Live media literate.

Join Understand Media to get access to our forums, the latest media literacy news, member-only articles, early access to our journals, and much more.

We will never give your info to anyone!

By Assal N.

Many Americans today tend to believe that eliminating fat from our bodies is what is needed for every-woman to feel fabulous, and have no insecurities within themselves.  The media has made an incredible impact on every woman's day to day living. In the article “Never Just Pictures”, Susan Bordo explains how the media effects any woman’s self esteem and what the media portrays a woman should look like. I argue that the media should not control the means of what a woman should look like but accept their curves and size, because every woman should be true to themselves, not try to meet the media’s expectations, know that they are beautiful for who they are and accept themselves for what they posses.

Bordo explains to her readers, that what is socially excepted today defeats the purpose of being a healthy, well rounded woman. The tabloids have been in control of what a woman should look like for centuries. Bordo claims that, “Fat is the devil, and we are continually beating him-- ‘eliminating’ our stomachs, ‘busting’ our thighs ‘taming’ our tummies-- pummeling and purging our bodies, attempting to make them into something other than flesh.” The media is continuously making us believe that fat is the devil. The media portrays fat as what makes our people unhealthy and unattractive. We are finding every which way to get rid of fat, even if it takes extreme measures like plastic surgery.  Today, a woman that has a chest, pudgy stomach, and thick thighs is considered unhealthy, yet a woman who’s bones are jutting out of her skin, is considered healthy and is an example of what every woman should look like. Tabloids encourage woman who are skinny, showing them off in magazine covers and letting the world know that this is what you need to do in-order to be happy with life. When a woman of interest, for example an actress or model has gained weight, the tabloids discourage these woman as a result of being no longer fabulous.

Fashion magazines have made infinite statements on their covers that skinny is what makes fashion beautiful. According to Hendricks and Burgood (2003), “long term exposure to mainstream media has subtle and cumulative effects on shaping views of social reality,”.  The fashion companies justify skinny women as a “coat hanger” stated by Hendricks and Burgood, where clothes are suspended just like the . When a skinny model wears clothes, the clothes drape down and flows compared to a thicker model, where the clothes could be tight, making her look more thick or showing her natural curves. Skinny women are not the only women who wear and purchase clothing. Fashion industries should not want a woman to be hangers for their outfits but should want a woman that carries herself well in the outfit. Yet, fashion corporations still make statements to their viewers that skinny is what makes fashion beautiful. Europe is where fashion was once started and with Europe having fresher foods, and people who are more healthier than the average American (our obesity rate has hit a whopping 65% of America in 2012) I believe that fashion designers believe that thats how a women should look like, which then makes the audience want to be skinny just like the models.

In the article “Advertising’s fifteen basic appeals,” Jib Fowles interprets the many appeals that advertisements feed us, complimenting Bordo’s idea of mainstream media as an ordinary women’s guidelines on how to look. In the article, Fowles explains the Calvin Klein commercial as a need for affiliation. Fowles claims that, “The image of Miss Shields instead invokes the need to be looked at. Buy Calvin’s and you’ll be the center of much attention, just as Brooke is.” He expresses the idea that this advertisement show’s women the appeal you will have after wearing these jeans. It makes viewers of the commercial believe that women will be the center of attention after purchasing these jeans, just as Brooke Shields was. In comparison, Bordo states, “The destruction of the self but its return to a state prior to need, thus freedom from unfulfilled longing, from anxiety over not having one’s needs met”. Much alike Fowles article, Bordo too relates how advertisements are what we follow to be desired. Bordo explain how we destruct ourselves due to not having our needs met. The reasoning behind buying those Calvin Klein jeans is because the viewer is not content with the body their in, they feel a desire to want to look good, just like Brooke Shields did. Women should not feel to be told what beauty is but to realize individuality is beautiful.

Why does this phenomenon exists you ask? Many people look up to models or celebrities by not only for what they do, but also the way they look. Since America is in touch with media, having billboards of advertisement everywhere, to television, and magazines. Us as a society cannot get away from it all, so why not try to be like it? Americans believe that with the amazing life celebrities/models live, they also have attributes like being fit or skinny with gorgeous faces. I believe this phenomenon exists because everyone wants to be fabulous in America, and with that being said the way you look is how you can show someone you’re fabulous. Our physical appearance is important in what would do and in many situations can helps us get certain roles like a better job, or a great looking significant other which becomes the reasoning too why people try to want the perfect body that media represents.

Works Cited

Bordo, Susan. Never Just Pictures. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Fowles, Jib. “Advertising’s Fifteen Basic Appeals.” Common Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1996. 71-88. Print. Rpt. of Advertising and Popular Culture. N.p.: Sage Publications, 1996.

Hendriks, Alexandra. and Burgoon, Michael. "The Relationship between Fashion Magazine Consumption and Body Satisfaction in Women: Who is most at risk of influence?" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <>