Carbon Copy: Dissertation

Carbon copy:

How the media and magazine advertising  industry has an effect  on the ideologies of body image for young women in the UK.


Many young women are influenced by the media and advertising that surrounds them, whether it be consciously or sub-consciously. How they are exposed to these adverts and how their personality absorbs the information, determines how the consumer reacts to them. Out of the 3,500 advertising images that we see each day a large percentage of them are beauty and fashion adverts and are targeted at young women, some of which are strongly affected by them. In my dissertation I am going to look up the various types of theoretical analysis’ that correlate the relationship between the consumer and the advertiser and how a lot of women feel low self-esteem, body-dissatisfaction and internalisation because of this. Theories such as ‘The thin-ideal’, ‘Social cognitive’, ‘self schema’ and ‘Self discrepancy’ are all thought to have played huge significance to the psychology of young women, and explains why some go to extreme lengths to get the thin-ideal body that they desire. Some women suffer with extreme dieting, exercising and even consider surgery to get this ‘perfect’ body emulating what they see in the media, but this is not a healthy way, nor are the role-models they are trying to ‘copy’ healthy and ‘real’ women. The magazine industry has not always been this way however, I will be looking up the evolution of the representations of women in advertising since 1950 and find out where this fascination with the ‘ultra-thin’ and ‘androgynous’ supermodel really took off within the beauty and fashion industry.


In recent years, there has been noticeable increase in academic and popular interest in body image. Researchers from a number of disciplines have become interested in factors that affect people’s experiences of embodiment, and the impact of body image on behaviour (Sarah Grogan, 2008:1). The UK’s magazine industries have been scrutinised over decades for their various different types of demeaning advertising techniques because of their representations of ‘beauty’. One of the most interchangeable advertising movements in magazines are the controversial representations of specific genders, especially women. The way people are portrayed in magazines should be a reflection on what we see in real life, however for the magazine industry, this reality is rarely the case. In a modernised culture the fascination of the ‘perfect body’ seems to have increased dramatically. My findings and evidence of this will hopefully answer the related question: Does the magazine industry effect the self-esteem and body image of women in the UK?

It is said that in one 45-minute journey, the average London commuter is exposed to more than 130 adverts, featuring more than 80 different products. Only half of that information makes any impact, while unprompted we can remember none of the blur of adverts. In an entire day, we’re likely to see 3,500 marketing messages (The Guardian, Owen Gibson, 2005). Even-though only 9% of these adverts have a direct statement about beauty, a lot of adverts that are focussed on other products still represent genders subliminally. (Body Image and Advertising , 03 June 2013) It seems clear from the foregoing that in many different ways the model can communicate to a viewer, even a still and silent representation can such as make up a magazine advertisement. Some of this communication will be explicit and conscious, some implicit and unconscious and some implicit and conscious: In the advertisement photograph a far smaller part will be unconscious in everyday interaction, for the situation is artificial and the event is being staged for a very particular reason (Trevor Millum, 1975:67-68). Put simply, this means that out of the 3,500 advertising images that we see each day, if only a small percentage of them we consciously acknowledge, we subconsciously absorb most, if all that are presented to us. Something that interested me most around this topic follows as part of Fiskes’ debate on ‘Audience power’: “The meaning of any text is not complete until interpreted by an individual within the context of their lives” (John Fiske, 1989). Putting this into context means that if a beauty or health product was to be advertised, ones perception of how they felt at that specific moment would have an impact on how they portrayed the advert. If an individual was feeling ugly and unhappy and an advert were to show a product that promoted happiness and beauty, you would be more likely to buy a product that associates with said emotions. Women’s magazines use adverts to their advantage cater to their targeted audience knowing that they will have a heavier influence on who is reading. There are many female dominated magazines in the UK and a brief summery of the content and the stereotypes that are associated with them. Through these examples you can see that vogue readers have a high number of fashion familiarized consumerism, so most of the adverts will have a fashion oriented subject. With women being highly stereotyped however, beauty affiliated content is recurrent throughout any of the women’s UK magazines. Some associated magazines have tried to adhere to the ‘healthier’ more ‘normal’ looking women, especially after the death of two models in 2006-2007 from what the doctors blame to their acute eating disorders. This important step targets not just skinny models, but also the impact they have on the young minds of girls by presenting an image of perfection that is neither attainable nor healthy. (Tatyna, May 28, 2012) If more magazines were to do this- the manipulated views of young girls may change in the future.

Women’s magazines are, of course, all about the social construction of women-hood today. Some of the content is evident – the ‘fashion and beauty’ material, which takes up many pages in the UK’s female dominated magazines, however they contain very few surprises when it comes to the representation of gender. Whether it be to greater or lesser degrees, we have to agree that critics would say that these sections of the magazines represent a not-very subtle and relentless insistence that women of all ages must do there best, and go to considerable expense to look as ‘glamorous’ as possible- and it is difficult to disagree with such statement (David Gauntlett, 2002:182-210). In order to look and feel this glamorous women turn to extreme fixes with there own body image through: Extreme/fad dieting, extreme exercising and some go as far to proceed with body manipulation such as surgery. These practices are where the controversial concerns with young women and the relationship to mental health through the influence of these ‘role models’ are executed and huge debates and theorisations have arose through relevant research.

Women’s bodies in magazines constantly send negative connotations. There has been a progression towards thinner and thinner models in ads within magazines: twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average woman – but today’s models weigh 23 per cent less. (National Eating Disorders Association, February 26, 2009). For women, along side the visuals, it’s the constant articles like this months New! magazine publishing stories like ‘KERRY ON HER MUM TUM: I’ve still got weight to lose’ and Star magazine publishing ‘ Billie gets her pre-baby body back in 4 weeks- we tell you how’. These models already start out being photographed intensely thin and then undergo the ‘Photo-shop surgery’ which reduces body-fat even further by eliminating any creases or cellulite or even wrinkles! This then creates an unrealistic achievement of the said ‘perfect’ female body for young women to aspire to and ‘copy’. These influences are particularly important in teens, who experience intense social pressure which is often based on how they look. Young people can now even opt to have a slimming technique done for there graduation photo to able them to look thinner, have their teeth whitened and even blemishes removed from their skin (Ilona Burton, Thursday 17 July 2014). Is manipulating photographs the new age surgery for young people?

