CULTURAL STANDARDS OF ATTRACTIVENESS: A 30-YEAR LOOK AT
CHANGES IN MALE IMAGES IN THE MASS MEDIA
CHERYL LYNN LAW
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Cheryl L. Law
This research is dedicated to Falco von Baron, July 8, 1986 March 13, 1998,
whose memory will always be in my heart.
This research would not have taken place without the support I received from my
chair, Dr. Kim Walsh-Childers. Her confidence in the importance of conducting research
in this unexamined area of mass communications was invaluable. Her encouragement
and enthusiasm kept me motivated to get through several stumbling blocks. The unique
advertising qualifications of Dr. Deborah Triese as well as her sense of humor were
especially helpful. And I am appreciative of Dr. Linda Hon for continually challenging
me to explain the "so-what," which strengthened my thesis. I am indebted to Lyn P.
Settlemyre, who donated countless hours of his time as my independent coder. Finally, I
thank James W. Law, who reminded me of the importance of my subject and encouraged
me to continue with it when I was faced with the many challenges along the way.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. IV
A B S T R A C T ................................................... ................... ................ . V II
1 IN T R O D U C T IO N .................................................... ................................. 1
2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE........................ .... ......................... 10
D efin itio n o f T erm s ......................................................................................... 10
Social Comparison Theory-An Overview .............................................. 13
Women, Mass Media and Eating Disorders............... ................. 18
M edia Portrayals ......................... ... ... ....... .. ...... .. .......... .... 18
The Advertising/Entertainment Industries' Viewpoints.......................... 25
Media as Possible Causes/Contributors to Self-esteem, Body Image
Distortion and Eating Disorders........................... .... ................ 30
Men, Mass Media and Eating Disorders ............................... ............. 37
M edia Portrayals .............. ...... ......... ... ........ .. .. ........ ..... 37
The Advertising/Entertainment Industries' Viewpoints.......................... 42
Media as Possible Causes/Contributors to Self-esteem, Body Image
Distortion and Eating Disorders........................... .... ............... 45
Summary........................................... .......... 50
R research Q questions ................................................ ............................. 51
3 M E TH O D S............................. .............. ...... 52
O v erv iew ......................... ................................................ ................... .......... 5 2
Coding and D ata A analysis ................................................................ 54
4 FINDINGS ........... ........................... ............... 61
General Inform ation ............... ................................. .. ............ .............. 61
H ypotheses................................................... .......................... ....... 62
M uscular Ideal ................................... . .................................. 62
"V -shaped"............................................. 63
M asculine Im ages ............................................................... .. .......... 66
Post Hoc Analysis .............. ................. ....... ............... ............ 66
5 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS ............................................................ 69
D iscu ssio n .......................................................... ................ . 6 9
Research Contributions for Mass Communications .................................... 70
Research Limitations and Opportunities for Future Research ..................... 71
C o n clu sio n ................................................ ................ . 7 4
A M A G A Z IN E ISSU E S ....................... .......................... ..................................... 76
B MALE SCALE ........................ ........... .......... ...... ........ 77
C COD ING RU LES ........ ......... .. ................. ...... ......................... 78
D C O D IN G SH EETS.................... ....................................... .......................... 81
R E F E R E N C E S ............................................................. .................... .......... ...... 82
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................... .......................................... .......................... 89
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communication
CULTURAL STANDARDS OF ATTRACTIVENESS: A 30-YEAR LOOK AT
CHANGES IN MALE IMAGES IN THE MASS MEDIA
Cheryl Lynn Law
Chairperson: Kim Walsh-Childers
Major Department: Mass Communication
The literature indicates that American society embraces thinness as a cultural
standard of attractiveness for women; however, a cultural standard of attractiveness for
men is not well documented. Some researchers indicate that men now also are entering
the world of objectified bodies where unattainable ideals are the norm and that these mass
media images contribute to psychological distress and related disorders. Past research
points to men not being affected by the images in the mass media because these are
almost identical to the way men see their own bodies. If, as some researchers believe, the
images in the mass media are becoming more difficult for the average male to match,
then men may become more affected by these images, as many have suspected women
have been for decades. However, this researcher could find few studies that examined
how men are portrayed in the media. Those that did were at least a decade old and,
almost without exception, argued that appearance is not a salient issue for men; therefore,
their body image and self-esteem do not depend upon it. However, more recent studies
show that men are catching up with women when it comes to being dissatisfied with their
bodies, and again researchers point to the mass media as a potential source for this
This study examined how men are being portrayed in popular men's magazines--
GQ, Rolling Stone, and Sports Illustrated--from 1967 to 1997. The researcher tallied the
number of pages in each magazine, how many of those pages contained masculine images
and determined whether these images could be analyzed using a male scale created by the
researcher. The male scale contained images representing eight different categories based
on body fat level and muscular definition. Codable images were then analyzed and
placed into one of the eight possible male scale categories.
The researcher concluded that, over the 30-year time period studied, male images
have become thinner and more muscularly defined. The data showed that the number of
V-Shaped images (those with a broad chest tapering to a narrowing waist) increased
through the 1970s and 1980s and then slightly decreased in the 1990s.
American society embraces thinness as a cultural standard of attractiveness for
women, 1 and now boys and young men also are entering the world of objectified bodies
where "impossibly ideal shapes are displayed as imperatives."2 A leading expert in male
eating disorders, Dr. Arnold Andersen, conducted a 1985 study on the body images of
men and women. In his study, men responded that the ideal male body and their own
bodies were virtually identical, allowing men to feel comfortable with their weights.
Women, however, responded that their current figures were heavier than their ideal
figures, and Andersen attributed this to the cultural ideal of thinness women
experienced.3 However, a 1995 study indicated that males overestimate the muscular
definition of the ideal male body and inflate the chest size they believe women find most
1 Silverstein, Brett; Perdue, Lauren; Peterson, Barbara and Kelly, Eileen, "The Role of
the Mass Media in Promoting a Thin Standard of Bodily Attractiveness for Women,"
Sex Roles 14 (1986) 519.
2 Stacey, Michelle, "The Thin Man," Elle, Aug 1997, 178.
3 Andersen, Arnold E., Males with Eating Disorder, (Brunner/Mazel Inc, New York, NY,
attractive.4 Another study showed that men are catching up with women when it comes
to being dissatisfied with their bodies, with 55 percent of women dissatisfied with their
appearance versus 45 percent of men.5 Andersen now says, "We are seeing increases in
body-image distortion and distress in males."6 His observation comes while other
researchers are pointing to an "explosion of men's shape and fitness magazines in the past
decade"7 and at a time when men increasingly are opting for cosmetic surgery such as
liposuction for "love handles."8 A recent article in Men's Health reported a 35 percent
increase in the past four years in the number of men having plastic surgery.9 Men also
are increasingly using steroids to enhance their athletic performance and their
appearance. 10 In a survey of high school football players in Oregon, researchers found
that steroid use climbed from 1 percent in 1987 to 7 percent in 1991.11 But overall, very
4 Netemeyer and Adele as cited in Nentl, Nancy J. and Faber, Ronald J., "Where the Boys
Are: "Ad-Inspired Social Comparisons Among Male and Female Teens," unpublished
5 Neimark, Jill, "The Beefcaking of America," Psychology Today, Nov-Dec 1994, 32.
9 Kelly, Sara, "Wipe That Look Off Your Pace; Plastic Surgery," Men's Health, Sep
10 Neimark, 32.
11 Rojas-Burke, Joe, "Study Shows Steroid Program a Success," Eugene Register-Guard,
24 Nov, 1997.
little research has quantified these observations. This study was designed to analyze
media content to determine if an unrealistic cultural ideal of attractiveness has emerged
for men and to discover if men are being increasingly bombarded with that image.
Some researchers believe that mass media images of unrealistic cultural ideals of
attractiveness contribute to psychological distress and related disorders. 12 One
researcher found that women exposed to pictures of thin models reported lower self-
evaluations than when shown pictures of average or overweight models. 13 Another
researcher found that teenage girls compare themselves to models in advertisements more
than teenage boys and that they fantasize about looking like the models to whom they
compare themselves. However, she believes that as the media continue to feature
idealized male bodies, personal appearance may become more important for males and
cause them to make more "ad-inspired" comparisons. Further, she wonders whether
making these comparisons and fantasizing about looking like the models produces a
"longing so acute that it creates grave body image distortions and unhealthy eating or
compulsive exercising in an attempt to emulate the ideal."14
12 Zimmerman, Jill S., "An Image to Heal," The Humanist, Jan-Feb 1997, 20.
13 Irving, Lori, "Mirror Images: Effects of the Standard of Beauty on the Self- and Body-
Esteem of Women Exhibiting Varying Levels of Bulimic Symptom," Journal of Social
and Clinical Psychology, 9 (1990) 230.
14 Nentl and Faber.
Although estimates vary, health officials believe approximately seven million
females and one million males in the United States suffer from eating disorders.15
Ninety percent of adult patients are women; however, the number of male patients with
eating disorders is increasing and, in children, boys now account for 25 percent of the
cases.16 Andersen states that males with eating disorders have been "relatively ignored,
neglected, and dismissed because of statistical infrequency" or thought not to exist
because of theoretical beliefs. 17 While anorexia has been reported in Western society
since the 1600s and bulimia dates back 2000 years to the ancient Romans, only in this
century has society seen it spread in epidemic proportions. 18 While researchers tend to
agree that there is no single cause for eating disorders, these disorders predominantly
occur in developed Western societies. 19 While the mass media may not directly cause
eating disorders, they may be a contributor, and the explosive growth of the mass media
in the past few decades could explain why there have been more cases reported now than
15 The National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Assorted Disorders as cited in
Darnton, John, "'Skeletal' Models Create Furor Over British Vogue," The New York
Times, 3 June 1996.
16 "New York Online Access to Health, Eating Disoders:Anorexia and Bulimia
Nervosa", Dec 1997 (http://www.noah.cuny.edu/wellconn/eatdisorders.html,).
17 Andersen, Arnold, "Eating Disorders in Males," as reprinted in Eating Disorders and
Obesity: A Comprehensive Handbook, Brownell, Kelly D. and Bairburn, Christopher G.,
ed., (Guilford Publications Inc, NY, NY 1995) 177.
18 Field, Howard and Domangue, Barbara, Eating Disorders Throughout the Life Span,
(Praeger Publishers, New York, 1987) 31-32.
19 Lask, Bryan and Bryant-Waugh, Rachel, Childhood Onset Anorexia Nervosa and
Related Eating Disorders, (Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Ltd., 1993) 80.
ever before. Variables such as self-esteem, home life, obesity, family relationships and
structure, and feelings of control also could be contributors to eating disorders.20
In addition to eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorders are similar diseases
that involve body dissatisfaction and image. Researchers now call the trend in which
young men and some women are preoccupied with their degree of muscularity,
dissatisfied with their bodies, and are using anabolic steroids to change the look of their
bodies "reverse anorexia" or "muscle dysmorphia." It is unclear whether this type of
disorder is more common today or if it has simply become more recognized.21 Because
many people suffer from low self-esteem, eating disorders, and body dysmorphic
disorders, it is important to continue research that may explain how the mass media
directly or indirectly contribute to them.
Regardless of the fact that men and women may have different goals in reaching
the cultural ideal of attractiveness, both seem vulnerable to lowered self-esteem and body
image problems that may contribute to eating and body dysmorphic disorders as well as
high risk behaviors. Contradicting past research, a recent study that examined the body
shape satisfaction and self-esteem of a group of men and women found that the general
level of unhappiness with one's body was similar for both sexes. Also, body image and
20 Miller, Debra, "Correlates of Bulimia Nervosa: Early family Mealtime Experiences,"
Adolescence, Fall 1993, 621-635.
