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.
Calvin Klein advertising
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?
Camryn Manheim, Emmy winner from the TV show "The Practice"
Nike advertisements, such as the slogans "If you let me play" and "Skinny
Many answered "None," finding no positive images of women/girls in the
media Other common responses: Rosie O'Donnell, Women's National Basketball
Association, Special K commercials showing middle-aged women and men, Oprah
Winfrey, Body Shop ads, Mode magazine featuring plus-size and muticultural
a) Absolutely 91%
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:
Educate at a young age, targeting grade school and junior high school
Speak out against negative portrayals of women and girls in the
media; write letters and send petitions to the offenders
Refrain from calling other women "fat" or other negative names
Don't say "I'm fat," "I'm ugly," "I look awful," around your daughters;
set an example for girls/young women that looks are not the measure of
Don't support businesses that promote harmful products or attitudes
Pressure companies to use more realistic models to sell their products
Stop buying fashion magazines that portray women as wire hangers
Create our own positive media images through campaigns like Love
Your Body Day
BE YOURSELF, LOVE YOURSELF
Return to Winter 1999 newspaper
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