Body Image and Eating disturbances can include eating disorders, but also include severe dissatisfaction with your body, overestimating body size and chronic thoughts about weight loss. Magazines for both men and women are thought to perpetuate problems with body image and eating disturbances (Scicurious, 2011). The Daily Mail stated that over 90% of the UK’s population are unhappy with the way that they look, and suffer with severe body dissatisfaction (Daily Mail, 2011), these kinds of statistics have become more prevalent with body-image over the past decade and continues to rise. A study conducted in the UK found evidence that anorexia nervosa is a socially transmitted disease and exposure to skinny models may be a contributing factor to such disorders (Sarah Boseley, 2012-03-01).

In the past two decades, the sociology of the body has become fashionable. Once the sole domain of the biological sciences, bodies and embodiment have become focal points for discussions for a whole range of sociological issues, including identity, social movements, consumer culture, ethics and even social theory and philosophy (Philip Hancock, 2000).

Theoretical Framework

The Thin-ideal

The thin ideal is the concept of having the media’s represented versions of the exalted fat-free, beautiful and perfect female body themselves. Slim and beautiful images are presented to women of all personalities everyday and is consumed differently by every single individual. The tiny waste and long legged girl that we view in magazines on a day to day basis are supposed to represent the ‘real’ and ‘idealistic’ feminine figure. Today however, after a lot of relevant research, we can honestly say that these images are a ‘false photo-manipulated’ version of the distorted beautiful woman that has been implanted in our brains by the media over time: People wonder why there is a constant struggle to attain such a body for women, when the media has been controlling women to try and obtain these fantasy physical expectations for a long time with portraying the thin-ideal at 15% below the average female body weight. Correlated studies have linked that: “the exposure to said images, lead to the increase of body-dissatisfaction, thin-ideal, internalisation, self-discrepancies and eating pathology in young/if all of women” (Brown, A and Dittmar, H, 2005).

The term ‘internalisation’ means:
The opposite of externalization. Generally, internalization is the process of consolidating and embedding one’s own beliefs, attitudes, and values when it comes to moral behaviour

(Oxford Dictionary, 2010)

In a literary state for sociology, internalisation means ‘the process of a set of norms and values established by people or groups which are influential to the individual through the process of socialisation’ (Scott, John. 1971). The process of identification, something that women often struggle to find when they are young and influential, is encouraged by the form of socialisation through internalisation. Internalisation begins with an individual viewing and understanding what people portray to be the normality. The more they understand what the normality is and the reasoning behind why, they then start to take upon the represented normality and except the normality as their own, thus internalising it. If you put this internalisation to the affect that role-models could have on a young woman, we can start to understand how women are represented in magazines are so important. What young woman naively accept are the stereotyped visual representations of gender in advertising that is situated within the magazines they read. These young woman now have the ideologies the advertising industry has portrayed of the ‘perfect woman’ and then tend to adopt what they see to there own morality and identification. Little do most young women know, these images are nothing like what ‘real’ women look like, and they then have a false sense of reality. This can lead on to drastic measures and obsession to look the way they have internalised beautiful women to look and can develop to depression, body-dissatisfaction, eating disorders and low self esteem if they cannot achieve this.

There have been few ongoing investigations of integrative theories of bulimia nervosa, the study of the thin-ideal prospectively tested the dual-pathway model using random regression growth curve (RRGC) models and data from a 3-wave community sample of adolescent girls (N=231). Initial pressure to be thin and thin-ideal internalisation predicted subsequent growth in body dissatisfaction, initial body dissatisfaction predicted growth in dieting and negative affect, and initial dieting and negative affect predicted growth in bulimic symptoms. There was prospective evidence for most of the hypothesized effects. Results are consistent with the assertion that pressure to be thin, thin-ideal internalization, body dissatisfaction, dieting, and negative affect are risk factors for bulimic pathology and provide support for the dual-pathway model (Stice, Eric, 2002:124-135). Sociocultural factors are thought to have also played a part in the promotion and the maintenance of eating disorders. These sociocultural pressures include the ultra-slender ideal-body image (or thin-ideal) adopted for women in a westernised culture, the position of the female role and the importance of appearance for female in order to gain societal success (Eric Stice and Heather E. Shaw, 1994).

Case study:

Exposure to media-portrayed thin-ideal images adversely affects vulnerable girls: A longitudinal experiment: Eric Stice, Diane Spangler and W. Stewart Agras

In 2001, 219 adolescent females from 2 different private high school in the San Francisco Bay area ages 13-17, participated in an experiment. This experiment was conducted by Stice, Spangler and Agras. The investigation/experiment was to prove their theoretical view that: “repeated exposure to ‘ultra-slender’ models in the media, promotes an internalisation of the thin-ideal body image for women. Which can alter the normative perceptions regarding the average body dimensions of women”. To ensure that the experiment was fair and confidential, each of the young girls was assigned a number instead of using their names and had to undergo a mental health analysis survey prior to, 10 months into and 20 months into the experiment. Randomly picked, 45% of the candidates received a subscription to ‘Seventeen’ Magazine. Whereas, the other 55% received no subscription and were analysed in a controlled group. There were nine specific calculations that had to be made during the experiment: Magazine exposure manipulation check, social support, perceived pressure to be thin, body mass, thin-ideal internalisation, negative effects, dietary, body dissatisfaction and any bulimic symptoms. The experiment was questioned and tried to determine whether the: ‘exposure to media would create long-lasting affects on the participant’. The controlled group was exposed to a significantly less number of outside media then that of the 45% of girls who were exposed to a high number of influential media. It was said that the experimental group in total was exposed to approximately 6 hours and 15 minutes of extra footage to that of the controlled group over the course of the experiment. To analyse certain data, a random regression curve chart was used. This assessed the: Bulimic symptoms, Body dissatisfaction and perceive measure to be thin. After the whole experiment was conducted, they came to realise that they had produced null findings. They found that there were no significant affects of long term exposure to magazines. Stice, Spangler and Agras suggested that: “The participants were too old to be affected by the media because they have already internalised by the thin-ideal”. They also concluded that: “Exposure to such media may only have short-lived affects, accept for ‘adolescents who are initially vulnerable’” (Stice, Spangler & Agras, 2001).

