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Reflecting Body Images From American Culture

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Sara Brown


Eng 101 MW

Isbell J

Reflecting Body Images from American Culture

Currently in America Culture there is a prevailing desire to become thin. "Between five per cent and ten per cent of girls and women (i.e. five-ten million people) and one million boys and men suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or other associated dietary conditions." ( So many people are influenced by the media that it transforms their own self image into unrealistic ideas leading many adolescent females and some males to eating disorders. Our society is driven for individual control thus forming the judgment that fatness is a loss of self-control which is a social value and a personal moral in our culture that is a boundless failure and the most feared among women. The definition of self control within the body image has changed throughout the last century, in the early eighteen hundred's corpulence was seen as strong and beautiful whereas now it is looked down upon. This desire to be thin contributes to eating disorders, low self esteem and continues the battle of acceptance into society. Beauty is acceptance which is defined by the time period and is enforced by the media.

The culture standards' of beauty has changed throughout the course of history. Visual art in eighteenth Century America lead to the ideal women which was plump, flesh and full-figured ( Wykes & Gunter Pg. 154) This was a time period were a women's size represented strength, power and successful motherhood. The fertility was important because the more children she could bear, the more helpers the family would have to work the land.

The acceptance to be corpulence in the eighteen hundreds had changed drastically by the early nineteen hundreds. In the nineteen hundreds consumption of more elaborate products was becoming popular. The array of goods seeped into fashion, rich furniture and even children's toys.

"Even as religious criticism of consumerism declined, many Americans quietly worried that they were losing precious moral fiber - or, rather, that they must invent new areas of discipline to compensate for those that were crumbling."(Sterns Pg. 56).

When consumer consumption was just on the up rise in the nineteen hundreds, it received a lot of religious criticism. One Minister felt disgraced by any advocate that decided to pursue materialistic objects rather then the divine meaning in life. (Stearns Pg. 58) Even as the criticism declined Americans felt as if they were losing their moral fiber. Morals are principals of right and wrong according to Webster's Dictionary. This is important because they felt contempt by the church and as a result they had to find a new way to become accepted once more. Soon there was an association of fat with laziness and new morals were becoming apparent. America had discovered dominance over the body through deliberate self-sacrifice by not eating. (Stearns) A thin person was now defined as a person with self-control strengthening their moral quality and acceptance into society. Religious discipline was on a decline but restraint in eating and its undeniable appearance of slenderness took on its own moral responsibilities. (Stearns Pg.64) Successful diets meant painful but rewarding control, the same kind of struggles that battles with sin had always entailed.

Throughout the nineteen hundreds the ideal of the female body continually became thinner. Miss America was five feet, one inch tall, with a waist of twenty-five inches and a weight of 108 pounds in nineteen twenty-one. In nineteen eighty-one, Miss America contestants were at least five inches taller, waists three inches smaller and their weight only a slight bit heavier. (Stearns Pg. 72) Dieting soon became natural for women and the sexuality was less modest. Obese women were becoming ridiculed for being overweight, literature aimed at the very groups being insulted, women were the clear targets. "Are you aware that fatness has destroyed your sex appeal and made you look older, somewhat like a buffoon whom people are inclined not to take seriously in any area or on any level."(Stearn Pg. 83, 16) Entries such as this were written in books such as Murray Siegel (1971), Think Thin or Glamour, Glucose and Glands by Frank J. Wilson (1956). This time period was also when women were stepping into the workforce with great strides and if the woman was over weight, she was looked upon as "unreliable" and "lazy". (Stearns) Women became an object of mockery, an example of no self-discipline and social failures if they were not thin.

From the mid nineteen hundreds to present times the media has greatly influenced society's acceptance on body image. Even today, women are still mocked for being obese. Heavier women are a continued target in today's society by magazines containing headlines such as "How to lose weight." and "How to be skinner". The number of dieting and exercise articles in popular women's magazine increase every year. (Wykes & Gunter pg.67) These magazine articles may be helpful to some people but to an adolescent it leaves them questioning themselves. (Sault pg.123) This is important because it either lowers their self esteem or encourages them to lose unnecessary weight with the desire to fit in with their society.

In the battle to become to thin eating disorders has been many adolescent's choice of winning the war. Eating disorders include anorexic nervosa



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