How Media Portrays the Female Body

The media tells us so much these days. It tells us what to drink, what to eat, what to wear, what to listen to. Who to be. But most importantly, it tells us what we should look like. We are given this image to aspire to and an idea of what is visually perfect. Much more often it’s not just what is visually perfect, but what is visually acceptable.

We exalt one body type and one body type alone, but that particular body shape is unattainable for most women. They simply aren’t built that way.

Nearly all of our attractive women in the media are built the same way. They all share the same body type and the same frame. Their faces are shaped the same. Flip through a copy of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People and many of the people look like small clones of each other.

Broad shoulders, small waist, even smaller bum and hips and tiny thighs have become the bench mark for beauty in the media. Nearly every woman needs to fit this cookie cutter mold if she is to be considered attractive by societies standards.

However, the majority of women are not built that way. And that is what is missing from our ever assaulting media. Variety. We exalt one body type and one body type alone, but that particular body shape is unattainable for most women. They simply aren’t built that way. It’s not that a woman with curves is fat, but the media seems to think she is.

Look at our family sitcoms. How many of the mom’s on those shows are built like your mother? Does your mother look like she spent an hour a day with a personal trainer? I doubt it. If your mother was anything like mine, she was incredibly busy with 4 children. She barely had time to take a shower, let alone spend an hour in a gym. Goodness, most of these women look like they’ve never had children. Actually, many of them never have now that you think about it.

I understand that when someone sits down to watch television they are looking to see visually attractive people, but since when has one body type become the only type to be attractive? Where are the women with curves? Were are the women who have hips and a bum? Where are the women that look like they actually eat once in awhile?

Being thin has become an obsession in Hollywood. This can best be seen by looking at shows that have been around for awhile. Look at the differences in many of the actresses weight in passing seasons and you can see it. You must be thinner, you must be thinner.

People will talk about this singer or that actress and how talented they are. Right before they make a comment about how much better they would be if they lost a little weight.

We are constantly being told that we are not pretty enough, we aren’t thin enough and we are not good enough. We see this image of beauty that many of us cannot hope to attain and grow depressed. Frustrated because we will never be as beautiful as the media thinks we should be.

Models that weigh more then a certain amount are considered plus size, even though I look at these models and think they are at a perfectly healthy and beautiful weight. People will talk about this singer or that actress and how talented they are. Right before they make a comment about how much better they would be if they lost a little weight. Actresses and singers are called fat if they happen to be full figured. Full figured doesn’t mean you are unhealthily over weight. It means you are built differently. You have boobs, you have thighs, you have larger bones and no amount of dieting or exercise in the world is going to change your body shape.

In pop musicians this is the worst. You must be beautiful in order to be a pop star. You must be thin and gorgeous. Whether or not you have actual talent is negligable. I realized just how true this has become today. Last night, they showed a television show called “American Idol”. Now I actually did not catch the show as I don’t particularly enjoy reality based television. However, due to the nature of the things happening in the show I have heard and seen parts of it replayed over and over. And one particular instance caught my eye.

There was a fellow who was overweight. He had a beautiful voice, real honest to goodness talent. He didn’t make it to the next round. Because he was overweight. The judges told him that he needed to lose 100 more pounds if he could ever hope to be a successful pop star. His talent meant nothing, his voice meant nothing. All that was important was his image. Which I found to be quite a crock.

People say that pop music is very restrictive in it’s body image because it’s marketed to teenagers and teenagers are inherintly shallow. Bullocks! And even if it were true, since when has shallowness been something that we want to encourage? Anorexia is on the rise among teenagers. For both women and men. We shove this image down their throats and we do not expect them to feel inadequat? To feel imperfect and ugly?

We don’t care what you can do anymore, all we care about is what you look like? No wonder people are becoming shallow, when image is all that matters. Which would be one thing if the image contained some diversity, but it doesn’t. You fit into this mold, or you don’t fit at all.

But it’s not true, we are all beautiful people. Our diversity is our true beauty. There is nothing wrong with being built like the image that the media glorifies. It is your body and it is beautiful because it is yours.

But at the same time, why should you feel ugly because you are not built like that? Our strength has always been in our diversity. No woman is built exactly the same, no woman has exactly the same shade of hair, or the same eyes. We are beautiful in our differences.

The female form is beautiful in all it’s shapes and it’s up to us to help the media realize this. It’s up to us to take joy in our bodies and love them. To realize that we are gorgeous and wonderful no matter what form we are born into.

