It seems that once more body ideals of attractiveness are changing. The study that was conducted by Frances Bozsik of the University of Missouri-Kansas demonstrated how media can change particular perspectives and attitudes. This study just examines the United States and does not explore other parts of the world. The results were published in Springer’s journal Sex Roles. What the team did was examine Miss USA pageant contestant photographs and documented the change overtime. Undergraduate students were selected to rate and look at the photographs. The collection were photographs between the years of 1999 to 2013. Based on the study it seems that the contestants became more fit with bigger muscle definition. The 64 graduate students in the study were shown photographs of that were identical. The only difference was one had a thin body displayed and a more muscular one. They were show the images separately and then together. The more fit woman in the photos were rated as more attractive. The study however did not ask what the subjects’ body ideals or preferences were. This could have distorted the study. This does not mean that the muscular body type or a thin body is an ultimate ideal, but men’s preferences are vast and more extensive in terms of activeness. The study seems to indirectly prove how images and media can control an individual’s perceptions and attitudes. Social media may explain the rise of a more powerful female physique becoming mainstream. Beauty as demonstrated by the study is not one concept, but can vary depending on culture and personal preference.
The 64 subjects used in the study should have been surveyed about their ideal female body type. If most of the men in the study had a preference for muscular women that would obviously distort the results produced. These men would probably rate muscular women higher just because of preference.
It should be no surprise that there are men who like not just women are are in shape, but display a huge amount of muscular development. Then it is problematic with the use of the term toned. This term is not always lucid. The photos shown as “toned and thin” almost seem like a contradictory statement. Tone used in this context implies some muscle definition. This raises some other interesting questions. They used beauty pageant contestants, but what if the study employed some photographs of female bodybuilders or larger women. This could have cased another split in the survey.
Thin woman compared to a slightly athletic woman
A larger woman compared to a slightly more muscular woman.
The highest degree of development
The study does not explain which level of muscularity is preferred on women. If this was to be investigated further one could conduct a study of women of multiple body types. There are also limitations in terms of the survey size. The number of men and women should be equal, but large enough to make a more precise assessment. There were 78 women who looked at the photographs. It should also be considered the differences in men and women’s reasoning for ratings. Women may rate certain women higher,because they either see something they want to emulate. It may not be an indication of the attractiveness of a body ideal, rather a physical fitness inspiration. Men’s ratings may also be a little more complex. There may be a factor of amusement simply because women of a certain physicality they do not see in their daily lives. The high rating may be one of respect, rather than an admission of attractiveness. There may be admiration for someone who accomplished such athletic feats, but it may not be in line with their personal concept of aesthetics. To be through, surveys should have been conducted afterward to find out why participants picked the body type they did.
The beauty pageant contestants have gotten bigger compared to the past. It seems fitness has influenced body ideals. Bodybuilding culture has spread. It seems that beauty pageant contestants are adopting training methods of the fitness and figure class more so.
The main reason could be is that they were exposed to images of strong women prior to the study. The internet and social media platforms are responsible for this rise. This was only over a fifteen year time span, which was relatively short. This survey should be done once more with more men and women. If the results are the same then it is definite that there has been some form of paradigm shift in the attitudes regarding women’s bodies.
The study notes the rise of the concept of fitspiration. This neologism refers to a culture that embraces fitness and exercise, but also encourages others to follow by example. What makes this subculture unique is that it is mostly women participating in larger numbers, but it is getting exposure through mainstream sources such as social media. The concept of exercise and fitness being a hobby or a pastime is nothing new. The difference now is that women are becoming a major part of this movement. The reason women are a big part of this fitness movement is because there are now more female athletes that are visible. Title IX encouraged women for decades to be involved in sports . There also is a global movement in which women are becoming a presence at the Olympics. This was almost unimaginable 100 years ago.
There is a female fitness culture that has supporters and detractors. A schism has emerged in this movement about purpose and objectives. Supporters claim it helps build confidence in a society that attempts to make women feel bad about themselves. Detractors say that it is an obsession with appearance and should be focused on health. The more vociferous objections come from sexist who believe it is not gender appropriate for women to be engaging in fitness culture at all. These issues do need to be addressed. Fitspiration does not make the demand that every woman look fit. The dominant fitness magazines tend to market weigh loss rather than exercise to women. Obsessions with thinness come from mainstream media sources, not fitspiration. This fitness movement is small compared to the dominant mainstream culture. The problem is not women exercising or getting in shape it is sexual objectification that is projected in emphasis in appearance. The mainstream media presents only one image of beauty. Fitspiration is not attempting to present one image, but just to get women physically active. The sexist arguments normally follow the lines of that such physiques on women are unnatural. The reality is that humanity has the ability manipulate their own biology to a certain degree. They are not unnatural, because nature is changing. Human evolution is an example of how the body can change overtime.
