Friday, April 25, 2008

Ideal Women

Darryl Gamble

WMST 2010

April 24, 2008

Media Analysis

An Ideal Woman

An ideal woman of the 21st century would be about 5’7”, 127 lbs, blue eyes, and blonde hair, holding a mirror to show her all of her flaws. Women strive to be thinner and look younger; they are often dissatisfied with their bodies as a result of today’s advertising and media imagery. “Women today see themselves as less attractive than women of past generations did. A recent meta-analysis by Yale researchers Alan Feingold and Ronald Mazzella found that, prior to 1970, women were no more likely than men to voice dissatisfaction with their appearance. After 1970, however, a gender gap arose in self-perception, with women tending to rate themselves as less attractive than men rated themselves” (Anonymous). Modern media has developed an image of what a beautiful woman looks like. I believe that Dove’s Campaign For Real Women is arguably a reaction to the modern media’s portrayal of women and the effects of it on the consumer. In this analysis I will argue the definition of real beauty by pointing out how the media influences us into believing stereotypes about beauty, and how Dove’s Campaign For Real Women is trying to change the standard and propose a more improved aspect of beauty in its place.

Why are women dissatisfied with their bodies? I believe the media is responsible for this ongoing question about women’s beauty. For example, many diet product commercials have female actors that fit society’s stereotype, though they aren’t the ones who use these products. The women who actually use them are seen as unfit to be in those types of commercials such as Trim Spa. In “Teen Mags: How to get a Guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose Your Self-Esteem,” Anastasia Higginbotham writes about the attack of media image that show thin models who are dissatisfied with their bodies. The constant stream of images, along with “the sophistication of modern media, which constantly exposes us to impossibly thin, computer-adjusted images, creates ever more elusive physical targets, especially for women” (Lewis). Numbers give us proof of women’s growing dissatisfaction with their bodies: “the proportion of women calling themselves ‘moderately unhappy’ with their figures has risen from 31% in 1984 to 35% in 1998. The percentage who say they are ‘very unhappy’ with their bodies has jumped even higher in this time period, from 11% to 18%” (Anonymous) and in the United Kingdom “more than 50% of women questioned – compared with less than 25% of men - said they would consider plastic surgery, according to a survey of around 25,000 people aged between 17 and 35.” (Lewis) Women seem to always find something that’s wrong with their image. For example, when a woman asks multiple questions about their size when trying on clothes like “Does this make my butt look big?” when actually the clothes fit perfectly. With all the stereotypes surround this subject; I believe Dove is making an important effort to bring the stereotypes to a halt.

The Dove Campaign is the frontrunner in portrayal of glamorized “real women.” The campaign supports the Dove mission: “to make women feel more beautiful every day by challenging today’s stereotypical view of beauty and inspiring women to take great care of themselves” (Dove). The campaign commits to real women of various ages, shapes and sizes to encourage discussion about beauty and share their views on real beauty around the world. According to The Dove Campaign, they also:

The Campaign for Real Beauty appeals to women on the national and local levels with outreach including national television and magazine advertising as well as interactive billboards, transit station signage and city bus ads. The campaign is intended to challenge women’s notions of beauty with communication in high-profile downtown locations and along high-traffic roads in major cities: Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, New York and San Francisco.

Dove also takes part in Real Women Bare Their Real Curves which consist on, “six brave women – two students, a kindergarten teacher, a manicurist, an administrative assistant and a cafĂ© barista” (Dove) who all are different sized women and pass along their message to “stand firm and celebrate your curve!” (Dove), Dove not only advertises in its Campaign For Real Beauty, but they also influence the consumer’s common perceptions. When I say influence, I mean that they try to sell an image that you don’t have to be 5’7”, 127 lbs, blue eyes, and blonde hair to be beautiful.

I believe Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty’s attempt to change the standard of beauty is gradually changing for the best. Also, when it comes to body figures, teen magazines send a elaborate message: “Girls are encouraged to love their bodies, no matter what they look like, by magazines with fashion spreads featuring only stick-thin, flawless-faced white models in expensive outfits” (Higginbotham). Change should start from within; the woman needs to realize that she doesn’t have to change her appearance to become beautiful and they should feel comfortable the way they look. Other than your inner feelings about yourself, most pressure comes from your surroundings, peers, and even your culture. For example, “only 3% of Caucasian-American women rated their own beauty a 10 on a scale of 1-10, a full third of African-American women did so” (Anonymous). Thus; the common perception amongst African-American women is that “the thicker the better” or at least that’s what I hear, but as for Caucasian-American women there also is a perception that being very thin is the way to be. “Beauty is visual, but in most media images, it is the same visual – the eye popping features and stunning proportions of a few hand-picked beauty icons. When only a minority of women is satisfied with their body weight and shape in a society captivated by diet and makeover programs, it is time for a change” (Dove).



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