21 Pope, Jr., Harrison G.; Gruber, Amanda J.; Choi, Precilla; Olivardia, Roberto and
Phillips, Katherine, "Muscle Dysmorhpia, An Underecognized Form of Body
Dysmorphia Disorder," Psychosomatics, 38, Nov-Dec 1997, 548.
self-esteem were significantly correlated for both men and women.22 Andersen argues
that the ratio of diet articles found in popular women's magazines compared to those
found in men's magazines correlates almost exactly with the documented ratio of females
to males having eating disorders, both in the general population and at treatment centers.
In one study, Andersen found that magazines most frequently read by females contained
10 times as many diet articles and advertisements as in magazines read by men, and he
states that this "10-fold difference in diet-promoting content is almost identical to the
difference in the numbers of females vs. males with eating disorders."23 Many
researchers have conducted studies that showcase thinness as a criterion of attractiveness
for women in the mass media and have concluded that this standard is thinner now than
ever before.24 One researcher hypothesizes that the increased cultural attention given to
the male body and the increasing demands on men to achieve the ideal will result in more
men experiencing body dissatisfaction, preoccupation with weight, and concern with their
attractiveness and body shape now than even two decades ago. 25 And while eating
disorders in women are widely recognized, diagnosed and treated, doctors are less likely
to think of diagnosing eating disorders in men; therefore men are less likely than women
22 Abell, Steven and Richard, Maryse H., "The Relationship Between Body Shape
Satisfaction and Self-esteem: An Investigation of Gender and Class Differences," Journal
of Youth and Adolescence, 25 (1996) 699-700.
23 Andersen, Arnold and DiDomenico, Lisa, "Diet Vs. Shape Content of Popular Male
and Female Magazines: A Dose Response Relationship to the Incidence of Eating
Disorders?," The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11 (1992) 285-6.
24 Silverstein, Perdue, Peterson and Kelly, 520.
to receive treatment.26 And "men succumb to eating disorders for some of the same
reasons as women--low self-esteem and poor body image."27 Because little research has
been conducted regarding eating disorders and body dissatisfaction with men as the focus,
a cultural standard of attractiveness for men is not well documented. This research will
help fill a void in the literature on the subject.
Until recently, the importance of physical attractiveness has been forced on
women primarily; but now with cultural changes in our society, men also are being told
what they should look like and how they can develop that look. Men usually are not
idealized in society for being thin as much as for having a particular shape, although
males who work in professions in which weight loss is a requirement appear to develop
eating disorders as frequently as a similar group of women.28 One study showed that one
of the most common reasons for dieting among men with eating disorders was to "to
develop the appearance of a model in a magazine."29 More men are dieting, exercising
and becoming compulsive about these activities-feeling guilty, depressed or anxious if
they skip a workout. Recent research suggests that "between the ages of thirteen and
25 Mishkind, Marc E.; Rodin, Judith; Silberstein, Lisa R. and Striegel-Moore, Ruth H.,
"The Embodiment of Maculinity," American Behavioral Scientist, May-June 1986, 552.
26 Andersen, (1995) 178-9.
27 Feducia, Stacy, "Men with Eating Disorders, women Aren't the Only Ones with A-
Anorexia and Bulimia," The Des Moines Register, 17 Nov 97.
28 Diagnostic Issues in Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, Garner, David and
Garfinkel, Paul, ed., (New York: Brunner/Mazel Inc., 1988) 198.
29 Garner and Garfinkel, Diagnostic Issues in Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa,
thirty, one in approximately four hundred men have an eating disorder."30 One survey
found that 41 percent of high school boys are now dieting, compared to 4 to 24 percent in
Far more women than men suffer from eating disorders and body dissatisfaction;
however, men only recently have been subjected to a culture that emphasizes male
beauty. As a result, most of the research regarding these problems have women, not men,
as their focus.32 By quantifying a trend in the cultural ideal of attractiveness for men,
this research may allow others to discover how and how much the media contribute to
any increase in body dissatisfaction. While advertisers, models, modeling agencies, and
others in the entertainment industry do not disagree that there is a current standard of
thinness for women portrayed in the mass media, there is disagreement between these
groups about whether this standard is responsible directly or indirectly, if at all, for the
current epidemic of eating disorders among young women today. And while there is
extensive literature on women and eating disorders and whether the mass media
contribute to them, the questions of "how" and "how much" they contribute have not
been answered. Such research regarding the "infancy" of the male body-image
30 Sherman, Roberta and Thompson, Ron A., Bulimia, A Guide for Family and Friends,
(Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1990) 31.
31 Emmons, Lillian, "Dieting and purging behavior in black and white high school
students," Journal of the American Dietetic Association," (Mar 1992) 309-311.
phenomenon may also "expose some clues to the causes of women's distressed
relationship with food."33
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Definition of Terms
Two of the most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
Anorexia nervosa is a "potentially life-threatening disorder characterized by the refusal
to eat enough to maintain body weight over a minimal norm for age and height, as well as
an intense fear of gaining weight, body image disturbances, and eventual amenorrhea
(temporary cessation of menstruation)."34 Men with anorexia often become impotent.35
This disorder occurs predominantly in females (95%) who may have certain predisposing
factors such as a stressful life situation or being a perfectionist/model child. Additionally,
about a third of those affected are mildly overweight before the onset of the illness. The
disorder is more common among sisters and mothers of women with the disorder than
those in the general population, and some studies have shown higher-than-expected
34 Harrison, Kristen, and Cantor, Joanne, "The Relationship Between Media
Consumption and Eating Disorders," Journal of Communication, 47 (1997) 40-41.
35 NIH Publication No. 93-3477, "Eating Disoders," U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health, January 1993.
frequencies of depression and bipolar disorder among relatives of people with anorexia.
Bulimia nervosa is defined as "a pattern of binging (eating large quantities of
food in discrete intervals of time) followed by attempts to compensate for the excessive
caloric intake by vomiting, using laxatives, severe restrictive dieting or fasting, or over
exercising."37 Again, more females than males have been diagnosed with this disease,
and adolescent obesity may be a predisposing factor. Frequently the parents of people
with this disorder are obese, and some studies suggest a higher-than-expected frequency
of depression in relatives of bulimics.38 The typical bulimic is female, white, young (in
her twenties), has a family with alcoholism and/or weight problems, and began exhibiting
symptoms in her late teens.39
Although these two diseases are different, they do have at least one thing in
common--people suffering from eating disorders are all most likely to evaluate
36 American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, Third Ed., Revised, (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association,
37 Harrison and Cantor, 40-41.
38 American Psychiatric Association, 68.
39 Schlesier-Stropp, Barbara "Bulimia: A Review of the Literature," Psychological
Bulletin, 91 (1984) 249.
themselves on only a single dimension: body shape equals self-esteem.40 Similarly,
both diseases can have fatal consequences.
Researchers are just beginning to refer to body dysmorphic disorders that involve
a "distressing or impairing preoccupation with a nonexistent or slight defect in body
appearance."41 "Muscle dysmorphia,"42 also known as "reverse anorexia," is a type
of body dysmorphic disorder and is a growing phenomena used to describe young men's
use of anabolic steroids to change the look of their bodies,43 while another researcher
defines it as "the fear and belief of being small, when actually large and muscular."44
Muscle dysmorphia can occur in both genders but is more common in males. Those
suffering from the disorder engage in behaviors such as "lifting weights, eating large
amounts of food and special diets, mirror checking, constant comparison with others,
reassurance-seeking behavior, camouflaging with clothing, and wearing extra layers of
40 "Shifting Symptom, Portrait of a Binge Eater," Psychology Today, Mar-April 1992,
41 Phillips, McElroy, Keck, and et al, as cited in Pope, Jr., Harrison G.; Gruber, Amanda
J.; Choi, Precilla; Olivardia, Roberto and Phillips, Katharine, "Muscle Dysmorhpia, An
Underecognized Form of Body Dysmorphi Disorder," Psychosomatics, 38, Nov -Dec
42 Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, and Phillips, 548.
43 Stacey, Michelle, "The Thin Man," Elle, Aug 1997, 178.
44 Pope, Jr, Harrison; Katz, David L. and Hudsonn, James I., "Anorexia Nervosa and
'Reverse Anorexia' Among 108 Male Bodybuilders." Comprehensive Psychiatry, 34
clothing to enhance their apparent size."45 Also, they tend to experience impaired
relationships because of embarrassment about their bodies.
Body image is defined as the view or concept of one's own body, including what
one sees when one looks from the outside or "...our reflection in the mirror perhaps or
our impression on the bathroom scales."46 One's body image is formed in part by how
we compare ourselves to others; an important part of the self-definition process is
comparing oneself to others in a social environment.47
Social Comparison Theory-An Overview
In 1954, Dr. Leon Festinger based his Social Comparison Theory on two
assumptions. First, humans have a drive to evaluate accurately their opinions and
abilities, and second, social comparisons occur when there is no objective physical way to
evaluate oneself. He also believed that in the absence of physical or social comparisons,
self-evaluations are unstable, and that comparisons tend to be made with people who are
similar to oneself in ability or opinion.48 Once the comparison is made, assuming that
the person wants to be similar and ranks the other as superior, the existence of a
discrepancy between oneself and the comparison will lead to an action on the part of the
45 Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, and Phillips, 550.
46 Arkoff, Abe, Psychology of Personal Growth, Third Ed., (Newton, MA: Allyn and
Bacon, Inc, 1988) 40.
47 Osborne, Randall E., Self: An Eclectic Approach, (Simon & Schuster, Needham
Heights, MA, 1996) 64.
48 Festinger, Leon, "A Theory of Social Comparison Processes, Human Relations, 7
person doing the comparing in order to reduce the discrepancy.49 For example, a runner
may compare his time to run a certain distance to another runner's time to evaluate how
fast he can run, then train harder to improve his performance. A person who compares
himself to a "model painstakingly prepared to appear attractive" is likely to evaluate his
own attractiveness negatively50 and to decide to diet or make a purchase to improve his
Social comparison that occurs when an average person compares himself to a
carefully crafted picture of a model can be called "upward comparison." Upward
comparison occurs when a person compares himself to others who are superior to or
better off than himself.51 While these comparisons may tend to be unfavorable to one's
self-concept, they can lead to self enhancement or self improvement. 52 In Western
culture, there is a value in what is better--for example, a higher score on a test is more
desirable than a lower score. There is continuous pressure to do and be better and better in
society. This pressure dissipates on people who are better than average, but not everyone
can be better off than everyone else, so for most, the pressure never stops.53 The
49 Festinger, 124.
50 Irving, Lori, "Mirror Images: Effects of the Standard of Beauty on the Self- and Body-
Esteem of Women Exhibiting Varying Levels of Bulimic Symptom," Journal of Social
and Clinical Psychology, 9 (1990) 231.
51 Wood and Taylor as cited in Suls, Jerry and Wills, Thomas Ashby, Social
Comparison: Contemporary Theory and Research, (Lawrence Erlbaum Associate, Inc.
Hillsdale, NJ, 1991) 23.
