how media portrays women







Media can be defined as a means of communication that reach and influence people widely. Forms of media are television, radio, newspapers, magazines film and the internet. According to Cash and Pruzinsky (2002), body image is considered as a complicated aspect of self- perfection that makes an individual to be concerned with their body structure and body appearance. In recent years the media has been portraying an ideal woman image that has created a lot of controversy in the society. Ideal woman in commercials, movies and adverts are always portrayed as models that have perfect looks and shape. They show that tall, thin and white ladies who have flawless faces, blonde hair and tubular body are most beautiful and attractive. Many women read articles and magazines filled with models that have flawless faces and couture bodies. This makes women to be more preoccupied with their appearance because once they read these magazines they notice that they look nothing like the models in the magazines. Today’s media portrays that women who have thin figures are attractive and beautiful. They create an idea that one must be unhealthy in order to be considered beautiful. The media defines an ideal woman as beautiful women of high standards which most of the women do not meet in this world. The women in the society concentrate on making themselves to be like the false image created by this commercials, movies or adverts. They become conscious of losing their weight by having a bad eating habit. Teenagers and young women have showed signs of dieting and insecurity has risen in them in the pressure of them wanting to become and remain thin. Once weight is lost they would do anything but to have to regain weight, even if it means starving themselves to death.

This paper aims to find out how the media portrays this image of an ideal woman. It will analyze different of media that portray this image for women in the society. The essay will show how this communication affects women, the advantages and disadvantages it creates in the society, how women change their behavior in the women and how this image created can be controlled.


Women of all ages are vulnerable to be disturbed by their body image. There are various documents of literature relating to mental health that prove women are greatly dissatisfied with their body. Body dissatisfaction has appeared to be more linked to recognition of appearance than physical reality issues. This means that people seek body images that will create some kind of fame and being recognized as opposed to their natural and physical appearances. Women are more affected with the body image syndrome more than men. This starts early in girls who are at their puberty or adolescence stages and continues throughout their life span.

Commercials and adverts have been portraying the image of an ideal woman in the society. You will find that most commercials use attractive and perfect-bodied women in their advertisements. They use these women to advertise make up kits, soaps, clothing, lotions, hair designs, shoe designs, insurance services, special offers and facial creams. The ladies used usually have a perfect looks and high standards that many women cannot meet in the society. They also have a body that is way below a healthy body weight. It has not been proven whether these women are naturally beautiful or whether they have performed surgeries on themselves so as to become perfect.

Thin shaped women are used in films as actors. Some of the movies usually go around producing movies that are discriminative in nature. For example, they will take a huge woman with extra pounds of body weight and cast her as a lady who is desperate to reduce weight. They will show how the lady is usually made fun of by colleagues, fellow students or co workers. At the end of the movie the lady would have worked or sought surgical help to reduce weight then she will become famous as a singer, actor or model. The ladies used in action or horror movies or nowhere near being termed as fat. In some movies you will always hear casts complaining about their extra weight while in the eyes of the society the lady is just perfect. They usually have that slim body type. The other day I was watching fashion shows programs and some models were so skinny that I kept wondering whether they had nutrients problems or whether they came out of a country where it’s hit with drought.

The medias portray in the picture of an ideal woman has caused many women to be dissatisfied with their body structure. This has created body disturbances through surgeries and eating disorders. They also create emotional and development factors where women try to estimate their body weights and compare it with the models. The women usually end up over estimating their body weights and always see themselves as ugly and shapeless.

Magazines and articles show pictures and images of women who are extra perfect when it comes to their body weights and sizes. This magazines and articles advertise products that are meant to make women feel better. They also provide information that lure women to think that they will make them better. Women in the society read these articles, magazines and reports and follow the advice given with the hope that they will become more attractive and acceptable by people in the same society.  It’s seen that most of the women who read these magazines regularly have the risk of suffering from thin ideal internalization that creates an anxiety on how their body weight can be controlled hence creating eating disorders.


It is still unclear on how women view themselves even after the media portrayed a negative impact on them watching different films and commercials. Some women commented on having a great dissatisfaction with their body image while others showed that they do not have any concern whatsoever after watching such commercials, films and adverts. There are various theories which have been developed to show how the media impacts women on creating the image of an ideal woman. These theories are cultivation theory, social comparison and self- schema theory and they show why some women are more affected than others by this deal woman image created by the media (Schooler et al, 2004). The discussion of these theories will help us understand better how women in the society internalize the ideal image portrayed in the society and how it affects them in general.


This theory emphasizes that women who are preferred in the media are those that match the socio cultural ideal of beauty. Social cultural images can be described as those images that are based on traditional norms and believe. This may be shown through dressing, behavior and appearance such as hair style and length, body size and body weight. This theory also shows that repetitive exposure to these social cultural images forces women to understand that such standards are unattainable or unrealistic. Young women and college students view a woman who is thin and tall as normal and create a perception in the mind that women who are tall and thin are abnormal. Research showed that women who were most exposed to media such as television, music and soap operas were most likely to suffer from body image disturbances in that they were not satisfied with their body appearance (Schooler et al, 2004).