Social Cognitive and Self- Schema Theory

The self-schema theory is one of many critical concepts on starting to understand body image dissatisfaction in young women. This theory was developed by Markus in 1977, and became an important discipline when associating body-image with psychology. Self-schema is a theory in which there are many branches, but in particular for related studies we are looking in more depth at the ‘Body-Schema’ theory. This theory leads to the prediction of particular people who are more likely to be more sensitive than others to body related imagery, and more likely to internalise the thin-ideal. (Markus. H, 1977) It also means that those individuals who are schematic for appearance would be more likely to contain the images and analyse them which could affect the persons concept of ‘self’ or ‘self-esteem’ (Sarah Grogan, 2008:119-121). Body image can be a defining feature for some people who feel that body image is of huge importance, and if this part of the schema is prevalent in the person, it can be activated more quickly. These people would state things like “what I look like is an important part of who I am” these individuals have a high importance of appearance-schematicity, and have been found to have been very sensitive to provided imagery in the mass media, such as the advertisements that we see in women’s magazines. Body image however is a part of everyone’s self-schema, Body image includes: The perceptual experience of the body, the conceptual experience of the body (what we believe about out body e.g. scientific information, myths etc.) and the emotional attitude towards the body (Gallagher, Shaun. 1995:1-28) .Perceptions in the social world through schemas, allow people to understand the individuals and groups of their social world, meaning this has an element of social cognition (E.R Smith and D. M. Mackie, 2000:20-21). Social cognition is a sub topic of social psychology that focusses on how people process, store and apply information about other people in social situations. It focuses on the role that cognitive processes play in our social interactions. The way we think about others, play a major role into how we think, feel and interact with the world around us (Kendra Cherry, 2014). In 1986 a psychologist names Albert Bandura used the social cognitive theory to create one of his own, the ‘Reciprocal Determinism’ that proves a persons persona is influenced by personal factors, and social environment/surroundings. A model can be used to show the relationship between the factors, it is called the ‘Triadic Reciprocal Causation model’. This refers to the mutual influence between all three sets of factors we engage in order to accept the media’s images when presented to us: Personal, environmental and behavioral (Michael W. Eysneck , 2004:187-190). If our situation was the representation of females in advertising, we then take this on board personally to evaluate it against our self-schema and then execute what we see through behavior which can then be the obsession of trying to achieve the thin-ideal.

Case Study:

Albert Bandura, Dorothea and Sheila Ross (1961), Bobo Experiment: Social Cognitive analysis.

The social cognitive theory when applied to self esteem and body-dissatisfaction is something that is evolved through curiousness and learning from looking at and observing models. The models can be those of an interpersonal imitation or they can simply be a form of media resource. Effective Modelling should be a clear teaching on the general rules and strategies of the ‘real’ representations of how to deal with certain situations (Bandura, A. 1988:275-302). In order to illustrate this effectively, Albert Bandura and the people whom worked along side him in his studies, conducted a series of experiments using a Bobo Doll. In this experiment 36 boys and girls of pre-school children aged 37-69 months (mean of 52 months) were the subjects to a group of psychological findings. The experiment started off with separating the boys and girls into groups- one controlled and one uncontrolled for the experiment. There were 2 adults, one boy and one girl to play the role of a role-model. Either could sit in with each individual child when conducting the experiment. For half of the experimental subjects the role-models were aggressive and for the other half they were very subdued and non-aggressive in their behaviour when playing. The experimenting then began with placing either the aggressive or non-aggressive role-model in the same room as the pre-school child, both of which in the opposite corners of the room. The pre-school children were given child like toys to play with in one corner, while in the opposite corner the adults were given a Bobo Doll (an inflatable doll weighted at the bottom, so when nudged, punched or kicked it stands upright again) and various other props e.g. mallet, toy gun etc. The role-models would say to the children, you’re not to play with this in the adults corner as they are adults toys. So the children would stick to their toys and continue to sit back and watch their role-models actions and how they interacted with the Bobo Doll. The aggressive type were using the pops to hit the Bobo Doll and say aggressive things to the doll, whereas the non-aggressive sat and played nicely with the Bobo Doll. Once the half aggressively exposed and the other non-aggressive finished with their experiments, they went back to their pre-school play group where a similar Bobo Doll was placed amongst them which they were allowed to play with. The findings were put together in a table to show the difference between the way the children who were shown aggressive behaviour and those who were not shown aggressive behaviour [Figure 3]. As you can see looking at this table the difference between those aggressive and no- aggressive are clear. The children who were exposed to aggressive behaviour started to act aggressively towards the Bobo Doll and ‘copy’ what they perceived to be good behaviour from their role-models previously, and the non-aggressive showed little attention to the Doll. This just shows that people, especially children, are heavily influenced by what they see. This experiment proves the displays of social cognitive theories because it depicts how people can re-enact the behaviours they see in the media (Bandura, Ross and Ross. 1963:3-11) and take it as the ‘Normality’. Heavily influential girls with a high self-schema would evaluate the beautiful role-models they see in magazines and internalise them for their own, through this social-cognitive process.

