Interview – Body Image in the Media

My group and I created a series of questions based on our research topic, ‘body image within the media’ and proposed these questions to several friends. I interviewed my friend Natalie Carroll, a UOW college student currently studying Chemistry. Natalie highlights her struggles with confidence both mentally and physically influenced by the medias obsession with female perfection. The questions cover a range of aspects and often asks for Natalie’s personal experiences and opinions in relation to body image and changing this ideal.

Can you describe a time the media has made you feel self-conscious?

The media has most definitely made me feel self-conscious, after seeing what they described is the ideal woman or what standards you’re meant to live up to, when I haven’t been able to achieve it, I’ve ended up feeling depressed and self conscious.

Did you feel inclined to change yourself? In what way?

After feeling that way I did feel the need to change who I am. One way In which I tried was losing weight which I’m still currently in the process of. It definitely is a positive lifestyle change that I don’t regret and has made me a happier and healthier being but the fact that the media makes you feel like your self worth is decreased because of whatever it is, in my case being overweight, it can destroy all of your confidence.

If you could change the way women are portrayed in the media, how would you?

I think women are more portrayed in the media as needing to be extremely feminine, any interests that are considered ‘masculine’ are generally disregarded and women’s looks are more important than knowledge. I would try to change it by representing women as individuals and beings, not trying to force and categorise them into gender stereotypes.

Do you think men are also objectified in the media? how?

Men are absolutely if not equally objectified in the media as compared to women. Just like women, they are represented in a certain way with particular standards and try to tell men around the world that you are a lesser being if you don’t have the same qualities as what is shown in the media.

Was there an image, advertisement or other form of media that stuck with you because the portrayal or the female or male was completely unrealistic? can you describe it and the effect it had on you?

I think a lot of clothing advertisements that show skinny and unhealthy models stand out as an example of unrealistic media advertisements. It made me feel bad about not only about my own body size but also for all of the women out there struggling with self confidence, and those in particular who have developed eating disorders attempting to become what a lot of the media says is the correct size.

Why do you think the media is so obsessed with perfection, especially promoting a certain perfection, for example, skinny and tanned, why do believe that particular image has been labelled ‘perfection’?

I think a main reason the media is obsessed with perfection, is due to the marketing scheme that encourages people to buy and use products and services that are supposed to improve individuals both physically and mentally to societies standard. The media promotes certain images of perfection as it tries to control what is considered attractive, ultimately assisting businesses by forcing people to buy these products and services to attain the medias usually unrealistic beauty and perfection standard.

It is clear I received a thorough response to the questions I asked enabling my group to take this research and apply it to and tweak our current survey and focus group questions, but overall we feel confident that our research topic will achieve the responses we desire, reinforced by Natalie’s response.

Body Image Analysis

Body image is a topic frequently debated within the media. Society has deliberately created a body ideal which women are expected to meet. This has been seen within the media since the early 1900s and has continued to develop as society’s views changed and technological developments prevailed. Hawkins et al. recognises “There is evidence that the thin-ideal woman depicted in the media has become significantly thinner over the last several decades, increasing the discrepancy for the average woman, making the ideal even more difficult to attain.”

The journal article “The Impact of Exposure to the Thin-Ideal Media Image on Women” explores the notion of body image and the negative impact it has created for women. The piece is thoroughly researched and incorporates a variety of credible sources to reinforce findings. Hawkins et al. highlights the connection between the media and eating disorders, analysing a variety of theorists and past findings, “Theorists have argued that this image, combined with our culture’s intense focus on dieting, has contributed to the current epidemic of eating disorders (Akan & Grilo, 1995; Davis & Yager, 1992; Kiemle, Slade, & Dewey, 1987; Silverstein et al., 1986; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw, & Stein, 1994).”

To further enhance their findings, Hawkins et al. decided to undertake primary research, recruiting a group of 150 female college students. The participants were given 40 advertisements to observe, one section was based on the ‘thin-ideal’ while the others had no association with body image but rather materialistic goods. The advertisements were then placed in categories associated with their effect such as body dissatisfaction and self-esteem, their findings concluded women who had been exposed to the thin-ideal had an increase in body dissatisfaction as opposed to those in a controlled environment.

To reinforce their findings they also supplemented past research to ensure authenticity and indicate the lack of change in society’s perceptions and actions with this continuing issue. “This finding is partially consistent with the results of a study by Stice and Shaw (1994), which found a weak relationship between the thin-ideal and depression but no relationship between the thin-ideal and anxiety. Our study provided evidence that exposure to thin-ideal images may produce a variety of negative emotions in women, including anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion.”

