Parent, Teacher, Author
When we talk about the Thin Ideal, what we mean is the idea that thinness is equal to beauty for girls and women. I shared a disturbing article with you not long ago about how the Thin Ideal has even started to become internalized by pre-school girls. One of the most convincing articles that I’ve read is a meta-analysis of 25 different studies conducted across several years that evaluate the internalization of the thin ideal through viewing media (Groesz, Levine, & Murnen, 2001).
In this article, the authors look at 25 studies with over 2,000 participants all together that focus on viewing media that represents the Thin Ideal and ask:
What they found was startling. I’ve had countless people, often young women, tell me that while they enjoy looking at fashion magazines, watching TV or movies, and being engaged with media, it doesn’t change the way they feel about themselves. In fact, study after study supports the idea that viewing thin media images does lead to a more negative evaluation of one’s own looks and a belief that one needs to go to great lengths to achieve that ideal.
It means that as children and adolescents are bombarded by media images through their 10 hours and 45 minutes per day of media consumption, they are gradually constructing an idea of what beauty means, and that idea is largely associated with being thin.
The reason that this matters, is that children are also routinely getting messages from the media that says the most important thing about being a girl or woman is beauty.
The acceptance of the Thin Ideal can lead to self-esteem problems and to an increase in dieting, eating disorders, and extreme exercise as one strives to obtain it.
What’s frightening about this is that the “ideal” woman described by adolescent girls in one study cited was 5’7, weighed 100 pounds and wore a size 4/5. With a body mass index of less than 16%, this is considered underweight by quite a bit (average is 18.5-24.9%).
Groesz, L.M., Levine, M.P., & Murnen, S.K. (2001). The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Eating Disorders.