The female body in advertising: between the real beauty, thinness or anorexia

Eva Gómez Chiquero
Published on Saturday 121222
The female models used in advertising frequently present unhealthy features. Increasingly thin frames, emaciated faces and bodies surgically modified to the limit.

The article deals about the fact that the female models used in advertising frequently present unhealthy features. Increasingly thin frames, emaciated faces and bodies surgically modified to the limit, cause many people, above all adolescents, to feel dissatisfied with their bodies and to try to imitate these models.

The increase in cases of patients with eating disorders at increasingly early ages contrasts with the increase in the number of children with obesity problems. Last year, the number of patients with eating disorders increased by 20% in Spain. Given this data, we must reflect on how advertising influences these diseases that affect our body shape.

Advertising, through models, proposes that only thin and young bodies are beautiful. In a society based on youth, health and physical beauty, the body is a symbol of power and pleasure. People who do not meet these requirements of society suffer a great of emotional distress when they don’t look like the ideal body that advertising sells us as necessary to succeed and be socially accepted. The need to achieve the ideal body so as to feel "integrated" leads many people to go on diets which are harmful to their health.

I decided to investigate whether women today are actually affected by the images shown in advertising to the point of changing their eating behaviors to look like these models. To show this, I just needed an advertisement for Victoria's Secret, a girl with low self-esteem and a voice recorder.

Do you feel identified with the model in the Victoria's Secret ad? No, I would like to look like her.

Do you think Victoria's Secret products are for any type of body? I think it's clothing designed for perfect women.

Why do you think that Victoria's Secret uses only very thin and beautiful women to sell their products? Well I think they target only such women. I think Victoria’s Secret sells exclusive products for exclusive women. It cannot be bought by anyone.

Have you ever been a customer of this brand? No, I don’t think these clothes are designed for bodies like mine. I would be ashamed to enter the store and ask for a size that they probably would not have.

Did you know that Victoria's Secret also offers XL sizes? Seriously? I had no idea. But still, me buying those clothes sounds ridiculous.

Do you think the perfect body portrayed by Victoria's Secret is easy to achieve with diet and exercise? Only for a lucky few! I've spent years dieting in order to achieve a nice body and be admired, but it is clear that whatever I do, I will never get to be like these women. It is a real privilege to be born with these genes. If I had the formula to achieve that look, I think I would be a woman of both, great personal and professional success.

Do you think a beautiful and thin woman is more likely to succeed in life than one that is not? Of course. The thin and beautiful women tend to get a good job, a good husband and their lives are happy. They don’t need effort to get what they want.

Are you satisfied with your body image? What would you like to change? You are never completely satisfied. Women like me can not afford to eat too much. We have to fight every day against the hunger, otherwise, we will never achieve a good body, and therefore we will never reach happiness.

Do you think eating so little is good for your health? A bit of diet does not kill anyone. I prefer to starve than be a fat girl that does not fit in her pants.

How can a pretty 25 year old girl who weighs 57 kg have a self-image so distorted? It is the result of many years of exposure to the media, assimilating a concept of beauty far removed from reality, accepting that the model of beauty proposed by advertising is the only one valid for society. It's shocking how advertising can have so much influence on how we precieve ourselves. Why do we think that advertising reflects society as it is? We don’t realise that the models in the ads are not randomly selected, they are part of a single creative strategy to play with our perceptions and convince us that it is necessary to purchase certain products for social success.

In the media, especially in advertising, some images which are constantly shown force women to judge themselves on standards of beauty that are restrictive and detrimental to health. We live in a consumer society where body image is sometimes more valuable than a good CV, so it's no wonder that today's teenagers are more concerned about getting a perfect body than about their studies or professional future.

There are many factors that influence a person's self-esteem and that can lead to further unhealthy eating behaviors, however, much of the blame is on advertising. Advertising has a great influence on the trends and fashions that people follow at any given time, and that’s why it has the ability to impose any kind of role model. That means that many advertisers are taking advantage of this ability to sell their products into believing that if we do not do what they want us to do, we will not be socially accepted.

So is advertising a reflection of society? Or are we mere puppets in hands of big companies that manipulate us at will for us to buy their products?