Research Paper: English Literature Thin-Is-In Culture

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[. . .] Knowing that people look up to the mass media and enjoy it so much, helps with this pressure. As time as gone on, the importance of mass media, visual media especially, has grown in western cultures and other cultures where the ideal is very thin. Goodman (2002) asserts that the media forms are the main sources for information about the various social processes within a culture, the images that represent that culture, and conceptions of self-presentation. There are other sources available, yes, but the media is the main source and a source that many people access frequently and take quite seriously, whether consciously not. Women uses the information from the media as guides for the attitudes and behaviors they adopt or internalize. (Goodman, 2002) The media is a deluge of thin women, communicating to women that thinness is the ideal body type as defined by the mainstream culture or dominant class. She further asserts that women internalize, from access to the media, that any other body type outside of this ideal is detestable and unacceptable. (Goodman, 2002) Women, then, take actions based on these attitudes and perceptions within their culture. Within other cultures, the same codes and cultural experiences from cultures' media, do not always align with the declaration that being excessively thin is what is most desirable and the most beautiful.

Her ideas stress the distinction between thin and the excessively thin ideal. This quote also shows how mass media affects women directly and indirectly. Some of the affects of mass media are direct and immediate. Some are also indirect and latent. The power of mass media to pressure women to be thin comes from the media itself (content). It also comes from the pressure that women put on themselves when they internalize the pressure to be too thin. This quote also clearly connects excessive thinness, thin-is-in culture, social power, and economic power. Just as there are studies that prove that men earn more money than their female counterparts, there are studies that show that thin women, women who conform more to the physical ideal as presented in mass media and thin-is-in culture, have more economic and social power than women whose bodies do not conform to the thin ideal. Very simply, if a woman is thin, she will have more friends and more sexual prowess. A thin woman will also likely have a higher salary than her regular weight or overweight counterpart. This connection puts additional pressures on women to be thin. Thinness is connected to monetary success and popularity. Weight loss also costs money, whether the money goes to supplements, exercise equipments, or foods/beverages that induce weight loss. Money is also needed for diet pills, laxatives, and other resources that force unhealthy weight loss. So again, there is a direct connection between the mass media, excessive thinness, and economics.

Mass media and thin-is-in culture contributes to the development of anxiety regarding economics and psychology. Women who feel excessive pressure from mass media to be thin experience psychological stress. This stress adds up quickly because mass media is so prevalent in society and there is such great importance put upon mass media.

According to Leon Festinger's (1954) social comparison theory, individuals have a tendency to rate and evaluate themselves through comparisons with others. Such comparison-based evaluations increase with perceptions of similarity. Social comparison theory differentiates between two types of comparisons: downward and upward. When one downwardly compares, or compares oneself to those perceived as worse off, one exhibits heightened self-esteem and decreased anger (Festinger, 1954). However, when one upwardly compares, or compares oneself to those seen as being superior, increases in depression and anger are felt, as well as a decrease in feelings of self-worth. Because celebrities' images are readily visible to the public, they become social references for many individuals. Though we might not always see celebrities as similar to ourselves, social comparison theory also holds that we seek out individuals with highly valued assets with whom to upwardly compare ourselves. This theory helps explain the drive for thinness many women with eating disorders express. (Cohen, Page 59)

This quote supports the idea that the affects of mass media are direct and indirect, immediate and latent. This quote also supports the idea that the pressure from mass media and thin-is-in culture comes from many directions. It also shows that this pressure has a lot of psychological affects upon women to be thin that comes from others as well as coming from themselves. There is a clear, strong, and layered relationship between mass media and thin-is-in culture. This relationship revolves around issues of social reality, economics, psychological, perception, and environment. Mass media presents excessive thinness as the ideal, of what is the perfect body. An element of American culture is the idea of self-improvement. Therefore the pressure to be excessively thin can mean pressure to achieve a concept of perfection that is unrealistic, yet really powerful.

The truth behind the women who achieve the ideal of perfect, excessive thinness, is that they make this achievement by dangerous and negative means. These women go through grueling procedures and put their bodies through unhealthy stress to be the ideal. This is not the reality that mass media shows. Mass media only shows the good parts of the ideal, which include friends, sexual attraction, and economic power. It plays into other facets of the culture, such as the one to always improve and get better, to increase the pressure and exploit women's vulnerability to images from mass media to fit into thin-is-in culture.

References:

Brown, Amy, & Dittmar, Helga. Think "Thin" and Feel Bad: The Role of Appearance Schema Activation, Attention Level, and Thin-Ideal Internalization for Young Women's Responses to Ultra-Thing Media Ideals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 24, No. 8, 1088 -- 1113, 2005.

Cohen, Sara B. Media Exposure and the Subsequent Effects on Body Dissatisfaction, Disordered Eating, and Drive for Thinness: A Review of Current Research. Mind Matters: The Wesleyan Journal of Psychology, Vol. 1, 57 -- 71, 2006.

Goodman, J. Robyn. Flabless is Fabulous: How Latina and Anglo Women Read and Incorporate the Excessively Thin Body Ideal into Everyday Experience. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 3, 712 -- 727, 2002.

Harper, Brit, & Tiggemann, Marika. The Effect of Thin Ideal Media Images on Women's Self-Objectification, Mood, and Body Image. Sex Roles, Vol. 58, 649 -- 657.

Harrison, Phd, Kristen. Ourselves, Our Bodies: Thin-Ideal Media, Self-Discrepancies, and Eating Disorder Symptomatology in Adolescents. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 20, No. 3, 289 -- 323, 2001.

Park, Sung-Yeon. The Influence of Presumed Media Influence on Women's Desire to be Thin. Communication Research, Vol. 32, No. 5,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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English Literature Thin-Is-In Culture.  (2012, December 3).  Retrieved July 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/english-literature-thin-culture/2094672

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