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Men have the primary
role of decision-making both in television and in advertisements. This is
because women and girls are not as valued as men in most cultures, due to the social construction of gender. We are
shown things through the male gaze-that
is, we see what men want us to see. The male
gaze is shown in the way that women and girls are universally represented
in the media. The women and girls on television have the “perfect body” and are
the epitome of what men perceive as beautiful. The reality is that what we see
in the media leaves most of the people in the world out. Most people don’t look
like the people we see on television. There is almost none, if any, input from
women on what they believe or what they would like to see. So, in the end, what
we see is air-brushed actors and actresses, paper-thin models, and people who
just make us feel insignificant by comparison. These images that we see can
have a negative impact on women and men alike. The images in the media may
lead to self-hatred and negative body
feelings, which can then lead to eating disorders.

We can see the negative impact
of the media on women through the socialization
of gender on television and advertisements. The socialization of gender is the way that males and females are
taught to believe that they should act a certain way and look a certain way
based on their gender. This results
in girls and women feeling that they must fit into these stereotypes to be accepted by society. On television and in advertisements,
women and girls are sexualized, have
skinny bodies, and are representing cosmopolitan
whiteness. Cosmopolitan whiteness
is the idea that “white is the preferred
color but not the preferred race”
(Saraswati). It is not that people don’t want to be white if they aren’t. They want the illusion of being white, while remaining proud of their race. It is the idea that light, not
necessarily white, is better. When
women are sexualized, they are shown as sexual objects, there for a man to play
with, to ogle at. They are not shown as being human and worthy of respect.

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All of these things can
lead to negative body feelings, such
as shame and guilt. There may be shame,  because
they don’t look the way that model on television looks no matter how hard they
try. They forget that substance is important and that they are worth much more
thatm Guilt could be eating at someone because maybe they ate something that
they “shouldn’t have,” because it contains too many carbs or it’s unhealthy.
 There is also the potential of having psychological problems. Many women and
girls don’t leave the house, because they feel disgusted with their bodies. They
miss out on life, because they have negative feelings about their bodies. They
see things that other people don’t see, such as believing that they are fat,
when in reality they are underweight. This becomes a dangerous game, leading to
eating disorders and sometimes even worse things.

“As puberty took hold
and my body began to change and develop, I panicked. My body was getting bigger
while the images in the media all around me were getting smaller… So began a
decade of restrictive eating, bingeing and purging in search of my ultimate
goal: perfection” (“Eating Disorders and Depression: A Story of Survival”).
This is an example of a girl’s struggle with eating disorders because of the
constraints the media put on her. She felt outraged, like her body was
betraying her, because it was developing. She began to grow boobs and probably
developed curves, but because everyone she saw in the media was small, she
believed that it was a bad thing and freaked out. She couldn’t control what was
happening to her body, so she started to restrict her eating, because that was
something she could control. She felt in control of something, which made her
feel good, for the moment. However, it soon became a vicious cycle that she
couldn’t stop, and with which she dealt with for a decade. What began as
something to help her gain control, became something she no longer had control
over. She developed an eating disorder as a result of seeing images in the
media that made her feel insecure about her body.

The media provides a social context for eating disorders.
“Research has shown that as commercials for diet foods and diet products have
increased, the body sizes of Playboy centerfolds, Miss America contestants,
fashion models and female actresses have decreased, while the weight of the
average North American woman has increased” (Spettigue and Henderson). These
models, actresses, Playboy centerfolds, and Miss America contestants are the
people we uphold as the standard of beauty. The media trick us into believing that most
people are small, and you’re the odd one out if you’re bigger than the people
shown on television. When you believe this, you feel like you must look like
these women to be beautiful and to be accepted. If the people who are upheld as ideals of beauty
are getting thinner, and these are the people you aspire to be like, (which is
the case for many young women) then you will do whatever it takes to meet the
standard you have been shown, even if the standard may be impossible to reach.
The commercials for diet foods and diet products tell the consumer they will be
thinner and healthier if they try them.  The truth is though, is that some
of the healthiest people are “overweight.” Again, the media (mostly male driven)
is trying to trick you into conforming to their standards of what you should
look like.

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