Portrayal of Women in the Media

Everywhere we turn, advertising is telling people, women especially, what it means to be desirable.  Many of these messages share a common theme: women must be “beautiful.”.  Women have always been measured against cultural ideals of beauty, but advertising often uses sexism to make images of “ideal beauty” more prevalent and increasingly unattainable.  Twenty years ago, the average model only weighed 8% less than the average woman, whereas the average model today weighs 23% less.  Most models today are thinner than 95% of the population.  In a recent study by Dove, the researches found that out of the survey respondents, only 2% considered themselves to be “beautiful.”  Many researchers argue that the unrealistic portrayal of women in the media can be detrimental to advertisement viewer’s health.  Studies show that advertisements of ultra-thin women increases a viewer’s body-focused anxiety.

 The question arises: can advertising be a reason that 1 out of every 4 women have an eating disorder? 

 The “Barbie Doll Figure” is literally unattainable, yet images of the Barbie-like figure are constantly show through advertising.


 Just how thin is too thin, and how is society supposed to regulate?  The portrayal of ultra-thin women is going too far.  Sure I know the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, but there are also high-risk factors for being ultra-thin.

Explore posts in the same categories: Ads, Advertising, Controversial Advertising

28 Comments on “Portrayal of Women in the Media”

  1. Edible Review Says:

    I think society today has changed our expectations of women into unhealthy creatures. The “ideal body” that is shown in ads is unattainable unless you have unhealthy tactics, like an eating disorder. I think it has grown even more into the idea of our children. Girls today our becoming much too grown up at a young age. Just the other day I saw a 5th grader wearing a pink shirt that said, “You Can’t Afford Me”. What mother lets her child go out like that? Where did this girl get the idea that she should even own a shirt that said that? Hopefully society takes a stance in what has happened and change their tactics, but I’m not holding my breath.

  2. jenniferdb Says:

    The above commenter raises a good point about parents that allow their children to fall into this media-perpetuated image of beauty and how young girls (or girls in general) should look and act. I think that a lot of the weight falls on the shoulders of the media for causing girls to buy into the idea that ultra-thin is the only way to be, but I think that the parents of these children are doing almost nothing (in most cases) to counteract that message–some in fact reenforce it. I know that my mom complains about stick-thin models all the time. I grew up hearing her offering a dissenting opinion on what beauty was, and it helped me to realized that what is portrayed on TV or the runways as beautiful, isn’t always so. Because she continually challenged these images of women in the media I grew up almost unscathed by the popular idea that only super thin is beautiful.
    I think that more parents should let their children know that buying into the media’s idea of beauty isn’t a way to live, and that you can be beautiful without looking like a model. I would love to place full blame on the media for the predicament that we’re in (that 1/4 girls has an eating disorder), but I can’t. It’s ultimately the parents’ repsonsibilty to make sure that their children know what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to things like beauty.

    By the way, I really liked your post. I was very interesting.

  3. jobhuntress Says:

    I applaud the efforts of Dove in their “Real Beauty” campaign. (am I right about the name?) I think that what they are trying to do is admirable and I’m sure it is effective – partly because the ad campaign is so different AND because women respond to the positive message they are sending. I hope other companies jump on the real beauty bandwagon. Today I saw the cover for Women’s Health magazine and was impressed by the cover model they chose – while thin, she was muscular and I think she embodied the goals that Women’s Health readers have for themselves. I think this magazine generally does a good job of this. SHAPE and Fitness magazines, however, are guilty, I think, of putting too thin models on their covers and inside the mag pages – these magazines are supposed to be dedicated to healthy, fit living – not ultimate weight loss. These editors need to keep in mind their readers’ goals – their readers’ attainable goals. Also, I think they have a responsibility in helping to shape these goals – and instead of promoting extreme weight loss they should be promoting healthy eating and exercise habits, and maybe even putting more emphasis on beinga well rounded person, in all aspects of one’s life.

  4. Kristin Says:

    I like your posting because it really makes me wonder how we can reverse the notion that ultra-thin is equivalent to ultra-beautiful. I was a little shocked to see that a survey conducted by Dove found that only 2% of women believed they are beautiful. I think this low percentage relates to the image of who we, as women, think we should be based on the images we are hit with each and every day. I think it’s awesome that Dove has started a campaign for real beauty. It is sometimes surprising to be flipping through this month’s issue of Cosmopolitan and come accross one of Dove’s ads. It is surprising to see an average size woman, and at the same time that it is surprising, it is so liberating. Thanks for bringing this topic to my attention, as it is an issue that must be dealt with constantly until something changes. I wonder, though, will our image of beauty change in the near future, and if so, how?

  5. You bring up some amazing statistics that show how the advertising believes that have to (or want to) portray today’s women in advertising. It is the same for entertainment and news media.

    I think it has a profoundly negatively effect on the way women think of themselves. It’s a disgrace. But if one complains, the response is “it’s just an ad”, or “if you don’t like it, turn it off”, or “don’t be so uptight”.

  6. newhoosier Says:

    What gets me is that the average guy I know doesn’t think the ultra-thin is his “perfect”. How many people make fun of how thin Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, the Olsen twins, etc. are? Most guys like a healthy level of meat on a woman.