52 Wills as cited in Suls and Wills, 70.
53 Festinger, 125.
pressure toward uniformity also can be seen as one toward a cultural ideal, such as the
influence on women in Western society to be thin. Thinness as a cultural ideal of
attractiveness is often apparent in the mass media and is obvious in phrases such as, "You
can never be too rich or too thin." In one study, women were asked to rate what they
thought was the cultural ideal and how close their bodies came to reaching it. The
cultural ideal was found to be very thin, and the farther away from the ideal the women
rated themselves, the more their body satisfaction declined.54 A similar study using men
as subjects found that the male ideal body is mesomorphic or very muscular, as opposed
to ectomorphic (very thin) or endomorphic (very fat), and that those who rated themselves
as closest to the ideal were happier with their bodies.55
According to Festinger, a person can avoid comparing himself to ideas or opinions
that are different than his own by rejecting the people in the group who hold those
differing opinions. This is possible only when a group has a range of opinions. For
example, in one experiment one person out of a group of three was given a high
intelligence score. The other two lower-scoring people in the group stopped competing
with the person with the high score and only competed with each other. Because there
was a range of scores, they were able to reject the person with the score higher than their
54 Davis, Leslie L., "Perceived Somatotype, Body Cathexis, and Attitudes Toward
Clothing Among College Females," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 61 (1985) 1202.
55 Tucker, Larry, "Relationship between Perceived Somatotype and Body Cathexis of
College Males," Psychological Reports, 50 (1982) 983.
own.56 However, if thinness for women and a muscular, V-shaped body for men are the
cultural ideals and if the mass media portray only a narrow range in this cultural ideal, it
may not be possible to reject these images and not compare oneself to them. When the
person doing the comparing finds he falls short of the cultural ideal, he will feel pressure
to reduce the discrepancy between himself and that ideal. Finally, an increase in the
importance of an ability or opinion or an increase in its relevance to immediate behavior
will increase the pressure toward reducing discrepancies concerning opinions or ability.
The more attractive the group or ideal is to a person, the more pressure that person will
experience concerning uniformity to the group ideal.57
Festinger mainly discussed social comparisons in relation to opinions and abilities
of similar others. However, other theorists, such as Dr. Lori Irving, have expanded his
1954 theory. She used social comparison theory to explain that physical attractiveness is
one way people compare themselves to others, and she argued that these comparisons also
can be made against images in the mass media. In one study she found that women gave
their bodies lower evaluations after being exposed to pictures of thin models.58 She
called this example of reporting lower self-evaluations after an upward comparison
"contrast effects." Contrast effects occur when the judgment about one person or object
is altered by the judgment about another person or object. One example is overestimating
the weight of a heavy object after an initial experience with a lighter object. Or, as
56 Festinger, 129.
57 Festinger, 130-131.
58 Irving, 230.
another researcher confirmed, contrast effects occur when subjects were asked to evaluate
their own attractiveness after viewing pictures of attractive or unattractive models. When
viewing unattractive same-sex models, the subjects evaluated their own attractiveness as
greater than if they viewed attractive same-sex models.59
Other researchers have found more evidence for contrast effects. When subjects
compared themselves to attractive peers, they rated themselves as less attractive.
Interestingly, when the same people compared themselves to professional models, a
contrast effect did not occur. The researcher pointed out that, although this study did not
support contrast effects in this case, one "cannot rule out potential effects of long-term
media exposure to cultural standards of beauty."60
Women, and now maybe men, have been exposed to an increasing emphasis on
the value of physical attractiveness through the mass media. Media images have
exploded in huge proportions in the 1990s compared to the 1950s when Festinger first
posited his theory. While no one succumbs to the cultural ideal from seeing one media
image, seeing repeated media images, combined with other risk factors, may explain why
some women and men develop eating disorders and/or abuse steroids and develop
distorted body images. There is some evidence that people with high self-esteem engage
59 Brown, Jonathan D.; Novick, Natalie J.; Lord, Kelley A. and Richards, Jane M.,
"When Gulliver Travels: Social Context, Psychological Closeness, and Self-Appraisals,"
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62 (1992) 717.
60 Garner, Garfinkel, Scwartz, and Thompson, 1980, Kenrick and Gutierres, 1980, as
quoted in Cash, Thomas F.; Cash, Diane Walker and Butters, Jonathan W., "Mirror,
Mirror on the Wall,,,? Contrast Effects and Self-Evaluations of Physical Attractiveness,"
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 9 (1983) 354-55.
more in self-enhancing comparisons than do those with lower self-esteem.61 And when
these high self-esteem people do engage in upward comparison, they usually do so for an
incentive to change and improve, with a positive effect on their self-esteem. So while
self-esteem can be lowered by social comparisons, those who make more upward social
comparisons often have lower self-esteem to begin with. Lack of self-esteem and self-
worth are two of the major contributors to eating disorders. Other major contributors to
eating disorders include an excessive concern with dieting and weight62 and an excessive
concern with attaining lean body mass, the latter of which is also a major contributor to
steroid abuse.63 Both behaviors could be seen as a way to bridge the gap of discrepancy
between one's body and the cultural ideal.
Women, Mass Media and Eating Disorders
Until recently, most research concerning cultural ideals of attractiveness in the
media and their effects has focused on how the ideal affects women. This researcher
could find few studies that examined how men are portrayed in the media. Those that did
were at least a decade old and, almost without exception, expressed the view that
appearance is not a salient issue for men; therefore their body image and self-esteem do
61 Wheeler, Ladd and Miyake, Kunitate, "Social Comparison in Everyday Life," Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 62 (1992)760.
62 Garner, David; Olmstead, Marion and Polivy, Janet, "Development and Validation of
a Multidimensional Eating Disorder Inventory for Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia,"
International Journal of Eating Disorders, Winter 1983, 18.
63 Blouin, Arthur G. and Goldfield, Gary S., "Body Image and Steroid Use in Male
Bodybuilders," International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18, (1995) 159.
not depend upon it. Now, however, some researchers are starting to see increased distress
in men where their bodies are concerned, at a time when many speculate that men are
being more objectified in the media.64 Although the ideal body is different for men and
women, general unhappiness with one's body is similar. 65 Since there is such a gap in
the research concerning men, reviewing the literature available on women may help
explain the body image distortion and distress some medical experts believe are
increasing in men. 66
In the literature on women and the media, researchers have noted, primarily
through content analyses, that in the media there is a combined emphasis on food and
appearance for girls and women, which may support the idea that the media influence
eating disorders.67 Not only were advertisements for females focused more on
enhancing appearances than those directed at males, but the standard of attractiveness
portrayed in the media, as of 1986, was slimmer for women than for men. Additionally,
the recent standard for women portrayed in magazines and movies is slimmer now than in
65 Abell, Steven and Richard, Maryse H., "The Relationship Between Body Shape
Satisfaction and Self-esteem: An Investigation of Gender and Class Differences," Journal
of Youth and Adolescence, 25 (1996) 700.
67 Olgetree, Shirley M; Williamson, Sue W.; Raffeld, Paul; Mason, Bradley and Fricke,
Kris, "Female Attractiveness and Eating Disorders: Do Children's Television
Commercials Play a Role?," Sex Roles, 22 (1990) 791.
the past.68 Women were portrayed as slimmer than men in television shows as well.
When male and female television characters were rated for weight and age in 1986, the
results showed that 69 percent of the women were rated as thin, but only 17 percent of the
males were rated as thin. Only 5 percent of the women were rated as heavy, but 25
percent of the male characters were rated as heavy.69
In U.S. history, the highest reported prevalence of eating disorders occurred in the
1920s and again in the 1980s, the two periods in which the "ideal woman" was
thinnest.70 One content analysis of photographs from Ladies Home Journal and Vogue
from 1901 to 1981 shows that these were the two time periods when women were
portrayed as thinner than at any other time. Bust-to-waist ratios dropped at the beginning
of the century, with the lowest point in 1925, then increased until 1949, after which it
steadily decreased again until reaching the 1920s level again in the late 1960s and
But while media characters are thinner, Americans are getting fatter. In 1983, 58
percent of adults weighed more than is recommended, and by 1992, that number had
increased to 63 percent.72 While average American women are getting heavier, their
68Silverstein, Perdue, Peterson and Kelly, 519.
69Silverstein, Perdue, Peterson and Kelly, 523.
70 M. Boskin-White and W. C. White as cited in Harrison and Cantor, 41.
71Silverstein, Perdue, Peterson and Kelly, 528.
72 Walker, Chip, "Fat and Happy?", American Demographics, Jan 1993, 53.
prevailing role models are getting lighter.73 In another study, college women's and
models' weights were compared, showing only a difference of approximately 4 pounds--
the models' average weight equaled 122.8 pounds compared to college women's average
weight of 126.2 pounds. However, the models' average height was 69.5 inches, nearly 5
inches taller than the average college woman, whose average height was 64.9 inches.
This is striking because the models' height advantage should have generated weights
approximately 15-25 pounds higher than those of the college women studied. In addition,
the college women in the study had lower body weights, on average, than the average
American woman, who stands 64 inches high and weighs 144 pounds.74 The study's
author suggested that, since the models were significantly taller than average-sized
women, "perhaps they can consume higher caloric intake than the average-sized women
and yet still maintain thin bodies. The slender figures of female fashion models are best
viewed as lying at the extreme of the normal distribution of body types rather than as the
product of excessive dieting behavior."75 However, a team of Brandeis University
psychologists disagreed, stating that cultural expectations of unrealistic thinness affect all
women, and they cite the above study with a different interpretation of the results. They
73 Garner, David; Garfinkel, Paul; Schwartz, Donald and Michael Thompson, "Cultural
Expectations of Thinness in Women," Psychological Reports, 47 (1980) 490.
74 The National Center for Health Statistics as cited in Walker, 55.
75 Brenner, Jennifer B. and Cunningham, Joseph G., "Gender Differences in Eating
Attitudes, Body Concept, and Self-Esteem Among Models," Sex Roles, 27 (1992) 421-
call attention to the fact that 73 percent of female models maintained weights that fell
below the lower limits of conservative recommendations of ideal body weight ranges.76
Another study reported a significant decrease in the body measurements and
weights of Playboy centerfolds and Miss America contestants from 1959 to 1978. Not
only did the overall weights of pageant contestants decrease, but the winners weighed
significantly less than the other contestants.77 An update of that study showed that the
slimming trend continued from 1979 to 1988. Interestingly, 69 percent of the Playboy
centerfolds and 60 percent of the pageant contestants weighed 15 percent less than what
is considered their ideal weight. This trend is alarming because, according to the
American Psychiatric Association, being at least 15 percent below one's expected body
weight is considered a symptom of anorexia nervosa.78
Women not only are being bombarded with these images of near-anorexic
women, but they also are faced with a plethora of diet articles and weight loss
information, alongside portrayals of fattening foods. "In the schizophrenic 1990s,
women's magazines routinely show two sides of the same coin: a gooey, fat-laden
chocolate cake recipe placed next to an advertisement for Slimfast; [with] 'How the Stars
Fight Fat' diet tips across the page from an article on anorexia nervosa."79 One content
76 "Models 'R' Us. Eating Disorders," Psychology Today, Jan-Feb 1992, 11.
77 Garner, Garfinkel, Schwartz and Thompson, 490.
78 Wiseman, Claire V.; Gray, James; Mosimann, James and Ahrens, Anthony, "Cultural
Expectations of Thinness in Women, An Update," International Journal of Eating
Disorders, 11 (1992) 87.