Women who are of such physicality are not abnormal. It is just for so long there has been restrictions on what is appropriate for women. The difference now is that women are beginning to define what is beautiful on their own terms. There should be no confusion that women who embrace fitspiration are solely doing it for the purpose of appearance. Some are serious athletes improving their performance, others are women who are entering the fitness industry, or simply casual lifters. Some women have used this fitspiration movement to develop their business related to fitness. Women although large participants in fitness are largely excluded from the business aspect. Social media has allowed for women to promote themselves rather than going through the established corporate gatekeepers. If women’s sports do not get enough coverage on television social media and the internet can be as useful tool to challenge the disparity. It is not entirely clear whether this fitspiration subculture is a positive or negative development.
Social media has become an international phenomenon. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are used by billions of people. The internet and social media have contributed to the rise of the image of the muscular woman becoming more prevalent. Frances Bozsik even states :” These websites allow individuals to collect images of women with whom they identify or admire, essentially allowing them to cultivate their own media repertoire of highly salient thin and fit media.” A user can easily go to Pinterest or simply use Google to find images and other materials on muscular women. Prior to this, the only way to see one was to either go to a watch a sport or go to a gym. There was print media to a limited degree, but it is now more extensive with the internet’s global reach. Social media has power to influence people and ideas. Depending on how it is used, it can be a helpful tool in changing people’s attitudes. There seems to be a gradual acceptance of women with muscle and strength. Female athletes do receive huge amounts of traffic to their websites and social media.
Seeing as the mainstream entertainment platforms devote less time to women’s sports this helps athletes immensely. Women can manage their own image rather than being reliant of a public relations firm or corporate sponsor. Fans and supporters can interact with their favorite athlete and have access to enormous amounts of material. Video streaming sites like Youtube, Dailymotion, or Viemo give users access to women’s sports to a greater extent than television. Fans will no longer face frustration about not seeing a particular female athlete. The new entertainment medium of social media has become a positive development for women’s sports and the image of the physically strong woman in general.
There is also a negative dimension to the rise of this new medium. Cyber bullying and harassment have been too ubiquitous for many users of social media. There is also the issue of the rapid spread of false information. Relevant to the physically strong women they are subject to rude comments or ostracism from internet trolls. The anonymous nature of the internet emboldens sexists, racists, and the churlish to insult whoever without consequence. Many muscular women have reported that sometimes they do receive unwanted commentary to their faces, but not as often compared to an online setting. The comments are pretty much similar in thought from phrases like “she looks like a man” or “that’s too much for a woman” and voicing another insult of women being “disgusting.”
Everyone has the right to their own opinion,but that is not a license to insult or be exclusionary to people. The reasons for such reactions can vary. Some people may not be used to the idea of a muscular woman and do not know how to react. Some responses con from ignorance. The other type of commentary is out of jealousy. This mainly is from other women who do not like the idea some other women are getting attention. Instead of being introspective about such emotions they rather attack other people who they perceive as more successful. Men who are insecure may just attack women in general because they want to validate their masculinity. There is a strong feeling of threat that comes from women who are confident in themselves or are unique in some way. These same men would probably be threatened by women who are very educated or make more money than they do. A large portion of trolls are just hateful people who attack anyone who is different. The major problem is that many people still view women in terms of gender stereotypes and dated sex roles.
There has been an uneasy relation between women and exercise throughout the modern fitness culture. The attitude is that women should be physically active, but they should not develop themselves to the maximum. The notion that women can develop themselves to be “too much” seems ludicrous. One would not ask an artist to stop painting too many murals or an architect to stop constructing buildings. There are differences in what makes the most aesthetic physique, but there is room for all of them in the fitness culture. There is an obvious size bias. Female bodybuilders are sometimes ignored or repudiated by members of the fitness culture even when they were the harbingers to the women’s physical culture phenomenon of today. The women of the 1970s had a more difficult time with public stigma and misunderstanding. Women now have at least a slightly improved situation compared to the past. There has been progress, because for every negative comment there are more positive ones that can be seen on social media. There is also another dilemma with this. Sexual harassment directed at the women. Such commentary makes users feel uncomfortable and adds another challenge.
There is a difference between admiration and sexual objectification. A simple compliment would be welcomed. However, there should be a clear understanding why sexual advances or comments are not appropriate on social media . Thankfully, there are blocking features that can be used to counter harassment. Technology can be abused, but this can be avoided if it is utilized responsibly. Then there is the question of privacy. Some athletes may find that they have an online stalker. While there are complications that come with technological advancements, it has allowed the idea that women and strength are not two contradictory concepts.
This new image of female strength would not be as prevalent or influential without the contributions of social media and a vast global internet network. This has produced positive and negative effects.
It can be debated that simply the presence of various images produces body image dissatisfaction. It cannot be ignore that there is a strong pressure at least in the West for women to have a thinner body type. The fitness woman image has become a recent phenomenon. To say that women who see such images will automatically feel terrible does not have basis in fact. The real problem is what message the images are conveying to the consumers. Magazines directed at women focus excessively on weight loss or appearance. Bozik states ” This process of selecting preferred images and then narrowing the media focus by placing these images on their ‘boards’ may inadvertently increase the risk of developing higher levels of body dissatisfaction, as well as subsequent disordered-eating behaviors that are linked to it,” Looking at an image does not immediately lead to an eating disorder or psychological distress. Not all consumers will be susceptible to these issues. There are women who are more vulnerable : those with low self-esteem and easily pressured. The basis of mainstream consumption in a capitalist system is that it plays on consumers fears and insecurities. If society puts a huge amount of pressure to reach an ideal unattainable it will take some internal fortitude to resist. If there is a lack of confidence or low self-esteem then such psychological disorders can emerge. There has been a counter to this which has been the body positive movement. It seems odd that it favors women with curves, yet the physically fit women are not even part of the discussion.
