Usually I don’t get super fired up by my Consumer Behavior class, but the last class was surprisingly different. Everyday is pretty routine. We talk about what pages we need to know in the text, what we can skip, blah blah. As I was zoning out and updating my LinkedIn profile, my ears perked up a little when my professor announced we would be talking about self-esteem in regards to consumer purchase decisions and habits. Just as I was about to revert back to my social media happenings, I stopped when I heard him continue with: “Did you know that 72% of men and 85% of women say they’re dissatisfied with their body?”
Shut up, that’s insane. More than half of us don’t like what we see every single day in the mirror. Alright, touche Professor Roberston you’ve got my attention.
He then proceeded, ever-so clinically, ” The primary cause of body dissatisfaction is advertising.” Boom. He said it. It was like a criminal admitting to a crime. I am by no means insinuating that my professor criminal, it was just eye-opeining to hear an expert in the field admit to the shortcomings of his profession.
Studies have shown that women’s (and men’s) self-esteem dramatically drops, after seeing advertisments where the model’s body is the main focus. The problem is we’re all looking and aspiring towards airbrushed, slimed down images that are completely unrealistic.
The average female in the United States is 5’6 and 160 lbs. Fashion models vary by company, but specs usually float around 5 ft. 10 in. and 100-110 lbs. The ideal size in the fashion world seems to be the coveted zero, or better yet the double zero!!! Women rarely see anything other than tiny and tall; and when do it’s a big ol’ controversy about how some “plus” sized model made it big. I think this is just crap. I’m a size six. So, if I’m a plus sized model hell yeah, that must mean I’m extra awesome.
Embracing what we’ve got and ignoring the hyper-skinny illusions we see is obviously easier said than done. I can admit that there are times when my own self esteem has been hurt by an advertisement or even worse I’ve secretly searched “How to get a flat stomach” into Google. Sigh….Shame on me. However, I’m lucky enough to have education and the surrounding BARE network encouraging me to ignore what I’m seeing. My main issue is that a lot of women, especially younger women, do not have these resources to teach them about the fallacy of ideal beauty.
Think about the most popular doll in the world, our girl Barbie. She’s destroyed everything that is realistic about beauty. No, I’m not referring the irony that is her plastic frame, but her measurements, her shape, and her stature. If Barbie was real she’d be a 38′ chest, 18′ waist, and 34′ hips. That’s what a majority of young girls are playing with on a daily basis. Interestingly enough young boys are also exposed to this hyperbolized ideal body. If a Batman action figure was a real human being, he’d have a 57′ chest, 30′ waist, and 27′ biceps. Are you kidding me? His biceps are bigger than Barbie’s waist. So much for natural beauty.
The pressure to reach this standard of unobtainable perfection is undeniably affecting the younger generation of women as:
- 80% of 10 year old girls say they have been on a diet.
- Among 5–12th graders, 47% said they wanted to lose weight because of magazine pictures
- Given three magic wishes, the majority of girls aged 11-17 would include one wish about losing weight.
Even more upsetting is the research that Elementary school aged girls said they would rather be handicap than be obese. Pair this statistic with the 57% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat. Around 10 million females in America have suffered from anorexia or bulimia and chances are you know someone who has. American women have a legitimate fear of being fat that has turned into an unhealthy obsession with being skinny. So how do we help the younger generations move past this societal norm that advertising has set before us? The question was a burning and my hand popped up on auto-pilot.
How do you propose we make this better?
My professor responded so quickly it was as if he was expecting the question–education. Teaching girls about positive body image is the first step, because the thin-ideal is a cultural value that requires work to change. Seeing more realistic bodies in the mediascape, may be a long shot, but individuals have the power to affect our country’s limited perceptions of beauty. We can all be educators or, even less burdensome, we can all be advocates of real beauty. We can skip the fat-talk, complement one another, and love every inch of ourselves.
I’m apart of BARE because I want to be an advocate of real beauty. I want to challenge these unrealistic expectations we see everyday and teach people that beauty isn’t just about your body it’s about your heart, your actions, and your legacy.
Phew feeing good.
All of the statistics above are directly quoted from a lecture on November 5, 2013 in Consumer Behavior. Kim Robertson is a distinguished Associate Professor of Business Administration at Trinity University in San Antonio. His bio can be accessed through the Trinity University website.