79 Zimmerman, Jill S., "An Image to Heal," The Humanist, Jan-Feb 1997, 20.
study analyzed children's television commercials and found that 60.6 percent of the
commercials were for food without either gender being specifically targeted. However,
the commercials that focused on enhancing the appearance of a person, doll, or animal
were overwhelmingly (86.4%) targeted toward girls.80
Another content analysis evaluated four of the most popular women's magazines
and four men's magazines. Articles and ads were evaluated for their messages about
staying in shape and dieting, and about food. The results showed that women received
more messages to be slim and stay in shape than did men. Women also were exposed to
more food advertisements; ads for all foods appeared in the women's magazines 118
times more often than in men's magazines-1,179 compared to 10. The only food item for
which men were exposed to more advertising than women was alcohol-men's magazines
carried 624 alcoholic beverage ads while women's magazines carried 19.81
Ellen McCracken criticizes women's magazines for sending contradictory
messages to women. She notes that in the magazine .\lihiner, numerous articles are about
diet and exercise, pushing women toward slimness. However, in the September 1981
issue, a book review featured several diet and exercises books but ended with two
fattening dessert cookbooks, noting "we all deserve a little sweetness in our lives."82
Young women are faced with this contradiction daily in the media. Television reflects
80 Olgetree, Williamson, Raffeld, Mason and Fricke, 795
81 Silverstein, Perdue, Peterson and Kelly, 525-526.
82 McCracken, Ellen, Decoding Women's Magazines, From Mademoiselle to Ms., (New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1993) 264.
this cultural contradiction by promoting food consumption and leanness. Some think that
bulimia is an adaptive response to this contradiction because only bulimics can eat
everything they wish and remain thin.83 Advertisers do not dispute that, since the 1980s,
there has been a trend toward the increased use of health and weight loss claims by food
manufacturers in their food advertisements in women's magazines. Some researchers
speculate that this may be due to changes in women's eating and dieting behavior that
have created an increased demand for food high in nutrition and low in calories.84
The ideal figure in such ads has moved beyond the half-starved Twiggy image to a
Bionic Woman ideal that requires just as much money, time, and effort.85 According to
Dr. Joseph McVoy, the director of a Virginia eating-disorder clinic, the ideal woman
today not only has to be thin, but also has to have large breasts and muscular arms for a
"Madonna-like look."86 Another author agrees, saying, "Picture for yourself the ideal
woman in the dominant culture of America today; she is thin, shapely or muscular,
83 Dietz, William, "You Are What You Eat What You Eat is What You Are," Journal
of Adolescent Health Care, 11 (1990) 76.
84 Klassen, Michelle; Wauer, Suzanne and Cassel, Sheila, "Increases in Health and
Weight Loss Claims in Food Advertising in the 1980s," Journal of Advertising Research,
(Dec 1990-Jan 1991) 36.
85 Avenosa, Karen, "Trapped by Self-Actualization, Young women Shape Up at the
Expense of Greater Goals," Advertising Age, 23 Nov 1992, 18.
86 Walker, 55.
white, able-bodied, smooth-skinned, young and glamorous. Media images encourage us
to strive to achieve that body-beautiful ideal."87
The Advertising/Entertainment Industries' Viewpoints
"The media play an important role as cultural gatekeepers, framing standards of
beauty for all of us by the models they choose."88 Fashion and beauty editors decide
what images society is exposed to in the media. They are important cultural gatekeepers
who create media messages and indirectly teach members of the general public how to
think about physical attractiveness.89 The modeling agencies agree that the current trend
is for thin girls. Corinne Nicolas, an executive for the Elite modeling agency, attributed
this demand to the advertisers, saying, "That's what is selling-the advertisers decide;
they are the ones who hire our talent."90 One advertiser, the Omega Watch Corporation,
did decide at least temporarily. In June 1996, the company threatened to pull its
advertising from British Vogue because of photos of two models, Trisha Goff and Annie
Morton, featured in an eight-page fashion spread. Giles Reese, marketing manager for
87 Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves, (New York, NY:
Touchstone, 1992) 23-24.
88 Garner, David M., "The 1997 Body Image Survey Results," Psychology Today, Jan-
Feb 1997, 30.
89 Solomon, Michael R.; Ashmore, Richard D. and Longo, Laura C., "'The Beauty
Match-up Hypothesis: Congruence Between Types of Beauty and Product Images in
Advertising," Journal of Advertising, December 1992, 23.
90 Darnton, John, "' Skeletal' Models Create Furor over British Vogue," The New York
Times, 3 June 1996.
Omega, said in a letter to the magazine that he was "appalled" by the "extremely
distasteful pictures" of the models
not just because they were so thin, but because the layout 'made every effort to accentuate
this attribute.' Although the next day the company reversed its decision to pull its
advertising, citing that 'it is not in anybody's interest to influence the editorial position of
any given media,' this was the first time those in the fashion industry could recall a major
advertiser objecting publicly to the models' appearance because their appearance might
encourage unhealthy behavior such as eating disorders.91
Those in the fashion industry state that models, especially British ones, have been
getting slimmer, and they specifically mention British model Kate Moss, who modeled
for Calvin Klein and popularized the waif look.92 However, an article that appeared in
Vogue later in that same year classified Kate Moss as "slender enough to appeal to
fashion designers and photographers, while not by any medical measure anorexic."93
While the Eating Disorders Association praised Omega's efforts, the Elite Model
Management, the agency for Trisha Goff, called the controversy ridiculous, saying the
model looks the same as she always has and eats well.94 In 1996, Harper's Bazaar's
Tina Gaudin said that models like Kate Moss and others may not make women feel good
93 Johnson, Rebecca, "The Body Myth (Why People Are Angry Over Thin Models),"
Vogue, Sept 1996, 653.
about themselves, but that a lean, slightly muscular body type is in fashion, and she
expected readers to be seeing more of this type of model.95
Not everyone involved in fashion would agree with Gaudin's attitude toward
women and how they feel about the ads and models they see. Some Madison Avenue
advertising agencies are hiring feminist consultants to evaluate advertisements that may
be considered offensive to women.96 The Nike corporation, recognizing that baby
boomers become fatter as they become grayer, has developed new advertisements based
on self-like, not anxiety. One of them tells readers that "someday, since you are human,
you will notice your body has changed ... and your kneecaps will look more like Winston
Churchill than ever before."97 Similarly, Michelob Light advertisements have featured
headlines torn from other media such us "Lose Fat While You Shop," or "Perfect Arms
in 14 Days." They end the ad with a tagline that, like the Nike ads, focuses on self-like:
"Relax. You're O.K. Improve your beer." 98 However, these advertisements are the
minority in American's thinness-driven society. Women with proportions similar to Kate
Moss and Cindy Crawford are still the most prevalent in the advertising and
These two women and models like them are the object of some people's rage.
According to one author, "Hostility against thin people is at an all-time high, and fashion
95 Zimmerman, 20.
96 Ford, John and LaTour, Michael, "Differing Reactions to Female Role Portrayals in
Advertising," Journal of Advertising Research, Sep-Oct 1993, 43.
97 Walker, 56.
98 Walker, 56.
models are taking the brunt of the criticism."99 However, fashion models are also
subject to societal pressures to be thin. Model Carol Alt was quoted in People as saying,
"Anyone who thinks society pressures women to live up to our image should think of
what we have to go through to maintain that image."100 Some fashion models report
turning to severe measures to achieve and maintain the super-model standard. Barbara
Gallant, an aspiring model, dieted down to 100 pounds, had a nose job, dyed her hair, had
braces put on her teeth, and endured a medical procedure to smooth out her hips and
thighs, all so she could become a model.101 And models are not the only women in the
media who go to great lengths to keep their perfect looks. Actors and even celebrities
like talk-show host Oprah Winfrey follow extreme regimens to maintain their weight.
Winfrey's routine includes two daily four-mile runs, plus 45 minutes on the Stairmaster
and 350 sit-ups. Pamela Anderson Lee's Baywatch contract included a stipulation that
specifically forbade her from gaining weight. 102
Although they may be concerned with keeping thin, in one study models were
found to have higher self-esteem than college women. It appeared that the models' low
body weights were associated with higher self-esteem and body satisfaction and that their
99 Johnson, 653
low weights were not associated with excessive dieting or eating-disordered behavior. 103
But other studies have yielded completely opposite findings. A study conducted with a
population of professional dancers and models indicated that anorexia and excessive
dieting concerns were over-represented in these people, suggesting that pressures to be
slim are risk factors for this disease. 104
Jill Zimmerman has noted that some models display less-than-solid self-esteem.
Model Cindy Crawford admitted in Vogue that she feels self-conscious about her arms
when she compares herself to colleague Linda Evangelista. Evangelista told interviewers
she would like to "remove two ribs-or just shrink the size of my rib cage." Furthermore,
Zimmerman criticized some models for their diet advice to the public, most notably
1970s supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, who once advised women how to start a diet: "Before
you go on a serious diet, I recommend that you eat all the food you can manage for three
solid days. The point is to overdo it, knowing that you will never overeat again."105
Twenty years ago, readers wrote to Vogue editors, thanking them for presenting
ideals like those super-models represent:
Dear Editor: The female body is an art in itself, and seeing all the sleek, slim bodies
photographed artistically, I find myself wishing that I, too, could look like that. Now I
find that I have the ambition to start that all-important diet and begin exercising
regularly-THANK YOU! 106
103 Brenner and Cunningham, 434.
104 Garner, David and Garfinkel, Paul, "Socio-Cultural Factors in the Development of
Anorexia Nervosa," Psychological Medicine, 10 (1980) 647.
106 Johnson, 654.
Today, letters from women express outrage over the models they see in the pages
of fashion magazines. One such reader wrote:
Dear Editor: I have always considered your magazine to be reputable and in good taste,
so I was extremely disappointed upon seeing the enclosed picture of one of your models.
This woman looks deathly ill from anorexia. YOUas a leader in the world of fashion
have a responsibility to stop portraying sickly thin models as desirable. You have lost
one consumer. 107
According to the results of a 1997 body image survey in Psychology Today,
women and men use their own personal feelings about their weight, interpersonal
relationships, and cultural icons such as movie celebrities and models as factors that
shape their body image. 108 Also, nearly two out of five women and one of five men say
images of fashion models make them feel angry and resentful. And 40 percent of women
and 30 percent of men say the models' images make them feel insecure. As a whole,
women and men are saying they want to see models who are more representative of the
natural range of body types. 109
Media as Possible Causes/Contributors to Self-esteem, Body Image Distortion and Eating
Although some women are expressing outrage over the slender figures they see in
magazines and in the media in general, others desire to be as thin as the images they are
exposed to. In a column in The New York Times, one author stated that "few
107 Johnson, 654.
108 Garner, 36.
109 Garner, 30.
psychologists doubt that the imperative to be thin, emphasized daily in ads, movies and
on television, contributes heavily to eating disorders."I 10 Dr. Terrence Wilson, a
psychologist at Rutgers University, is quoted in the column as saying, "The desire to fit
the cultural ideal of thinness drives many women to diet severely...In some vulnerable
young women, this leads to bingeing and purging, or to self-starvation."' 11 Others agree,
proposing that eating disorders occur when people become preoccupied with how fat they
believe themselves to be and then exert extreme measures to control their weight. Some
research indicates that eating disorders are outgrowths of a negative body image and that
the diseases are related to today's pressure on women to conform to ultra-slender beauty
role models. 112 By making thinness the cultural ideal, many people are pushed to view
normal healthy body weight as "fat." 113 Negative feelings about one's body have been
shown to carry over into other psycho-social functioning and have been correlated with
anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. 114 The impact of the media on women is
greater for those who are dissatisfied with their bodies and who weigh more than the
cultural ideal than for women who are satisfied with their bodies. This could be because
112 Gamer, 30.
113 Whitney, E.; Cataldo, C.B. and Rolfes, S., Understanding Normal and Clinical
Nutrition, Fourth Ed., (St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 1994) 286.
