English 1100 12:00
6 December 2000
Problems with the Media
There has been an ongoing dispute concerning the media’s perception of how people are supposed to look. It seems that every year, the expectations of looking thin becomes harder and harder to meet. I know this from a personal experience of my own. A few years ago, I would look in magazines and see girls wearing size one or size two clothes. By look at this at least once every month, I started to feel that I was inadequate and I had to loose weight. Unfortunately, I took my dieting to far and over used diet pills. Because of my abuse to the pills, I almost became addicted and that’s when I realized how distorted the media’s idea of looking good was. Fortunately there are numerous amounts of people that agree with me. This would include a woman writer, Susan Bordo, who wrote about the media’s ideas of being thin, and how she thinks that they are wrong
In the essay “Never Just Pictures” by Susan Bordo, she discusses the issue of the media’s promotion of being skinny and what affects this has brought. The media claims that the phobia of being fat is a disease that you are born with, but that is not always the case. Bordo, like many other people, believe that the media is mostly to blame. Bordo brings up a few arguments, such as Freud’s opposing thoughts along with the ads cutting back the use of make-up, but never goes into
great detail with the opposing side. Throughout the essay, Bordo uses many examples, along with pictures, to help prove her point. By using her emotions, evidence, and experience as a writer on similar subjects, she reaches her audience and gives and effective and convincing argument.
Bordo proves her creditability throughout the paper. She demonstrates that she is an intellectual woman with a grasp on current events. She mentions articles from highly renowned newspapers, such as The New York Times and The New Yorker, along with referring to newscasters’ comments from the 1996 Olympic games. She also justifies the writing by mentioning her pervious work in the 1993’s Unbearable Weight, where she discusses similar issues. The book, published by the University Press, shows that she had obvious academic knowledge and support.
Bordo’s targets an audience of younger to middle-aged women by using terminology. Through out her essay, she used words like “tummies.” She also adds in side notes, which makes the reader feel like she is talking directly to them. She uses many examples, but almost all of them have to do with women and lack male reference. In the essay, Bordo only uses two examples that deal with men. This would include the ads in magazines now using anorexic looking men and the gender gap from eating disorders narrowing.
To target the younger women in this essay, Bordo uses examples such as young actresses, models, and the 1996 Olympic games. She first starts out using a
popular actress within the teens, Alicia Silverstone. The media accused this nineteen-year-old girl, who is very skinny, of being to fat, knowing that there are many younger teens that look up to her. If her younger fans hear that she is fat, even though she is not close to it, they will immediately think that they are fat too, which isn’t something that a twelve year old needs to be thinking. Another main example she uses to demonstrate her notion of the media is from the commentators for the 1996 Olympic games. During the gymnastics division, they talked about how great all the gymnasts looked, but they failed to mention the huge amount of women athletes with eating disorders, along with the nineteen year olds competing that looked and talked like they were thirteen.
By using pictures and referring back to them several times during her argument, not only targets women, but also keeps the younger women still interested. She provides the reader with two pictures, one is an ad promoting diet pills and the other picture was published in a previous issue of a fashion magazine. The diet pills add has an average size woman at the beach in a bathing suit. The way the bathing suit is made, the picture makes you thing that it was taken in the fifties, along with it not flattering the woman’s figure at all. In front of the woman that is significantly smaller then the first woman. This makes you think that the first woman was fat. First off, in the fifties, the women that were advertised were larger then women today. Secondly, the angles of the shot are different and benefit the second woman better. Through out all that the ad benefits the second
woman, it gives the person looking at the ad a distorted view of being fat. The second picture example she used had a tall and extremely skinny girl standing against a tree. The girl’s bones were sticking out of her body because of the lack of fat and muscle she had on her. Since this picture made it’s dbut in a fashion magazine, people that see, who are not extremely confident with themselves, will think that she looks great the need to loose weight so they can look like her, instead of seeing the sick looking young woman that the model really is.
Bordo touched on a few different arguments of the opposing sides. Even with disagreement, she remained to stay fair. Bordo even shows us that she is willing to admit when she is wrong when she states in her article, “the feminists complained that I had not sufficiently attended the racial and ethnic ‘difference’ and was assuming the white, middle-class experience as the norm” (238). Later on she goes on to say that she was wrong and now believes slightly different and backs up her theory with medical evidence and discoveries. This shows that she is looking out for the readers best interest and unlike men, would admit when she is wrong. Bordo challenges Freud’s idea of not meeting one’s needs when she says, “I would argue that ghostly pallor and bodily disrepair, in ‘heroin chic’ images are about the allure, the safety, of being beyond desire.” (239)
Bordo saves the media’s response to all the examples she brought to help prove her point that the media does not care about their affect on women’s low self-esteem and eating disorders. She feels that designers, such as Calvin Klein,
try to compromise with the American public by using “flawed” faces but still perfect bodies. The only thing that these designers are doing is promoting more spending on clothes and not make-up, instead of the issue at hand, being skinny. All though it might not seem completely fair, Bordo saves the media’s responses and mentions them at the end. The reason why she does this is not only keep the reader interested but not going back and forth on the issue, but also build up the audiences agreement with her. This way she can get more response from her reader up against the press. When Bordo does mention the opposing side, anything that the media says and/or does just isn’t good enough because they are causing people to get sick and sometimes die. This would force the audience to agree with her more, which is what she wants.
Bordo does a great job with getting in touch with the reader. This article, however, is not very effective unless the reader cares about the issue before they pick it up and read it. She does a good job of arguing with the opposing sides, so if someone reads the article and their beliefs are against her beliefs; there is a possibility that they would change their minds. The reason for the possible change of heart from her lists of examples, her reasoning with it being backed up by media proof, and how much feeling she puts into the essay