Acknowledging the Female, Not Her Body

First published August 14, 2011 – theredlens.com

Women struggle daily with their body image and how they’re being perceived by the world around them. This isn’t new, but for the past few decades younger girls are becoming more aware of their bodies – and what could possibly be wrong with them.

When looking at the statistics about media and its effect on young women, it’s found that the messages being shown reinforce the idea that there is always something to fix on a woman. Additionally, women are targeted almost four times as often as men in advertisements featuring a focus on outward appearance. In magazines, of all the content, 85% focuses on appearance.

Female actresses and models in the media hardly represent the average body type. In America, most women are not over 5’11’’ and under 130 pounds, but most models are. As the silhouettes show in the infographic, these are very different shapes.

Graphic: Katie Swanson, Sources listed within

Despite the fact that the age girls start to worry about their bodies has dropped from 14 in 1970 to 3-6 year olds in 2009, there is still little to no awareness or acknowledgment of the problem. Body-image issues crop up before drug or alcohol problems in elementary age children, yet there are no programs to combat eating disorders like there are for drug or alcohol abuse. Research and insurance funding remains inadequate as well.

In order to change the media perceives women, and how women perceive themselves, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-W) have recently introduced the Healthy Media for Youth Act. Women who support this legislation seek to give girls the ability to decipher the negative messages they receive and encourage more, and more positive, roles for women in general.

In the meantime, there is a way for people to decide if a movie is portraying women in a positive light, or just reducing them to stereotypes. It’s called The Bechdel Test, explained by feministfrequency on youtube:

Source: http://www.youtube.com/user/feministfrequency

With only three requirements: that there be more than one woman, who talk to each other, about something other than a man, many popular movies don’t pass.

It isn’t breaking news that women and young girls worry about their body image. It’s the fact that younger and younger girls are being negatively affected by the attitudes toward women in American society. Acknowledging the issue and educating young girls and boys about acceptance is becoming increasingly more important.