Designers will no longer be able to hire models with a body mass index that is deemed dangerously low because the Australian fashion industry is preparing to ban skinny models from catwalks and magazines. The new body-image standards will not only influence fashion industry but might also play a significant role in changing the way ordinary people see themselves, especially for teenage girls.
There is now growing empirical support for the proposition that idealized portrayals of women in the Western media have a negative impact upon how adolescent girls and adult women see themselves. In one major American survey of over 500 adolescent girls aged 9–16, nearly 70% believed magazine pictures influenced their idea of the ideal body shape, and 47% of the same sample wished to lose weight as a result. Body image is central to adolescent girls’ self-definition, because they have been socialized to believe that appearance is an important basis for self-evaluation and for evaluation by others. However, the media—magazines, TV, films, advertising, music videos—not only emphasize that female self-worth should be based on appearance, but present a powerful cultural ideal of female beauty that is becoming increasingly unattainable. For example, the body size of women in the media is often more than 20% underweight—exceeding a diagnostic criterion for anorexia nervosa of 15% underweight (DSM-IV-TR: American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Using an experimental method, Clay et al (2005) tested the impact of viewing ultra-thin and average-size female magazine models on body image and self-esteem among adolescent girls aged 11–16. They found that viewing ultra-thin or average-size models led to decreases in both body satisfaction and self-esteem in adolescent girls, with changes in self-esteem fully mediated by changes in body satisfaction. These findings demonstrate a causal effect of media images on body satisfaction, apparently spreading to global self-esteem, among girls in the age range over which these variables typically fall most markedly in Western cultures.
Daniel Clay, Vivian L. Vignoles, & Helga Dittmar. (2005). Body Image and Self-Esteem Among Adolescent Girls: Testing the Influence of Sociocultural Factors. Journal of research on adolescence, 15, 451-477.