Photo: Dollsinc
Photo: Dollsinc

By Chloe Anderson-Dixon

The perception of body image has been an increasing debate among the public and the media for the past several decades, in particular the media’s perception of what is the perfect body. But the question is, what is the ‘perfect’ body?

In the past 100 years, female models have been getting thinner and thinner. A century ago, the ideal body shape was a fleshy and full-figured woman. However, whilst models are getting thinner, more and more women and young girls are feeling self-conscious and un- happy with their own body shapes.

What most people do not realise is that models spend the majority of their days engaged in physical activities to manipulate and sculpt their bodies into the high-main- tenance image we see in fashion magazines. Even so, photographers still always modify and enhance the model’s body in some way, to make it just that little bit more ‘perfect’. Not even models look like their pho- tographs.

The eye of the media has led to objectifying all of us. When we walk down the street, we automatically think how we appear to others. This is mostly due to pages in maga- zines which criticize a celebrity’s image and weight, such as ‘circle of shame’ in Heat when we see celebrities out and about and not looking their best. This has led to us feeling self-conscious and hu- miliated, and studies have shown that looking at a fashion magazine

for just three minutes can lower the self-esteem of over 80% of women. Headlines such as ’10 Ways to A Beautiful Body’ with an image of a 5ft6, tanned, beautiful size 4 mod- el next to it looking happy and com- pletely flawless is enough to make anyone feel like heading to the gym and skipping lunch. The media has manipulated us into thinking that this is what a beautiful body is, and nothing else can ever compare to it. The reality is that these ‘perfect’ images to which we aspire are more often than not digitally enhanced and manipulated before final pro- duction. We are manipulated by the media to think that being thin or slender brings health, happiness and success.

However, misconceptions such as these can have serious conse- quences. Images like these lead to unhealthy dieting, taking drugs to lose weight, depression and most commonly eating disorders. A com- mon misconception about eating disorders is that they stem from the desire to look more beautiful. How- ever an eating disorder is a com- plex mental illness which arises out of severely low self-esteem and a negative view of the way the body looks.

Overall, we can see how the me- dia objectifies and manipulates the images of the ‘perfect’ body, which, realistically, is unachievable when not even the models themselves in the photographs look like this in everyday life. The 2012 Olympics has however, brought toned and healthy looking women back to our

front pages. The Olympics put pres- sure on the mainstream media to change the way they show women. The image of Jessica Ennis look- ing curvy, yet toned has created an entirely new image in which we call beautiful; healthy. We can see the way that Jessica has achieved her athletic form, through healthy and

sensible eating with regular exercise. We need to see images such as these as more prominent fea- tures in fashion magazines and ad- vertisements, as this shows a much more realistic path in which we can achieve body confidence and hap- piness within ourselves.

UWE is hosting its own Body Image Programme in which it explores issues such as these, helping to improve body image and reduce concerns about weight and eating behaviours. This programme begins on the 12th February on Frenchay Campus. Visit the events calendar online for more information.