Reader Survey Results:

Fall 1998 - Body Images

Compiled by Alyssa Wilmot, Publications Intern

In conjunction with NOW Foundation's Love Your Body Day, NOW asked readers to voice their opinions on the portrayal of women and girls in popular culture. More than 200 respondents sent in thoughtful answers along a wide spectrum of body image issues. Here is a summary of the results:

1) What advertisement, TV show, movie, trend or product most annoys you in its treatment of women's and/or girl's bodies?

The three most popular answers:

Other common responses:  cigarette ads with skinny/glamorous women, beer commercials, Carl's Jr. restaurant ads, Bally's Fitness ads, "Beverly Hills 90210," the lack of women over 35 anywhere on television, Disney movies, Hollywood movies in general (the one token female, fixation on prostitutes, men protecting women), small women modeling for plus-size stores, "women's" magazines, emphasis on cosmetics, breast implants, diet drugs, sexist video games.

2) What positive images of women's and/or girl's appearances have you seen in the media recently?

The three most popular answers:

3) Do you think that images of women/girls in the media have a direct result on how women/girls feel about and take care of themselves?

a) Absolutely  91%          c) No              2%
b) Somewhat  6%           d) No answer  1%

4) What misconception of how women/girls are "supposed" to look would you most like to see disappear forever?

Almost everyone who answered expressed frustration with the idea that all women should be thin.  Women and girls feel bombarded with the cultural myth that an anorexic "waif" look is the ideal way to look sexy, healthy and attractive.  One respondent noted that "you are never small enough until you disappear altogether."  Many others pointed to the unrealistic Barbie doll or Playboy-type body big breasts, narrow waists and long legs.

Also listed were the following:  the expectation that women and even girls have to look sexy, that body hair on women is considered unattractive or unfeminine and must be shaved, the belief by some that women who are physically strong or assertive are less feminine, portrayals of women as submissive/passive, crippling high heels, and the fact that any "supposed-to" look exists at all.

5) What can NOW and feminists do in general to help promote healthier attitudes about women's and girl's bodies?

Most popular answers:

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