Self-discrepancy theory

The self- discrepancy theory is multifaceted and is quite complex: It defines many attributes or dominants that define the ‘self’. Who you are in the work place, who you are to your friends, your girlfriend, and even who you were in the past that determines who you are in modern day life. The idea that the ‘self’ is in a form of many different kind of states have been aroused by theorists for decades, generally however,the earliest recorded man to have come up with this concept was William James, who said: “In each kind of self, material, social, and spiritual, men distinguish between the immediate and actual, and the remote and potential, between the narrower and the wider view, to the detriment of the former and advantage of the latter” (LR Vartanian, 2012:711-717). This was then initialised and further formalised by Higgins, in 1987, where he proposed that: “There are consequences that arise when individuals compare one self-state and find that a discrepancy exists between the two” (Higgins, E. T. 1987:319-40). Higgins also theorised that peoples emotional vulnerabilities and motivations result from discrepancies in their patterns of beliefs about themselves. In order to try an obtain tress free values of yourself and your opinions in every day life, Higgins stated that it is important to try and match the person that you perceive to be (the person who you would really like to be) and an ‘ought-self’ the person that you feel you have to be through obligation). Higgins proposed that the discrepancies between the person that you ought to be and the actual idealisms of yourself is what can lead to body-dissatisfaction and discomfort (Sarah Grogan, S.G. 2008). This theory has been related more and more frequently and successfully to the studies of eating disorders than to body image. However some studies have looked at body-dissatisfaction within a self-discrepancy framework and have suggested that: ‘Media imagery may form a part of the information used to formulate the ideal -self in relation to appearance, and that the lack of this match with this ideal, may cause distress’ (Higgins, 1992:51-76). Women are constantly judging themselves in a social comparison to the images they see in magazines of women in adverts, this comparison to the images are compared with the self-discrepancies they have already of themselves. Girls who are high on the thin-ideal and eating pathologies scale, seem to have more of an elevated body-dissatisfaction while browsing through the unrealistic versions of the perfect woman in advertising images. If a woman feels as though she has fallen below the ‘idealised standard’ that the magazines are portraying the woman can feel self-discrepancies within that individual and become depressed and gain a low self-esteem in reaction to what they see. Only women who have internalised the thin-ideal images to the social- standard of attractiveness in the media, would elicit this sense of self-discrepancy more then someone who has a low ‘self-schema’ but everyone is affected by their own interpretations of what they believe to be the social standard.

Literature Review

What is a Role Model?

Role model Definition:
Noun- A person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.
(Google define, 2014)

A role model can be separated into six different categories, to define which one best suits the candidate:

  • The ‘Straightforward success’ role model: This is a person who has been successful in what they have chosen to do in there professional field. This could be a film star, a singer, a dancer or anything. This however, excludes all people who have excelled in their career but have tarnished it by being associated with inappropriate or ‘immoral’ practices. This kind of status would be names as an ‘outsider’ role model.

  • The ‘Triumph over difficult circumstances’ role model: These people are usually the most popular role model. They often achieve success by overcoming adversity. An example of this would be Tiger Woods, who surmounted the racism of the golf world to become it’s youngest-ever champion. This type of role model is sometimes inappropriately used to argue against those who complain about injustice. Like: “You cant say England is full of fat people, look at the success of Kate Moss”.

  • The ‘Challenging stereotypes’ role model: Disabled people who achieve something that other people didn’t think they would be able to do, or might be surprised to see them full-fill the role that they set themselves to do could be an example of this. Due to the difficulty in these oppressive ideas, this category can be linked to ‘triumph over difficult circumstances’. Female action hero’s, self-fulfilling a role that’s predominantly a male role like the character Lara Croft as a female action hero can be an example of this too.

  • The ‘Wholesome’ role model: These are the role models that the older generation are comfortable showing to their children. Clean-cut pop bands and better behaved sports stars and stars who say ‘no’ before marriage etc. Supporting these kinds of figures can be disappointing for conservatives because of the disappointment they could later bring if they brake their angelic persona by going against what they believed originally.

  • The ‘Outsider’ role model: People that are rejected by the mainstream culture, the outsider role model are praised by those who don’t like to conform to social-expectation and rebel, for example Marilyn Manson, Eminem and even dead stars like Kurt Cobain.

  • The ‘Family’ role model: This simply means what is states. This is a Family member that you look up to or admire, and maybe want to follow in their footsteps either professionally or emotionally (David Gauntlett, D. G., 2002: 214-215).

The type of role model that’s associated with the women who are inspired by the thin-ideal, are the ‘straightforward success’ role models. Young and vulnerable women look up to these models as being beautiful and thin and glamorous. As a result they try and emulate the imagery that they see, to be just like them, even if it can put their health in jeopardy.

What is body image?

Body Image definition:

Body image is the perception that the person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception. These feelings can be positive, negative or both and are influenced by individual and environmental factors.

(Google define, 2014)

Body image was a phrase that was first thought of in 1935, by an Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst named Paul Schilder. This phrase was published in a book called ‘The image and appearance of the human body: Studies in the constructive energies of the psyche (Paul Schilder, 1950). In this book it was stated that: “human society has at all times placed great value on beauty of the human body and ‘body-image’, but a person’s perception of their own body may not correspond to societies standards”. He also defined body image as: “The picture of our own body which we form in our own mind, that is to say, the way in which the body appears to ourselves”. Meaning, people have very mixed views and opinions about the way they perceive their own body image, compared to what other people see of them in society, or the way people in society feel they have to be. The ‘ideal-body’ and the ‘ought-body’. Also the way we appear to be in comparison to others is the way we believe our own body image to be. The way the body is aesthetically and the sexual appeal of the body can be influenced by the environment in which we live in and the influences around us, depending on what we are subjected to on a daily basis will affect the personal views of our own body and how we see fit.

Since 1950, researchers have taken ‘body image’ to mean many different things and have moved beyond Schilder’s primarily perceptual definition. It has been noted that there are now 16 definitions of ‘body image’ that is used by researchers and clinicians. These include: Weight satisfaction, size perception accuracy, appearance satisfaction, body satisfaction, appearance evaluation, appearance orientation, body concern, body esteem, body schema, and body perceptive. The key elements for defining what body image is however, should be ones personal perceptions, thoughts and feelings about his or her body (Thompson et al., 1999).

