Why does it seem like so many more females are worried about their body image than males? There are certainly pressures on males to look a certain way, but from the moment a newborn is identified as a female, there are infinite expectations on her to be “beautiful” like women are supposed to be. Boys are told to be independent and tough. Have you ever noticed that words like “beautiful”, “pretty” and “gorgeous” are normally only used when describing the female sex? Every girl dreams of hearing her prince charming telling her she’s beautiful.
Sociological studies on heterosexual relationships have in fact proved that men tend to emphasize the importance of physical attractiveness in their partner more than women do. Women are more inclined to focus more on intelligence, personality and emotional expressiveness (http://faculty.babson.edu/krollag/org_site/soc_psych/berscheid_attract.html).
The family and the media are two of the biggest agents of socialization in a young child’s life. If the family is not already subconsciously transmitting gender norms and roles to their children, the media will do so without fail. The following article, along with discussing the differing socialization processes for males and females, analyzes the disproportion of female and male characters in the 101 top rated-G movies (the ones children will be viewing) between the years 1990 and 2005. Only seven of these movies were nearly gender-balanced, meaning that most of the movies’ main characters were males (Gender Socialization in the Media from Childhood to Adulthood).
Many girl/women characters in children’s movies exhibit stereotypical female traits, such as being thin, pretty and seeking a relationship with a man. What does this convey to our children? Are girls raised to believe that they are less important or in a position of less power than males? It is things like this, along with body image messages, that can push so many women to extremes to feel beautiful and thin. How would our world be different if our society did not reinforce these gender stereotypes? No one will ever know this for sure, but attaching stereotypes to any group of people always leads to some sort of negative outcome. In this case, the subordination of women and the pressures on them to be beautiful can have destructive consequences in many individual lives.