This week I have decided to write my blog post on the “The Media’s Representation of Bodies” section of the Week 3 reading assignment, this includes the articles”Barbie’s Got a New Body”, “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales”, and “Be a Man: Macho Advertising Promotes Hyper Masculine Behavior”.
As adults we are all well aware of how we and society see the human body. We know what we think is attractive, ugly, right, wrong, or just ok. We, knowingly or unknowingly, associate certain other qualities with those people that we think of as attractive or ugly or just ok. When do we start to think of other people like this? Why do we have this association of other qualities with a person’s appearance? In the article “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales”, written by Lori Baker-Sperry and Liz Grauerholz, gives a persuasive argument that the fairy tales that children learn at a very young age may have something to do with that.
The media has an impact on all of us every time we use it, and as one of the first media experiences that children have, fairy tales can have a great effect on the way that children learn about people and society. In “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales”, the authors call “fairy tales, which emphasize things like a women’s passivity and beauty, gendered scripts that legitimize and support the dominant gender system”(Lori, 711).
You might be thinking, how could a children’s book effect us so much, but “children’s literature contains explicit messages about dominant power structures in society especially those about gender(Lori, 714). In the most successful and reproduced fairy tales “there is al clear link between beauty and goodness”(Lori, 718), “while beauty is often rewarded, lack of beauty is often punished”(Lori, 719). I some fairy tales there is “competition among women because of the importance of beauty”(Lori, 719) and the desire to find their prince. Children’s early exposure to fairy tales that mention the importance of beauty, at such a young age, may be a contribution factor to why in society people, especially women ” who achieve high degrees of attractiveness are psychologically and socially rewarded”(Lori, 712) and “‘feeling good’ about themselves depended on them ‘looking good'”(Lori, 712).
It is no surprise that the earlier that children learn about society’s belief in the importance of looking good, the more they live by it. But fairy tales are not the only influence that children have that morphs their idea of what makes a body beautiful or good, Mattel and its Barbies have been a major player in the beauty standards that children are exposed to. For decades the barbie has been the go to doll for children all over the world, and children in response have said “i want to look like barbie”. Mattel, after years of scrutiny, released three new body shapes, as well as skin tones, hair styles, cuts, eye colors, and the ability to wear flat shoes, so that their Barbies could be a “reflection of the times”. Mattel said that the curvy one “with meat on her thighs, and a protruding tummy and behind mark the most startling change to the most infamous body in the world”. This is of course great news for those children who, after hearing the importance of beauty from their fairy tales, and saying “I want to look like Barbie”, they can finally have a doll that is a more realistic model of people today to aspire to be like.
As expected, in fairy tales, “images concerning women’s beauty were far more dominant than those for men’s handsomeness” (Lori, 723). Though their handsomeness was definitely mentioned and is important to the plot. This, for young boys, is just the beginning of their less well known battle with society’s expectation of them and their body’s. Boys grow into men and men become consumers and companies love to advertise to consumers. Especially for men there is a huge propensity to include things that are seen as masculine, such as “danger being exciting, toughness being a form of social control, violence being manly, and callousness about women and sex”(Bahadur). Researchers say that exposure to these sorts of beliefs are an issue because if it is always in the media it “normalizes” it, and makes it seem ok (Bahadur). When in actuality none of those things are ok. Danger is not exciting, toughness is not the best way to handle social control issues, violence is not ok in any instance, and being callous about women and sex leads to inequality of the sexes and objectification. Not only those reasons, but normalization of the content of hyper-masculine advertisements are liked to social and medical problems in men, as well as men feeling dissatisfied with their own bodies.
It is no wonder that people develop body image issues, at a young age being told that beauty was all that mattered, and through out adult hood being told the same thing greatly impacts the lives that people live based on society’s expectations and depictions of gender.
“Mattel Debuts a NEW and Updated Barbie! Check out the Curvy, Petite, and Tall Barbie!” The Curvy Fashionista. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2016. <http://thecurvyfashionista.com/2016/01/mattel-barbie-curvy-petite-tall/>.