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The Die In Diet: How North American Ideas of Beauty Harm Women

Uploaded by wytch on Nov 28, 2001


Humankind has always been aware of the existence of beauty. As our species has grown intellectually and socially, the standards that constitute beauty have changed to suit our culture. Females, in particular, are given more focus than males when it comes to appearance (Jackson, 1992). For instance, cosmetics cater almost exclusively to women and while they are considered a luxury, they have come to represent more of a grim necessity for females (Hansen & Reed, 1986). In the Western civilisation of North America, the concept of what constitutes beauty has transformed from the curvy and voluptuous looks of Marilyn Monroe to the sickly thin figure of supermodel Twiggy. The most recent concept of the ideal female has moved farther away from the realistic, to a look that has become unattainable to the average woman. This image of impossible beauty is constantly being presented to women through the media. In drastic efforts to harmonise with the modern notion of beauty, many women have developed negative and self-destructive habits and beliefs in regards to their own bodies.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are classified as mental disorders, which are understood to have multiple roots, including depression, low self-esteem, sexual/physical abuse history and a perfectionist attitude. While all of these elements are important to consider, the cultural and societal aspect is arguably one of the most significant factors to observe. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are two of the most recognised eating disorders in North America. Both disorders involve self-destructive conduct that develops from a goal to lose weight. Anorexia is characterised by starvation dieting, excessive exercising, the cessation of the menstrual cycle, and an intense fear of gaining weight. Bulimia, though marked by a similar fear of weight gain, is distinguished by episodes of binge eating and purging by vomiting, excessive exercise or with the aid of diet pills (Dittrich, 2001).

The fact that the majority of models and beauty contestants would meet one of the medical criteria of anorexia - that body weight be 15% below a "normal" weight - serves to prove that society embraces an unhealthy body image. In 1990, a direct relation was found between exposure to media and the incidence of eating disorders. The increase in eating disorders over time has coincided with the decrease in ideal female body weight, as portrayed in the media. In 1992, women's magazines were found to have 10.5 times the amount of advertisements promoting weight...

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Uploaded by:   wytch

Date:   11/28/2001

Category:   Social Issues

Length:   7 pages (1,660 words)

Views:   1423

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