Teenage Idol: Glitz and Glamour

People admire my confidence, my smile, and my optimism. That’s very flattering, and thanks for that. Yet, these people don’t know my other side of me. I try to go exercise everyday. I exercise and watch my weight because I want to maintain superb health so I could have longevity; however, I also care about my body image. Yes, men care about body image. I want to look like those ancient Roman stone statues; you know, the one’s with the perfectly chiseled bodies. I am not alone in my crusade to look and feel good. Some, like me, just go on a regular basis to exercise and make smart food choices.

However, many, not to their fault, go above and beyond to look good. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, “Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.” and “Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.” Why do so many have to suffer? Yes, I do realize there are other factors involved in excess dieting or over eating; however, I believe that the mass media is one of the causes of this mental illness.

The mass media indirectly puts pressures on us to look and act a certain way. Almost a century ago, The Frankfurt School of Sociology warned us that the elite engineered media are one of the agents of indirect oppression.[1] There are too many instances of ways in which women, for example, should look. Women should look beautiful. Professor and theorist Germaine Greer agrees, “every woman knows… she is a failure if she is not beautiful.”[2] With the advent of toys, such as Barbie, not to Matel’s fault, many young girls now want to look just like Barbie because the mass media engineered Barbie– and skinniness– to be the ideal body.

Thus, society believes that Barbie is the ideal form that every girl should have. Barbie has the BMI of around 16. This may make girls who don’t fit the socially constructed image to feel that they look ugly, which results in low self-confidence. This is known as body dissatisfaction. More broadly, body dissatisfaction means “the experience of negative thoughts and esteem about one’s body… including negative self- perception, depressed mood, and disordered eating.”[3]

In order to look like Barbie, girls go into excessive dieting and invest in body modifications. In fact, in 2008, the average American household spent “roughly $400 billion [on beauty products and accessories] and accounted for nearly 5 per­ cent of all consumer spending that year”[4]. That is an exuberant amount, if you ask me. But unfortunately, society shuns those who look naturally perfect. Rather, society prefers those who look artificial.

In sum, this has implications that are beyond comprehension. More and more body image issues are the causes of suicides among teenagers. Also, people with body dysmorphic disorder are 45 times more likely to commit suicide than people in the general population[5]. In order to stop these types of suicides; we need to think of what society imposes on us. More importantly, we need to be okay with who we are.

[1] Bonn, Scott Alan. 2010. Mass Deceptions: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

[2] Greer, Germaine. 1999. “Beauty.” Pp. 23- 30 in The Whole Woman, edited by n.a.. New York, New York: Anchor Books.

[3] Ive, Suzanne, Helga Dittmar, and Emma Halliwell. 2006. ” Does Barbie Make Girls Want to Be Thin? The Effect of Experimental Exposure to Images of Dolls on the Body Image of 5- to 8-Year-Old Girls.” Developmental Psychology 42(2): 283–292.

[4] Princeton University, 2013

[5] American Journal of Psychiatry, July 2006.

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