The pressures young girls are under to look “perfect” are growing every day. It’s enough to make any mom anxious. “I find it worrying that there is little diversity in the culture aimed at tweens and teens,” says Gill, mom to Kirsty, 13, and Natalie, 11. “I’m crying out for some better role models for my daughters because there comes a time when a teenager takes more notice of what they see on the TV and online.”
That’s why we’ve put together an action checklist with some fun ways to challenge the stereotypes.
“One of the major underlying causes for increasing low self-esteem among young people is that they do not see their uniqueness reflected back at them within the media environment that surrounds them,” says leading UK psychotherapist Dr. Susie Orbach. “They see so many perfected images of girls and women that this idea of how they need to be seeps into them, leading them to feel their own loveliness is inadequate”.
Nearly half of 12- to 15-year-old girls read magazines every day. Studies such as Body Image: An Introduction to Advertising and Body Image show that looking at magazines for just 60 minutes lowers the self-esteem of more than 80% of girls. And, when you consider that the body fat of models and actresses portrayed in the media is at least half that of healthy women, it isn’t surprising that 6 out of 10 teenage girls think they’d “be happier if they were thinner”. We need to teach our daughters to be more media savvy than this and understand that these images just aren’t real.
It might shock you to hear that males outnumber females three to one in family films. That’s what the Gender Inequality in Cinematic Content? A Look at Females On Screen & Behind-the-Camera in Top-Grossing 2008 Films research report found. And, when it comes to body image, the figures don’t add up either. Females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline, and women are almost four times as likely as men to be shown in sexy clothes. And what of those “celebrities without make-up shocker!” articles that the gossip magazines love so much? While magazines might insist that they run them to make us “normal” people feel better about ourselves, the opposite is true. Girls in a recent survey on Girls’ Attitudes by Girlguiding felt that they preyed on their insecurities and highlighted issues that previously they wouldn’t have been concerned about.
By helping your daughter start to critically assess the media she consumes, you will help her to develop an objective eye and avoid potentially damaging comparisons. As she learns to distinguish what it is about these women’s appearances that she likes and doesn’t like, she’ll also feel more confident expressing and enjoying her own fashion choices.
So why not try our action checklist to give women in media a genuine makeover – one that will have us all feeling much better about ourselves?
To protect privacy we’ve changed the names of the people whose stories we tell on these pages. But the stories they tell are absolutely true.
Media Smarts: Body image resources to explore the impact of the media on body image:
Gender Inequality in Cinematic Content? A Look at Females On Screen & Behind-the-Camera in Top-Grossing 2008 Films
Girlguiding’s 2012 Girls' Attitudes Survey
Endangered Bodies: promotes positive body image
Article date: 26 June 2013
Review date: 26 June 2014
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