Friday, February 6, 2015

Drawing Women’s Body Image Outside the Lines of Society

Throughout media’s history, women have been repeatedly viewed only for their bodies. From James Bond movies to perfume ads, the ideal and perfect body is constantly being shown everywhere in our daily lives. Advertisements are distributed not only to women but are seen by young girls too, and it is forming a misconception that we are only beautiful if we use certain products to meet social standards. According to The Representation Project statistics, eighty-one percent of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat, and fifty three percent of girls as young as thirteen are not confident with their bodies. “Just as with cigarette ads in the past, fashion ads portray a twisted, ideal image for young women. And they’re vulnerable. As sales go up, body image and confidence drops” says Democratic Representative Lois Capps, a sponsor for the Truth in Advertising Act. The world is constantly changing, especially through the power of media. Trends are spreading, words of encouragement and empowerment of women’s bodies are beginning to become common, and news can be posted in an instant. Fortunately, this means more and more people can use media to promote more positive images. However, the setback is that we still mainly see the negative or discouraging articles about women because that is what gets our attention the most. The question I ask to the millions of users in the media is, are we focusing on the wrong side of things? Are things completely unfair for women and their bodies, or are we simply not emphasizing the good parts to women’s representation in the media? Media today is promoting new ideas and ways to encourage positive feedback for women by beauty products creating campaigns, celebrities’ opinions on perfection in society, and companies taking a stand toward dishonesty in photoshopping.

If you walk in to a convenience store or drive by a billboard or a poster throughout your day, photoshopped images are everywhere! Images are enhanced and made to look captivating and flawless so it catches our attention. Advertisements want you to pay attention to their products by creating this image of perfection. It is man's (and a woman’s) instinct to strive to fit in. Many girls fear that they are not living up to these expectations put out in the word, when in reality the goals they’re striving for are artificially made. The United Kingdom enforces advertising standards prohibiting overly photoshopped advertisements.
Famous actress Julia Roberts was featured on a Lancôme makeup ad and all her of natural lines and wrinkles were removed. British Advertising Standard Authority pulled this ad down along with others from Maybelline and L’Oreal. A member from the British Parliament Jo Swinson thinks, “we should have some honesty in advertising … There’s a problem out there with body image and confidence. The way excessive retouching has become pervasive in our society is contributing to that problem.”

Photoshopping, thankfully, is no longer the only issue commonly seen in women’s media. More companies are trying to sell their "brand" by empowering girls and women instead of holding up impossible beauty standards. Gillette Venus created the “Use Your And” global campaign and a video encouraging girls to step outside the one label boxes that society puts us in. “If you’re smart, say yes, and..” is one of the multiple empowering lines in the poem featured in their advertisement video. “We created this campaign based on what we were hearing from women. They feel that beauty brands tend to focus only on singular dimensions of women - either Super Model or Super Mom- when, in fact, most women are a fabulous mix of everything in between,” says Global Franchise Leader for Gillette Charlene Patten. “Women are limited by one-dimensional labels from a very young age, which leads to significant loss of potential. For example, if she’s labelled pretty, it is assumed she can’t be smart so she behaves accordingly. At Gillette Venus, we believe that all women have the right to achieve their full potential by embracing their ‘ANDs’ and not be limited by any ‘ORs’.” Several other empowering advertisements have been created by companies like Dove, Always, or Pantene and has become a trending thing to talk about throughout media. Always’ video “Like a Girl” featured a multitude of men and women of all ages describing what “Like a Girl” usually means and what it really should represent. This video has gone viral especially after the airing in the Superbowl, and has received both positive and negative responses. This ad is not only is beneficial and supportive of the consumer, it is advantageous to the advertisers.

People may disagree with my statement that women’s representation in media is not getting better, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that. As teens grow older, their bodies are changing and may not follow these ideas of skinny and perfect skin. The percentage of teenage girls who are not confident with their bodies goes from fifteen to seventy eight percent at the age of seventeen. Women have been trying to gain this perfection at earlier and earlier years. Rates of plastic surgery for girls under the age of 19 has tripled in just ten years. Victoria Secret, a clothing brand with models of unrealistic and unhealthy weight, fashion underwear for young female teens. They released a campaign slogan for their new underwear. “The Perfect Body” featured multiple models who all were very small and thin. Critics later called out Victoria Secret for this campaign and called it ‘damaging to women’ and 26,000 people signed a petition to take down the ad and apologize. The lingerie company soon took it down, but placed it back up with the replaced words, “A perfect body for everybody”. Victoria Secret did not apologize and did not agree to stop the campaign. What does this new message then tell women? It says the perfect body, as shown in this advertisement, is the perfect body for everyone while in reality it is not reasonable for every woman's body.

