Impact on Young Women

Unsurprisingly, the trends seen in the early 2000s had a significant impact on many young women’s body image. Whether or not it developed into a full-fledged eating disorder, there was still lingering impact.

The ad campaigns and unrealistic body standards put forth by the media were heightened due to the pressures that many women already felt to look a certain way.

For much of women’s lives, they have been told that in order to be happy or wanted they must look a certain way. This can come from societal pressure, internal debate, or familial factors. Regardless of where it comes from, women innately feel that they must look a certain way to be a real woman.5 This can be seen in the many diet plans that are specifically targeted to women or as previously stated the exclusion of models in the fashion and ad industry who have bodies that are realistic.6

The targeting of diet ads to women in addition to the body standards set forth by celebrities in an increasingly media driven world, proves to be much harder on young women and girls. Many of whom look up to the people they see in magazines and want nothing more than to look like them.7 Especially since teenage girls are particularly impressionable, it heightens the feeling to change one’s body.8

A 14 year old girl from Texas in treatment for anorexia remarks,

“My goal is to be happier, and the only way to be happier is to be skinny. Like Gisele B√ľndchen. She is a beautiful model and so skinny and just perfect. And Nicole Richie. Everything would be easier if I was as skinny as them. My whole life would be different.”9

This young girl’s perspective on happiness at this moment was solely defined by her weight. The idolization of celebrities and what they look like correlates to her perception of herself. In this case it went as far as a severe eating disorder.

An 18 year old from Florida says,

“One of my suitemates used to keep a food journal on her whiteboard. It would always say, Breakfast: nothing. Lunch: apple, banana. Dinner: sandwich. And then she would run 10 miles. When she would see that I came home from the gym, she would automatically put on her running shoes. It was something that triggered me, like, Well is she’s on a diet, I should still be on my diet. I think I got addicted to feeling accomplished.”10

The competition that so many women feel within their community is also a major factor in diet culture. Who is the skinniest… Who is working out the most… Who is eating the least… This competitive side to thinness and womanhood is a less talked about part of diet culture. Many women feel as though if they are as skinny as their friend they’ll be happier. Or if one family member is on a diet, then they probably should be too. Whether or not it is purposeful, this competition between women about their size and body contributes to diet culture. The cycle of women finding themselves too fat or wanting to change a part of their body to look a certain way, has its beginnings in a woman’s surroundings.

A 14 year old from Florida states,

“Guys think it’s hard to ask a girl out but that’s nothing compared to trying to be popular, trying to fit in, trying to be attractive enough, trying to be smart enough. All the things that girls have to go through, having a baby, trying to be true, hanging to live up to this media expectation of blonde hair, blue eyes, perfect clothes, perfect hair. Even if you take away eating disorders, being a girl is always going to be one of the hardest things.”11

These pressures placed on women across society have a massive impact. All of the weight bearing down on young women, especially with the influence of media, it is not shocking that eating disorders are twice as likely (3.8%) to occur in adolescent girls than boys.12

CITATIONS

5 Patricia Fallon, Melanie A. Katzman, Susan C. Wooley, ed., Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders, (New York: The Guilford Press, 1994), 302.

6 Helen Malson, The Thin Woman: Feminism, post-structuralism and the social psychology of anorexia nervosa, (New York: Routledge, 1998), 111.

7 Richard Maisel, David Epston, Ali Borden, ed., Biting the Hand That Starves You, (New York: Norton, 2004), 25.

8 Patricia Fallon, Melanie A. Katzman, Susan C. Wooley, ed., Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders, (New York: The Guilford Press, 1994), 312.

9 Lauren Greenfield, David Herzog, Michael Strober, Thin, (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006), 35.

10 Lauren Greenfield, David Herzog, Michael Strober, Thin, (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006), 54.

11 Lauren Greenfield, David Herzog, Michael Strober, Thin, (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006), 117

12 https://hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb70.pdf

IMAGES

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