The Media Affect on Women’s Body Image

Posted on June 27, 2011


by Olivia Dong Sun Kim

We are affected by what we see on television programs. Studies have shown that women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies is related to what they see in the media. Girls and women are most affected by the sexual images of their favorite celebrities and performers they see on television. A growing number of these women are also addicted to extreme dieting, exercise, and plastic surgery which can lead to psychological disorders, low self-esteem, and even death.

Korean women are exposed to celebrities who are Photoshopped or have plastic surgery in the media and it affects the way they see themselves. They think they are not attractive and skinny compared to celebrities. However, this contradicts reality considering that Korea has the lowest obesity rate among OECD countries and Koreans are a lot slimmer than people in other developed countries.

Still, a vast majority of Korean women believe that they are fat and don’t have an ideal body shape. Perceptions of ideal body shape have changed according to a survey of what female college students think about the ideal body shape. The survey covered 1,000 female college students from Ewha Women’s University and Dongduk Women’s University from May 13 and 17:

A majority, or 75 percent of the female students, preferred a balanced body characterized by a slim waist and flat abdomen. Only 12 percent of respondents wanted to have the reed-thin figure most commonly identified with fashion models.

In the past, being thin was popular for female students. But now they are focusing on having a balanced body, with a small waist and flat abs. They also now prefer a healthy diet, as seen in the survey results,” a public relations manager for the V=B program said.

Because lots of women including teenagers and university students are concerned about their body shape, many companies are making new products such as diet drinks, fat-free snacks, slimming creams or weight loss supplements targeting female consumers. Even cosmetic companies like Missha recently introduced the “Cool Fitting Body Gel,” designed to help women achieve a contoured body, in time for the summer. These companies are creating these products based on S-line and X-line concepts.

Many women go further and consider seriously about plastic surgery not just purchasing the products. This is because many women have concern about body shape and appearance. Even, S-line (slim waist, breasts, and hips), M-line(“male” line, abdominal, the male physique), or V-line (face/chin) concepts are pervasive in our society. The below image lists statistics that show what “women think about plastic surgery”, the experience of it, the route of getting information about it and the opinion that cosmetic surgery is needed.

According to the statistics, almost 25.8% of women have done plastic surgery on their face. Women age 25~29 experienced most (61.5%) and almost 75% women think plastic surgery is needed. Further, there is special treatment program rising up. For instance, there is a special treatment program to fix big calves.

In actuality, the majority of celebrities were not born skinny and pretty. They actually had plastic surgery and most entertainment agents let idols have cosmetic surgery to appeal to audiences. Normal people shouldn’t feel the need to compare their appearance with celebrities.

For those who want to be skinny and have an ideal body shape, they exercise and diet. Yoo-Jin Na, a 22-year-old student from Ohio State University, tried to go on a diet last year but had to give it up because she became sick.

“Nowadays, I think people just want to be really tall and thin. I fell envious when looking at thin women, but I still want a body with a little muscle and some volume – a healthy body,” said Na. Right now, she engages in exercise such as running or cycling and eats less for dinner.

Because of the importance of obtaining an ideal body shape in our society, many women go on a diet. However, the results are eating disorders or and an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to the latest survey by the Korean Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, almost two in every 10 women suffer from undernourishment with intentional starvation being the main cause. In the 2007 report, 48.7% of teenagers were on a diet, with 65.3 % of females restricting their eating.

However, if this kind of extreme diet persists, people can have conditions such as hair loss and depression to bulimia, constipation and anorexia. Even celebrities are not immune to eating disorders.  For example, in Korea, the late model Kim Yoo Ri, received lots of stress because of dieting. After going on an extreme diet, she developed anorexia and eventually died. Not just in Korea, but also around the globe, lots of women including celebrities suffer from illness from extreme diet and exercising such as Isabelle Caro from France.

What women see in the media is not true. In advertising and magazine pictorials, most celebrities are now Photoshopped. For instance, the picture of Korean pop star G-Na, was Photoshopped. The below left photographs are G-Na after Photoshopping and the photographs on the right are before Photoshop. You can see that her legs have been made slimmer and her breasts have been enlarged.

In conclusion, the media plays a large role in the way women view their bodies to the point of dieting and plastic surgery. We should make an effort to change our thinking that appearances is everything and place more emphasis on women’s inner beauty and intelligence.


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