How to Advocate Positive Media Influence on Body Image
How do you “know” what is considered “good-looking,” the “perfect body,” what to buy, what is popular, what to eat, what to listen to, and what to watch? The media heavily influences our cultural ideas and consumer habits. But is the media’s portrayals always accurate? Of course not! The media is filled intentionally and unintentionally with biases which can lead to many unrealistic portraits of body image. Some of the effects according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) include "women’s body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization, and disordered eating" and "Pressure from mass media to be muscular also appears to be related to body dissatisfaction among men." (National Eating Disorders Association, 2014). Additionally, the same NEDA article states "This effect may suggest that long-term exposure during childhood and adolescence lays the foundation for the adverse effects of media during early adulthood" (2014). This last statement is really disheartening, especially as a mother of a little girl, her generation, and future generations will only be bombarded by the media more and more.
So, it is important to understand how to critically analyze the media to become conscious consumers and promote and advocate for positive and accurate body images. CLICK TO TWEET
The Media Education Foundation (MEF) provides six steps involved in becoming a critical media viewer click here to read them all. I will mention a two.
All media images and messages were created meticulously for a particular purpose. They were intentionally made. Was the intention to sell you something, to make you feel a certain emotion, to make you want or desire something?
One of the six steps the MEF outlines is to compare media images and depictions to your reality. Does your reality look like the reality in media messages and images? Probably not. Media reality is often exaggerated and unrealistic. Checking media against your environment is such a great tip to make a note of. All six of the steps outlined by the MEF would be beneficial to talk about with your children.
The MEF also provides 20 ways that you can engage in media advocacy, you can read that here. Some of the engagement activities include being conscious of what media you choose to occupy yourself with, voice your opinions and concerns with others, advocate media literacy and education in local schools, and "vote with media issues in mind" (MEF 2014). Some additional resources the article suggests are the books Rich Media, Poor Democracy by Robert McChesney and The Media Monopoly by Ben Bagdikian.
Check local library listing for Rich Media, Poor Democracy through WorldCat
Check local library listing for The Media Monopoly through WorldCat
Yours Truly, LeNae
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Media Education Foundation (MEF). 2005. “How to be a Critical Media Viewer.” Accessed April 30, 2014. http://www.mediaed.org/Handouts/CriticalViewing.pdf.
—. 2014. “20 Ways to Be a Media Activist.” Accessed April 30. http://www.mediaed.org/Handouts/20-Ways.pdf.
National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). 2014. “Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders.” Accessed April 30. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/media-body-image-and-eating-disorders.
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