Despite the discouraging images featured in the media we see today, however, more and more companies are creating an alternative to a lot of these intimidating ads. The personal care brand, Dove, decided to take a step further from the Victoria Secret’s Beauty campaign. Several women who were not models and not all one size took the same photoshoot and titled it “The Real Beauty Campaign”. This was greatly celebrated because it showed women who weren’t ashamed of their size or shape. Dove Beauty Campaign’s intentions were to tell girls that you don’t have to be one size or be this idea of perfect to have beauty. An additional underwear company Dear Kate created a picture in response to this campaign recreating the ‘Perfect Body Campaign’ but with diverse women who aren’t all the same shape and size.

Whether we are seeing advertisements or reading magazines, media has been telling girls that their appearance isn’t good enough. However, women’s representation in the media is rapidly changing. Nowadays we see women taking a stand against dress codes, sending messages of confidence and creating a world of media where girls don’t have to be afraid to put themselves out there for who they are. Women can share positive images on Pinterest, at #MediaWeLike, with posts and boards of articles that will empower girls’ confidence. Negativity tends to speak louder than positivity, but with more companies coming together to lift up the all women and girls in our society, the brighter our media world becomes.

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Conclusion [Updated 3/5/15]

From positive campaigns to photoshop regulations, our media is slowly changing to recognize women outside of gender stereotypes. Writing about this subject has shown me that there are new and different ways we can find positive messages dealing with issues like body image or perfection. It is groundbreaking that we are now forming actual laws concerning photoshop and false interpretations of beauty. All these ideas of being the perfect size and having the perfect skin or makeup, is lowering the self esteem of many women. I think girls today use different social media apps and see the attention you can get by posting ‘the perfect selfie’ and become self conscious of their own appearance in the media. Looking back on my blog comments, I've learned that people feel the same way about the change in advertisements. Many believe there has been a significant change in our view of women. I discovered some different resources that furthered my opinion on positive changes in the media. A comment helped me clarify my view on supporting companies like Dove who may have different intentions of their campaigns. I had to do further research to read about it and also learned that companies can be separate from parent companies and should not be taken harshly for their relations but mostly for their intentions. Through a recommended source about Target, I found out about users of the media actually speaking up toward companies. This changed my view on how negative media is not entirely bad. I learned that negative media can be a good thing if the person does something to change that negative issue into something better for our community. The whole experience of blogging was very helpful. I was at first very nervous to post so much of my own opinion, but looking back I’m glad I put my words out for the world to see. I’m glad that I got to find more positive messages out there in the media, and I hope that this blog post becomes one that people find helpful.

12 comments:

  1. Ann Thompson, thank you for your take on this subject! I would most definitely have to agree with you that the way womens bodies are portrayed in the media is getting better! By a long way! And not only their bodies, but women in general, I mean, just take a look at a few of the advertisement campains from many years ago shown in this article! They are absolutely despicable! So thank you again for your view on this subject!

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    1. Jonathan, I followed your link...yikes! Those old ads are frightening aren't they? I discovered a bit of a surprise at the end of the post, however, when the author really got to the heart of her argument about the damaging portrayals of men in the media. "Americans are slowly being brainwashed and the American family is suffering. Families need leadership, and the man is best suited for this role. Women have the privilege to empower their husbands and to use their influence to help him become great, or in the case presented in this post, to become weak." Not where I thought she was going originally, but she seems to perpetuate a few gender stereotypes of her own with these statements.

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    2. Hi Jonathan! Thank you for supporting my opinion and for the comment. I looked at your article you attached, and I can clearly see a difference in women's representation in ads. It is becoming more common to see the woman taking on a more serious role that isn't inferior to men. In a recent TV series, a group of librarians enter a world of magic and history. A woman, Rebecca Romijn plays the guardian of the Librarians. This is significant in that the woman is no longer the side character known only for her looks but now she is the main character with a courageous personality. You can find a picture of the cast here

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  2. Ann, I appreciate the different approach you have taken to this subject, by focusing on what's going RIGHT in the world of media representation, rather than the darker side of things that seems to always get our attention. This is a breath of fresh air! In this day and age, it's nice to know that people can use social media for positive changes, by calling out bad advertising, or sexist and limiting representations of girls/women and boys/men. This past fall, Target found itself in some hot water after a mom blogged about clothing choices for her girls, and urged other to join her in asking the company to offer a wider variety of options. Her post got enough attention that Target contacted her about helping them study their customers to make sure they are selling products parents want to buy for their kids. Success! Thank you for encouraging us to realize our own power in affecting positive change by pointing out so many of the advertising campaigns that offer a more realistic and healthy image for women. Well done!