Body image is something that is very important to human from early development. The mouth and the taste of a baby and their bodies are the first deemed explorations of the human body. When we grow up we determine positive and negative opinions of our bodies and these opinions are built up through the form of the social-cognitive theory. We are influenced by the people and environment that is around us, we then gain our own views of what we see, then execute them with out behavior of how we dress, how we execute the way we portray ourselves to other people etc. Negative body image is defined as having a distorted version of this, and positive body image is having a clear care-free about your body and acceptance to who you really are. Positive body image would include things like: Having a clear, true perception of your shape- you’ll see the various parts of the body as they really are. You will celebrate and appreciate your natural body shape and you understand that a persons physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person. You feel proud and accepting your unique body and refuse to spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight and calories. And you feel comfortable and confident in your own body. (NEDA, Feeding hope, 2014)

Female Body Shapes

Contrary to the popular belief of women’s magazine readers, bodies do come in all shapes and sizes and are different variations on everyone, not just the size 0 people thrive to be. Four of the most common female body shapes would be the banana (tube), apple, pear and the hourglass, however as you can see even in this explanatory diagram you can see others and there are even more outside of these basic structures. Within each of these shapes there are a wide spectrum of others to compare to, but to keep simple they are all kept geometric for easy viewing. Breaking down the body shapes, these are what they mean (Helen McCormack, 2005):

  • Banana, straight, or tubular shape: The waist measurement is less than 9 inches smaller than the hips and bust measurement. (Body fat is distributed predominantly in the abdomen, buttocks, chest, and face. This overall fat distribution creates the typical ruler (straight) shape).

  • Apple or V shape (triangle downward): Apple shaped women have broad(er) shoulders compared to their (narrower) hips. (Apple shaped women tend to have slim legs/thighs, while the abdomen and chest look larger compared to the rest of the body. Fat is mainly distributed in the abdomen, chest, and face).

  • Pear, spoon, bell, or A shape (triangle upward): The hip measurement is greater than the bust measurement. (The distribution of fat varies, with fat tending to deposit first in the buttocks, hips, and thighs. As body fat percentage increases, an increasing proportion of body fat is distributed around the waist and upper abdomen. The women of this body type tend to have a (relatively) larger rear, thicker thighs, and a small(er) bosom).

  • Hourglass or X shape (triangles opposing, facing in): The hip and bust are almost of equal size with a narrow waist. (Body fat distribution tends to be around both the upper body and lower body. This body type enlarges the arms, chest, hips, and rear before other parts, such as the waist and upper abdomen) (Helen McCormack, 2005).

As you can see, people do not take into account the height, body shape, size and how athletic they are- or even genetics, when comparing to the controversial thin-ideal of the women in advertising today. Which is why people are more self-conscious and have a low self-esteem when analysing the advertising within women’s magazines. A study to prove this was carried out among 6000 women by researchers at the North Carolina State University circa in 2005. The experiment found out that 46% of the women were banana shaped, just over 20% were pear shaped, just under 14% were apple and only 8% were said to have been hourglass. Other relevant studies also found that: “the average women’s mid section (waist) had increased in size by 6 inches since the 1950’s, and that women in 2004 were taller and had bigger breasts and hips than the average woman in the 1950’s” (Helen McCormack, 2005).

Changes in body image over time

High fashion figurative models have significantly changed over the years until the present day. Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly were iconic actresses in the 1950s were a couple of the many girls that were prised for their voluptuous hourglass look and fuller-figure when it came to the post-war perfect working woman. In-fact, girls were more fixated on gaining a few extra pounds as it was more ‘glamorous’ then they were with losing weight. With the average BMI (body mass index) of between 20.5 and 20.6 these girls couldn’t have stretched further apart from the modern day icons who have notoriously 15% less body far then the average UK woman. Even-though the curvaceous girls were more socially accepted than now, the thrive for looking beautiful still stood. Men expected women to, after the rationing, take pride of the way they looked and take advantage of the privilege of having beauty products again. Women were expected to never leave the house without looking their best, along with ‘well-composed overall appearance’, the most flawless skin was a battle in the 1950’s between all women, as they thought this was the most important attribute. So even in the 1950’s we see an obsession with looking ‘beautiful’ (Rehabs Editor, 2014).

A year before the 1960’s, in 1959, ‘Barbie’ the American manufactured fashion doll was created by the toy company ‘Mattel’ and mass marketed everywhere, including the UK (, 2014). This Doll has been one of the main controversies around the thin-ideal influences on young girls. The proportions of Barbie couldn’t be further from reality. If she was made into a real life woman she would stand an impressive 7ft 6inches (just 2 inches shorter than the worlds tallest women), hips that measure 33 inches and a waist that measures 18 inches. According to a hospital situated in Helsinki, Finland, this would mean that the ‘real Barbie’ if made human like would lack 17-22% of her body fat- which is required in order for women to have a period (Denise Winterman , March 6 2009). The toy company ‘Mattel’ defended that the Barbie was made thin, due to the clothes zips and fasteners when on the Barbie ‘bulking’ her out to look bigger. Little did he know- children would pay more attention to the naked Barbie then the clothed (Stuart .E. October 21, 2010). In 1963, the outfit “Barbie Baby-Sits” came with a book entitled ‘How to Lose Weight” which advised: “Don’t eat!” The same book was included in another ensemble called “Slumber Party” in 1965 along with a pink bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs (Sarah Sink Eames, 1959-1967). Because of these accessories within Barbie toy packs, young girls were learning about dieting before they can even understand the concept of doing so. Many people have managed to attain the Barbie figure (waist) and became famous for it. The most famous girl to make a stance in the media was 1950-60 sex symbol Brigitte Bardot, widely known for her Barbie inspired 20 inch waist. Body dissatisfaction can come not just by the size/weight of a person but also their background and the way their skin or features can determine what ethnicity they are. Mattel didn’t actually manage to create any ethnic Dolls until 7 years after release, which presented the Caucasian white Barbie mould e.g. features and body shape, just a different colour, which created controversy and uproar within the industry. They then followed with this concept to make it better, 4 separate times until only not too long ago in 2009 the ‘so in style’ range introduced the first ‘real’ ethnic dolls that matched actual realistic features, resembling various types of ethnic groups (Fox news, 2009).

