Fashion Magazines as Influence of Female Body Image

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Fashion Magazines as Influence of Female Body Image Women’s fashion magazines greatly influence how women view their bodies and the image they portray in society. Fashion-based media works diligently to cater to females that have a worldview of self-indulgence, elegance and maintaining a chic outward appearance. Beauty, vanity and perceptions of self-sophistication underpin the type of discourse utilized in fashion magazines in order to appeal to these hedonistic characteristics of the female consumer. It is this type of discourse that can negatively influence female body image, by using imagery of women that are atypical to the average female consumer. Magazines such as Cosmopolitan use language which asserts that women are socially substandard and not acceptable without sustaining the good looks of other women utilized in the magazine’s imagery. Over time, after being exposed to these messages and innuendos, women believe in this propaganda (Lemberg, 1999). When fashion magazines use images of unattainable physical perfection, it is said that this imagery diminishes feminist ideologies and begins asserting to women that maintaining a similar physical exterior is the fundamental objective of being a woman (Cash, Gitter, Kogel and Zaphirpoulos, 1997). Hence, women begin to develop ideologies related to vanity and seeking a magazine-asserted perspective of body perfection in order to be considered socially-viable which supersedes feminist beliefs. Furthermore, Suls, Martin and Wheeler (2002) suggest that most women in society look toward social reference group figures when assessing their identities. This well-respected psychological theory suggests that women’s sense of identity is constructed by conducting social comparisons with aspirational figures in society that have built a positive social reputation, achieved fashion sense, or have achieved the body image portrayed in fashion magazines. Magazines seem to understand this phenomenon, which is why these publications use celebrity imagery because of their aspirational traits. Therefore, women look toward these social figures as a means of making status comparisons to themselves and the celebrity. When women see that they have more curves or fatness as compared to these slender and popular famous persons, they begin to develop a negative body image and reduced self-esteem. A study was conducted in which researchers used MRI technology to reveal changes in the brain as a result of exposure to fashion imagery. During the study, when shown images of women with slender body types, a part of the brain that regulates fear and anxiety was over-stimulated (Freidric, et al., 2007). This illustrates that if a woman does not maintain these attributes so often iterated as valuable in fashion magazine propaganda, there are chemical changes which legitimately occur in the brain that hyper-excites a woman’s deep drive to attain this same ideal of beauty and perfection. Therefore, it should be concluded that fashion magazines deliberately reinforce the same propaganda that only achievement of the body ideal shown in magazine imagery makes a woman attractive, beautiful and socially-acceptable. The discourse and imagery used in fashion magazines appeal to women’s psychological needs for social belonging and understand how to use imagery that elicits real chemical changes in the brain, making female consumers yearn to achieve the same level of beauty they now believe is the appropriate model for beauty. ReferencesCash, F., Gitter, A., Kogel, S. Zaphirpoulos, L. (1997). Gender Attitudes, Feminist Ideology and Body Images among College Women. Sex Roles, 7(8), pp.433-445. Freidric, H., Uher, R., Brooks, S., Giampietro, V., Brammer, M., Williams, S.C.R, et al. (2007). I’m not as Slim as that Girl: Neural Bases of Body Shape Self-Comparison to Media Images. Neuroimage, 37, pp.674-681. Lemberg, R. (1999). Eating Disorder Reference Book. Phoenix: Oryx Press. Suls, J., Martin, R. Wheeler, L. (2002). Social Comparison: Why, with Whom and with what Effect? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(5), pp.159-163.