Many times the same promoters of body positive movements will body shame women who are exceptionally fit. If one is against body shaming, then there should not be a reason to target fit and muscular women with negative criticism. There is also a problem with the body positive movement. It wants to replace on standard of beauty with another. Replacing paradigms is not the solution. The only way this will change is when women stop putting so much effort and energy into their appearance. While sexism is to blame for some of these attitudes, women are partially responsible. Fashion, make-up, and beauty products are commodities that women have control over. They profit from making other women feel awful about their appearance. Men are not solely to blame as many third wave feminists would want some to believe. Numerous times its other women who disparage other women’s appearance. The only solution is to teach young girls that they are more than their appearance. Society must learn to value women as people, rather than the misogynistic view of being sex objects. If such actions are not taken then no change will occur. That is why it is futile to stop using photoshop on magazine covers or promote plus size models. As long as the negative perceptions about women’s roles and worth are present there will always be a problem. A solution would not be to stop showing images of fit women.
The media does have the power to influence. However, it is too simplistic to say prevalence of the fit woman image is causing body dissatisfaction. Correlations between media consumption and extreme behavior are inconclusive. Video games are not the cause of extreme violence nor is television. They may be a factor, but that does not explain the phenomenon. Relevant to women in body image it is the message being conveyed is the issue. If one body type is presented as beautiful either directly or a subtle manner that is the root of the problem. If you favor one type over others this becomes an issue. Beauty can be both cultural and personal preference based.
Beauty and aesthetics vary from culture to culture. Some societies like bigger women others mostly in the West are focused on a slim body. The promotion of a particular aesthetic is a recent phenomenon. This rise of photography, advertisement, and visual media contributed to the promotion on single image of female beauty. TV and movies contributed to this and distorted the public’s thinking. What emerged was the notion that all women should look a certain way based on particular images from mass media. While women who do not follow the image are ostracized, men who find other paradigms of beauty are also subject to harsh criticism. There seems to be limited tolerance for men who have varieties of beauty concepts in regards to women. If the more voluptuous body type is being embraced, others should be embraced as well.
Some people enjoy curves or a more athletic type. There are a large portion that favor numerous paradigms of beauty. The reason this has become an issue is that it is related to sex roles and psychology. Body image is related to sex roles and psychology has become interested in the study of body image. The reason is related to methods of confronting mental disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. These conditions which are eating disorders or an obsession with weight disproportionately effect women. While men can have these mental disorders women are the majority in terms of diagnosis. Such disorders are products not only of a constant circulation of images.
The way people view the bodies of women are based on strict sex roles. These are normally restrictive and have sexist overtones. Women were once seen as the weaker sex. Their primary role in the traditional culture was to be mothers and caretakers of children. The medical view was in the past that the female body was naturally weak and its only purpose was for childbirth. The male body was the opposite a symbol of strength and power. When women gained more political and social power it spread to other areas. Women began to take control of their own bodies. This was not only done with reproductive rights and an emphasis on women’s health, but women participating sports. Now, after decades of Title IX women are enjoying the benefits of exercise and physical fitness in larger numbers. Women who became active also took their fitness a step further and developed their bodies to their physical maximum. Never before in human history have women reached this level of physical development. There were muscular women that existed in the past, but they did not have a competitive outlet. Nor did they have access to training facilities or an extensive knowledge of exercise physiology. Women who show great physical power and prowess are challenging strict gender roles. However, women themselves still struggle with the idea of muscle and strength. Even supporters are skeptical about the aesthetics. Women can be strong, but not too strong. There is a belief that too much muscle would compromise a woman’s femininity. Women are at this stage not afraid to show whatever muscularity level.
The most significant paradigm shift is that women who get involved in fitness culture are not there for appearance purposes. They become serious athletes. Crossfit and women’s increased participation in the Olympics has made an impact. Sports and fitness will no longer be the sole domain of men. Social media is becoming a more powerful tool to organize and market something to a global audience. There is a possibility that this is a mere trend which will fade away. Social media has a predilection for various sudden trends becoming more expansive with multiple hastags. This change in preference in terms of body type was occurring before social media’s appearance. When it was introduced to the public, this explains the surge in interest. User were sharing images and materials with other users. The study’s conclusion can be debatable. It is too early to saw that a strong female physique will become the new mainstream beauty paradigm. The image would have to expand into film, television, or other popular media. What is definite about the study is that people could have multiple preferences in terms of body ideals, even though society continues to promote one. The radical occurrence from this change comes from the women themselves. They are deciding what is beauty for themselves, rather than have it dictated by the wider society or mass media. Where ever this shift in beauty concepts goes, it is uncertain. What can be observed is that women’s mindset about fitness and exercise has changed.