The 1960’s was well known for its sexual revolution. In terms of females/women and what fashion determined was beautiful, it went in two separate directions. There were the Sophia Loren figures who were stereotyped as ‘hippies’ with their long hair and flowery attire. These girls were more curvy and continued the 1950’s ideologies of what women should look like. Then there were the minimalistic, bee-hived hair and blackened make-up women like Twiggy. Twiggy was completely out of the ordinary when the 1960’s came to place. She was thin and androgynous and women were now prominent, somewhat recapitulating the flapper (Jazz) look of the 1920s and weighed a mere 8 stone. Twiggy, a major supermodel of the 1960s, embodied many of these seismic shifts in idealized body types. In contrast to the full-figured and voluptuous Monroe and Kelly, the 112 lb Twiggy had a minimal chest, a slight frame, short hair, and a ‘boyish look’. This new form of beauty abandoned all curves and any hint of a mature look, instead appearing almost prepubescent (Rehabs Editor, 2014). People manipulated what they seen in the adverts and towards the end of the 1960’s is where dieting became a fad and the obsession with the thin-idea started to rise. This could have quite possibly started the thin-ideal and gaunt look of supermodels today.

The 1970’s was where the extreme ideologies of the thin and beautiful women came most prominent. Not so much for the fitness of a women, this came 10 years later in the 1980’s, but definitely for the defined thinness of the legs, cheekbones, collar bones and angular bone structure to promote this ideal. Models in this era had a weight which was 8% less than the average UK woman; and continued to decrease in size each decade. Some women embraces the more natural look, with the bed-head hair and ‘hippie chic’ clothing but the pressure was still their to be thin. In the Cosmopolitan advert as seen in, both the male and female front page models are thin and sexual. The female has her back bones on show that show she is extremely thin and the male, opposing today’s magazines, is not muscular and very tall in comparison to the female. What interests me about this cover, is the fact that both the actors/models look like they are intimate or showing signs of debauchery which flows with ‘Cosmos’ headline ‘how sex keeps you slim’ which tells us what kind of mentality the consumers had who read the magazines in this time period. In addition to being thin, there were greater emphasis on black/ethnic women being taught to embrace their curly hair and curvier bodies- a complete contrast to the female thin-ideal. In the 1970s, as part of the second-wave feminist movement, women began joining the work force.  Most women were hard to picture out of the kitchen or being the domestic housewife that society stereotyped as the normative way of acting (Gunter, 1995). The image of women began changing along with their always-changing body images and idealistic views.  It is interesting to see how much women will go through to fit in and be accepted in society.  This brings about gender stereotypes and expectations in certain cultures.  In Western culture, the women are now supposed to be fit and thin.  The expectations of women are always changing and becoming harder and harder to reach (Blogger: Evolution of Female Body Image, 2012).

The 1980’s and the 1990’s were very similar with their fashion trends and ideologies. The 80’s were about getting fit, but not too muscular.. To do this, people starting creating exercise video tapes and ‘Jazzersize’ classes. ‘Jazzersize’ was a form of aerobics made to dance music (mainly jazz). Even-though the 70’s thin-idea was desired, in the 80’s dieting was not the only way women were expected to keep a perfect figure. Playboy was a massive part of sexualising women in this era and became popular for women to imitate, playboy models weighed 17% less then the average woman, which is an unhealthy weight to emulate. Supermodels 6 foot tall in tights, leggings, leg warmers, head bands and running shorts were to be seen ever more popular and the media depicted them as being beautiful? For the average UK woman, this kind of body shape was impossible, or near impossible to achieve. While women had the average BMI of 25 in 1980, whereas supermodels fluctuated between 17.6 to 20.4 (Rehabs Editor, 2014). The 1990’s is where it all went wrong for the media-portrayal of women. Kate Moss, is one of the most important 90’s icons, being the face of Guccie, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Chanel and Rimmel. Corinne Day Was the person who started Moss’s career, she was photographed in black-and-white and later stylised by Melanie Ward, for British magazine ‘The Face’ when she was only 16. Day discovered Kate Moss when she was a young and unknown model and described the pictures that she took of Moss as ‘dirty realism’ or ‘grunge’ (John Hartley and Ellie Rennie, 2009). This photo-shoot was the start of a modelling movement, called the ‘Heroin Chic’ or ‘The Waif’ look. The look, characterised by emaciated features and androgyny, was a reaction against the “healthy” and vibrant look of models that were walking the catwalk thus far. USA news however, called the movement the ‘cynical trend’ (Maxin W. Furek, 2008). This drawn look made Kate moss, along with other models look more thin and this look which then followed suit among mainstream supermodels then went on to influence the younger, more vulnerable generation. This gaunt and ‘deadly’ look is attached to those of the super thin supermodels and are emulated by many women who see this as high fashion, and go to extremes to achieve such looks. This extreme behavior can lead to eating-disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia alongside others.

What is Body Dissatisfaction?

Body dissatisfaction relates to negative evaluations of body size, shape, muscularity/muscle tone, weight and usually involves a perceived discrepancy between a person’s evaluation of his or her body and his or her ‘ideal-body’ (Cash and Szymanski, 1995). Tiggemann, 1992, Furnham, 2005 and Greaves, 1944, believed that: “Dissatisfaction exists in a context where body image is subjective and socially determined. The social relativity of body satisfaction has been demonstrated by illustrating how satisfaction varies by culture and sub-culture. Data from different social groups have shown that the same body shape may be perceived more or less positively depending on the gender and the culture of the person doing the perceiving. A person’s body satisfaction is easier to predict from what we know about that person’s subjective evaluation of what it means to have that particular kind of body within that particular subculture then from actual body size as determined by BMI.” (Sarah Grogan, 2008). This interested researchers to argue that body image is subjective, and can be open to change through social influences. Many literatures tend to study the dissatisfaction of the body rather then the alternative positive satisfaction of body image, due to its clinical connection to those with eating-disorders and self esteem issues. Women are generally dissatisfied with their hips, thighs, stomachs and breasts because of the common misconceptions of how a woman should look.

