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With the spike in media usage and the documentation of changing social norms, the differences observed in celebrity representation and idealist views of conforming male or female genders, creates a gap significantly larger than previously seen. How media affects people, specifically young people and the development and confirmation of gender biases can be seen in all forms of media.  Specifically, I will look to how the over-representation of the sexualization of weight, beauty and popularity contribute to the adolescent’s development of a sense of self and the risks involved in tampering with the development if their individual identity.  Through studies observing the adolescent’s consideration of themselves in regards to what they see in the media, it may be noted that this specific age group’s perception of their selves and of the standards of beauty are developing into something that is unrealistic, and in many ways unhealthy.  The contradictory paradigms that media undertakes is contradictory to even itself, “young female celebrities are encouraged into hypersexual representations of themselves only to then be scorned as a ‘famewhore’ or ‘slut’ in a ritual of slut-shaming”[1] .  These combating notions of what women are expected to be and yet they are continuously criticized for becoming exactly what that is.  The hyper sexualization of young women in media is more accessible and therefor more prevalent that previously seen.

Everyday Pornography

The line between ‘fashion’ and socially acceptable behavior in comparison to pornography has been drawn ever closer than before.  With celebrates covering less of their bodies and exposing more of their personal lives, adolescents, along with adults, look to these as guidelines as to how they should be seen, their worth and what is socially acceptable.  As western society becomes increasingly more sexualized, it is no great shock that with leaked sex tapes, increased and obvious body modifications and the emphasis on the importance of how a person looks physically, convolutes how a sense of self is formed and encourages the norm of sexually explicit actions and representations.

What’s the ‘thin-ideal’

‘Thin-Ideal’ is a term used to explain the obsession over the societal ideal of thinness and how this relates to a person’s current perception of themselves.  This anxiety provoking internalized sense that a person’s worth is measured partially, or completely, based on their conformation to their society’s concept of beauty.  With increased awareness (or obsession) of the ‘thin-deal’ so to does the increased risk of anxiety in relation to body acceptance, extreme dieting, depression and distorted body perception[2]. This idea of thinness being key to success is perpetuated in media of all kinds, through print, video, music and in the everyday life of social media. With people encouraging unhealthy realities and through adolescent’s perception of these people as being role models, it leads to unhealthy and continuously damaging perceptions of what constitutes as a healthy person.

The Opposing Notions of Increased Diets and Smaller Waist Lines

With all the media coverage on the importance of being sexy, on the idea that a person’s worth is determined by the number on a scale or of likes on an Instagram post, how does this relate to the spike in unhealthy diets of western culture?  As the number of obese people worldwide goes up, adolescents are included in these numbers as well.  Worldwide, obesity rose for adolescents by 47% between 1980 and 2013[3] .  In the U.S. some 17% of adolescents are obese, and as the fifth leading cause of death world wide[3], the idea of increase obesity in western adolescent children is in direct conflict with the media messages they are sent daily. This is to say that while young people are continuously bombarded with sexually explicit messages, so to are they confronted with high sugar, and highly appealing food which will lead to serious and long-lasting healthy consequences while also going against what the media is telling them to do-lose weight, be sexier, be better.  These two juxtaposing positions offer confusing and relentless self-shame to young people while big cooperation’s are benefiting from the loss of identity of these children.

Boys Boys Boys

Above I mostly looked to the effects media has had on young women, however there is an increasing amount of hyper-masculinity which is flooding our media and resulting in an increase in the boys risk of unrealistic body expectations.  For young men, within the idea of hyper masculinity we are also faced with the necessity to be strong, and tough emotionally.  This can lead to closed emotional response and a chosen lack of communication skills[4].  With both young boys and girls being exposed to the hyper-femininity and hyper-masculinity in constant media, a misunderstanding of relationships between the two genders is no doubt likely to come about.  If both are being told incorrect information and specifically if boys are encouraged to shut down emotionally, it is no wonder that there continues to be issues involved hyper-masculinity being taken into reality.

In Conclusion

Through the accessibility of mass media and the over-representation of unrealistic bodies, young people are bombarded with the notion that the only way to be successful is to look a certain way.  This notion of beautiful and thinness being a measure of a person’s worth is toxic to all people but is most dangerous to young people.  With the increase in the sexualization of products, movie stars, music and perhaps most clearly the images that are posted on an individual’s social media account, the inclusion of what could be described as soft porn has made an appearance in the everyday reality of life.  This leads adolescent women to the conclusion that sexualizing themselves to the public audience, and at such a young age is both highly accepted and encouraged.  This extreme focus on how a person looks being representative of their worth is encouraged through the images portrayed in media that they see everyday[1].  With the increased representation of women being extremely thin, in all the right places, eludes young girls to assume that these hyper-fit, hyper-sexualized bodies are normal and what they should be striving to achieve.  These role models encourage adolescent girls to have warped perception of their own bodies and has led to increased risky dieting along with mental heal problems[2].  In contrast to the constant bombardment of food and in comparison, to the spike in teen diabetes and obesity[3].  The conflicting message that we send our youth through media portrayal leads to confusion on what is acceptable and what is not.  This is not a gender issue, boys to are constantly been shown images of hyper-masculine men and are watching how these men interact with women. This causes young boys to have increased body dysmorphia while also learning to shut down their emotions,[4] the second of which is arguably more detrimental.  Media attacks adolescent children and instructs them on how they must look and behave while encouraging them that they are not enough.  This in conjunction with an increase in unhealthy diets leads to confusing and contradictory notions of how they are supposed to look and what they are supposed to eat while looking this way.  These adolescents are being constrained to the binaries that have hyper-femininity and hyper-masculinity qualities and degrade all things that allow for individuality while damaging their attempt to form their own identities.


A shoe commercial

THE Perfume Bottle

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jackson, Sue., Vares, Tiina (2015). "'Too Many Bad Role Models for Us Girls': Girls, Female Pop Celebrities and 'sexualization'". Sexualities. 18: 480–498.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Clark, Heather L. (2015). "Body Ideals Versus Body Realities: Media use and Overweight Misperception in Normal Weight Adolescents". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Smith, Kristy et alt. (2016). "Obesity Statistics". Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. 43: 121–135.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ben-Zeev, Avi; et al. (2012). "Hypermasculinity in the Media: When Men "walk into the Fog" to Avoid Affective Communication". Psychology of Popular Media Culture. 1: 53–61. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)

General References

  • Attwood, F. (2009). "Researching media sexualization: Girls gone skank: The sexualization of girls in american culture. by patrice" A. oppliger, McFarland & company, inc., jefferson, north carolina & london, 2008. 258 pp. ISBN: 978-0-7864-3522-7. Sex Roles, 61(3-4), 288-289. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9612-x
  • Durham, M. G. (2008). "The lolita effect: The media sexualization of young girls and what we can do about it". Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press.
  • Gunter, B., & Ebooks Corporation. (2014). "Media and the sexualization of childhood." London;New York;: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. doi:10.4324/9781315774305