You women just aren’t satisfied, are you?

Since searches on plus size models, Lizzie Miller,  and sexy big women have almost displaced Marina Sirtis on the top search hits, I thought I’d post a sort of follow-up to last year’s articles on Glamour and V magazine’s photo shoots with “plus sized ” (i.e., normal instead of anorexic sized) models.

From an article in The Frisky:

Bigger Models Make Women Feel Bad About Themselves, Too

Dove ad

Dove’s Real Beauty ad campaigns are heralded as groundbreaking forays into being a bit more realistic about how women look. Glamour‘s new habit of featuring regular-sized broads after the publicity deluge the first time they did it, too, is widely praised. But here’s the thing: According to a new study by the University of Arizona, ads featuring bigger models don’t actually make most women feel very good about themselves. Apparently, pretty much everything makes women feel like crap about how they look.

According to the researchers, larger women feel better about themselves when ads don’t include any models at all, average-sized ladies actually have lower self-esteem after looking at ads with plus-sized models rather than uber-skinny ones, and thin folk prefer the traditional tiny models. The study did, however, come up with one icky way bigger models can be used to actually influence product sales: ” … if a normal-size woman sees moderately heavy images in ads for weight-loss products, she might feel overweight and be more inclined to buy a diet plan or gym membership.” This is basically saying ads could use plus-sized models to make women feel bad enough about themselves that they want to spend more money on gym memberships and diet products. [The Cut]

What do you think? Do ads with bigger models make you feel better or worse about your body?

Since this seemed counter-intuitive, I checked the ASU article, which said, in part:

In the experiments, hundreds of female students were categorized as having low, normal or high body mass index (BMI) based on their heights and weights. They were then invited to a lab, but were not told the true nature of the study. They were shown a variety of ads and told to answer several questions, only some of which were truly related to the study. The questionnaires showed the participants’ self-esteem shifted based on the model sizes they saw in the ads and whether they considered themselves to be similar to or different from those sizes.

Low-BMI, thinner women tended to experience a boost in self-esteem when they viewed all models because they identified positively with the thinner models and saw themselves as different from the heavier models. Higher-BMI, heavier women dropped in self-esteem when looking at all models because they saw themselves as different from the thinner, idealized ones and similar to the overweight models.

But that’s okay, because normal sized women would have felt, you know, normal, and right in the middle, right?

Ah, women.

Normal-BMI women had the most shifts in self-esteem, depending on what types of images they saw and could therefore be the most influenced by pictures in ads. For example, if they viewed a moderately thin model, they felt similar and good; if they saw a moderately heavy model, they worried they were similar and overweight.

My own question is whether the results of this study aren’t the result of a chicken-or-egg assumption. In our culture, we are constantly exposed to stick-thin models, and told (visually) that anything over a size 2 needs to cover up. So, is it possible that after a few years of exposure to plus, er, normal sized models such as those in the Glamour and V shoots, women in general would have a perspective, and studies such as this would have a different outcome?

So, what does it take for women to feel better about themselves, anyway?

About Tom Allen

The Grey Geezer Dauntless defender of, um, something that needed dauntless defending. Dammit, I can't read this script without my glasses. Hey, you kids, get off my damn lawn!
This entry was posted in Appearance, BBW, Body Image, Culture, Sexuality & Relationships, Stereotypes. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to You women just aren’t satisfied, are you?

  1. Fusion says:

    You’re a brave man Mr. Allen…

  2. Black Widow says:

    I think it would take a lifetime of change before it would be “accurate ” to do such a study. The people used in the study have likely already had “years of bombardment” from various sources that “thin = sexy” so their deep subconscious programming is already in place which means they are not truely able to be ojbective in any study. IF they could do a similar study say in 20 years time PROVIDING that *right now* a mass society change happened whereby all advertisiing was “normal” sized women or “plus” sized and took the babies born now who were then influenced for the next 20 years by this “new” “programming” and then had THOSE people take the test I think the results would be more accurate. It may even show that those who are “naturally stick thin” have self-esteem issues because they can’t really identify with what is then portrayed as “sexy” ie normal sized/plus sized women.

  3. It seems fairly clear to me that women and indeed many people in general experience discomfort with their self image. Given that this is a pre-existing condition, I dispute that images of this or that can “make” anybody feel anything at all. Having said that, I do think that a pre-existing issue with self image can rise to the front in response to a stimulus such as an image.

    I mean, if people feel good about themselves already, then that will remain the same no matter what stimulus is present. And if people already feel bad about themselves, then these pictures will be only one of many stimuli which trigger the same uncomfortable feelings.

    I think that rather than raising or causing anything new, this thing with the models is simply highlighting an existing social issue.

    Although I do agree that
    “So, what does it take for women to feel better about themselves, anyway?”
    is a worthwhile question, it might also be interesting to ask
    “How do people become uncomfortable with their self image?”
    and
    “How do the personal histories of people with comfortable self images differ from those with uncomfortable self images?”

  4. Tom Allen says:

    Well, let me add this: When I started working out seriously a few years ago, i was doing it for health reasons. But as I saw my body changing, I became more aware of what I was doing. However, I *also* became more aware of the men in advertisements – specifically the health mags that were showing younger men with visible abs and serious muscle definition.

    So, for a while, instead of comparing myself to my other 50+ year old friends, I found myself feeling a bit down because I still hadn’t gotten into the same physical shape of a 25 year old. Yes, it’s stoopid, and I understood rationally why, but there you have it.

    And I have to admit, a couple of times in the last year I, umm, hurt myself to where I had to stop exercising for a while to heal.

    So, for a while, I had somehow developed an insecurity about my own body image, based pretty much on unrealistic expectations that I had set for myself. Obviously this doesn’t compare to what women deal with on a regular basis, but I thought it worth mentioning.

  5. Isn’t it kind of inherent in the human species to be perpetual malcontents? 🙂

  6. Shadow Lady says:

    I think have to do with expectations that we have bee fed since we were little. To look 16 at the age of 45 so to speak.
    However the tale is also in the line of questioning that often goes with these types investigations. Psychology questionnaires can often be ‘sponsored’ by marketing or brands and thus questions can be rather leading.

  7. Jz says:

    “So, what does it take for women to feel better about themselves, anyway?”

    I wish I could answer that.
    So far, the best I’ve come up with is, “a miracle.”

  8. nursemyra says:

    In answer to your question, having a partner who finds you desirable is a great start.

  9. Haiku Master says:

    Hiya Tom Allen,

    LTNS. Saw your comment at one of my regular stops (J-Cake’s) and remembered you and your limericks and perviness. Think you were on blogger then.

    Keep up the fine work!

    Cheers!

  10. Joanna Cake says:

    Im not stalking the Troll, honest! This is purely coincidence 🙂

    As to what makes women happy about themselves? Probably nothing.

    But Ruf has done such a good job of improving my own self-esteem by continually remarking about how beautiful and sexy I am that I cant help but look in the mirror and reflect his comments 🙂

  11. Pingback: 2010 Retro Spective « The Edge of Vanilla

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