The figurative rating scale, or silhouette techniques, were developed in the 1950’s and remain a widely used quantitative measure of degree and direction of body dissatisfaction. In this technique, silhouettes ranging from very thin to very fat are presented to the viewer, who is usually asked to choose the silhouette closest to their own body size, and then that representing her ideal-size. Studies using this technique have shown that, the women will generally pick a size that is bigger then her actual size to define what she looks like, then for her ideal-body type pick one thinner then her actual size. This effect has been replicated everywhere including the USA, Austrailia and Britain. (Sarah Grogan, 2008).

Women are bombarded with Images every day in the media and advertisements, that it really is impossible to bypass them and not be influenced by them. Because of the Ideals that these women (icons/role models) portray beauty, women go to extreme measures to re-create this in their own lives. It has been recorded that body dissatisfaction can be evident from women as young as 8 years of age and possibly even earlier. They have been known to voice their ‘fear of at’ and describe similar body shape ideals to those described in adults, to be ‘more slender’ or ‘thinner’ (Sarah Grogan, 2008:192-193). In order to develop strategies to help people feel better about their bodies it is informative to consider how some individuals manage to maintain body satisfaction in societies where the idea is more slender/muscular and their bodies do not correspond to this (Cash, 1995). As people become aware of their differentiation to supermodels and glamorous magazine advertisements, women start to become psychologically affected. This is when eating disorders, extreme body manipulation e.g. surgery, liposuction, implants, and depressions start to rise.


Eating disorders come as a result of feeling body dissatisfaction, due to the social pressure to be thin. A person with an eating disorders may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results in their health. Three of the main types of eating disorders which affect mainly women but in some cases men, physically, psychologically and socially are:

  • Anorexia nervosa: When someone tried to keep their weight as low as possible, for example by starving themselves or exercising excessively.

  • Bulimia: When someone tries to control their weight by binge eating and then deliberately making themselves sick or using laxatives.

  • Binge eating: When someone feels compelled to over-eat.

Statistically, around 250 women in the UK experience anorexia nervosa at some point in their lives, and most of the time the condition starts to develop in ages 16-17. Bulimia is around 5 times more common then anorexia and 90% of these people are female and also starts commonly in young teens, approximately 18-19 years old. Binge eating differs from the other two eating disorders, as it is more prominent in the later life of a woman between the ages of 30-40. As the condition of binge eating is hard to define however, it is very hard to have a clear and concise reading of how wide-spread the condition is (NHS Choices, 2013).

Many of the young women who have suffered, or who are likely to suffer from these kinds of illnesses are very influential and have self-schemas against their body. It has been noted that sufferers like to seek help or advice from other people who think the same way they do in order to achieve the body satisfaction that they desire. You’d think that this kind of information wouldn’t be easily accessible, however ‘pro-anorexia’ sites are just as accessible as your own Facebook accounts. Although heavily discussion through government to ban ‘pro-ana’ sites have been ongoing, nothing has been finalised. Twitter, Tumbler and Pinterest are three of the many companies to jump on board with members who support anorexia, showing ‘thin-inspiration’ photos also known as ‘thinspiration’, and giving advice on how to starve yourself to get the thin-ideal that you psychologically starve to have- literally. The Telegraph has recently documented a heart-warming story about a girl called Jade and her obsession with ‘pro-ana’ sites, and her inspiration to document one of her own to help people with the same illness as her and advise how to lose weight the fastest. Quotations from the site include “Anorexia is a lifestyle, not a disease” and “I’ve reached a point where I can go without food for three or four days and I am able to live my life with no problems. You can do it too, but it will take discipline and hard work” (Liz Hunt, Joel Gunter, Cherrill Hicks and Sarah Rainey, 2014). Anorexia sufferers have even managed to thought out a diet plan called the ABC diet to help people who want to be super-thin. The diet is an extreme low calorie pro-anorexia diet normally lasting 50 days. It contains 5 fast days during which the dieter is strictly not allowed to consume any calories. The rest of the days allow between 100-800 calories to take in. The website allows you to share your experiences on the diet and talk in a forum with women who urge you to carry on, and persuade you that the thinner you are, the more beautiful you are. There are many risks in these kinds of crash/eating disorder diet guides, and even though they are listen within the website- women chose to ignore them. Malnutrition, fatigue, and learned obsession with calories, fat and suger intakes, paranoia, sensitivity to cold temperatures. Depression and An increased likelihood to participate in other dangerous eating rituals are all stated. These are only a few side effects to extreme dieting (ABC Diet Team, 2011-2012).

By identifying Factors that predict satisfaction, we may be able to produce useful ideas for encouraging a more positive image of the body in those who are dissatisfied, to improve health and well-being” (Dian Neumarck-Sztainer, 2006).


In order to fully understand the concept of media advertising imagery in correlation to the way young women feel about themselves. Being a young woman myself, I decided to create a questionnaire to send out to the public, to analyse this on a personal level. After literary research I could see that media messages that contained a high number of ultra-thin body ideals, had an impact on the readership and popular belief states that its the current cultural normality to have a slender physique and be beautiful just like in the magazines- no matter what extremes you have to go through to achieve this. In doing this Questionnaire, I hope to gather real information from women today, to see if this kind of discrepancy is still prominent among young women and adolescents, maybe even children, in modern day life. I chose to do a questionnaire online instead of doing a ‘vox-pop’ or interview, because people could then take their time to answer the questions fully, re-word if need be and really take in the reasoning behind it. It was also handy to have an online questionnaire, especially through ‘Survey-Monkey’ as this enabled you to share your questionnaire through other domains like, Facebook, Twitter and even emails if need be. Needless to say most/all of my results were gathered from Facebook, due to its popularity among young sub-cultures. These are the 10 questions that were presented to them:

  • Do you read women’s magazines?

  • What is your age bracket?

  • If yes to reading women’s magazines, how often do you read them?

  • Do you try to base your image upon what you see in magazines?

  • Are you worried/conscious about your appearance?

  • Do magazines contribute to this worry?

  • When you read magazines and then look at yourself do you feel you need to change in order to look like the images in the magazines, WHY?

