Why Do People Think The Media Is Manipulating The Beauty Standard?

I’ve seen several posts on these boards where people are critical of the advertising industry, the movie industry, the television industry, and the fashion industry because they believe they are the ones behind the ‘unrealistic’ beauty standard that men hold. They are said to be actively attempting to mold men’s concept of what is beautiful, rather that just catering to their innate preferences.

Do you believe that there is a vast conspiracy by these industries to make men attracted to women who are beautiful? What motivation would they possibly have for doing this?? Do you think that men from non-technologically-advanced societies that do not have these influences prefer homely women???


I don’t know that it’s necessarily a conspiracy, but I believe they are all going in the same direction for the same reason…


I believe that people are attracted to the kinds of people they meet in everyday life. In countries with movies and television, this ups the exposure to things outside their own village.

maybe not an evil type conspiracy,
but, “models” are supposed to be ideal.
our models are all 5’10" and weigh less than 100lbs.
which means that virtually no one is ideal.

technology is now such that they can make kate winslet look like she’s rail thin in a picture (GQ or vanity fair i think) rather than like the voluptuous human that she is in reality. Why would they do such a thing?

And notions of beauty are subject to change. Take a look at a nekkid renaisance picture woman some time. No way would the venus of urbino make it in playboy nowadays.
So yeah, the influence of the media is there. We have been influenced.

It’s not that they’re trying to push our thinking in that direction, its that they are playing to a weakness of ours. It’s to our detriment, and that’s what makes it a bad thing.

Do you think that men from non-technologically-advanced societies that do not have these influences prefer homely women???

Well, of course men are attracted to beautiful women but the definition of beauty is subjective. Just for one example, there are the Padaung of Burma who think a long neck is very beautiful, so that the women stretch their necks out with brass bands. YOU may not find that beautiful but they do.

In China during the time of footbinding, inhumanly tiny feet were valued on women. The feet were folded over on themselves by being bound up in cloths from a young age.

So, my point is, the “beauty ideal” that we have in our society is by no means an objective standard.

I could be wrong about this, but it is my understanding that both of the cultural traditions you mentioned originated as attempts to prevent women from being unfaithful, rather than to enhance beauty. The brass rings are supposedly removed when a Padaung women cheats on her husband, and the since the neck muscles are atrophied, her windpipe gets crushed and she dies.

The foot-binding, on the other hand, made it very difficult for women to walk, and women who are stuck at home all day are less likely to cheat.

I believe the practice began within the palaces and homes of the Imperial court and very wealthy, where the small foot was considered very beautiful. Yes, it had the effect of preventing infidelity, but it appears that the origin of the practice was fashion.

At any rate, the small feet were considered very beautiful. In fact the folded up feet (and sometimes foul-smelling, dead tissue) of the unbound feet were an object of erotic fascination. Bound feet were well represented in the pronography of the time.

Did foot binding have multiple causes/purposes: yes
Was it considered beautiful on a woman at the time: yes
Would it be considered grotesque nowadays: yes

Yes, Hello – I agree completely. It doesn’t matter that the origin of some of the practices is to make the woman less attractive/less likely to stray. The ultimate effect was that it was considered sexually desirable.

It’s very clear that the media influences what we consider attractive. Take a look back at Busby Berkeley films of the 30s. These were supposed to be very sexy women, yet to modern eyes, their breasts are too small. And the camera is set up to emphasize their legs. There used to be a differentiation between “leg men” and “breast men.” Obviously, this was because some men found women’s legs (usually in stockings) very sexy. Very few men are turned on by legs nowadays.

I’ve seen big changes in my own lifetime. Nowadays, for instance, well-defined muscles are considered sexy. People worry about their abs. This wasn’t the case until at least the 80s. Further, you’ll notice that the stomach is becoming more and more a symbol of sex appeal (take a look at the Victoria’s Secret “What is Sexy” ads, all shot so that the camera is a midriff level to emphasize that. In the fifties, the camera would have been slightly higher.) In the sixties, braless was sexy; now women wear Wonderbras.

Now, there is no conspiracy. It’s more trial and error: someone portrays a woman in some way that hasn’t been used (either before, or recently), and people think it’s sexy. The media begin to portray that type of image as sexy and the cycle grows until someone tires of it and some other image catches on.

Beg pardon?

As I understand, Japanese men used to find the back of a woman’s neck to be very erotic. Geisha wore their kimono low on the neck, and used makeup to accentuate it, much the way a Western model today will wear a blouse which shows off her breasts.

The advertising industry does have a large impact on beauty standards. It’s geared to make women feel vaguely guilty if they don’t live up to the standards. Whereas 100 years ago, a woman with obvious makeup was a hussy, women today are made to feel “naked” without cosmetics, embarassed about small blemishes, or thin lashes, and ugly if the natural process of aging shows.

