Several decades ago, consistent research demonstrated stereotypical behavioural and personality traits associated with each of the three somatotypes. These studies suggested that mesomorphic (medium body build) body types were associated with the most favourable traits whereas the heavier endomorphs were associated with being socially aggressive, lazy, and unattractive and the thin ectomorphs were associated with being nervous, socially withdrawn, and submissive. Research has demonstrated that there has been movement away from a preference for an hourglass figure to a less curvaceous and angular shape body (Silverstein, 1986). Correlational research demonstrates the changing ideal of beauty and thinness over time and the idealisation of thinness in women in the current U.S. sociohistorical moment. However, what I wish to see research on is why has no one complained to the stereotypical behaviours related to the somatotypes and instead more and more women wish to represent the ectomorph body? We have merely shifted our opinion of attractiveness from one set of stereotypic features to another. Do we really wish to look like the ?nervous, socially withdrawn, and submissive? individual? Shouldn?t true beauty come from the inside anyway? Due to the vast field of topics one can cover in the three sets of characteristic/somatotype topics I have chosen to only cover the one relevant to the dangers and effects of the promoting of the ectomorph body. In the following discussion I would like to expand on how the two major contributing components of the media, TV and print media, promote thinness. Furthermore, I would also like to discuss the effects and dangers of this promotion on girls and women of our times. And finally what I wish to see in the future of advertising in the media.
Girls and women experience a significant rate of exposure to the print media as well as television; this source of information strongly endorses the thin ideal as well as proposes means of achieving it (e.g., diet, exercise). The media is the means of teaching women not only about the thin ideal but also the provider of maladaptive information on how to attain this idealised figure, ?including how to diet, purge and engage in other disregulating behaviour.? Over 8.8 million girls and women subscribed to only three of the leading magazines in 1993 (Winklepleck, 1993). A far greater number of readers could be exposed through borrowing from friends or the library. Just imagine the impact! As if that is not bad enough an average person in the U.S. watches 35,000 television advertisements a year (Smolak, 1996.) This does not include billboards and other sources of advertising! The printed media and television promote the thin ideal. The vast majority of female characters are thinner than the average American woman. Indeed, fewer than 10% of women in television shows and commercials are overweight (Smolak, 1995). When television characters are overweight they are often subjects of humour and unattractiveness.
Long before the advent of electronic media or ready accessibility to print media, images of beauty were communicated thorough art, music, and literature. However, Freedman (1986) explained that whereas throughout history, beauty ideals have been modelled, the impact of today?s visual media is different from the effect of the visual art of the past. She noted that historically figures of art were romanticised as unattainable, but today?s media blurs the boundaries between glorified fiction and realty (Freedman, 1986). Airbrushing, sot-focus cameras, editing, and filters may blur the realistic nature of media images even further. For instance, Lakoff (1984) asserted that TV and magazines exert and especially toxic influence because models in these mediums are seen as realistic representations of actual people rather than carefully manipulated, artificially developed images. Often media representations are not even of a singular woman. Rather, they are computer-merged images in which one model may provide the hair, another the face, and a third her figure! Even when exposed to a single image, women may fail to appreciate that models in print media or on television may spend many hours with clothes designers and professional hair and make-up artists for a single photograph and follow a rigidly controlled diet and exercise program. Although the average woman can afford neither the time nor financial investment necessary to achieve this look, individuals regard it as a realistic representation of feminine beauty and as an appropriate comparison target for what one should look like. For example, Nichter (1991) found that adolescent girls related their ideal to models found in teen fashion magazines. The girls quantified the ideal teenage girl as being 5?7?, 100 pounds, and size 5, with long blonde hair and blue eyes. Clearly very few teenage girls meet this unrealistic standard, and such aspirations may lead to body dissatisfaction. Comparisons such as these have inspired the initial dieting experiences in many young girls. The development of body image disturbance and eating disorders such as bulimia and nervosa are of major concerns among young females due to these influences.
The impact of the mass media is greatly impressed upon all of us everyday. Whether we choose to allow them to affect us is up to our own discretion. However it is wise to look at each ad with an open mind, know where it originated from and question its practicality. Even though we can not avoid being exposed to advertisement and the media we can choose to pay attention to ones of value and importance. Personally I only choose to view ones such as examples D, E, and F that I have enclosed. The portray women as strong, intelligent, confident and sociable.
Although the thin ideal is not promoted solely by the media and may not even be originated by the media, the popularity and persuasiveness of television, movies, and magazines leads the media to be among the most influential and efficacious communicators of the thin ideal. It contributes to the development of body image disturbance and eating disorders by emphasising the importance of beauty and external appearance in girls and women over more substantive issues, such as identity and independence. We all need to educate our young ones in dealing with such pressures and help them built self-confidence by informing them of such issues. Hopefully the future generation will be able to terminate the overrated focus on the external beauty and social standardisation of the ?ideal body.?