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Destructive Advertising and the Exploitation of Women Worldwide
The media promotes and reflects the current mainstream culture's standards for body shape or size and importance of beauty. The media reflect images of thinness and link this image to other symbols of prestige, happiness, love and success for women. Repeated exposure to the thin ideal via the various media can lead to the internalization of this ideal. It also renders these images achievable and real. Until women are confronted with their own mirror images they will continue to measure themselves against an inhuman ideal.

About-Face facts on the Media
Compiled by Liz Dittrich, Ph.D.

90% of all girls ages 3-11 have a Barbie doll, an early role model with a figure that is unattainable in real life.
In 1992, the ten most popular magazines most commonly read by men and women were reviewed for ads and articles related to weight loss. The women's magazines contained 10.5 times more articles related to dieting and weight loss than did the man's magazines (Andersen & DiDomenico, 1992).
Magazines such as Seventeen, Sports Illustrated, Teen, Ebony, Young Miss, Jet, Newsweek and Vogue, account for more than half of all reported reading of adolescents (Strasburger, 1995, p.46).
A study of the content of Seventeen Magazine (the most widely distributed adolescent magazine) for the years of 1945, 1955, 1965, 1975, 1985 and 1995 found that in all issues the largest percentage of pages were devoted to articles about appearance (Schlenker, Caron, Halteman, 1998).

In the 70's, an analysis of Ladies Home Journal, Mc Call's and Good Housekeeping Magazine revealed the dominant messages to be that marriage is inevitable for women, and that to catch a man the woman must be less competent than he, more passive and more virtuous (Franzwa, 1975).

Five popular women's magazines were reviewed for their message regarding weight control messages and morality perceptions (Pongonis & Snyder, 1998). Morality messages have significantly increased in food, weight control and fitness articles and ads over the past 20 years, linking morality to food choices and body weight (such as morality messages alluding to lack of control, laziness and self-indulgence linked to higher weight).


Nutrition and fitness messages between 1970 and 1990 were analyzed for a popular magazine for adolescent females (Guillen & Barr, 1994). The primary reason presented for following a nutrition or fitness plan was to lose weight and to become more attractive. The emphasis and frequency of fitness messages dramatically increased during this period and the body shape of the models became less curvy, with the hip to waist ratio decreasing.

A comparison of content for Ebony, Essence and Ladies' Home Journal revealed that there is significantly higher use of alcohol and alcohol-related ads in the Black-oriented magazines (Pratt & Pratt, 1996). The tobacco companies also seem to have targeted Black consumers as their major market, as evidenced by their advertisements.

Analyses of advertisements have shown that males are much more often depicted as looking directly at women, than vice versa (Goffman, 1979, Umiker-Sebeok, 1981).

69% of female television characters are thin, only 5% are overweight (Silverstein, Peterson, Perdue & Kelly, 1986).


The average person sees between 400 and 600 ads PER DAY-that is 40 million to 50 million by the time s/he is 60 years old. One of every 11 commercials has a direct message about beauty (this isn't counting the indirect ones).

Silverstein and colleagues found that the years in which the number of women in managerial positions and professional positions increased, in the 20's and late 60's, the female body ideal as reflected in issues of Ladies Home Journal and Vogue, became slimmer (Silverstein, Peterson & Perdue, 1986).

Lucas and his associates (1991) studied the incidents of anorexia nervosa during a 50-year period and found that the incidence of anorexia nervosa among 10-19 year-old girls paralleled the change of fashion and its idealized body image. The thin ideal preceded the times when the rates of anorexia nervosa were highest.

The 4 most popular women's magazines (Home Journal, Cosmo etc.) were compared to the 4 most popular men's magazines (Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated et.). The target of comparison was the number of ads for diet foods. In 48 issues of women's magazines there was a total of 63 diet food ads. The total ads for men was 1. (Silverstein, Peterson, Perdue & Kelly, 1986).

Another study found that 68% of a sample of Stanford undergraduate and graduate students felt worse about their own looks after reading women's magazines (Burgard, D.)


The tendency to compare oneself to models that are portrayed by the media, increases with age (Kennedy & Martin).

Irving (1990) found that subjects exposed to slides of thin models consequently presented with lower self-evaluations than subjects who had been exposed to average and oversize models. The results also showed that all subjects experienced the greatest pressure to be thin from the media, followed by peers and then family.

Richins (1991) found that exposure to idealized images lowered subjects' satisfaction with their own attractiveness. Stice and Shaw (1994) studied subjects' reactions to pictures of thin models in magazines. Their results indicated that exposure to the thin ideal produced depression, shame, guilt, body dissatisfaction, and stress. Stice et al. (1994) found a direct relationship between media exposure and eating disorders symptoms.

Girls ages 14-18 were exposed to images of models (typical images of models and computer-altered images that were altered to appear „overweight¾). Girls exposed to the typical models evaluated themselves and their appearance more negatively than the girls who had been exposed to models who were "overweight" (computer-altered), (Crouch & Degelman, 1998).

Posavac, Posavac& Posavac (1998) found that women compare themselves to images of women even when they aren't asked to do so. They found that women who were already dissatisfied with their bodies felt worse about their bodies and evidenced increased weight concern after viewing slides of models, compared to a control condition, and a group of women who were satisfied with their bodies who viewed the same images.

Considering that the majority of women are dissatisfied with their bodies (see body image facts for prevalence), most women will experience increased weight concern after viewing these images. Plus, the study only involved the use of a few images and produced significant effects.

What does a whole magazine, a life full of media consumption do?

*Images and Excerpt from http://www.about-face.org


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