May 5, 2014
As girls mature in age, outside influences affect how they perceive the world around them. Some of these influences involve the media because media is a huge part of daily life today. Media such as magazines and television, peers, and social media persuade girls to put stereotypes on themselves and the people around them. Growing up, girls have to figure out who they are and who they should be. The media is a big influence when it comes to this because girls grow up looking at fashion magazines, reality television, and social media which sometimes gives them the wrong perceptions of how girls should act and present themselves. Much research has been done to show that media influences how girls look at themselves. While research has long sought to examine the connections between media and body dissatisfaction, there are important reasons to question the influence of media alone. Rather, it seems that the role of peers may have a stronger influence on body satisfaction than media alone.
Much research draws attention to the ways in which media creates unrealistic images of women that can be detrimental to girls’ body satisfaction and perceptions on how they should act. Television shows and movies portray how females should look and act. In 2008, a study showed that the many pictures of thin ideal images in the media are mentioned as possible influential factors on young girls’ body image and eating behaviors. Girls look at fashion magazines and see models that are thin and beautiful and those magazines usually have tips to look like the model in the picture. When exposed to these thin ideal images, woman may feel unable to live up to these thinness standards and feel dissatisfied with their own bodies because of this. This can be assumed based off of the social comparison theory which was proposed by Leon Festinger in 1954. This theory is centered on the belief that individuals are driven to gain accurate self-evaluations. It states that people tend to compare themselves to relevant others.
Anschutz, Engels, and Van Strien also relate this issue to the social comparison theory by stating that woman may consider media models relevant to compare themselves with because thinness carried out by the media has been a cultural norm for a long time. This theory shows why girls might compare themselves to the models they see in magazines, films, and even their peers. Girls are more likely to compare themselves to their peers because they are around them often. Some studies have shown that peers can influence not only body dissatisfaction but also behavior. “It is argued that individuals adopt gender characteristics in part by monitoring the rewards and consequences associated with others' behavior” (Behm-Morawitz and Mastro 132). A study was performed by Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz and Dana E. Mastro to show the influence of teen films on gender-based beliefs about friendships, social aggression, and roles of women in society. Part of the study showed that females tend to be shown as more socially aggressive than males. “For example, in 2004 the hit teen movie Mean Girls brought the portrayal of teen girls as socially aggressive to the forefront of popular discourse about female adolescence” (Behm-Morawitz and Mastro 132). Girls are known to create a lot of drama and this movie shows that it’s not only real, but it draws a picture for adolescent girls on how girls act in high school. The study also showed 337 incidents showing socially aggressive behavior within the 20 movies that were sampled. Results also showed that females are more likely to be rewarded for socially aggressive behaviors from other peers. This relates back to the social comparison theory because once again, girls feel the need to compare themselves to the people around them. When girls watch these films, the films create a social norm for girls to…