NYC: Society has created such a highly unattainable image of beauty that not even the models and actresses portrayed in the media can keep up, explains Every Woman Foundation (EWF), a division of Sophie Serafino Entertainment Inc. focused on the celebration and empowerment of women.
Sophie Serafino on how the media disfigures body image
The fabulous women gracing the covers of magazines, standing tall on massive billboards, strutting the runways and making daily appearances on our T.V. and movie screens epitomize bodily perfection because that’s what the media tells us.
Many of these idolized depictions of women are Photoshopped to airbrushed perfection. In many cases, media outlets have generated such an unrealistic vision of beauty that their very own cover models are unable to fit the mold. Audiences see these women and want to emulate them, forcing women to strive for a physical appearance that may not even be real.
According to modern day society, simply put, thin is always in and that’s just the first layer. The ideal doesn’t end with runway legs, a slender waist and a neatly angled jawline. Flawless skin with every wrinkle and imperfection are removed. Not only do mainstream media outlets depict women with this highly selective appearance, they flaunt it in “barely there” clothing too.
Many studies highlight the negative impact this constant exposure to an unrealistic body ideal has on women, but the way it impacts their satisfaction with their own physical appearance varies. Some researchers call this female concern a “normative content”, implying that body image dissatisfaction affects all women in some way at some level.
The importance of being beautiful is taught to girls at a very young age. So, who could argue with wanting to feel beautiful? According to Sophie Serafino, Founder and President of EWF, this seemingly innocent longing is and has been posing a threat to the well-being of women of all ages for decades due to society’s unrealistic depiction of what epitomizes true beauty.
“People need to ask themselves if looking good is really worth taking major health risks because that’s what many people are subjecting themselves to,” explains Serafino.
In the eyes of a mother, all her children are beautiful. Yet, in today’s society the idea of beauty is dramatically skewed to encompass a specific appearance unattainable by most, leaving many women to believe and accept the longstanding idea that beauty is pain. Many of these women, including young girls, will through just about anything to attain it. “Every Woman Foundation believes that all women have something to celebrate. We aim to promote inclusivity and acceptance in the face of oppressive social structures in the spirit of loving and helping each other. If multiple media outlets consistently remove every imperfection, that promotes exclusion.”
From day one, attractive girls are showered with adoration and attention. As they grow, it’s the pretty ones that are sought after, get dibs on the cutest boys and ultimately score an array of countless advantages later in life. Is this fair? No, but that’s the simple truth, whether its in our genetic makeup or societal standards.
Over the years, women have made powerful strides in earning respect outside of the home and continue to reach new heights in making vast impacts in the workforce and in society as a whole. Yet, the construct of how society views women remains relatively the same, with an everlasting emphasis on physical appearance.
Women of all ages are victims of skewed self-images. While most don’t fall under the category of having an eating disorder or an addiction to plastic surgery, many are still obsessed with appearances. “A woman displeased with her appearance is often displeased with herself. Although this doesn’t apply to every woman, it remains true for many, ” explains Sophie Serafino. “Not many women fit the media’s definition of beauty and that’s a dangerous problem.”
Experimental research from the University of Sussex, Brighton UK revealed that only a small percentage of women in Western countries meet the criteria used by the media to measure beauty and that many of the models used by popular media are approximately 20 percent below ideal body weight.
According to a survey from the National Institute on Media and Family, 40 percent of girls ages 9 and 10 have tried to lose weight. By the time these girls reach age 13, 53% are ‘unhappy with their bodies’ and by age 17, this number jumps to a staggering 78 percent. A study on 5th graders showed that after watching a Britney Spears music video, many of the young girls and boys were dissatisfied with their bodies. The hefty influence of the media can typically be witnessed at an early age, with heavy emphasis on body image heightening around puberty.
As one of the most prominent role models of this generation, Britney Spears is just one of the thousands of picture-perfect images the average female aspires to assimilate with. But not even the princess of pop is immune to the scrutiny of the media.
Following Ms. Spears’ return to the scene in 2007 after a short hiatus, it was obvious she had gained some weight. Since then, she’s maintained a healthy body weight, but has never snapped back into the iconic shape of her wonder years and has even been accused of using Photoshop to make herself look thinner in music videos.
No one is immune to the pressures to look thin, from our pop princess and runway models, to our neighbors and friends. It is now also becoming clear that women are not the only ones affected by the media’s unrealistic demands. A TODAY/AOL survey found that half of teen boys had complained about their appearance in the past month and a recent study found that fear of being too skinny put teen boys at higher risk for steroid use and depression.
These findings may come as a surprise to many, as problems with body image and the media are typically associated with women. It also, however, further accentuates a growing problem. If the media continues to churn out these unrealistic stereotypes, body image issues will only escalate and put more people’s health and lives on the line.
According to Sophie Serafino, “our events and outreach programs aim to promote education and awareness around this kind of exclusion, in order to promote new attitudes so that girls, boys, men and women are not subjected to this kind of distortion of the way they see themselves and others, created by the media... Every Woman Foundation works to promote self-acceptance and love, and appreciation of others, to create greater self-worth and self-esteem, which will result in healthier individuals and communities."