Their results suggested that the relationship between socio-cultural attitudes and eating disorders is far more complex than first anticipated, with this conclusion it is much harder for the researcher to predominantly blame the media for eating disorders as there are numerous factors to take into account which they haven’t considered like mental health, socio-economic background, upbringing and current living arrangements. When focusing on an epidemic as globalised and publicised as bulimia and eating disorders in general it is important to research other contributing factors instead of purely basing it on one area which can give a false perception that this is primarily the reason for the occurrence.

Overall the journal article is thoroughly researched authenticating the findings and results. The piece focused on eating disorders but lacked medical facts and figures that produce a direct association between the media and eating disorders, rather it’s just based on research with participants in case studies which can affect the reliability of the piece. Furthermore not exploring other issues associated with eating disorder reinforces this, however the overall text is relatively consistent and is fundamental basis when researching this topic.

Ethical Research

Ethics is a fundamental core in any form of research. Manipulating facts and figures in order to gain a desired response is both socially and legally inflicting. Without research, evaluations cannot be made, if the information has already been tempered with the final result will be inaccurate possibly effecting current and future perceptions of the topic.

Ethically conflicting moments can arise through any stage of the research process and need to be dealt with in the correct manner to ensure the research is not jeopardised. Guillemin and Gillam explore the notion of ethical research in their journal article. There are two forms of ethical research “procedural ethics” and “ethics in research”. Procedural ethics usually involves “seeking approval from a relevant ethics committee to undertake research involving humans” and ethics in research involves “the everyday ethical issues that arise in the doing of research.”

There are a series of codes that should be followed in researching to ensure the data collected is reliable and accurate. Honesty, objectivity, integrity, carefulness, openness, respect for intellectual property, confidentiality, responsible publication, responsible mentoring, respect for colleagues, legalities and animal care are only a few that should be considered each time research is conducted.

Although there are situations where often these codes will conflict or cannot be applied, if this arises it is important to have the skills and knowledge that enables accurate interpretation of research results.

It is important to provide ethical research because it can result in legal implications which can effect the researcher and their future. For example, when looking at a case study, Dr Q has 50 mice to inject with different doses of a hypertension drug, there are 5 mice left to test but Dr Q wants to finish early to start his holiday, he has injected all 50 mice but has not finished his tests. He decides to extrapolate the 45 completed results to produce an additional 5. This is seen as fabricating data, if this research was sponsored by the government this would fall under misconduct which the government would define as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism” (FFP). Ethics are important in all stages of the research process, changing even minor details can affect the entire result and deciding to publish this will have a lasting effect on any information based on those findings in the future.

Undertaking ethical research is fundamental in not only maintaining a reputable image for the researcher or research company by ensuring information and research derived from those results in the future will not jeopardise any pivotal outcomes, such as research into curing cancer. Regardless of whether the research undertaken is on a topic that is small or large ethics should always be applied to avoid legal and social implications as well as potentially controlling the results of anything associated with that research in the future.

Hollywood’s perfection

Hollywood is one of the worlds most influential industries, transforming the way society views themselves. Perfection is based on the Hollywood ideal and they will go to all lengths to achieve it, especially through their most influential individuals, celebrities.

Photoshop has become the leading program in image distortion. There is now a need to create perfection amongst those that society idolize. Below is an image of Madonna, the artist is in her late 50’s, ultimately she cannot stop the aging process, however photoshop can, clearly airbrushing her face to produce a flawless complexion, marketing it as the miracles of plastic surgery and botox, both successful industries within Hollywood.

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By Hollywood doing this they create this idea, that perfection can be established through these procedures, clearly marketing a false misrepresentation, leading to an array of social and ethical concerns. Julie Mehta explores these notions in her journal article “Pretty Unreal”.

Mehta begins with her own personal account of how she see’s women portrayed in magazines “A rock star sprawls across a CD cover, a belly-button ring decorating her toned stomach. And then there’s you. You pass a mirror and glance at your image. What do you see? Maybe there’s a zit on your forehead.” while recognising the detrimental effect it leaves on the average women, “What’s a person to think? Perfect images of perfect celebrities are everywhere. It’s enough to make anyone feel insecure or envious.”

Mehta reinforces her ideas through a variety of evidence, including authors, photographers, magazines and those most affected, the youth, reinforcing her ideas and notions. “I think the media has a big impact,” 16-year-old Erika, of Scottsdale, Ariz., told Current Health. “It sets the standard-says thin is in.” Although her work does lack reference from cited pieces, the quotes she has incorporated are effective, recognising the negative impact photoshop has created, but without substantial evidence from those seen as experts in the field the authenticity is jeopardised.

