Think Before You Fat
A request for some media to break from illogical body comments.
Posted Jan 16, 2016
Jennifer Lawrence recently commented that the film industry has become so conditioned to skinny frames that healthily proportioned women are deemed overweight. We often see more comments about shape rather than the talents of actors. Perhaps, all media outlets ought to consider the words, “think before you fat,” for the sake of young eyes. The lived media experience of childhood has changed over the last decade, and it will evolve and continue to effect their body image perceptions – both for themselves and their peers.
Over the years, it has become commonplace to critique the bodies of actors and actresses in a manner that in some ways displays a cognitive dissonance between what is healthy (often called ‘fat’ in negative tones) and painfully emaciated (often held as beautiful and perceived as happiness).
As the mother of a preschool girl, as a psychology academic, and as a media researcher - my request is that some media break from its illogical statements deeming those who are of a healthy body type (i.e. within their recommended BMI) as “fat” or any other related term. While some may feel this issue has become better, there is still some work to be done.
More importantly, researchers ought to build bridges with theses outlets to tackle tensions and challenges. A study found that girls as young as three-years-old reject "fat" dolls perceiving them to be 'sad' (Worobey & Worobey, 2014). Citing that some mothers and father are setting the thought of being "fat" is undesirable likely to be linked from their media diets on both sides of the parent-child dyad. Studies since the 90s have shown us that repeated strong images of thinner persons affect the way other people feel about their shape (Heinberg & Thompson, 1995). It is human nature to compare the self to others. As a result of this dissonance, many young girls feel insecure about their bodies and subsequently fall into depressions, anxieties and eating disorders. Research has shown that women’s body images were lower after viewing thin models, regardless of whether they had eating disorder symptoms (Irving, 1990). What does this mean? Even relatively healthy women take a hit in self-esteem when exposed to media that promotes extreme thinness.
We all ought to think of ways children’s media ideals and safeguards can be assimilated into the mass culture beyond the target groups we currently hope to reach. If not, we are left with children who will forever feel insecure about trying to look or be healthy, when painfully slender frames are lauded.
Is that not what we have now?
Heinberg, L.J. &Thompson, J.K. (1995). Body Image and Televised Images of Thinness and Attractiveness: A Controlled Laboratory Investigation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 325-338.
Irving, L.M. (1990). Mirror Images: Effects of the Standard of Beauty on the Self- and Body-Esteem of Women Exhibiting Varying Levels of Bulimic Symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 230-242.
Worobey, J., & Worobey, H. S. (2014). Body-size stigmatization by preschool girls: In a doll's world, it is good to be “Barbie”. Body image.