TV showcasing average women causes body troubles

Companies from Hanes to Dove are celebrating the “average” woman. Women with freckles, muffin tops, curly hair and scars are present in advertisements more and more often.

But is seeing the norm in the media what women really need? Will this fix all the insecurities we have stemming back to the days of Barbie?

According to new research that will be published next year in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology the problem is not that these so called “average” women are underrepresented. It is how they are represented, especially on television that is making us feel worse about our bodies.

The Huffington Post reports that the study separated 120 female college students into three groups of 40.

One group watched a nature documentary, one viewed a show promoting a positive body image, “How to Look Good Naked,” and the last group viewed a program showing that thin is in, “Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model”.

Measuring, “mood, body anxiety and body weight dissatisfaction before and after subjects watched each show,” the researchers found that both the programs promoting the “average” body type as well as a thin ideal caused increased body anxiety and body weight dissatisfaction.

Although I have never viewed the program, “How to Look Good Naked,” there are various similar television shows that I have watched.

The premise is basically a drawn out Oprah makeover show. Take frumpy looking women who aren’t really sure what size they wear or how to put outfits together and then they educate them on how to look their best.

Whenever I watch shows like this, I feel mortified for the woman who is forced to take criticism about her outward appearance just because she will get a shopping spree afterward.

I can see how these types of shows would cause body anxiety despite the “positive” end results.

The “Next Top Model” type shows, the brainchild of former super model Tyra Banks, parade thin women around for the cause of fashion, but it is expected in this context.

They are aspiring models after all. A certain physique is desired in the fashion industry and it has been that way for decades.

There should be a show called “You don’t really look like a super model but you’re healthy and that’s OK,” because that is how I feel, but there seem to be no television shows that promote that idea. It’s either top model or frumpty dumpty.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006 the average U.S. woman over 20 was about 5’3” tall and weighed 164.7 pounds, I don’t really see where that demographic is catered to.

I understand that self-help shows are supposed to be entertaining, but before you educate us on how to disguise our hips or cover our arm flab, think about what it is really saying about our ideals.

 

Reach the columnist at tafergu1@asu.edu
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