Although Mehta’s piece has some slight grammatical errors like ‘thick’ instead of ‘think’ she asks a variety of questions to her audience which she then goes onto answer, such as, “what, exactly, is perfection?”. This a necessity because she is involving the audience, allowing them to establish their own idea of perfection, before stating her’s with reference from individuals including author Jessica Weiner who is an ambassador of self-empowerment. This is definitely an effective way to create audience engagement within her piece.

Mehta also undertakes her own primary research which allows her to reiterate her own opinions. Interviewing a variety teenagers on body image and how they deal with the daily pressures. In particular there is a quote from a young man who states “I’m not fat, but I’m not skinny either,” said 13-year-old Jordan, a seventh grader from Baton Rouge, La. “I think I have big thighs, and when I wear shorts they stick out. A lot of kids tease me, but I try not to care so much.” This is a pivotal finding from Mehta’s research because young men are often overlooked when it comes to body image, but are targeted just as hard by Hollywood’s unrealistic ideals, which Mehta explores in-depth within her piece.

Overall Mehta’s piece is based on her on primary research gathered from young students. She does mention brief statistics on body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), the disorder affects “one in every 50 people” but she does not cite where that information comes from, affecting its credibility. Mehta’s piece is a great place to start in forming background information on how Hollywood’s unrealistic image is affecting today’s youth, but without reference to credible sources, such as doctors on the topic, it can only form a basis towards research on the topic.

What can I say about the media

When you think of research what springs to mind? Long hours searching through tedious information? Yes, there is no doubt there are aspects of research that require long, fun filled hours, but without realisation we actually undertake research on a daily basis. Something as simple as asking for directions is a step in the research process.

Research –

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Without research we essentially wouldn’t derive conclusions. Berger explores the idea of research as “to search for, to find” (Berger 2014, p. 15). Simple, wouldn’t you say? Well research is actually divided into two areas; scholarly research and everyday research. In order to understand media research one must differentiate between scholarly which reflects quantitative research “the systematic empirical investigation of observable phenomena via statistical, mathematical or computational techniques” and every day resembling qualitative used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations .
The media tends to be a convoluted environment where facts can often be overridden by the need to produce entertainment. A prime example is entertainment magazines such as the one below, which often stretch or manipulate the truth of their research to meet the consumers’ needs and desires rather than portraying credibility.

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Scholarly research enables individuals to differentiate the credible sources through its focus on “correctness and truthfulness” according to Berger (Berger 2014, p. 15). I tend to disagree with Berger’s point of view, however, he is basing this assumption on direct facts, rather than recognising the possibly of having multi-layered subjects, conclusions and interpretations. Berger’s explanation fails to acknowledge that areas, such as within the media, can easily present the truth in manipulated and emotional contexts, this is constantly seen within politics as presented below.

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Everyday research is based on common sense and is very selective. For example you’re more inclined to decide on something like coffee based on familiarity rather than undertaking extensive research on taste and strength. Whereas scholarly research is a planned process based on logical and scientific thinking to derive a thorough conclusion. Although Berger fails to recognise that scholarly facts are based on others research which would have originated from one’s own perspective on their findings. This reiterates philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s point “the world is knowable; but it is interpretable otherwise, it has no meaning behind it, but countless meanings” (Berger 2014, p. 19). Therefore it can debated that scholarly and everyday research is essentially the same thing, the only difference is scholarly research has been approved by those seen as credible.

There are several aspects of the media that intrigue me as a person and can often blur the lines between quantitative and qualitative research. In particular I would like to explore the entertainment industry and the research processes undertaken in developing a story. The entertainment industry is known for its belittling and exaggeration of celebrities lives in order to gain readers, therefore it would be interesting to explore the steps involved by magazines such as ‘Famous’ in creating a story and how far they can manipulate their research before it becomes an ethical and legal issue.

References:
Berger, A 2014, ‘What is research?’, in media and communication research methods: an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches, vol. 3, pp. 13-32.

AJE – Three letters making a difference

Since the rise of the internet media outlets have expanded globally creating several political, legal and economic restraints on journalists and the media in general. Technological adaptions have enabled individuals and organisations to broadcast local events across the world while having the ability to learn and witness international affairs (el-Nawawy & Powers 2010, p. 63).

Al-Jazeera English (AJE) was created in 2006 in order to establish a voice for those who are often voiceless. It is the first English based news channel formed within the Middle East. Its purpose and identity within journalism stands above the typical missions of journalists and revolves around producing integral material (el-Nawawy & Powers 2010, p. 62). Figenschou (2010, p. 85) highlights that AJE is continually known for “challenging major western international news channels and an alternative contra-flow in global news”. Journalism has now become an information war with a variety of outlets producing several objective and subjective pieces based on global conflict. But major media organisations still remain dictated by political propaganda, where the wealthiest often control how media is consumed (el-Nawawy & Powers 2010, p. 64).