Men get the same treatment when it comes to their hair. Men are informed in commercials that their women will not find them attractive should they lose their hair, and that dying it to cover grey makes them more successful and virile.

Cosmetic ads for women were a lot more blatant with the guilt factor years ago. I’ve seen ads from the Twenties and Thirties in which women “won back” straying husbands by using the right kind of rouge. The implication was that if your husband lost interest, it was your fault for not being as beautiful as you should be.

do i like looking at pretty people? yes.

would i prefer to know that the person i’m looking at actually looks like that, and hasn’t been airbrushed, stretched and digitally manipulated so that their own mother wouldn’t recognise them?

You are so right, irishgirl!

The women seen in the fashion magazines don’t actually exist in that form. So the standards set for beauty are actually unattainable and unhealthy.

I don’t think it is a conspiracy to convince men in particular. Put your company’s clothing on a woman who is “flawless” and subconsciously some women think that that outfit will make them beautiful too. The men see these flawless photographs of women and some want their women to be as “beautiful.”

I can remember when the word “skinny” was actually an insult. What are we telling women when we offer size “0” clothing. (Yes, guys, there is clothing that size on the rack.) The standard in height-weight ratio changed slowly so that it was barely noticed. Marilyn Monroe was a size 14/16.

(My comments should in no way be considered a slam against those women who are thin and unable to reach a healthy weight.)

Remember a few years back when Calvin Klein and a few other designers “resized” their clothing? The concept was to make, for example, a size five into a size three so women could feel better about themselves.

Having had a lot of experience in the ad world (as magazine publisher, ad agency exec and currently on the client-side of media buying), I think it boils down to this:

I think most would agree that magazines/ads/media are fashion leaders – what you see shown as fashionable now will be on the street in a few months… Applies to men, women, pets, etc.

So why if we implicitly realize they lead us in clothing, shoes, jewelry and other fashion items would we even doubt they lead us in fashionable “body image” too?

If you look at perceptions of beauty in the 20th century and compare them to media presentations of beauty, you’ll see that perception FOLLOWS presentation… Magazines from the early 1920’s show flapper-esque bodies and fashion… Guess what became the trend? Magazines in the early 40’s showed more military inspired looks for women: broad shoulders, a little more “powerful” look, and generally a larger, curvier woman than the flapper era, etc… In the late 50’s they started showing the “Glamour” look and very voluptuous blondes – shortly thereafter, Marilyn…

Whether it’s a “conspiracy” I doubt. They’re probably just doing their job: fashion stylists and editors decide what the next “in” thing is because that’s what the audience wants to “know”… and then they present it. Most times it becomes the “in thing” shortly thereafter.

If you want to say it’s purely artificial, I’d agree with you. A small group of fashion doyennes has been allocated the power to determine what will be considered fashionable… But we can’t bitch too much: WE allocated it to them. If women (men, pets) started simply ignoring what the magazines touted, this whole round-robin would end quite quickly.

linkety link.

Clothing sizes are readjusted periodically. This has been going on for years, although they don’t usually make a big deal about it. If you shop vintage clothing stores, you’ll soon learn to look for a “bigger” size than usual if you’re buying a dress from the late '50s/early '60s or before.

I used to have a girlfriend who collected old dress patterns, and she told me that when the dress sizing system first came into use the size number referred to the age of the girl/woman who would typically be the right size to wear it. So a size 12 was originally the size the average twelve year old would wear. I think they started readjusting them when the average person started getting larger, and then kept doing it because it made women happy if they could wear the same dress size into middle age even if they had really gained weight.

The motivation is money. If men and women are happy with their bodies, then the cosmetics, fad diet, and cosmetic surgery industries lose out on billions of dollars of revenue.

Manipulating the beauty standard and keeping it out of reach, then following up by selling products that supposedly bring it within reach, keeps people spending. No conspiracy needed, just advertisers who understand this, and media outlets that rely on advertising revenue.

Ahem … the Straight Dope on that UL.
http://jaehakim007.tripod.com/articles/misc/features/sizes.htm (scroll to the bottom)

The “Monroe is a 16” statement is an urban legend.

Not if Zoe’s in the UK. As the Snopes link explained, British dress sizes are different from American sizes and there’s at least one Monroe gown that has been sized as a UK 16/US 12.

Yabut, Anna Nicole Smith, the slut of L.A. (or wherever she “lives”), made it into Playboy.

And she ain’t skinny.

BTW, “media” is plural, so the OP should read: Why Do People Think The Media Are Manipulating The Beauty Standard?

have you ever seen the spread of her? She had some curves, but no way was she the blimp then that she is now. She was pretty much the playboy bunny prototype, maybe a hair larger.
She didn’t start bordering on “plus sized” until her guess jeans days. My wife made me watch the stupid E true hollywood story on that one.