Eating disorders and the media
Please read the article below, and explain if you agree with these findings:
We Have to Have Those Thin, Slim Bodies Sociocultural theorists are quick to say that women in Western, industrialized societies suffer from high rates of eating disorders because they are constantly exposed to media images of ultra-thin models and actresses. But do we really know that such images are to blame?
Perhaps these media images don`t set a trend but merely reflect a national obsession with physical beauty. Perhaps eating disorders would be just as common with or without slim-figured movie stars and svelte magazine models.
Remarkably, a group of researchers led by Dr. Anne Becker of Harvard Medical School was able to find a place where they could study this question (Becker et al., 2002). Prior to 1995, eating disorders were virtually non-existent on the island of Fiji, located in the South Pacific.
Eating disorders were not only rare, but Fijians considered a hearty appetite and a robust figure to be signs of emotional well-being and physical health. In 1995, the island of Fiji began to receive Western television programs such as "Beverly Hills 90210" "Seinfeld" and "ER."
Within three years, the number of teenage girls receiving high scores on a measure of eating disordered behaviors went from 12.7% to 29.2%. In 1995, not a single teenage girl included in the study had ever self-induced vomiting in an effort to control her weight; by 1998, 11.3% of the girls in the study reported having done so. In a culture where dieting had traditionally been frowned upon and discouraged, 69% of the girls surveyed in 1998 reported having dieted, and 74% said they sometimes felt that they were overweight.
Becker and her colleagues point out that the arrival of television is only one of many recent modernizations in Fijian culture. The gradual conversion from subsistence agriculture to a cash economy may also play a role in changing how girls feel about their bodies. Yet when interviewed, the Fijian girls included in Becker`s study made direct reference to the
connection between what they saw on television and how they thought about themselves:
When I look at the characters on TV, the way they act on TV and I just look at the body, the figure of that body, so I say, "look at them, they are thin and they all have this figure," so I myself want to become like that, to become thin. ...it`s good to watch [TV] because ... it`s encouraged me that what I`m doing is right; when I see the sexy ladies on the television, well, I want to be like them, too. ...the actresses and all those girls ... I just like, I just admire them and I want to be like them. I want their body, I want their size. I want to be [in] the same position as they are ... Because Fijians are, most of us Fijians are, many of us, most, I can say most, we are brought up on these heavy foods, and our bodies are, we are getting fat. And now, we are feeling, we feel that it is bad to have this huge body. We have
to have those thin, slim bodies. (Becker et al., 2002, p. 513)
Becker`s findings raise questions about why some girls who watch American television go on crash diets and others don`t. All the same, her study shows that Western television programming can have a powerful, noxious effect on the lives and bodies of those who watch.