We are in the thick of the one of the busiest times for the fitness and weight loss industries. People are buying gym memberships and weight-loss products in the hopes of achieving smaller waists and the elusive thigh gap this year. In 2014, “weight loss” was number one on the list of the most common New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure the ranking hasn’t changed for 2015.
If you look at the numbers associated with the fitness and weight loss industry, they are staggering. What causes society to invest so much time, money, and concern into how we externally present ourselves to one another? A large reason is the messages in media and advertising that affect how society feels it should appear.
This Thursday at 5 p.m. in Classroom Building 114, the Women’s Programming Advisory Council will discuss the topic of body image and the media at the first general meeting of the semester.
Throughout history, women have been the primary targets of advertisers and corporations to sell them the idea of what they should and need to look like, and increasingly men are suffering the effects of body image in the media. For the purposes of this blog, however, I’m mainly going to look at how women’s body images are affected by the media, especially with eating disorders still being a very misunderstood and relevant issue.
In 2014, Victoria’s Secret released the controversial ad campaign titled, “The Perfect Body”. Many of the critiques stemmed from Victoria’s Secret implications that in order to be “perfect” on the outside, you have to look like their models. The controversy prompted Victoria’s Secret to change their campaign tagline.
Another example: J.Crew recently added a 000 (triple zero) to its online size options that contribute to a concept termed “vanity sizing“. Ads and campaigns such as these lead to a warped sense of what body measurements are ideal, despite the fact that most bodies are not built to achieve these measurements. It’s a vicious cycle with the majority of women frequently coming out on the losing end.
There’s hope though! Society has begun to stand up to the unrealistic body image standards we place on women and men.
Companies like Dove, with its real beauty campaign, and popular lingerie company Aerie, who has committed to a “no photoshop” policy with its models, are giving us hope that society can begin moving away from body image conformity and toward body appreciation.