    Of course their are extremes, but the guys I know like woman heavier than the models in ad campaigns. And I’m not talking about fat chicks–that’s unhealthy on the opposite end.

    So, if guys like thicker girls, like Catherine Zeta Jones, Carment Electra or flavor of the week Kim Kardashian (who are not “thick” or “fat” at all), you wonder why the industry uses ultra-thin models. It’s clear they’re not in touch with what men want and are subsequently giving women what they want to see to sell product.

    It’s just another case of women selling each other short or sailing themselves down the river…. 😦

  7. DarlingC Says:

    They say that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Today, we notice that beauty has been transformed to be what the society considers it to be. While Dove tries to sway from the image that women should be stick thin, many other media conglomerates refuse to portray women in a healthy light.

    There seems to be an extreme body image issue here. It is apparent that, although some women do fit the stereotypical beauty ideal, many of them continue to have low self-esteem. This shows that even when some women do accomplish the ideal look, they continue to be dissatisfied with themselves. It is obvious that we can not please everyone. As soon as a guideline is set for how women should look, there are and will always be those who are dissatisfied with their appearance. This is the reason why women should first work on their body image, how they perceive themselves, and from there, decide what the best look for them should be.

    Once that has been accomplished, the decision to lose or gain weight should be left up to the woman, not the way others, the media, want her to look. If women start to make their own decisions as to how they want to look, then the media will take notice. This would probably lead to a more diverse representation of women in the future.

  8. Sweet Face Says:

    I think the media is not so bad because we all need to have a picture paint for us on what we think sexy is.We don’t have to follow but we just need an ideal to chase after and hope for.

  9. Beautiful_Liar Says:

    All women are Beautiful

  10. Deliciously_beefy Says:

    I’m doing a school assignment on this problem. I think that all women are entitled to their own unique body image. Why should all of us have to look the same. Why should we all disturb our bodies natural cause and make ourselves sick.
    Every single women in this world are their own being and should not have the “Ideal Body” image forced upon them.
    Keep your natural beauty by keeping yourself ladies.:)

  11. not a twig Says:

    this article makes it all quite clear to me

    the dove campain is great and it is giving women a positive image but have you noticed that the women have never been fat in those comercials? they are all average sized, and none of them are short. they aren’t neccesarily models but they are tall to medium height. its not the best but its a start, SUPPORT THE DOVE CAMPAIGN!

  12. Krithika Rao Says:

    i want full information about the ”changing portrayal of women in advertisement”

  13. faiza Says:

    yes deinetly.i agree wd ths point that now in these days girls are becoming influence of media and they just attracted toward the things which are shown in the media.that leads to many disorders and unhealthy tactics.we shpuld not follow and impress by all the thngs which ar shown on media rather we should adopt the healthy and positive habbits.

  14. kehem Says:

    i want to tell my fellow women that we cant ran away from reaiality.i mean i dont think God made amistake to create you that way. NO father can ever wish the daughter bad likewise the creator.YOU ARE VERY BEAUTIFUL THE WAY YOU ARE.get contented and you will be happy.respect your body as the temple of God.

  15. muniha Says:

    exactly ..i m agree with kehem .. we should respect our carcass .. our identity as well weather we are male or female … but over all like your posting because it really makes me wonder how we can reverse the notion that ultra-thin is equivalent to ultra-beautiful. I was a little shocked to see that a survey conducted that only 2% of women believed they are beautiful. I think this low percentage relates to the image of who we, as women, think we should be based on the images we are hit with each and every day…

  16. hadi Says:

    media need beautifull women

  17. jean eyase Says:

    its true we got to do something about the media and how it portrays women before we have everything turned in another direction.

  18. Antony Says:

    Everybody is missing the point!! If you are overweight or super skinny to the point you can see your bones then you have a problem, honestly its up to us to teach our children whats right! And not rely on television and junk food to help us raise our kids! how many kids eat junk food more than twice a week? How much exercise do they get everyday? How much time do they spend watching television? Most guys dont like super skinny girls, its women doing it to themselfs most of the time, a guys perfect girl is the total opposite most guys like curvy models! Dont believe me see all the hip hop videos, or like someone else mention kim kardashian! She is not skinny, if it is a problem dont buy their products because all you do is fuel their tank to keep going, complain to the companies so they stop this circus they called real beauty! We should aim to be healthy not beautiful because being honest with ourselfs today we could spend a lot of money to look better and you all know its true, but if dont like who you are youll always feel bad and how can you expect somebody else to love you if you dont love yourself, take care of yourself eat right exercise to be healthy not skinny because feminism is avoiding one really big problem related to overweight its bad hate all you want on supermodels and the stupid media but dont forget your healt is more important than looking like a model

  19. Antony Says:

    Because being overweight is also bad you need to stay fit not skinny or fat and its easier said than done but giving up its not an option you cant dissapear all good looking people to feel better about yourself that in its self is the wrong way to go about it focus on you if you feel good none of this will matter

  20. itisha Says:

    i think today the decision making power is in the hand of womens so most of the advertisement in today’s era cater women to became sucessful and ofcourse the biggest reason behind that is the beauty factor.

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  28. Lisandra Says:

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