The average American comes in contact with three thousand advertisements daily. Ads constantly promote the belief that we can recreate ourselves and use words to manipulate us into thinking products will help us to do so. The idea that this is possible drives us to continue buying more products, dieting and reading fashion magazines.
Young girls are sensitive to the effects of magazine advertising because they lack real world knowledge. Due to their lack of experience, they’re unable to differentiate between real and fake images that they see in magazines. This is dangerous because magazine images are almost always photo edited and feature women with unrealistic and unnatural body types. Advertisements don’t only promote distorted body shapes, but they also sell values and juxtapose happiness with consumption and beauty with success. These messages skew young girls visions of the world and values. Strasburger, Wilson and Jordan, authors of Children, Adolescents and the Media reported that 69% of 548 girls in the 5th-12th grades said that reading magazines influenced their ideal body (Field, Cheung, et al. 1999).
An example of this was brought to the publics’ attention when singer, Lorde, tweeted about retouched images of herself that were shown in the media promoting a concert she had done. The artist was clearly against the retouching stating that, “Flaws are ok,” she also added the photo shopped image and an unedited image to the tweet.
The successes of the beauty and diet industries are based upon the dissatisfaction of women with their bodies and looks. Girls are extremely desirable to advertisers because they’re new consumers who are beginning to develop brand loyalties. Ads tell girls that their bodies and beauty are the most important parts about themselves. Many girls spend large amounts of money and energy attempting to achieve something unattainable. According to a public healthcare market research report Global Weight Loss and Gain Market published, the total global weight loss market is expected to be worth US$586.3 billion through 2014.
Not only does advertising promote abnormal ideas about thinness; but it also does the same for eating. Magazines contribute to body hatred and to eating problems. Girls have distorted images in their heads of what they think they’re supposed to look like. Girls and women are fixated on their weight and tell themselves negative phrases, known as fat the language of fat. Images of beautiful and extremely thin women that surround us wouldn’t have the impact they did if we didn’t live in a culture that encourages us to believe we should remake our bodies into perfect objects.
After consuming advertising messages repeatedly over time, girls believe that they can reinvent themselves with enough effort and self-sacrifice. Unfortunately in many cases the results of self-sacrifice are eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, approximately 10 million women and one million men struggle with eating disorders. However, its more common in adolescent girls ages fifteen to nineteen and is common in a diverse range of populations (Malachowski & Myers, 33). The American Psychiatric Association characterizes anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa as bio psychological disorders resulting in distortions in self-image and self-perception. These diseases normally occur during early adulthood when most young women are heavily involved and influenced by the mass media (Thomsen et al., 2-3).
Magazine advertising and its effects are causing enormous problems for many adolescent females. They’re causing young women to be preoccupied with their bodies and to not be happy in the skin they’re born in. This is a problem because girls are being influenced by ads that don’t depict the real world accurately. Magazine advertisements distort women’s bodies and create a look that’s impossible to mimic. This leads to consumption, cynicism and in many cases to eating disorders and self-hatred. According to Jean Killbourne author of Deadly Persuasion, a survey in Massachucetts found that the single largest group of high school students considering or attempting suicide are girls who feel they’re overweight (134).
Kilbourne, Jean. Deadly Persuasion. New York: The Free Press, 1999. Print.
Strasburger, Victor C., et al. Children, Adolescents and the Media. Los Angeles: Sage,
Peck, Joan & Loken, Barbara. “When Will Larger- Sized Female Models in
Advertisements Be Viewed Positively? The Moderating Effects of Instructional Frame, Gender, and Need for Cognition.” Psychology & Marketing 21.6 (2004): 425-442. Print.
Thomsen, S. R., Weber, M. M. & Brown, L. B. “The Relationship Between Reading
Beauty and fashion Magazines and The Use of Pathogenic Dieting Methods Among Adolescent Females.” Adolescence 37.145 (2002): 1-18. Print.
Paulos, Leah. “The Language of Fat.” Scholastic Choices n.p. April 2006: 6-9. Print
“Global Market for Weight Loss Worth US$586.3 Billion by 2014.” marketsandmarkets.
MarketsandMarkets, n.d. Web. 2009-2014.
Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor (lordemusic). “i find this curious – two photos from today,
one edited so my skin is perfect and one real. Remember flaws are ok :-)” 30 March 2014, 7:31 p.m. Tweet.
“Body Evolution – Model Before and After.” Youtube. Youtube, 22 May 2012. Web. 30