Society pressures teens into fitting impossible ideals
This three-part story will be updated every two days. To read Part I, click here.
History of media
In the 1910s, the icon of femininity was the Gibson Girl, an illustration based on thousands of American girls. The Gibson Girl depicted femininity as a figure with curves and self confidence. The emphasis was placed on being healthy, both emotionally and physically.
Then were the roaring 20s flappers ; these women bore visible ankles, knees and legs. Larger breasts were frowned upon in an open rejection of the Gibson Girl style. Hairstyles were different too, with short bobs gaining popularity; a heavily powdered face with bright red lips was also considered attractive.
After World War Two, ideal body image for women was set by celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Their hourglass shapes and porcelain skin were prized nationally. Exercise and diet gained popularity, as fashion accented the arms and the torso. Body image reflected the ideals of society, and as women were expected to "catch" a man and settle down to have a family, the pressure on women to be well-dressed and good-looking mounted.
Gradually, in the 60s, women and girls became obsessed with being thinner and losing weight. Nicknamed "The Twig", the body image ideal for this era included being small and skinny; a youthful, girlish face was idolized, and curves were looked down upon.
In the 80s, the aerobics craze brought around a new type of figure: the supermodel. The ideal body was toned, slim, and tall. The mounting body requirements of this era led to an increase in eating disorders in young women. Similarly, in the 90s, supermodels like Kate Moss set almost impossible standards of weight and size.
We are now in the era where women and girls have choices regarding makeup, hair and clothing. They can change the way their face and body appears temporarily, and have a stronger conduit to express themselves through. However, the pressure is still on for a flatter stomach, slimmer arms and legs and clearer skin.
Male body ideals receive far less attention from the media and the public than female body image, but there has been pressure on men to obtain 'desirable' bodies for as long as there have been on women to.
Since the 1950s, the perceived attractiveness of muscular men has grown in conjunction with the muscularity of male models. The body size of male Playgirl models gradually increased from the 1950s to the late 1990s. A similar trend is also visible in action figures. Muscularity and leanness have been ideals for men in society since ancient Greece and Roman times, as is observed through sculptures and paintings.
This story has been edited for clarity and content since being posted. 3/10/15
Divya Rajagopal. Hi! My name is Divya Rajagopal. I'm a junior and I love writing. I enjoy watching Suits and How I Met Your Mother and listening to Coldplay. I play tennis on my school team and ski in the winter. More »