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    1. Hello Ms. Gerla, Thank your for your feedback on my blog. I read your recommended article, and I was surprised. I never seemed to look at the big difference of lengths for young girls and boys clothing. I agree with the mother that these shorts were inappropriate for a child and that it puts out an image for them right away. The image that girl's clothes have to be slimmer and smaller. I'm glad that Target is listening to mothers and what they have to say about clothing choices for young children. It's empowering how you can take a negative subject like clothing sizes and turn it into actually doing something to make it better.
      Sincerely,
      Ann Thompson

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  3. Hello Ann!

    Your writing is very eye-opening and makes the reader really think about whether or not they can believe everything in the media. How real was Dove's campaign? I found an article that shows how Dove can actually make a difference. There is a man in Los Angeles who is trying to get Dove to sign the Truth in Advertising Heroes Pledge which doesn't allow Dove to run photoshopped images where children can see and say whenever their images are photoshopped. Do you think that Dove will agree to this agreement? My research topic was similar to yours as I showed how media and advertisements affect the rate of domestic violence. Thank you for this wonderful blog and shedding somelight on this subject.

    Sincerely,

    TweedleDum

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    1. Hello Ann, I thought your description of what exactly the media has been doing to make girls feel like they need to look better was great. I think that the media has been putting up the wrong image of what girls have to look like and that in agreement with you, it is still getting better but also still has a lot of bad media images for women out there to. I was wondering what exactly your thoughts were on men's images in media and how they are portrayed and how they compare to women's? I found this link to be quite interesting for womens portrayal in the media:
      Here

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    2. TweedleDum (and Ann),
      The Dove Real Beauty campaign tends to get a lot of positive attention, and I like the videos myself, but I've often wondered about the capitalist motives behind the company branding itself in this different way from other beauty products. Take a look at this article, which shares with us some information about Dove's parent company, Unilever, "maker of Axe, Fair & Lovely and Slim-Fast." Are consumers being manipulated?

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    3. Hello TweedleDum (and Ms. Gerla), I looked in on your input for the Dove company, and I understand the ideas your bring up toward it. To answer your questions, Dove, while being connected to the parent company, Unliever, still attempts to advocate for itself in supporting women's body image. I also believe that all companies try to send out positive messages out not only for the greater good but also for profit. Companies want to promote their brand under a good reputation and that is what gets the most appraisal. However, that does not make it entirely wrong. Thank you both for sharing some further ideas on the motives to companies.
      Sincerely,
      Ann Thompson

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    4. Hi Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, thank you for the inspiring article! I was glad to see Miss Indiana taking a stand to accept her own body and not feel forced to be a different. The growing influence of celebrities and models showing their own self and personality makes them feel more relatable and closer to others. My thoughts on men's media compared to women's is that it is just as a concern as women's. I was debating whether or not to write my blog comparing the two so I'm glad you brought it up. I believe men's media is focused on being tough, but also on being not as intellectual. I found some conflicting ads here that portray men to be the dumb person in the family only to have the wife or mom come to the rescue. In my opinion the tables have turned!
      Sincerely,
      Ann Thompson

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  4. Hello Ann, your blog was eye opening for me. I never knew that women are that badly photo shopped in the media. You did a very good job giving examples of stories about not only women, but ads in the media objectifying women. I loved how you used many statistics, and also how you inserted many links so that I could look into your information farther. When you go online, do you see ads with photo shopped women usually?

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    1. Hi Anna! Thank you for your nice feedback. To answer your question, yes. Usually if I'm browsing a website the advertisements on the side feature women and men both photoshopped with airbrushed looks and filters. I think a lot of photoshop problems are addressed for magazines, when we should be focusing on the internet ads as well. The average user spends thirteen hours
      online, so we should be concerned for the internet advertisements too.
      Sincerely,
      Ann Thompson

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