114 Klesges, R.; Mintz, L., Betz, N.; Mcauley, M.; Minz, L.; Glenn, A; Secord, P.;
Jourard, S. and Tucker, L. as cited in Brenner and Cunningham, 415
satisfied women compare themselves to models less than half as often as dissatisfied
Many women who have what would be considered a normal healthy body weight
have been exposed to this cultural ideal of thinness for most of their lives. One study that
evaluated the bust-to-waist ratios of photographs in two magazines documents that, since
1965, this ratio has consistently remained small. Thus, a 30-year-old woman today has
been exposed to a non-curvaceous standard since she was 11 years old. This provides
some support for the notion that the current standard of bodily attractiveness for women
in the media may have contributed to the recent epidemic of eating disorders among
women. 116 But others disagree. Some clinicians who treat patients with eating disorders
say that photographs of models have some influence on their patients, but that it is too
simplistic to say that the media culture causes anorexia. For an anorexic, they argue, "the
goal of thinness is not to be attractive. It's more about being in control."' 17
Some researchers acknowledge that cultural pressures can make women
vulnerable to eating disorders. One study indicated that the mass media promote
standards of thinness that are impossible for most women to achieve, resulting in a
pursuit of thinness that can have devastating consequences in terms of lowered self-
esteem, excessive dieting practices and the emergence of eating disorders. This study
found that the kinds of television programs watched were more important than how often
115 Garner, 30.
116 Silverstein, Perdue, Peterson, and Kelly, 525-528.
117 Johnson, 655.
television is viewed. Although viewing soaps, movies, and sports all predicted body
dissatisfaction, only watching music videos predicted a "Drive for Thinness," a primary
indicator for anorexia nervosa, according to the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), which
assesses the attitudinal and behavioral characteristics of eating disorders. 118 The current
epidemic of body dissatisfaction and emergence of eating disorders may be a result of
society's ideal of thinness, and one way this can be transmitted is through the mass
The EDI measures several constructs that have been thought to indicate
psychological characteristics related to eating disorders. 120 The Drive for Thinness, as
mentioned above, indicates excessive concern with dieting, preoccupation with weight,
and entrenchment in an extreme pursuit of thinness. However, researchers found that,
although women with or without eating disorders can exhibit a Drive for Thinness, the
most important difference was that women with anorexia nervosa were "significantly
more pathological on the Ineffectiveness and Interoceptive Awareness dimensions of the
EDI. 121 Ineffectiveness is defined as feelings of general inadequacy, insecurity,
worthlessness, and the feeling of not being in control of one's life. Interoceptive
118 Bordo, Susan, Unbearable Weight, Feminism, Western Culture, and The Body.
(University of California Press, 1993) 52-54.
119 Tiggemann, Marika and Pickering, Amanda, "Role of Television in Adolescent
Women's Body Dissatisfaction and Drive for Thinness," International Journal of Eating
Disorders, 20 (1996) 199-202.
120 Garner, Olmstead, and Polivy, 16.
121 Garner, Olmstead, and Polivy, 32.
Awareness reflects one's lack of confidence in recognizing and accurately identifying
emotions and sensations of hunger and satiety.122 This coincides with the findings of
Hilde Bruch, a pioneer in eating-disorder therapy, who recognized similar characteristics
that cause confusion about body sensation-an "all-pervasive sense of ineffectiveness, and
a disturbed body image."123
Not all women exposed to these cultural pressures develop eating disorders. Most
theorists and clinicians readily agree that these disorders are multidimensional, and they
claim that non-cultural factors are required to produce an eating disorder in any specific
individual. 124 One group of researchers, who studied how elastic and distorted young
women's body images would become after watching televisions ads and programming,
tried to apply Cultivation Theory to explain their results--predicting that the young
women in the study would adopt the "mainstream" view of social reality. In this case the
"mainstream" view is the cultural ideal of a thin female body. However, this theory does
not fully explain the complex cognitive process that is involved in forming one's body
A more recent study applied Social Learning Theory as an explanation of why
women turn to disordered eating. This study reported that social learning was expected to
122 Garner, Olmstead, and Polivy, 18.
123 Bruch, Hilde, Conversations with Anorexics, (New York: Basic Book Inc, 1988) 4.
124 Bordo, 52-54.
125 Myers, Jr., Phillip N. and Biocca, Frank A., "The Elastic Image: The Effect of
Television Advertising and Programming on Body Image Distortions in Young Women,"
Journal of Communication, (1992) 130.
be more related to anorexic behaviors than bulimia because women could learn anorexia
by modeling dieting and exercise behaviors but could not learn bulimia because there are
few models of bingeing and purging behaviors. 126 However, tests showed that anorexic
and bulimic women were not significantly different, although anorexic women were
found to expose themselves to more fitness magazines and television shows depicting
thin actors.127 It is unclear if women who exhibit eating disorders symptoms selectively
expose themselves to more thinness-depicting media or if they were first exposed to this
type of media, then began exhibiting eating disorder symptoms. 128 As an example, when
a writer for Vogue interviewed three girls recovering from eating disorders at the Renfrew
Center, an eating disorders clinic in Philadelphia, they told her that their therapists often
encouraged them to write to editors of fashion magazines criticizing their choice of
models. But when she asked them if any of them thought their problems with food could
be traced to the media or images of models, they all answered no. 129
Jill Zimmerman's experiences with girls suffering from eating disorders are far
different than the Vogue interviews. Zimmerman, a psychotherapist specializing in
women's issues, wishes those in the advertising and entertainment industries could have
observed her session with a young girl who "was severely bulimic in her frenzy to get
down to Crawford's well-publicized 120 pounds" and strongly believes the media is
126 Harrison and Cantor, 61.
127 Harrison and Cantor, 61.
128 Harrison and Cantor, 62.
129 Johnson, 657-658.
instrumental in women developing eating disorders. Zimmerman noted that at a
Princeton University conference, when asked whether or not models cause eating
disorders, Cindy Crawford responded with the question, "Do you look at pictures of me
and want to puke?" In response to Crawford's question, Zimmerman states that the
modeling and advertising industries are either not hearing or not paying attention to a
deafening "Yes!" from the seven million American girls and women who suffer from
eating disorders. 130 Another study found that women with or without high levels of
eating disorder symptoms reported that the greatest amount of pressure to be thin comes
from the media, followed by peers, and finally family. However, the symptomatic
women reported greater amounts of pressure from all three categories than the women
who did not exhibit high levels of eating disorder symptoms. 131
Another way to explain why some women display symptoms of eating disorders
while others do not, even if they are exposed to the same mass media, is to use a risk
factor model for eating disorders. This model can be compared to risks associated with
heart disease. It is recognized that there are a number of risk factors, such as heredity,
smoking, and obesity, that contribute to heart disease. Any one factor increases the
likelihood of heart disease occurring, and more than one factor "raises the risk
exponentially." 132 Similarly, although there are some women with enough risk factors
who would become anorexic without the media's and society's ideal of a thin female
body, there are others who might not otherwise develop an eating disorder but do when
media exposure is added as a risk factor. Many possible risk factors for developing an
eating disorder have been identified, and currently there is no way to know if one factor is
of greater or lesser importance than the others. 133 Of those who do develop eating
disorders, only some risk factors may be present in any individual, and for these
individuals, the exact nature of and relationship between the factors will vary. 134
Men, Mass Media and Eating Disorders
While most of the literature reviewed thus far reflects the idea that female images
of perfection permeate the mass media and that these images have an impact on young
women, one researcher has asked why the new glamorized ideal of manhood should not
affect young men in similar ways. This researcher points out that these images of
beautiful men are having an effect on the growing number of young males who are
beginning to suffer from complaints previously seen as exclusively female, such as
132 Schwartz, Donald; Thompson, Michale and Johnson, Craig, "Anorexia Nervosa and
Bulimia: The Socio-Cultural Context, International Journal of Eating Disorders, 1 (1982)
133 Schwartz, Thompson, and Johnson, 27.
134 Lask, Bryan and Bryant-Waugh, Rachel, Childhood Onset Anorexia Nervosa and
Related Eating Disorders, (Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Ltd., 1993) 69.
feelings of insecurity and preoccupation with their body image. 135 While recent muscle
dysmorphia research has been conducted on both genders, most eating disorder research
has been targeted at women because women far outnumber men in contracting these
diseases. Past research points to differing sociocultural environments from birth between
genders in regard to reinforcements for dieting and weight loss; men and women perceive
fatness and ideals of shape differently.136 However, recent research is finding an
increase in eating disorders and body image distortion in men at a time when they are
being more objectified in the mass media.
Dr. Harrison Pope, the leading expert in muscle dysmorphia research, believes
that sociocultural factors may be an important reason why more cases of this disorder are
being diagnosed. He points to muscularity recently becoming important in magazines
and films, as well as an increase in fitness activities in the American public, adding that
this disorder may be a rare psychiatric condition that has "become more prominent as a
result of changing cultural trends."137 Pope adds that muscle dysmorphia "will become
the body image disorder of the 1990s just as eating disorders leapt into the public
awareness in the 1980s.138 Another researcher claims that images of the ideal man do
135 Gordon, Jane, "The Fears Aroused by a Fine Physique: Modern Men Face the Same
Media Pressure to be Perfect that Women Have Long Endured." The Daily Telegraph, 12
136 Andersen, Arnold E., "Eating Disorders in Males, reprinted in Eating Disorders and
Obesity: A Comprehensive Handbook, Brownell, Kelley D and Fairburn, Christopher G.
ed., (Guilford Publications, Inc, NY,NY, 1995).
137 Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, and Phillips, 553.
138 Gannett News Service, "Ready For a New Psychiatric Disorder? Muscle
Dysmorphia," 23 Dec 97.
not look like they used to; the John Wayne type, a "...sweaty, wind-bitten hero with a bit
of a beer belly, rumpled clothing, and an air of absolute indifference to his appearance," is
being replaced with the Marky Marks of the world, beefcake boys--smooth-skinned,
clean-shaven, with tight, muscular bodies. 139 There are countless ads showcasing
rippling chests and shoulders, more shirtless actors in movies, and more male models on
fashion runways flaunting washboard stomachs. And while the new look is clearly
masculine, it is also "paradoxically feminine," with skin as smooth and clear as a
Other authors agree, commenting again on Marky Mark, the one-time rapper who
modeled underwear for Calvin Klein in the early 1990s. His look is the lean and hungry
cut look...with bulging biceps, chiseled chest and a washboard stomach."140 One author
stated that it is the look teenage boys want and are willing to turn to steroids to get. A
recent article in Elle called this phenomenon "reverse anorexia" and also blamed the way
men are being portrayed in the media for the increase in body image distortion and
distress in males. Dr. Murray Drummond, a health professor at the University of South
Australia, said that while women more commonly develop eating disorders in attempts to
lose weight, men develop compulsive exercise disorders in attempts to become more
muscular. He added that, "like the ideal female body image portrayed in women's
magazines, the ideal male body portrayed was out of reach for many men because the
139 Neimark, Jill, "The Beefcaking of America," Psychology Today, Nov-Dec 1994, 32.
140 Deacon, James, Maclean Hunter, "Biceps in a Bottle: Teenagers Turn to Steroids to
Build Muscles," 2 May 1994, 52.
