Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A useful psycho-education thanks to ‘Dove’!

In 2008 Dove produced a clip as part of their Self-Esteem Fund and BodyTalk program (Dove Self-Esteem Fund, 2008). The clip demonstrates the artificial nature of media images and how misleading they can be. You see the woman in the clip being altered, adjusted and enhanced from her natural shape and features.

We all know how media images of perfectly formed women are very damaging. The more we are exposed to these advertisements, the more damage they do to our self-esteem. Research suggests if we can target young teenagers early, we can reduce the likelihood of the negative media images impacting their self-esteem. And ultimately reduce the likelihood of internalising disorders, such as depression and anxiety.        
Halliwell, Easun and Harcourt (2011) got girls aged 10 to 13 to either watch the Dove intervention or a control immediately before viewing thin idealized models. They found those who did not view the Dove clip reported higher body dissatisfaction and lower body esteem. But – those who viewed the Dove clip were buffered from the negative exposure to the models.
So - thanks to Dove, the video clip can help educate young teenage girls who are most vulnerable to the negative effects of thin idealised media images.

Dove Self-Esteem Fund (2008). Self-esteem workshop guide. Kingston Upon Thames, UK: Beat &            Lever Faberge Ltd. Retrieved from
Halliwell, E., Easun, A., & Harcourt, D. (2011). Body dissatisfaction: Can a short media literacy message reduce negative media exposure effects amongst adolescent girls? British journal of health psychology, 16(2), 396-403.

Written by Tash Morris

The Real Harm of the Media- Magazine Edition

When we talk about "the media" what do we really mean? I confess I tend to think of TV, of film, of newspapers and of course magazines. The term "the media" has come to hold negative connotations no matter where we seem to hear it. Whether it't The Sun with it's outmoded and offensive use of Page Three, or anything Robin Thicke is involved in, the media (to me at least) seems to have taken a downward spiral from it's glory days.This is because the modern media does harm, real harm.

When we started this project I, like anyone else, was vaguely aware that being constantly bombarded with idealised and unrealistic images of women was damaging. I'm sure there's not many of us who could say that they have never felt bad about themselves after wondering past a freshly stocked woman's magazine rack, or simply driving past the latest perfume ad on a billboard. However the extent of this damage was overwhelmingly unknown to me.

One meta-analysis I came across by Groez, Levine and Murmen (2001) (who coincidentally do a lot of great gender research, check out the journal Sex Roles) revealed the extent of the media ideal and it's influences. Their analysis revealed that women and girls (particularly those under the age of 19) consistently experienced body dissatisfaction after exposure to genuine images taken from fashion magazines. This exposure has created and perpetuates a "thin ideal" that less that 5% of the population on women can actually live up to. Not only this but the women in these studies were wildly unaware that the images are enhanced and improved, to a standard that is highly unattainable or impossible! This is of course not to mention the effect of the thin ideal on eating disordered attitudes, and behaviors.

I hate to think of how many generations have grown up or will have to grow up with these unrealistic expectations thrust upon them. That's why it is important to have an understanding of what these influences do and more importantly to question these expectations! The same met-analysis found that media literacy (a brief educational course, which includes: awareness of media use and analysis of content and intentions) could protect women from negative body image, and show higher acceptance and satisfaction of their own body.

This is what we are here to tell you:
- Think! Think about what you are viewing, and the purpose of it. The majority of the time that pretty lady/ man in there to try and sell you something.
- Remember that the thin ideal represents less that 5% of actual women
- A team of make up artists, stylists, hair dressers, and not to mention photo editing software is used to make the image you see. This is no more real than a cartoon. Don't compare yourself to this fallacy.
- Remember that all women have genetically different make up which contributes to your natural body shape.
- Be happy, be healthy and be cynical of the media ideal!

Groesz, L. M., Levine, M. P., & Murnen, S. K. (2002). The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction: A meta‐analytic review. International Journal of Eating Disorders31(1), 1-16.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

...One Giant Leap for Womankind

So now we are a little more aware about the effects that the media has on our perceptions of ourselves and the women around us, what can we do to buffer ourselves from it's effects?
It is clear that the media will not change; as mentioned below, the media makes far too much money from our insecurities to change anytime soon. So rather than being passive sponges to the information the media feeds us, we need to take an active step in changing the way we see the media in order to boost our self esteem. These tips from Terese Katz from PsychCentral are a great way to make a positive step:

1) STOP doing this:

Talking to your female friends about how much you think you need to diet and what you think is imperfect about your body is such an easy conversation to slip in to, it is such the norm these days that talking about real issues seems out of the ordinary! So make a change; make an active effort to talk to your friends about the interesting stuff they learn at university, or even where they want to be in 5 years time!

2) Develop what is known in psychology as Mindfulness. The main aspect of mindfulness is becoming consciously aware of your thoughts and feelings in a given moment, allowing you to control what you concentrate on.
    In other words; rather than letting your thoughts and feeling control you (such as feeling bad about yourself when you see a skinny model in a magazine), acknowledge that the thoughts and feelings are there, and tell yourself that they are only passing; let them come in one ear and go out the other.  This can be quite difficult at first, but once you are aware of your feelings, they become a lot less damaging, and you can therefore consciously control your habitual responses to the media's images. Khoury and colleagues (2013) have found that mindfulness has been effective in reducing anxiety, depression, and stress; all potential bi-products of photoshopped media images.

