How many of you have heard that the media “influences young girls to have thinner bodies?” That it “creates undue pressure to be thin” or that it “supports unrealistic stereotypes of women.”
Yeah yeah, we know. There are a lot of sources that talk about media being a huge influence on the development of eating disorders.
I don’t doubt that the media doesn’t help, but does it really cause problems? Personally, my ED has nothing to do with media. I developed anorexia when I was 13, when my family didn’t have a big TV and didn’t let me watch it until after dinner. And then in tenth grade I didn’t read any fashion magazines, I didn’t watch diet shows, and again I didn’t really watch TV until after dinner. Seeing thin actresses don’t make me think I’m too fat, and they certainly don’t make me think EDs are the route to go to lose weight.
Of course, I’m not everyone, but I would hazard a guess and say that it’s the people around us, not media, that actually have the influence. For instance, there are claims that the media promotes unrealistic standards for women. Well, I see thin women around me every day at my school. In fact, usually I don’t see much of a difference between their body shapes and the ones I see on TV. When I developed my ED, it was from looking around me and thinking “crap, I’m fatter than everyone else here” rather than swooning over some actress’s body.
As a side note, why do people say that actress’s and model’s bodies aren’t “real bodies?” I get that they’re airbrushed and made up to look good, but if you watch them live there’s not really any way they can change their body shape all that much. Isn’t it mean to tell them their bodies, which they probably work hard on to please everyone, aren’t real? Plus, I don’t understand why people can say that about women in the media when there are women we see every day in normal life with bodies like these. Are their bodies fake too?
I do think that excessively watching diet shows like Secret Eaters or Biggest Loser could have an influence on how you think about what you eat. Shows like these paint food as if it were an enemy, and they’re often triggering for me. However, I doubt that people would excessively watch them if they didn’t already have skewed values about food, in which case the media again didn’t really do much damage, it just didn’t help anything.
The exception to this is if a parent watches the shows a lot and her child accompanies her on the couch.
What do you think? Does the media influence the development of eating disorders?