Laying Body Image Blame

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 6, 2009 Ed Cartoon

There is no question we live in world inundated by images of unrealistic body types.

Yet there is much disagreement around who is to blame for the large community of self-conscious men and women who pursue damaging behaviours â€" from steroid abuse, to binge eating and anorexia, and even obsessions with tanning.

Perhaps the onus is on the businesses â€" recreation centres and tanning salons â€" to implement stronger regulations. Businesses capitalizing on the self-improvement industry could monitor the duration and frequency of members’ visits and ensure their customers are not becoming obsessive. There is no doubt that tanning leads to cancer, so perhaps tanning products should follow the example of cigarette packaging and demonstrate the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure.

Some corporations have made an effort to use more realistic models and promote healthier body images, such as Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. However, Dove is owned by Unilever, the same company that owns Axe â€" a product infamous for objectifying women in its advertisements.

The bottom line is we live in a capitalist society and the likelihood that any business would risk reducing its income out of concern for its clients is low. At the end of the day, consumers need to face the fact that attractive models increase profits, and businesses are not likely to change anytime soon.

Additionally, judging what is too much when it comes to tanning or working out can be very subjective and such regulations would come dangerously close to invading the individual’s privacy.

Ultimately, the responsibility should be on friends and family members. But even with a support system, it’s really up to the individual to make educated choices and not fall prey to unrealistic expectations purported by the media.

Of course, many will blame magazines, television and film for their role in promoting negative body images. Children grow up surrounded by images of bulky men and skinny women and if their parents never explain the impracticality of these body types, kids will never develop the ability to differentiate between natural and unnatural expectations.

While it is impossible to ignore the mediating role of the media, it is also important to acknowledge the individual’s freedom of choice. Although people are bombarded with images of airbrushed models, they are also surrounded by examples of individuals who do not hold up these unrealistic expectations.

In most cases, no one is being forced to jog for three hours or go to the tanning salon on a weekly basis and it’s important for individuals to realize they have the option of not listening to everything they hear from the media.

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