The media is huge issue and a huge contributing factor for eating disorders, because what people see is not reality. The extremely thin people they see on the billboards are a. airbrushed and b. are not leading a healthy lifestyle. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre informs us that 1.5% of Canadian women aged 15-24 had eating disorders in 2002. That number has not gone down, if anything, it has been climbing. That is not counting unreported cases – which is common, due to the still prevalent stigma associated with eating disorders. It is sad to see the magazine covers and realize that girls are striving to be something unrealistic. That is why it is refreshing to see something like this Newsweek report on “Unattainable Beauty” – where they reveal all the photoshopping and editing that goes into making a magazine or a billboard. Sometimes the celebrity/model is not even aware that they are going to be airbrushed into an impossible ideal.
Eating disorders affect both men and women, and make them inclined to go to extreme measures in order to attain the unattainable. Who defines what is beautiful? The media has the most power, because when we are exposed to hundreds of ads each day, we are taking in subliminal messaging about what we should look like, what we should eat, what we should buy. If you are a beautiful person inside, you are a beautiful person outside as well. Looks are not everything, but this value is one that is not taught in school. It is up to parents to make sure their children are not pulled into the darkness of this shallow, shadow world that is shaped by television and Internet images of unattainable “beauty” standards.
Jean Kilbourne is a sociologist who has made 4 movies up to date, “Killing Us Softly” being the first one. Her insight into society and media explains for women are portrayed and what that does to how women treat themselves, and how they are treated by everyone around them. It is an eye-opening and shocking movie, but we must remember that despite what the imaging does, we can still fight back. Campaigns such as Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty (View a model’s make up video here – also eye-opening http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U) are an inspiration and a relief that all is not lost, and if perhaps, more companies took on this approach, we could change the way the media portrays beauty.
Please find the “Killing Us Softly” video on YouTube below: