Panel discusses role of media in body image

February 25th, 2016


Guess who said: “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford?”


Surprisingly, Cindy Crawford said it.


In this quote, supermodel Crawford is stating how much the media photoshops and enhances photos to make women look as sexy and appealing as possible. For many years, the media has focused on women’s appearances. The media decides what is beautiful and broadcasts that message through all channels of communication until every girl who does not look like a model has lost all confidence and self-esteem.


In her 2010 documentary, “Killing Us Softly 4” which was shown to John Carroll students and faculty on Monday, Feb. 22, Jean Kilbourne discusses the media’s role in women’s body image. “Killing us Softly 4” began by showing various advertisements that included women.


In all of the ads, women’s bodies had been enhanced, sexualized and objectified. Kilbourne saw a trend in these advertisements, which led her to understand how women are portrayed in the media.


Kilbourne produced her first documentary in 1979 and claims the media’s representation of women has gotten worse over 40 years.


The average American is exposed to nearly 3,000 ads per day, which clearly impact his or her values, opinions and ideas, according to the film. Although most people claim that ads do not affect them, ads do influence them subconsciously. Advertisements claim the only meaningful characteristic of a women is her appearance, then go on to tell women what they should look like.


The media’s depiction of women in advertising has caused an epidemic of eating disorders, according to the film. Anorexia, a common eating disorder, has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness. Therefore, Kilbourne stated that the obsession with thinness is a public health problem. She insists that men and women from around the globe must engage in civic activism and open discussions to eliminate eating disorders caused by the media’s portrayal of women.


The movie and panel were brought to John Carroll by The Emily Program, which was  founded in 1993. It’s goal is to care for adults recovering from eating disorders. It offers support groups, intensive programs, an outpatient center in Beachwood, Ohio and a residential care facility in Cleveland Heights.


The staff of The Emily Foundation are trained to deal with people recovering from anorexia, bulimia, food and body image issues, compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder and other specified feeding or eating disorders. The residential care facility located in Cleveland Heights also offers nutritional rehabilitation, medical and psychiatric services, access to chemical dependency and trauma programming.


After the documentary, there was a panel available to answer questions about the media’s role in women’s body images and eating disorders.


Dean Malec, a counselor at The Emily Program, explained that therapy sessions differ depending on how severe the eating disorder is. If it is very serious, Malec will have a practical conversation with the patient to ensure that he or she is eating enough.


Another speaker on the panel, JCU junior Mara Esber, is optimistic for the future of women in mass media. Esber stated, “I am hopeful that through talking and through more people becoming aware of that together, we can focus more on the individual self…Advocacy for these issues is becoming more widespread-that gives me hope.”