men pictured were genetically gifted."141 If these two phenomena are related, men now
may be experiencing what women have experienced for decades. Men no longer are
being judged only on what they do; they also are finding themselves being judged largely
on their appearance. Men are being displayed as passive objects in advertisements, and
this is changing the way the world looks at the male body. 142 Dr. Precilla Choi, a senior
professor of psychology at Keele University and a member of Pope's team who diagnosed
the condition of muscle dysmorphia, also echoed the realization that men are increasingly
being judged by their appearance. Men are more concerned with their bodies than they
used to be and as a result are going to the gym more often. The danger in that is that
muscle dysmorphia develops from regular workouts even though it is not clear why some
men develop the disorder while others do not. 143
So far, very little quantifiable data exists about men and cultural standards of
attractiveness. One recent study examined the extent to which American society's
emphasis on fitness has changed; and if the number of media messages men received to
exercise, change their shape and be slim increased from 1960 to 1992.144 The
researchers determined that while the population in the area they studied had grown a
little over two times its 1960 size, the number of health and fitness centers had
141 Nixon, Sherrill, "Men at the Risk of Reverse Anorexia," Australian Associated Press,
2 Sep 97.
142 Simpson, Mark, "Hairy Fairies," New Statesman & Society," 10 Sep 1993, 33.
143 Connor, Steve and Ridley, Yvonne, "New Men Get New Illness to Go With Their
Muscles," Times Newspapers Limited, 16 Nov, 97.
experienced a 50-fold increase. The researchers also found that over the past three
decades, males have been exposed to increasing numbers of articles and advertisements
aimed at how to improve their shape, how to strengthen and tone their muscles and how
to modify their exercise habits. 145 When measuring the ideal body shape, they found
that the average shoulder-to-waist and shoulder-to-chest ratios had not changed
substantially in the past three decades, indicating a V-shaped ideal. However, though
their findings suggest that the male body-ideal has remained constant, they pointed out
that their study did not include a measure for muscular definition. The authors suggest
future research to determine if the cultural ideal of attractiveness for males is more firm
and muscular than in past years. According to Jim Keogh, an entertainment reporter, one
needs only to look at Sylvester Stallone's body as portrayed in the "Rocky" movies over
the years to see the change in the muscular definition of men in the mass media over the
past few decades. In the first two "Rocky" movies, Stallone is "beefy but undefined. By
the third "Rocky," he looked flayed, as though he had literally peeled away layers of skin
to reveal the sinew underneath..."146 Although these researchers and others in the past
decade have started looking toward men and how they are portrayed in the mass media, as
well as how this portrayal may or may not affect men, more research still is needed.
144 Petrie, Trent A., "Sociocultural Expectations of Attractiveness for Males," Sex
Roles: A Journal of Research, Nov 1996, 581-585.
145 Andersen, Arnold and DiDomenico, Lisa, "Diet Vs. Shape Content of Popular Male
and Female Magazines: A Dose Response Relationship to the Incidence of Eating
Disorders?," The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11 (1992) 286.
146 Keogh, Jim, "Hollywood Keeps Focus on the Weighty Matters," The Telegram and
Gazette, Worchester, Ma., 17 July 97.
The Advertising/Entertainment Industries' Viewpoints
Advertisers are going after hot, young, virile bodies to sell their products. What is
different about that? The difference is that the bodies they are going after are male.
Kathleen Boyes, writing for The Chicago Tribune 's style magazine in 1992, stated that
men are looking at themselves differently, wanting to look younger and having more
plastic surgery. One plastic surgeon in Ohio said that men now make up 30 percent of his
patients, while in 1980 only 1 percent of his patients were men. This surgeon added that
men are where women were 10 years ago when it comes to getting plastic surgery and
that society has put significant emphasis on appearance, dieting, and exercise for men and
women. 147 Boyes added that the "standards for male beauty are pretty stringent: a well-
defined chest, a washboard stomach, a strong jaw, alongside an undefinable something
extra."148 The changes occurring toward the end of the 1980s had one common theme:
men were portrayed more than ever as sex objects.
The trend appears to be continuing in the 1990s, with men dieting and lifting
weights more and wearing sexier clothes. 149 Mike Sell, an executive for "Total Media,"
an advertising agency that focuses on the youth market, stated that the emphasis of men's
magazines 10 years ago was to stress fashion, but now these magazines focus on a new
147 Donahue, Kelly, "Men About-Face on Plastic Surgery Need," The Cleveland
Business, 1 Dec 1997.
148 Manca, Luigi and Manca, Alessandra, Gender & Utopia in Advertising: A Critical
Reader, (Lisle, IL, Procopian Press, 1994) 81.
149 Manca and Manca, 82.
area of male preoccupation--their body image. 150 Like women's magazines always
have, men's magazines now are filled with articles that "concentrate on their readers'
worries and inadequacies."151 Cosmetic companies are not missing this new market
either. Proctor and Gamble is now directly targeting men with their own line of Pantene
hair products. 152 Companies that sell traditionally female cosmetics, like nail polish, are
now trying to reach men. Last year nail polish company Urban Decay began advertising
its "unisex grungy nail colors-'Does pink make you puke?'-in magazines with male
readers, like Spin, Rolling Stone, and Interview, instead of in women's magazines."153
First-year sales were good for Urban Decay, and this did not go unnoticed by other
cosmetic companies such as Hard Candy, which recently launched a male line called
Candy Man. Last January, Nieman Marcus reportedly ordered all of the Candy Man line
of nail polish it could get and sold out. Male athletes now are being used to promote light
beers and diet sodas to establish a male association with traditionally feminine
152 Klein, Rich, "Pantene Adds Men to its Marketing Mix," Advertising Age, July 14,
153 Edwards, Tamala M., "Love Your Nails, Jack," Time Oct 6, 1997, 71.
154 Mishkind, Marc E.; Rodin, Judith; Silberstein, Lisa R. and Striegel-Moore, Ruth H.,
"The Embodiment of Maculinity," American Behavioral Scientist, May-June 1986, 552.
While companies are lining up to sell traditionally feminine products to men,
some advertisements are taking a "gender-bender turn." One campaign for Kenar
Enterprises shows supermodel Linda Evangelista kissing her own image, styled to look
like a man. The creator of the advertisements says that he thinks people are sick of the
"drugged out visuals."155 In reaction to the death of fashion photographer David Sorrenti
from a drug overdose, President Bill Clinton recently spoke out against "heroin chic."
However, those in the fashion industry say that "the heroin chic look is passe."156 Liz
Tilberis, editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar, agreed, saying the heroin chic style has been
over for "an awful long time now," adding, "we've had grunging and waiting, and we've
moved away from it." 157
The image of men as sex objects or men as beautiful is now more accepted,
according to Holly Brubach, style editor for New York Times Magazine. The male body
is being used to sell to both men and women. She adds that "male mannequins now sport
genital bulges and larger chests" and for the first time in window-dressing history are
appearing as frequently as female mannequins."158 As men are being used more and
more in advertising, it is apparent that there is a single standard of beauty for men today:
155 Krol, Carol, "Kenar's Ad Takes a Gender-Bending Turn," Advertising Age, Feb 17,
156 Crain, Rance, "Heroin Chic," vs. Joe Camel: What's Hippest to Our Young People,"
Advertising Age, June 30, 1997, 16.
157 Lockwood, Lisa and Ramey, Joanna, "Industry Reacts to Clinton's Criticism:
President Bill Clinton Accuses Fashion Industry of Glamorizing Heroine Addiction,"
Women's Wear Daily," May 22, 1997.
"hypermasculine, muscled, powerfully shaped body-the Soloflex man, and the question is
whether this standard will punish men as much as the super thin standard has punished
women."159 When asked what the current trend for models was, one modeling agency
assistant stated that there is a thin trend for men today; however, she added that the ideal
image was "thin, but in shape, of course." Also, on the runway, she said, you still see the
well-developed abdominal muscles and the typical highly muscular model.160 Phil
Hilton, executive editor of Men's Health, said that "men of the 1990s can not expect to
get out of shape and still be attractive to women... men can no longer be complacent." 61
Media as Possible Causes/Contributors to Self-esteem, Body Image Distortion and Eating
According to one eating disorder expert, Steven Romano, men do feel inadequate
and uncomfortable about their own bodies while looking at unrealistic and rigid examples
of this new, single standard of beauty. 162 This same expert quoted in another article
pointed to the dark side of this cultural emphasis on a specific male type-the growing
number of men suffering from body image disorders. He has more and more male
patients who have body image disturbances and who are compulsive exercisers and/or
160 Conversation with Kim Cinque, Florida Stars Model and Talent Agency, Gainesville,
Fl, Nov 97.
161 Connor and Ridley.
162Manca and Manca, 81.
steroid abusers--symptoms of reverse anorexia or muscle dysmorphia. Romano says
these men are very similar to female anorexics. When the female anorexic looks in the
mirror, she sees herself as too fat, and when these males, who are well muscled, look in
the mirror, they see themselves as too thin because they are comparing themselves to the
ideal projected in the media. Romano recalls one 19-year-old patient who said he had to
look like Marky Mark and would only eat a diet that would allow him to build
muscle. 163 One high school student confirmed that "in part, their body-image obsession
is a response to the depiction of men as sex objects in the mainstream media."164
One research firm reported that in the past six years alone, the number of men
exercising has increased by 30 percent. Although this increase in exercise is not
necessarily a bad thing, more men are showing up with body image disorders and are
abusing steroids in attempt to build muscle. 165 Pope says that while there is nothing
inherently wrong with bodybuilding, some people are finding an outlet in it in response to
"the fitness boom and preoccupation with appearances."166 When a group of college-
age men was asked how they would prefer to look, an overwhelming majority preferred to
be mesomorphic, or V-shaped and muscular, than ectomorphic (thin) or endomorphic
164 Deacon, May 2, 1994, 52.
166 Pope as quoted in Kabak, Joanne, "Fitness File, Body Dysmorphia, Having a
Distorted Body Image Can Lead to Compulsive and Dangerous Weight Training, The
Dangers of Steroids," Newsday, 29 Dec 97.
(fat).167 Another study also using college men echoed the same theme. The "skinnier"
or "fatter" the males perceived themselves to be compared to the mesomorphic ideal, the
more negatively they tended to feel about their body parts. Also, the more their self-
perception of their bodies deviated more from the muscular ideal, the more their self-
concept suffered. 168 A recent Men's Health survey sent to readers in the England
resulted in 75 percent of the men responding that they are dissatisfied with the shape of
their bodies, while only four percent regarded themselves as "very attractive."169 While
the effects are less documented in men than in women, negative feelings about one's
body can carry over into other areas of a man's life. For example, the majority of people
with positive feelings about their appearance, fitness, or health reported positive self-
concepts, satisfaction with their life, and an absence of loneliness and depression. Those
with negative feelings about their appearance, fitness and health experienced the opposite.
According to surveys conducted in 1972 and again in 1992, both men and women
indicated growing dissatisfaction in their height, weight, muscle tone, face, torso and their
overall appearance. 170 Another researcher found that 95 percent of the college men who
were surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with some aspect of their bodies, with men
167 Mishkind, Rodin, Silberstein, and Striegel-Moore, 547.
168 Tucker, 987-8.
170 Cash, Thomas F., "The Psychology of Physical Appearance: Aesthetics, Attributes,
and Images," reprinted in Body Images, Cash, Thomas F. and Pruzinsky, Thomas, ed.,
(Guilford Publications, Inc., NY, NY, 1990) 51-52.
consistently expressing their greatest dissatisfaction with their chest, weight, and
A more recent study reflected this trend, with college men describing the ideal
body as one that is lean, yet muscular. The responses in this study differed from past
research in that the men thought they were heavier than their ideal, reflecting a "new
emphasis on lean muscularity among college men."172 Male body builders were found
to have a high drive for bulk combined with a high drive for thinness, reflecting current
trends that the bulk must be in the form of lean muscle mass. In pursuit of leanness, men
appear to be at risk for developing eating disorder practices including binging, purging
and restricting food. 173 Recent research on men indicates that those with eating
disorders appear more similar to women with eating disorders than to other men, with the
exception that the men with eating disorders were significantly less likely than the women
to seek treatment. 174 Research on muscle dysmorphia shows that those afflicted behave
similarly to people with eating disorders, and many also have a past history of anorexia.