3) Set a good example for children. Teach your children, nieces, nephews, cousins, even grandchildren, to challenge the images that they see around them, that the media uses images of women and men which are unnaturally and unhealthily slim, that it is okay to look how they want to look. McVey, Tweed and Blackmore (2004) found that over 29% of young girls aged between 10-14 were currently trying to lose weight, and 10.5% scored greater than the clinical level of disordered eating. Out of a sample of 2279 young girls, that means that 684 were on a diet, and 228 had clinically disordered eating. If we teach children that overly skinny is not the norm, maybe we can change these figures.

4) Be Healthy! Eat well (well, most of the time!), exercise to relieve stress and feel good about yourself (not to desperately lose weight), treat yourself, and surround yourself with supportive people whom you love.

5) Remember the two main points which feature regularly throughout the blog:

       a) The media alters images of women to make them look slimmer and younger, with better complexions, brighter eyes and fuller lips. Celebrities DO NOT look like the media portrays them.

       b) All women are made genetically different. What is normal for your body is not normally for someone else's, and what is normal for some women is certainly not normal for us.

6) Finally, remember that these hot mommas are considered "plus sized" by today's modelling standards!!! (Jessica Misener, Buzfeed Article)

Allegra Doherty

Laura Wells

Robyn Lawley

Marquita Pring


Mean girls fat talk clip

Tips featured in this post:
Stop Hating Your Body!

"Plus Sized" Models:
These Women are Plus Size According to America

Khoury B, Lecomte T, Fortin G, et al. (August 2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33 (6): 763–771.

Women vs Photoshop

The statistics posted by Ariadna below wouldn't be so hard to swallow if the images that young girls were looking at were real; instead young girls are creating their beliefs of "the ideal woman" based upon photoshopped media images.

Before photographs are printed, professionals spends hours upon hours removing "imperfections" to create the perfect image, when in reality they are removing the aspects of these women which make them who they truly are: Lines around their eyes and mouths from a life of laughter, bags around the eyes and stretch marks inevitably gained from having children, a little excess weight gained from having a great time at university with your friends. These life experiences leave marks on our bodies, and rather than embrace this, the media is choosing to make us feel bad about it.

Do you think that Katy Perry would be used to advertise expensive makeup if the world saw her naturally slightly blemished skin? I highly doubt it! Advertisers are selling us perfection, so they have to create the perfect images in order to do so. What better way to get women to delve deep into their pockets than to make them bad about themselves, and proceed to tell them that the only way that they can feel good is to buy your diet products, or your miracle moisturiser, or your overly priced foundation to give you that perfect looking skin. If only that perfect look wasn't only achievable through hours of photoshop editing.

Cindy Crawford herself has even been quoted saying "I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford."
As shown in the Dove Intervention video posted below, the pictures you see of models in magazines and on TV look considerably different to how they do in real life.

Look through the images below (found via a search of google images), and you can see that celebrities have all of the same, beautiful imperfections that we do; they just have the power of photoshop behind them: 

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Monday, 24 March 2014

Learn to Love Yourself

It is obvious to a lot of people that the media has a big role to play in how individuals perceive their body. We see the images used, skinny tall women, with light skin, long legs and long hair, and we accept that this is how we should look. Regardless of the fact that less that 5% of women are represented by the media's "ideal". All women have different body shapes, not just because of their dietary lifestyle, but because of their genetics. A girl born into a family that is short is unlikely to grow to a 6 foot height. We have to learn to celebrate these differences, and learn to accept the variety we have. To not think that we should lose weight because the women in the media do not have big thighs. It is shocking what the media does to the thoughts of young women and girls. 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade (10-18 year olds) reported that they wanted to lose weight because of the images used in magazines, and that 69% of girls in the same age range felt that the images used in the magazines do influence what they thin the ideal body is (Levine, 1998). Even more shocking is that this could in fact be influencing even younger girls, with 42% of 1st-3rd graders (6-9 year olds) want to be thinner than they are (Collins, 1991). This is devastating. That girls this young are already worried about how they look like because of the media.

Now although those statistics are quite old, the media hasn't changed much. So it appears to be that it is in the hands of the public to learn how they can combat the effects that the media may have on them. Things like appreciating your body, learning that you may not look how the models on the magazines look, but that you are still a beautiful person. Learning that looks really are not everything, that you can get very far with confidence of who you are, and the knowledge that you have the intellect and wit to make it far in the world. Knowledge that with the motivation and dedication, you can be very accomplished. You can learn to appreciate how your body works; how it continuously works to make sure you have enough energy, that you are not sick. How you can develop and grow and learn new skills.

By learning to appreciate your body on more than just what it looks like, you will begin to feel more confident in who you are. And hopefully, while we wait for the media to change it's way to represent people, each member of the public can learn to love themselves instead.

Prevention of Eating Problems with Elementary Children, Micheal Levine, USA Today, July 1998.

Collins, M. E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of EAting Disorders, 199-208.

Collins, M.E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208.