 628-643.
 Girl Guiding UK. Girls Attitude Survey. 2009.
Overweight status, self-perception, and suicidal behaviors among adolescents. Dhaval Dave and Inas Rashad. Soc Sci Med 68(9):1685-91 (2009) PMID 19297063)