It takes a long time to reach that stage. I’ve been struggling with it all of my life. As a child, my ears were stuck out too much, my lips were too big, I was too short. I hit puberty and my bum was too large, my hips to wide and my breasts too small. I had a child and while I still think my hips and bum are too large for my waist, I think my breasts are too large as well. I have been struggling and fighting against the idea that I am not beautiful because I do not look like this women here or that woman there.

But I am beautiful, all of me. I may not be built in the shape that the media glorifies, but the media doesn’t have a great track record for being right either. Or for bringing happiness for that matter.

I still believe that the media needs to stop focussing on the fact that a woman can only be beautiful if they look a certain way and I’d like to see that change. I would love to see more variety in the female form.

But at the same time, I am going to work on myself and say the hell with the media. I’m beautiful and I know all of you out there are too.

Kitashla See all posts by this author
is a mother, a writer, a gamer and a thespian, and holds a degree in history and psychology.
  • “But at the same time, I am going to work on myself and say the hell with the media. I’m beautiful and I know all of you out there are too.”

    Hell, if you said you were beautiful enough, why would you still need to “work on myself”?

    But still.. thanks for calling me beautiful.. mwuauahahaha… !

  • Perhaps you do not understand the context that working on myself meant.

    It did not mean in the physical sense, I meant it in the emotional sense. To quit telling myself I’m not good enough because I am.

    Working on myself had nothing to do with going to the gym and dieting. It had to do with changing a mental attitude.

  • Billie

    This article has really hit home for me. It was beautifully written. It is so true that in today’s society it is nearly impossible for a woman to feel pretty or sexy when every 5 minutes there is a Victorias Secret commercial on with the words “This is sexy” across a very thin model. I have been battling this self torture for years. Finally I am reaching a phase of my life where I realize that I have a different body type and it is SO unrealistic to beat myself up over something that is not even important. I am the average size of women today and I am NOT fat. It only took me 27 years to be able to say that. :)

  • This was wonderful thank you for writing it. I am 31 and almost every moment of my life has been soem kind of assault on my physical appearance. I notice with the media it has only gotten worse. I know it is all shallow and unhealthy but I still pick up cosmo and think..”If I looked liek that life would be better, so much better” and the saddest thing is it IS true. I feel like the big fellow who never made it to the second round due to size predjudice.
    And I understand that the standards are impossible and difficult for most women, but I think us very big girls feel totally overwhelmed.If I was a size 12 i could convince myself it wasn’t so a size 30w..I am constantly reminded that the media basically tells people it is ok to treat anyone overweight poorly…after all being shallow seems to be so acceptable in a lot of circles. The media has a responsibility to us to make sure we are a productive society. No 12 year old should be on a starvation diet.The messages are so confusing..” Oh don’t starve yourself, but don’t ever get fat then boys won’t like you”.
    Not to mention J Lo is sexier than Kate Moss in my opinion…..

  • Let’s just make a point… what do u expext from a program to choose pop stars called “American Idol”? comercial pop music is the most lack of attitude, superficial and prefabricated music ever and so are it’s idols… So it shouldnt shock u at all to watch that. I mean, i do disagree with that kind of attitude, but, i dont get shocked when i see it because is so common… What people out there is not to be told if they are beautiful or not… what they need is to be told to be theirselves, to have their own criteria to choose, not to be dominated by the media and other people’s opinion. To have PERSONALITY.

  • magus

    My girfriend is 24 yeras old and she fit the mold you are talking about, but she won’t much longer. She is obsessive about her appearance and spends all her time comparing herself to others..and that, I believe, is the crux of the problem, we are all UNIQUE and differnet and therefore should not compare orselves.

    But then if we did that we’d all be halethier and pplastic surgeons would be much poorer…..

  • dear kitashia,
    i thought this article was the best thing i have ever read. i came about your article while researching [anorexia] and i am going to use it as an overall “portrayal” of why women and young girls resort to eating disorders. I have been questionning the worthiness of my visage for a while, and am still incredibly insecure. but your article really touched me and i will build my confidence from your words of wisdom. You are an extraordinary writer and you made it seem like you were actually talking to me and the world instead of just filling our minds with that factual crap. by the end of the article my eyes were a little watery, so you can tell you had an effect. don’t listen to what other commentors say [ie.graceshu] because people like that won’t ever understand what your message is. thanks again!

  • katie

    hi kitashla,
    im 14,
    i was reading your artical and was inspired by the way you talk about the media displaying what seems to be the ‘correct and perfect’ feminine body. thanks i wont forget what you have written, i also think younger people are getting more worried also these day, for example my cousin who is only 11 is worried that she is too fat and that her eyebrows are really bad.

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