This has led to skepticism towards whether the audience is being informed by the news or rather the news is reinforcing the preceding attitudes and opinions that are dictating society (el-Nawawy & Powers 2010, p. 64). Journalism is run on spectacles that create an emotional connection with the audience therefore the media is more inclined to produce pieces revolving around war rather than peace and heroism because of the tedious debates and lack of drama involved (el-Nawawy & Powers 2010, pp. 64-65).

It is evident that media broadcasters are now targeting certain segments of the population, which was made clear during the build-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, where western civilisation relied on national security to reinforce the reasons behind the invasion, as opposed to the Arab media which focused on western domination and expansion (el-Nawawy & Powers 2010, p. 65).

‘Conciliatory media’ is now a prominent concept that is used to meet a certain criteria based on social importance. This media excludes itself from the typical style of broadcasting war. It has been proven that society relies on the media to gain information on global events, and by enforcing conciliatory media it breaks down stereotypes found within broadcasting and inspires the audience to have an open mind (el-Nawawy & Powers 2010, p. 69). Al-Jazeera English is based on this concept. AJE is the first news channel to be highly-funded and accessible, focusing on providing balance within international media (Figenschou 2010, p. 86). They gather stories that are often overlooked producing a thorough analysis of the story while challenging and debating current views, instead of focusing on the areas that are most entertaining for the public (el-Nawawy & Powers 2010, p. 72).

Clearly the way media is produced and consumed needs to be monitored in order to establish a diverse range of public opinion. AJE is slowly breaking down these barriers and presenting an alternative from stereotypical news which often revolves around wealthy influence. By AJE providing a voice to the voiceless they have informed society about areas across the globe that are often neglected or belittled by international media, breaking down the barriers that have frequently dictated mainstream broadcasting.

References:

el-Nawawy, M & Powers, S 2010, ‘A conciliatory medium in a conflict-driven environment?’, Global Media and Communication, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 61-84.

Figenschou, T 2010, ‘A voice for the voiceless? A quantitative content analysis of Al-Jazeera English’s flagship news’, Global Media and Communication, vol. 6, pp. 85-107.

Globally Tainted

Climate change is becoming a severe problem that is continually debated within the media sphere. Currently Tony Abbott has maintained a strong stand that climate change isn’t occurring which is often disputed by activists and opposing politicians.

It is a journalists responsibility to avoid the issues of ‘False balance’ and ‘Superficial balance’ when reporting climate change. Providing too much time to one individual can be seen as favoritism while recognising both parties can lead to informational bias. Western journalists have moved away from opinion based knowledge on climate change and are now forming their assumptions through the influence of leading scientists (Ward 2009, p. 14). It has been recognised that a large percentage of the general public is able to understand and evaluate climate change issues without scientific stimulus enabling journalists to portray both opinion based and scientific aspects more thoroughly (Lyytimäki 2009, p. 31).

Currently climate change is affecting several of the smaller islands that encircle Australia. Kiribati has become one of the islands severely impacted by climate change, with much of the island being inundated by water. There has been discussions in relation to moving the islands population to Australia, however this has caused controversy towards their status as individuals, often being labelled as potential immigrants (Dreher 2014). What is occurring to their homes is uncontrollable and eventually they will have no choice but to vacate the island, but is it fair to label them immigrants when they don’t have a choice, their homes are being destroyed.

In order to tackle these climate issues plaguing islands such as Kiribati, an activist group called the Pacific Calling Partnership (logo below) has become a representative on these individuals. The group has successfully created awareness towards this crisis, their accomplishments include passing a bill to control emissions as well as preparing and teaching employees about these crisis’. It is known that the PCP provides a voice to those who are unheard, ensuring they gain as much coverage and awareness towards climate change and the places that have been severely effected (Dreher 2014). PCP are now lobbying for a Climate Justice approach stating it will “amplify the voices of those people who have done least to cause climate change, but who affected most severely by it” (Dreher 2014).

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Climate change is a continuing issue that plagues society and as a country Australia must recognise the suffering of these islands surrounding the coastline before it is too late and they have no choice but to inhabit Australia and be seen as immigrants rather than climate change victims.

References:

Dreher, T 2014, ‘Global crises, Global news: Pacific Calling Partnership’, lecture, BCM111, University of Wollongong, delivered 8 October.

Lyytimäki, J 2009, ‘Mulling over the Climate Debate: Media Education on Climate Change’, Journal of Sustainable Development, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 29-33.

Ward, B 2009, ‘Journalism ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty’, Ethics in science and environmental politics, vol. 9, pp. 13-15.