This theory shows the impact of the media on women’s feeling about their body. It also shows how human beings examine and evaluates themselves as compared to groups, peers, friends or the society. People compare themselves with other individuals and raise judgments whether they are better, worse or similar. Upward comparison is where an individual compares herself with those who are better than them and this creates depression of the self esteem and mood. Downward comparison is carried where an individual compares herself with those who are lower or worse than them and this creates a feeling of elevated self esteem and pride. These women also become over confident on their self esteem and may try to discriminate those who are not up to standard with the ideal woman image. The media is seen as the most popular means of comparing yourself socially though they mostly lead to upward comparison. These media create a standard that is not easy to achieve or is unattainable and this creates an oppressing feeling in women when they compare themselves with the ladies in the media. Women are so addictive to these types of media that they cannot spend a single day without watching though they leave them with a feeling that they are not good enough. However, these women feel motivated to work themselves out so that they can be better than the images they see in the advertisements. They are even motivated to buy the advertised products because they believe that it will make them more beautiful and attractive. According to schooler et al (2004), women who compare themselves with negative images in the media have body weight disturbances, low self esteem and negative moods. Exposing young women and teenagers to music and images of these ideal women have increased the level of increased body disturbances and eating disorders.



This theory assumes that women base their perception of their body appearance in three ways; the objective body, the internalized ideal body and the represented ideal body. The objective body shows how the individual women examine and evaluate their body appearance and have a sense of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The internalized ideal body shows how an individual thinks and perceives about the ideal image and tries to achieve it. The socially represented ideal body is portrayed by the media as what the individual believes is expected in the society in relation to the physical appearance. (Sands and Wardle, 2003).

With exposure to repeated images of thin women by the media, women tend to internalize this images that are usually unattainable and try to achieve them through bad eating habits and body disturbance. They should be advised that beauty comes from being healthy and not from being malnourished. Some of the women are not affected by this internalized behavior because they know that the ideal image is unattainable. Women are supposed to be taught not to internalize those images and be told that everyone is beautiful in one way or another. They should also be taught not to take everything they hear or see in the media seriously since this media always aim at making sales of their product or services. This marketing Medias have already created an impression that thinness is beauty and it sells and that’s why they prefer not to use overweight or huge women. Once the women internalize these images seen in commercials, adverts or films, they will place a goal of wanting to become like them and this, in my opinion, can be termed as misplaced priorities. The time and effort used in trying to achieve these unclear and unrealistic objectives can be used elsewhere to do constructive and fruitful work. Medical advice should be sought on dieting so that one may not end up having nutrients disorder.


The media in this country has portrayed a picture of an ideal woman that has created a lot of controversy in this society. Yiannakis and MelnickFilms (2001) sketch the ideal woman in the media as shapely, softly curvy and slender. Commercials, magazines, articles and adverts usually represent an ideal woman as a woman who is tall, thin, white, blond hair and flawless face. These standards are very difficult to meet by today’s modern and this has created a negative impact in them. Women watch soap operas in televisions, read magazines and watch movies that show beautiful women who meet the media’s internalized image standards. The women internalize these images and try with much effort to be similar to the media women. Women in the society start having eating disturbances so that they can become and maintain being thin. Some go to an extent of performing surgeries on their body so that they can meet the ideal woman standard. This causes emotional trauma and body dissatisfaction especially to those who are unable to change their body structure.

The ideal woman standard is a global perception in that women around the world are affected equally by the ideal woman standard syndrome. Women internationally sacrifice their health just to be recognized as beautiful and attractive in the society. Though the media influences how women and teenagers view themselves in terms of body appearance, it is still not clear how this process takes place. The schooler et al (2004) theories of cultivation, self- schema and comparison show how women are affected by the media and how they feel about themselves. They show that women are negatively impacted by the images they see in the media and become emotionally and bodily disturbed when they fail to achieve this figure. The media cannot be stopped from portraying these images hence the women should be advised against internalizing this information. They should also be shown that health is important and everyone is beautiful irrespective of the body size and weight.


Cash T.F., and Pruzinsky,T. (2002), Body Imge: A Handbook of Theory, Research and Clinical

Practice. New York: Guidford Press.

Sands, E.R., and Wardle, J.(2003). Internalization of ideal body shapes in 9-12 Year Old Girls.

International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), 193-204.

Schooler, D., Ward, L. M.,Caruthers, A. and Merriwether, A. (2004). Who’s that Girl:

Television’s role in the body image Development of Young White and Black Women,

Psychology of Women Quartely, 28 (1), 38-47.

Yiannakis, A, and Melnick J.M. (2001).Contemporary Issues in Sociology of Sport.United

States: Human Kinetics.


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