Opinion Blog: The Pressure to be Thin

May 2, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Posted by Caroline Foster
cfoster@smu.edu

Whether SMU women are sharing diet tips, experiencing remorse after eating anything “unhealthy” or idolizing super-skinny celebrities, the pressure to be thin on campus is anything but tiny.

With summer just around the corner, swimsuit season is on the radar and the pressure to look perfect increases. I know many girls who are changing their diet and exercise routines in ways that could be potentially harmful.

In a world where the average consumer is exposed to more than one thousand advertisements each day, it’s no wonder many feel the need to look a certain way. The unrealistic beauty ideal the media constantly shows can affect our self-esteem and contribute to an obsession with being thin.

In a recent study by Glamour Magazine, 97 percent of those surveyed said they had at least one “I hate my body” moment per day. The media’s constant presence can attribute to this. Especially when it typically shows the image of a thin female with large breasts, light skin and perfect features. Open any magazine and nearly every advertisement and editorial features a model with this look. It is this ideal that we as women strive to attain. We hope with insane amounts of dieting and exercise we can one day look like this.

But the media’s portrayal of the ideal model does not just affect American women. One of the main exports of the United States is the media; whether it’s television shows, movies, or magazines the U.S. media affects other countries as well.

In South Korea the trend is to have a surgical procedure on the eyes that makes them look rounder, more Western. In India skin lightening is all the rage, and one of the best selling beauty products is a lightening cream called Fair & Lovely. In Hong Kong weight loss centers litter the streets. Women flock to these establishments for procedures that decrease fat. These are just some of the examples of the western media’s effects around the world.

Fashion and fashion models are also prominent outlets for this body ideal. Many countries in Europe are taking positive steps in the fashion industry. In 2006, Madrid fashion week banned models with unhealthy Body Mass Indexes (BMI) from participating in the shows. London fashion week followed suit, and France tried to pass a bill banning media, including blogs, that promoted “excessive thinness.”

Researchers agree that the effects of the media are real, especially on body image. The images can contribute to body dissatisfaction, or in extreme cases, to eating disorders. But as the effects of the media are strong, why is it that other countries are being more proactive than the United States in showing healthier models?

The United States is taking a passive approach to the problem. The Council of Fashion Designers of America have recommendations for supporting a healthy atmosphere back stage at shows, but no regulations against using scary-skinny models.

Since it’s the Western media that affects millions of women, I think it is also their responsibility to use positive images as well. Advertisements like Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” are helping lead the way, but it seems other companies are slow to follow in Dove’s footsteps.

The majority of the media seems to show no concern for the images it shows, and the body ideals it is responsible for shaping. It seems the media is resistant to change and the images will continue to be shown. So, as women faced with pressure to look our best, remember the images you see in the media are not real, hours are spent photoshopping, airbrushing and perfecting them.

Professor Discusses Media’s Negative Effects

November 9, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Allison Donnelly
adonnelly@smu.edu

The political arena and the media have always have a crucial relationship, although somewhat controversial, as political science professor at Vanderbilt University, Dr. John G. Geer, explained Friday.

Geer spoke to SMU faculty and students over a casual lunch about his new book, “The Rise of Negativity: Why David Broder May Be More Responsible Thank Karl Rove.” The lecture focused on negative ad campaigns and how the media feeds off of them.

“Journalists don’t want to write a story about John McCain and how he wants to improve the education system,” explained Geer, “We want the train wreck. People say they are disgusted by the negative ads, but the truth is, they are drawn to it.”

To help understand the title of his new book, Geer explained who David Broder was. Broder is a respected op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, known for his knowledge of national politics.

Karl Rove was the former senior advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff for President George Bush. The title of the book explains how the media may be more responsible for negativity in political advertisements and campaigns rather than the political players themselves.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, 70 percent of the ads were negative. This is in contrast to the 2004 election where there were less than 50 percent of negative ads. Geer explained how negative ad coverage gives politicians incentive to create negative ads because they get attention, they know the media will cover the story.

