Twenty years after Naomi Wolf’s “The Beauty Myth” was published, girls and women are still under assault by media images depicting narrow beauty ideals and stereotypes, leading to low self-esteem and body image disorders. The National Organization for Women (NOW) wants to change that with today’s National Love Your Body Day.
In the past year, 13.1 million body parts were surgically altered, with 5 percent of the recipients under age 20, according to Shine, a news site for women. As plastic surgery becomes more prevalent, the pressure on women and girls to look perfect will increase.
A recent picture in O Magazine of Ford model Katie Halchishick shows what extreme plastic surgeries would be necessary to make her model body look like a Barbie doll. A plastic doll should not be held up as ideal, but many of the photos we see in the media represent this “perfect” look for women.
Considering the fact that people see more images of media models than they do their regular family, according to the Social Issues Research Center (SIRC), it is no wonder body image disorders and dissatisfaction are so prevalent.
According to the SIRC, media images are a top reason beauty is so important, and they represent mostly the “ideal” body type, or an airbrushed Barbie doll, instead of a healthy girl. This has been shown to have damaging effects on young girls and women, creating a nation of people who are dissatisfied with their bodies and do not see a realistic picture of themselves in the mirror.
According to the SIRC, this ideal Barbie body type is obtainable by only 5 percent of females, leaving many other women to diet unrealistically. Americans spend $33 billion each year on diets, according to the Boston Medical Center. Most disheartening is the fact that 80 percent of fourth grade girls have been on a fad diet, according to the SIRC.
Advertisers have spent too long capitalizing on women and girls, providing unnecessary pressures in exchange for easy, cheap ads. We have a new generation of young girls to protect against these growing unrealistic ideas. Take a minute today to love your body. Post on the NOW’s website or tell a woman in your life that she is beautiful, even if – or because – she doesn’t look like Barbie.
Jessica Schoenfeld is a sophomore majoring in sociology and women’s and gender studies.