Individuals with this disorder become extremely upset if they miss a day of lifting
weights in their usual pattern. They also adhere to a high protein, low-fat diet, counting
171 Mishkind, Rodin, Silberstein, and Striegel-Moore, 552.
172 Borchert, Jill and Heinberg, Leslie, "Gender Schema and Gender Role Discrepancy
as Correlates of Body Image," The Journal of Psychology, 1996, 555.
173 Blouin and Goldfield, 1995, 164.
174 Olivardia, Roberto; Pope, Jr., Harrison G.; Mangweth, Barbara and Hudson, James I.,
"Eating Disorders in College Men," American Journal of Psychiatry, Sep 1995, 1282-
calories each day. If they deviate from their diet, most become so agitated that they must
compensate immediately, with an extra workout, for example. 175
With the realization by health care professionals that both men and women are
developing eating disorders, more research has been focused on their dieting behaviors.
Several studies of people who developed eating disorders reveal that more than 80
percent began with a diet. 176 A 1992 study of high school students revealed that more
girls and boys are dieting; approximately 41 percent of boys are now dieting, compared to
reports of 4 to 24 percent in the past. More often than ever before, girls and boys are
fasting for 24 hours at a time monthly, as well as using laxatives and purging as ways to
control or change their weights. In the 1992 study cited above, the authors argued that
these findings confirm the notion that high school students are feeling the pressure to
shape their bodies into the cultural ideal. 177 This trend is happening at an even younger
age; even children of elementary school age are developing eating problems. While
eating disorders and body dissatisfaction are growing in children, helping children to
accept themselves for who they are is an important first step in the prevention of these
175 Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia and Phillips, 551.
176 "Myths about Body Weight," Oct 97, National Eating Disorder Organization,
177 Emmons, Lillian, "Dieting and Purging Behavior in Black and White High School
students," Journal of the American Dietetic Association," (Mar 1992) 309-311.
178 "Information for Schools: An Advisory on Eating Disorders," Oct 97, National
Eating Disorder Organization, (http://www.laureate.com/infoschl.html).
According to social comparison theory, people have a need to evaluate themselves
and will do so socially if there is not an objective, physical way to evaluate themselves.
In an upward comparison, a person can experience damage to his or her self-concept
when a discrepancy occurs between the individual and the image to which he or she is
Research shows that women have been bombarded with a cultural standard of
attractiveness that has gotten thinner over the past 30 years. Women have had more eating
disorders and body image problems compared to men in direct ratio to the number of
slimming messages they receive in the media. Some studies have attempted to show how
these images in the mass media contribute to eating disorders in women by affecting their
body image and self-esteem. While many variables contribute to eating disorders, images
in the mass media may put some women at risk for developing these disorders.
Many researchers believe that a similarly difficult-to-attain V-shaped male ideal
has emerged in the mass media. Some point to the increasing reports of men with eating
disorders, muscle dysmorphia, body dissatisfaction, and lower self-esteem and compare
this to what women have been facing for decades. More research is needed to document
these trends and to further link them to the psychological disorders that have become
epidemic in women.
If men now are being bombarded increasingly with messages and images
concerning their physical attractiveness, then researchers could expect physical
attractiveness to become more important to men. As it becomes more important, men
may try to reduce the discrepancy between their bodies and the ideal body in the media
through behavior, as social comparison theory suggests. As this occurs, researchers could
see more eating and body dysmorphic disorders, body-image distortion, anabolic steroid
abuse and lower self-esteem as men try to bridge the gap between their bodies and the
difficult-to-attain cultural ideal.
The review of the literature allows one to assume that the male cultural standard
of attractiveness is mesomorphic, or V-shaped. The research was designed to answer the
First, has this ideal become more muscularly defined over the past 30 years?
H1= The ideal has become more muscularly defined.
Hlo= The ideal has not become more muscularly defined.
Second, have males been exposed to an increasing number of V-shaped images
over the past 30 years?
H2= Men have been exposed to an increasing number of V-shaped images.
H20= Men have not been exposed to an increasing number of V-shaped images.
Third, have males been exposed to an increasing number of all masculine images
over the past 30 years?
H3= Men have been exposed to an increasing number of all masculine images.
H30= Men have not been exposed to an increasing number of all masculine
The researcher conducted a content analysis of three popular men's magazines.
Magazines were chosen over other forms of media for their ease of measurement and
availability for the time period from 1967 to 1997. The time period was chosen because
it corresponded with Petrie's previous study, and 1967 was the first year Rolling Stone
was published. Because past studies analyzing women's images in the media have shown
that the female images seen in magazines, television, and movies all displayed a slimming
trend,179 it is reasonable to assume that if there is a male image trend in one medium,
this trend would show up in all forms of media. Therefore, while a larger percentage of
boys/men are potentially exposed to images on television programs such as ESPN or
MTV, movies or outdoor advertising, 180 the magazine images probably would be
similar to what men would see in those other channels.
The magazines analyzed were Sports Illustrated, chosen because it is a popular
magazine with a target audience of young men interested in sports as well as fashion and
179 Silverstein, Brett; Perdue, Lauren; Peterson, Barbara and Kelly, Eileen, "The Roles
of the Mass Media in Promoting a Thin Standard of Bodily Attractiveness for Women,"
Sex Roles (1986).
180 Simmons Market Research Bureau, Inc, "Teen age research study," (1994) 235.
physical fitness; Rolling Stone, chosen because it is a magazine directed at young adults
who have an interest in popular culture, and GQ, chosen because it is directed at young
men interested in their appearance. All three magazines chosen a circulation of 600,000
or more and have the type of images that could be measured easily. 181 Young men have
a higher exposure to all three magazines,182 and teen males have a higher exposure to
two of the three magazines (Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated), compared to other
publications.183 The time period chosen allowed the researcher to document any
changes that have occurred in a cultural ideal of attractiveness for men over the past 30
years. Magazines were located at the University of Florida, Florida State University, and
public libraries in the Gainesville, Fla., area. Both hard copy and microfilm copies were
used for analysis. The 30-year period was broken down into three-year intervals, starting
in 1967 (1967, 1970, etc.). This was done so the researcher was able to manage three
decades of information in a timely fashion. Four issues per year from each of the three
magazines were analyzed for a total of 132 issues over the 30-year period. A random
numbers table was used to choose the magazine issues to analyze (Appendix A). When
more than one issue of a magazine was published in a single month, the issue for the first
complete week in that month was used. If an issue was not available, the next
chronological issue was used. In three of these 11 instances, the next chronological issue
181 Standard Rate and Data Service, Consumer Magazine Advertising Source, July 97,
182 Simmons Market Research Bureau, "Study of Meida and Markets, Multi-Media
Audiences: males," (1994) 9-10.
available fell in the following year. This happened for the following issues of Rolling
Stone: January 1967, February 1967, and June 1985 (January and February of 1968 and
June of 1986 were substituted).
Coding and Data Analysis
The total number of pages was counted by looking at the last numbered page in
the magazine, and adding 4 or more pages for the covers, plus any additional "cover
flaps." Then the researcher manually counted all the pages in the magazine and added
any additional pages inside that were not included in the total page count, such as some
advertisements or special sections, with the exception of inserts. Inserts were defined as
being intended for the reader to remove from the magazine (i.e. music offers). Missing
pages were subtracted from the total number of pages (i.e. front cover ripped off).
Next, pages containing masculine images were counted whether the images were
codable or not, to reveal whether men were being more objectified in the media over the
30-year period studied. Pages were counted as containing a masculine image if there was
at least part of a male torso (the human body excluding the head and limbs)--back, front,
or side view--on the page, except for pictures of pictures, cartoons or art work, and
images that were smaller than 2 inches wide or 2 inches in length. If an image was a head
shot and some of the chest or shoulders was visible, then it was counted as a masculine
image. If only the head and lower neck were visible or if the image was a leg shot and no
torso above the waist was visible, then it was not counted as a masculine image.
183 Simmons Market Research Bureau, Simmons Teenage research study, (1994) 8.
Finally, the researcher analyzed images of men to judge the cultural standard of
attractiveness found in the mass media. Previous research has shown that the cultural
standard of attractiveness for males is a V-shaped body (broad shoulders and chest
tapering to a narrow waist); 184 however, muscular definition has not been analyzed.
Images were judged on muscular definition and level of body fat by a comparison to an
eight-image male scale that reflected the following body image descriptions:
Low Body Fat/Not Muscular
Low Body Fat/Somewhat Muscular
Low Body Fat/Very Muscular
Medium Body Fat/Not Muscular
Medium Body Fat/Somewhat Muscular
Medium Body Fat/Very Muscular
High Body Fat/Not Muscular
High Body Fat/Somewhat Muscular
A ninth category, High Body Fat/Very Muscular, was considered but rejected because, in
researching various magazines and the Internet, no images could be found to represent
To develop the male scale, the researcher selected 38 male images of varying body
types, with at least their entire torso and arms exposed, from the Internet and a local
modeling agency. These images were cropped above the chin and below the waist.
These images were placed on separate pieces of paper and randomly shuffled. All 38
images then were judged by three undergraduate students using the above eight
categories. First, the students individually placed the pictures in one of the eight
categories, which resulted in the students placing all the same images in six of the eight
184 Petrie, Trent A., "Sociocultural Expectations of Attractiveness for Males," Sex Roles
categories. In the other two categories, medium body fat/not muscular and medium body
fat/very muscular, two of the three students agreed on category placement. Next, in
categories in which complete agreement was reached on more than one image, each
student was asked to select the best image to represent the category. Students agreed on
the best image to represent each category in all but one of the categories (low body
fat/somewhat muscular); again, two of the three students agreed. The final eight-image
measurement scale appears in Appendix B.
When evaluating overall muscular definition, masculine images were accepted
for coding if models were shirtless or had on form-fitting clothing that still allowed for
analysis of muscular definition and level of body fat. Images were accepted for coding
even if the whole torso was not in view, as long as some degree of muscular definition
could be established (i.e. biceps or pectoral and abdominal muscles were necessary to
establish muscular definition, and a visible waist or abdominal muscles were necessary to
code level of body fat). The researcher found 409 images acceptable for coding. The
frequency of each type of image was tallied to reveal what types of images magazines
have been publishing. A complete listing of all the rules that were applied during coding
can be found in Appendix C.
Twenty percent of the magazine issues were randomly selected for double-coding
to ensure reliability. Data were recorded using redesigned sheets (Appendix D). In the
process of training the independent coder, the researcher refined the list of rules for the
coding process. Holsti's coefficient of reliability equation was used to calculate the
agreement between the researcher and the independent coder. The equation C.R. = 2 M/
N1 + N2 was used, where M equaled the number of coding agreements between the coders
and N1 and N2 equaled the number of coding decisions made by each coder. 185 The
pretest was broken up into three parts because the actual coding took place on different
days, several weeks apart, and this procedure was used to trouble-shoot any agreement
problems due to the differences in magazine formats. Three protests were conducted; one
for each of the three different magazines analyzed. Each pretest was conducted before
double coding of that magazine would begin. For example, before coding GQ, a pretest
on a GQ issue was conducted. The three protests revealed the following agreement
between the researcher and independent coder:
Number of Total Pages = 100%
Number of Pages with masculine images = 97%
Number of Codable Images = 80%
Category Assignment using male scale = 44%
Because the agreement was above, but near the minimum acceptability for the number of
codable images (80 percent), the researcher clarified the rules with the independent coder
by discussing codable images that had not been agreed upon by both coders during the
After each pretest, disagreements concerning the male scale were discussed.