Geer also spoke about the role of new media in this pattern of rising negativity. With Web sites like “You Tube” candidates go “fishing” with their negative ads.

By buying small spots on television or putting out videos on the Internet, they can test the waters to see which ads will grab the attention of bloggers and other media. The ads that catch the attention of the media and what the media “bites” at will soon be circulated all over the Internet.

Through his book, Geer hopes to make the journalistic community aware of what they are doing and the influence they have on campaigns. In addition, he wants the political science community to realize the importance of communication through news coverage.

“We need to be on the same page, we need to answer the same questions,” said Geer.

Through interviews with dozens of political journalists, strategists and consultants, Geer’s book is supported by extensive research on political campaigns throughout American history. The rise of negativity in these campaigns is in part a function of the news media, not only the candidates. Geer continued to say that there is no end in sight of this cycle.

“Both parties benefit from it,” said Geer, “positive ads are dull, there is no story there. Journalists love conflict.”

Geer is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, although right now he is currently teaching at Harvard University. “The Rise of Negativity” will be his sixth book about presidential campaigns and elections. His daughter, Megan, is a senior at SMU.

Global News Blog: Mexican Media Claims Paint U.S. Negatively

April 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Posted by Sarah Boehland

Over the past few months Mexican newspapers and media have claimed that the majority of the firearms that have been linked to killings in Mexico have come from the United States. However, this is not true. Mexico has used their media to draw this conclusion. The truth is that only 17 percent of the guns used in the killings have come from the United States.

As I read this article a million disturbing things about the media came to my mind. I think it is so ridiculous that the media has been able to publicize these untrue facts. I think that it is a huge commentary on our society. With technology growing every day, it is becoming much easier for the media to draw assumptions and make them facts, when in all honestly they are lies. What happened to responsible reporting? What about the obligation we as people have to tell the truth?

It is well understood that in governments worldwide the media is the unofficial branch that keeps governing powers in line. This exact article proves that this statement is wrong. As far as I am concerned the media is out to serve one purpose and that purpose only, itself. The reason this is so alarming to me is that if something that claims to be so factual is not, then where is the truth in our world? This alone is extremely disconcerting to me because as our technology driven society grows I seem to be reading more and more propaganda than fact. So who are we, the public, supposed to turn to?

I understand and respect that fact that the media “claims” to value validity but they have not proven this to be true. If this dishonestly is to continue, we are going to find ourselves living in a nation that is self made and that avoids any kind of truth. I don’t know about you but this is not the kind of world I want to live in.

The media is making it so easy for people to make situations for what they want them to be instead of what they really are. Personally, I feel that this says a lot about our world and this is not the kind of world I want to live in, In addition, the media is making it much easier for people to be frauds and for that I blame the media as the stem of a lot of our world’s problems concerning terrorism and hatred between countries. If the media was to hold their ground and follow their claims people worldwide would be more accountable for their actions and beliefs.

Global News Blog: Canadian Prime Minister Reaches Out to American Media for Support

February 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Posted by Kelsey Howard

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a trip to New York to visit with President Obama earlier this week, but spent more time trying to reach American media outlets than working on political objectives. The Prime Minister appeared on Fox News and recorded interviews with CNBC and CNN to be released at a later date during his stay here. Click here to read more about his visit.

So why is it suddenly so important for Canadians to have the approval of the American media? Obviously, the American media has influence on the American public, but why should Prime Minister Harper care what the American public thinks of him? Bringing knowledge to the American people through its own media outlets is, in my opinion, a smart idea.

Prime Minister Harper obviously has concerns about the relations between Canada and the United States, and needs there to be a mutual sense of favorability among the two. The recent “Buy American” clause in the stimulus package suggests to Canada that the United States does not care about its trading partners in relation to its own economic conditions.

Maybe the answer to preventing nationalistic thoughts such as the “Buy American” clause is using media outlets more effectively. In this case, the Canadian Prime Minister certainly brought the issue to the forefront in the minds of the American public. Should foreign leaders be utilizing media outlets in this way? Could this help build relations between nations during this time of economic crisis?

