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What are you Buying: Body Image and the Media

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Written by Elizabeth Starbuck

Posted on 23 February 2014

Today the product people buy has little to do with the product, and instead what the customer gets from it. The media has done an amazing, almost unbelievable, job marketing the beauty industry. On February 20th, Christina Hruby, a counselor from the Eating Disorder Center of Denver, came to Mines to discuss the issue of Body Image in a talk, "What are you Buying: Body Image and the Media."

Body image is both personal and subjective and has three main aspects. These aspects are how a person sees themselves, what the person believes other people think of that person, and how the person feels in their body. There has been a terrible trend of younger and younger men and women suffering from anorexia and other body image-related disorders. A recent study quoted some young girls as saying they "would prefer to have cancer or lose both parents than be fat." Obviously the media is a huge cause for this, but one of the biggest influencers of young boys and girls is their parents and family. Parents may be careful to not express weight issues with their kids and simply saying, "I'm going to be good tonight and have a salad," or "I'm going to be bad and have dessert," can have huge effects on how kids see eating and their body image.

Furthermore, there is an even larger number of young adults in college that have body image problems. A study showed that 91% of women surveyed on college campuses attempted to control their weight through dieting and/or were unhappy with their body, and 22% dieted "often" or "always." For college men, it was reported by Cornell University that 40% of football players engaged in some sort of eating disorder behavior, and 40% of men have a binge eating disorder. While women want to slim down, men are trying to bulk up, and both are unnatural and can be very harmful physically and mentally.

So what is someone really buying when they make a purchase? Ms. Hruby highlighted that "the product you buy has little to do with the actual product, and more to do with what the product gets you."

Advertisements promise people better beauty and from this, better lives if people purchase their product. Every day people are bombarded with 400 to 600 advertisements and one out of eleven are a direct message about beauty. The media works to sell people they things they need on a basic level, such as love, acceptance or approval, and happiness. Media wants people to think that in order to attain these things, people need to buy the marketed product and change who they are.

Through marketing, the diet industry has become a huge $40 billion per year industry. The size is not even the insane part about the diet industry, as the failure rate for diets is a staggering 96%. Somehow people are continuing to buy into diets, completely disregarding the slim chance of any return on their investment. Not only does the media brainwash people into being unhappy with their body image, it is also turning people into objects. Instead of portraying a person, ads just show their abs, or their chest or a body with no head, objectifying men and women and creating a disconnect. Advertisements are becoming more violent, and sending the message that women must be sexy but also innocent. All this is making the poor body image illness more complex and much worse.

Beauty campaigns like Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, Nivea, and many others are promoting using real people to model without sexualizing or objectifying them. The entire purpose of marketing is to appeal to an audience, so if the audience does not want degrading false advertisement anymore, the marketing will have to change. How can people fight back against such a huge problem?
* Be the change! People can't let products or the scale define who they are.
* Do not engage in body criticism, stop the body talk whether it's positive or negative.
* Compliment someone on non-physical attributes and character qualities.
* Have body confidence and pass it on.
Culture is defined by the people in it, and if the people change the culture will too.

*On February 27th from 11-1pm in the Student Center Center Lobby, EDC will also have a table featuring empowering Henna Tattoos and information promoting health body image and awareness.