  • Do you think magazines have a direct effect upon your perception of your own body image? Please elaborate.

  • Would you like to see more women in magazines that are realistic, then the representations (models) we have currently?

  • If yes to the above question, do you feel this will help the youths perception of today of women?

I chose to use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative questions in my survey to gather a varied analysis. Qualitative questions able people to voice there opinions more freely and quantitative questions are good for basic information like age, male or female, do you read magazines? Etc. Some of the disadvantages of using questionnaires are: There is no way to tell how truthful a respondent is being. There is no way of telling how much thought a respondent has put in. The respondent may be forgetful or not thinking within the full context of the situation. People may read differently into each question and therefore reply based on their own interpretation of the question – i.e. what is ‘good’ to someone may be ‘poor’ to someone else, therefore there is a level of subjectivity that is not acknowledged. There is a level of researcher imposition, meaning that when developing the questionnaire, the researcher is making their own decisions and assumptions as to what is and is not important…therefore they may be missing something that is of importance The process of coding in the case of open ended questions opens a great possibility of subjectivity by the researcher (K. Popper, 1959 and Taylor & Francis S. Ackroyd, J. A. Hughes, 1981).

Some of my important findings have been put into a table, my findings were as followed:

These quantitative questions show that the majority read magazines, mainly over 25’s answered the survey, however we have collected research from younger categories, and the majority also felt conscious about their appearance.

Two qualitative questions were used in my research to able the person to express their views and opinions more freely. One of the questions that were the questions that were asked was: ‘When you read magazines and then look at yourself, do you feel the need to change in order to look like the images in the magazines, Why?’ Some of my favourite and relative answers were:

Yes, no representation of larger women, larger women are made to be uglier “

Yes, because it appears that the people in magazines are normal and they’re obsessed with stars who have recently gained weight etc. and talk badly about them for such reasons.”

They make out the perfect woman is a size 12 when in fact they are not”.

The other qualitative question was: ‘Do you think magazines have a direct effect upon your perception of your own body image? Please elaborate’. Some of my favourite relative answers from this were:

Yes, if more images of women looked more like me (larger) then I might feel better about myself.”

Most models used are of a smaller frame and taller height, makes me feel self conscious about my curvy body and how society should look like airbrushed ninnies. I usually ignore it now because I’m sexy as.”

Yes they make you feel inadequate and ugly even though you know that it is air brushed and totally unachievable.“

These findings are totally relevant research, this reinforces the theoretical analysis and literature statements that I have searched thus far. There were a couple null findings in this experiment, but overall the findings strengthened the analysis of other relevant research to modern day findings of ‘real’ people.


Many forms of media have been produced to make people aware of the ongoing controversy of ultra-thin, airbrushed supermodels in the media. Not all have been successful but most have made a point of being heard. A BBC programme called ‘Super Slim Me’ was aired in 2007. This included those who were/are famous, researching and trying to eradicate/ create awareness about the use of un-realistic role models in advertising to stop this chain of false ideologies. The use of size 0 in advertisements and products of the clothing industry has been met with criticism constantly. Dawn Porter, a reporter from the UK, decided she was going to challenge this and to go on an extreme celebrity ‘size zero’ diet for for this New BBC programme, which logged her experiences about her journey to a size zero (Dawn Porter, 2007-02-01). These experiences were to show people the effects extreme dieting can carry, and the health implications that follow. Many people were shocked, but the fashion industry was not phased. The beauty product company called Dove has been scrutinised in the media recently, so I am not going to talk in too much depth about their projects. But, hey were one of the first to really put a food forward and make awareness with their ‘dove evolution’ and ‘real beauty sketches’ campaign for real beauty.

In these findings, I have been able to correlate the psychological, physical, theoretical and sociological factors in to body-dissatisfaction in young women, and really understand how and why it affects a wide number of people. I have concluded that images of the perfect-ideal or the thin-ideal may lead to discrepancies in particular people. People with a self-schema or body-image schema are easily affected by society and their own psychological influences to be beautiful, resulting in suffering with severe body dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction can start at any age some to be recorded to be as young as 4 years old, and can get better with age, or be a burden on their lives as they get older and become internalised. It has been made evident that the only industry that would accept the thin-ideal and models with anorexic tendencies would be those to only fulfill a visual aspect. The reason why role-models like actors and singers take this image on board is because of the glamorous attachment to look like the models who advertise the expensive products like Vogue, Prada, Gucci and Channel. For example, when the herion-look was most prevalent in the fashion industry, people adopted this image of looking gaunt, unhealthy and withdrawn and influential people in the public started to ‘copy’. Today, artists are on a constant struggle to keep up with the fashion world of looking perfect all the time, many of them are scrutinised in the media like in ‘OK magazine’ and ‘Hello’, for wearing tracksuits and looking ‘normal’. The pressure to be perfect is more strenuous when you are of importance, as people believe that with the perfect-ideal image comes success. On June 10, 2014, Beyoncé released an awareness song called ‘Pretty Hurts’ in response to the hype of always having to look beautiful all the time, starting with the pressure of beauty pageants, it states that the people who participate in them have an unrealistic image of beauty, alike those influenced by their role models which can result into Eating disorders and severe body dissatisfaction in young women.

Women on the whole need to understand that when people create the portrayal of the ideal-woman, they are talking about the aesthetics behind them, not necessarily the sexual-appeal or taking into account body shape and originality. If the media were to represent women as they are within a healthy body BMI and real figures rather then the square figures we see up and down the catwalks, there would be a better understanding of the variations of beauty. As industry stands so far, we are to look at these duplicated bodies as just another statistic of the past. Its time for a change, and showing curvy women of all races and heights and body shapes, will really help with the next generation of women to understand that they are beautiful no matter what size. No woman is the same, and not everyone is naturally thin and conforms to the thin-ideal that advertising industries put there, the sooner the media jump to this, the quicker the level of eating disorders, depression, dissatisfaction will decline in young women, as they will feel ‘normal’ and have only realistic images to compare to.


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    There were photo attachments to this document but unfortunately there are no visuals linked to this essay.

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