As a child, I would go through my family’s mailbox each afternoon, scrutinizing for anything inscribed with my name –– some sort of inclination that I existed as a preteen in the sphere of the postal-mail world.
I would always find solace in a clothing magazine or catalog.
Though I rarely actually purchased anything, I looked through each one, page by page.
Looking on, I began to realize that the women featured in the pictures were vastly unlike the women around me; and for that matter, were vastly different than what I looked like.
I was a healthy child, active in sports, and yet, I looked nothing like the images I was told were supposedly normal.
The featured models were sickly thin — but still somehow had curves.
They appeared to have a natural tan, voluminous hair untouched by product and perfect skin. They seemed wholesome, ethnic and Americanized — all in one flawless package.
Brands like Victoria’s Secret market themselves to consumers in this way, bombarding readers with what the ideal body “should” look like from an early age.
Though we like to act unaffected by the media’s portrayal of the body, it would be inherently naïve to believe this to be true.
Each day we are attacked with images that depict both the male and female body in a flattering way. The media plays off of the self-consciousness of today’s nation.
In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, the average American is exposed to approximately 5,000 advertising messages a day, and when the average adolescent watches three to four hours of television per day, this number seems likely, yet none the less daunting.
The same association stated that a study of 4,294 network television commercials showed that one out of every 3.8 commercials sends some sort of “attractiveness message,” telling viewers what is or is not attractive.
These “attractiveness messages” come full circle tonight considering it is the annual “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” on CBS.
Last year, 10.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the show, all while viewers vigorously took to social media outlets to complain about and admire the women gracing the catwalk.
The response is rarely that the clothing --–– or lack of clothing -– being adorned is worth purchasing, but that the body of the model wearing it is perfect. Victoria’s Secret aims to remind consumers (in a ridiculously unsubtle way) that the company has the most beautiful models.
Inevitably, some viewers then begin to question their own beauty in comparison to the standards of what a woman’s body should idealistically look like.
Watching becomes a form of self-abuse.
Though this issue has been discussed greatly in recent years, we can’t forget why it’s so important. It’s so easy for people to fall victim to the media and its depiction of what is beautiful versus what is healthy.
A poor body image is one of the first symptoms of an eating disorder. Tonight’s fashion show and the wider context of all forms of media should highlight what it means to be a woman — and not what just one looks like.
Kelsey Tamborrino is a sophomore majoring in English and is a Daily Collegian performing arts reporter. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.