Global News Blog: Mexico Media Stress Drug Trafficking Danger

February 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Drug violence in Mexico has resulted in bad publicity for the country. According to Guadalajara Reporter, “Over the coming weeks, a joint strategy among the Mexican presidency, Foreign Relations Department, Tourism Secretariat and Preventive Police Force will seek to lessen the negative impact that daily news reports of violence have on Mexico’s image internationally.”

This drug violence and drug trafficking has caused a scare not only in Mexico, but here in the United States. Many students that were planning on traveling to Mexico for Spring Break, have had to make a quick change of plans and not head over the border. At a press conference on Monday, Mexico Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa stated that the media have magnified and therefore greatly exaggerated the violent acts of drug gangs.

I think that controlling the media can be positive, however, the state of drug trafficking is what it is and it is important to be aware of the dangers in that country.

Global News Blog: Media Informs Africa about NEPAD

February 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Posted by Leslie McCain

African media want to provide greater awareness of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an organization designed to address challenges and social issues in Africa. Journalists plan to meet with senior officials and decision-makers during a two-day news conference that will discuss the current goals and mission of NEPAD. To read the full article click here. The media hope to expand recognition of the organization at both a local and national level since little reporting has been done on its contributions in the past. NEPAD could serve as a model for finding solutions to social problems in Africa and just needs the supporters to get its name out.

All five media regions of Africa will attend the meeting, which will bring knowledge to a diverse group and place great pressure on NEPAD to get its point across. NEPAD now has its chance to shine, and it is essential to make a remarkable impression so that others can learn from its cause and strive to participate. The organization must be well prepared and unique since the conference may be its only chance in the spotlight. NEPAD deals with social problems in Africa but has problems getting its name out to the African people. African media are taking on the role to make NEPAD stand out from all the rest. Therefore, every minute counts as a way to show the world what they do and how they can make a difference in the lives of the African people.

However, the question remains, what methods would work best for journalists to spread word about NEPAD following the conference? I think NEPAD should hold campaigns and use the media to report the large events in various regions of Africa. The events can show the local community how it is making a difference in the lives of others and should gear their campaign towards children. The youth represent the future of Africa and can learn and understand how to fix the problems created by generations before them. The main issue with NEPAD is that the African people are still confused about what the organization does, and they need clarification in order to get involved. For more information on NEPAD, visit their website.

Global News Blog: Anger Amongst Brushfire Survivors

February 23, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Posted by Lauren Kuhner

What angered the survivors of the Australian brushfires was simply not being asked if they wanted to take part in the medias stories. Time after time survivors were “confronted by cameras or tape recorders already rolling, or photographers firing off shots as they first approached, often when the victims were at their most vulnerable.” Losing your house, your friends and your neighbors doesn’t mean you also lose your right to be treated with respect.

One should ask before rolling cameras or tapes. And if someone says no, don’t press the issue. Many of these victims have lost everything and they do not want to be seen on the national news looking hopeless and devastated. It is the proper thing to ask someone their permission before interfering in their lives. And in most cases they will probably allow you to do what you want, they just want to be asked. I know our neighbor below me put up a huge satellite-light dish on my front porch. I was angered because they did not have the courtesy to ask. If they would have asked I would have told them it was fine, but because they didn’t ask, I reported them and now they have to take it down.

Another incident that shocked me was that some journalist to get a great story would burst into survivor centers to get distraught survivors being united with loved ones they thought had died. I think this made me the most irritated because I just got back from a funeral I know I wanted to be left alone to grieve because I did not want people to see me not being strong.

If one thought their loved one had died and was united with them, you would want to celebrate with your closest friends and family, not with a media crew filming your every emotion. The media is all about getting the next best story and at no matter what cost. They need to put themselves into the survivor’s shoes, because if they lost their house, friends, and family those are not emotions they are going to plastered all over the news for the world to see. Click here to read more.