While the total male scale agreement for the three protests was 44 percent, more
agreement was evident when splitting the scale into its two components--muscular
definition and level of body fat. The researcher and independent coder agreed 67 percent
of the time on muscular definition and 56 percent of the time on level of body fat.
Disagreement on muscular definition was between the somewhat muscular and very
185 Hosti, Ole, Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities, (Reading, MA:
Luigi and Alessandra Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1969) 140.
muscular categories 100 percent of the time. And disagreement on level of body fat was
between the low body fat and medium body fat categories 100 percent of the time. Using
other magazines, the researcher and independent coder analyzed images of male bodies
and discussed how and why each would code the images a certain way. Also, the rules
were reiterated as a focal point to refer to when future uncertainty emerged.
Following each pretest, the researcher and independent coder each individually
coded nine randomly pre-selected issues from each magazine--27 in all--initially yielding
the following levels of agreement:
Number of Total Pages = 100%
Number of Pages with masculine images = 94%
Number of Codable Images = 95%
Category Assignment using male scale = 60%
Following a second detailed review of disagreement between the researcher and the
independent coder, 89 percent agreement was reached for the male scale. The researcher
accounts for such a large increase in agreement to the following:
1. Due to the small number of codable images (38 in all of the issues double-coded)
a small difference in agreement resulted in a huge percentage change. For
example, the nine double-coded Rolling Stone issues resulted only in four images
acceptable for coding; therefore, a change in agreement on just one image would
have caused a change in agreement of 25 percent.
2. Most disagreement was only on half of the scale; for example, the independent
coder and researcher would agree on muscular definition but not level of body fat
or vice versa. Further discussion resulted in more accurate coding of images
because, before either person changed his or her analysis of the image, each
person would discuss why he or she selected an initial category. Any changes
were made only after each person could evaluate the image in the same way--if
agreement could not be reached, then the initial category assignments remained.
3. After the last pretest, the researcher added the rule "when in doubt, round up." In
other words, if in doubt of whether an image had no body fat or medium body fat,
the coders chose medium. While this resulted in the last set of coding having the
highest agreement on the male scale (75 percent) it is difficult to say whether this
made much of a difference because the last nine magazine issues coded only
contained four codable images.
4. Due to fatigue, at times it was easy to forget rule #5/Part III-picking the closest
representation on the scale. For example, if an image had large biceps, and/or
large pectorals AND bumpy or defined abdominal muscles, it would fall into the
"very muscular" category. Then the researchers examined the abdominal area. If
the area was soft or protruding, the image was coded as in the medium fat/very
muscular category. Or if the area was flat or concave, it was coded in the low
fat/very muscular category. When discussion ensued after the initial coding, re-
examining this rule aided each coder in deciding on the best category assignment
for the image based on the rules drafted by the researcher.
Because the second look at the disagreement resulted in more accurate coding of the
images according to the rules, when the researcher and the independent coder reached
agreement, the researcher used the new coding decisions for her data analysis. In most
instances, the double coding took place before any individual coding by the researcher.
Any clarification of the rules obtained during the second detailed look at disagreement
resulted in more accurate coding decisions by the researcher in the remaining issues (80
Even though the initial agreement on the male scale appeared low at 60 percent,
more reliability of the measurement was found when breaking the coding decisions into a
split scale: how many times the researcher and independent coder agreed on muscular
definition and how many times agreement was reached on level of body fat. Splitting the
male scale agreement into its two components revealed 83 percent agreement for
muscular definition and 73 percent for level of body fat. Therefore, the researcher is
more confident in her analysis regarding muscularity than body-fat levels. Fifty-five
percent of the disagreement on muscular definition was between the not muscular and
somewhat muscular categories; 45 percent was between the somewhat muscular and very
muscular categories. And 93 percent of the disagreement on level of body fat was
between the low body fat and medium body fat categories; 7 percent was between the
medium body fat to high body fat categories. Finally, it is important to note that the
researcher and independent coder only completely disagreed six percent of the time.
Of the 132 magazines analyzed, the average number of pages was 135. There was
an increase in the number of magazine pages over the 30-year period, beginning with an
average of 93 pages in the 1960s to 154 in the 1990s. The following average total page
numbers were found for each magazine: GQ issues had an average of 221 pages, Sports
Illustrated an average of 104 pages, and Rolling Stone an average of 82 pages. Of the
409 codable images analyzed, 71 percent were found in GQ, 16 percent in Sports
Illustrated, and 13 percent in Rolling Stone.
The data were analyzed by individual decades-the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and
1990s, except in discussion about the male scale's eight categories, in which the 1960s
were included with the 1970s because there were so few codable images during that time
period. Because of the time period used (1967-1997) and the coding procedures (every
three years), only one year of magazines was coded from the 1960s, while the 1970s had
four years, the 1980s had three years and the 1990s had three years coded.
The data supported the first hypothesis that over the past 30 years, the male ideal
body shape or image in the media has become more muscularly defined. In 1967, the
"not muscular" category accounted for the largest percentage of images, 55 percent,
compared to 46 percent of images that were either "somewhat muscular" or "very
muscular." By the 1990s, the "not muscular" category accounted for only 17 percent of
the images, while the "somewhat muscular" or "very muscular" categories accounted for
And while the percentage of images in the muscular categories appear to have
decreased slightly from the 1980s to the 1990s, when the categories were split into the
three possible choices of muscularity--"not muscular," "somewhat muscular," and "very
muscular"--more trends emerged. The largest category in the 1960s was "not muscular,"
followed by "somewhat muscular;" "very muscular" was not represented at all. However,
the "not muscular" category decreased almost every decade, and the "somewhat
muscular" category remained the largest during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The "very
muscular" category, which was not found at all in the 1960s, consistently increased from
the 1960s to the 1990s, rising 35 percent over the past 30 years [Chi-square (df 6)=49.97,
p<.000], (See Table 4-1).
Because muscular definition usually increases as level of body fat decreases, the
researcher also analyzed level of body fat as a separate category. In 1967, 55 percent of
the codable images were categorized as showing medium body fat, 27 percent were in the
low body fat categories, and 18 percent were high body fat images. In the 1990s, medium
and high body fat levels fell, and the low body fat category rose to 62 percent, more than
twice its original size in 1967 [Chi-square (df 6)=24.26, p<.000], (See Table 4-2).
Year Not Muscular Somewhat Muscular Very Muscular
1960s 55% 46% 0%
1970s 40% 49% 10%
1980s 13% 60% 28%
1990s 17% 48% 35%
Chi-square=49.97 df=6 p<.000
Year Low body fat Medium body fat High body fat
1960s 27% 55% 18%
1970s 43% 51% 6%
1980 67% 29% 4%
1990s 62% 30% 8%
Chi-square=24.26 df=6 p<.000
The second hypothesis, that men have been exposed to an increasing number of
V-shaped images--a broad chest tapering to a narrowing waist, over the past 30 years,
also was supported by this research. The researcher's male scale included four categories
containing an image with a broad chest tapering to narrowing waist--low body
fat/somewhat muscular, low body fat/very muscular, medium body fat/somewhat
muscular, and medium body fat/very muscular. Results show a steady increase in the
number of V-shaped images, with the exception of a five percent drop in the 1990s. Even
with that slight decline, the V-shaped image was still the most commonly seen in these
magazines [Chi-square (df 3)=28.23, p<.000], (See Table 4-3).
Year V-shaped Images
Chi-square=28.23 df=3 p<.000
In the 1960s and 1970s, 26 percent of the images were categorized in the low
body fat/somewhat muscular category, 23 percent were categorized medium body fat/not
muscular category, and 22 percent were in the medium body fat/somewhat muscular
category. However, 41 percent of the images were coded as not muscular, with varying
levels of body fat. In the 1980s, the percentage of images coded as not muscular dropped
to 12 percent. A thin yet muscular trend emerged; 44 percent of the images were coded
as low body fat/somewhat muscular and 21 percent as low body fat/very muscular. The
trend continued into the 1990s, when nearly 60 percent of images fell into the same two
categories as in the previous decade: low body fat/somewhat muscular dropped to 29
percent, but the low body fat/very muscular category grew to 28 percent of the images.
And although low body fat/somewhat muscular was the largest category in the 1990s, it
exceeded the low body fat/very muscular category by only one percent. It appears that the
frequency of low body fat/somewhat muscular images declined while the percentage of
low body fat/very muscular images continued to increase. Occurrences of each category
are broken down by decade in Table 4-4, [Chi-square (df 14)=66.67, p<.000].
Low body fat/not muscular
Low body fat/somewhat muscular
Low body fat/very muscular
Medium body fat/not muscular
Medium body fat/somewhat
Medium body fat/very muscular
High body fat/not muscular
High body fat/somewhat muscular
S 12% 3% 5%
1 26% 44% 29%
L 3% 21% 28%
22% 13% 16%
6% 8% 7%
Chi-square=66.67 df=14 p<.000
There was little evidence to support the third hypothesis-- that men have been
exposed to an increasing number of all masculine images-because overall the number of
pages containing masculine images increased only slightly over the past 30 years. For
1967, 47 percent of the pages contained masculine images; this increased to 50 percent
for the 1990s (See Table 4-5). Since there was an increase in number of pages, overall
there were more masculine images.
Year Pages Containing
Post Hoc Analysis
The research revealed an image trend by magazine for muscular definition.
Eighty-four percent of the images in GQ were somewhat muscular or very muscular; only
16 percent were categorized as not muscular. Sports Illustrated followed with 77 percent
of the images categorized as somewhat muscular or very muscular; only 23 percent were
not muscular. However, the images in Rolling Stone showed a different trend. Fifty-
seven percent of the images were not muscular compared to 43 percent somewhat or very
muscular [Chi-square= (df 4)=43.62, p<.000], (See Table 4-6).
Magazine Not Muscular Somewhat Muscular Very Muscular
GQ 16% 58% 26%
Rolling Stone 57% 30% 13%
Sports Illustrated 23% 46% 31%
Chi-square=43.62 df=4 p<.000
The researcher also noted a trend by magazine for each category on the male
scale. Fifty-eight percent of the images found in GQ were either low body fat/somewhat
muscular or low body fat/very muscular. Fifty-three percent of the images in Rolling
Stone were categorized as not muscular/low or medium body fat, and 52 percent of the
images in Sports Illustrated were categorized as low body fat/somewhat muscular or
medium body fat/very muscular [Chi-square (df 14)=96.76, p<.000]. The large
percentage of medium body fat/very muscular images in Sports Illustrated may be due to
the many pictures of boxers who tend to be very muscular but not extremely lean. The
stereotype of musicians being non-athletic may explain why more than half the images in
Rolling Stone were not muscular.
Finally, the research examined whether or not the number of codable (or more
revealing) images were increasing, even though there was only a slight increase in the
number of overall masculine images. Again, a small increase was found (See Table 4-7).
But while there is not a large percentage change in the actual number of images, whether
codable or not, what has changed is what those images look like.
Year Codable Images
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The findings support previous literature and research that have suggested that
masculine images in the mass media have changed. Researchers have claimed that
images of the ideal man do not look like they used to, and this research confirmed their
assumptions. In the 1960s, the majority of masculine images fell into the "not muscular"
categories, regardless of the level of body fat. In the 1990s most of the masculine images
fell into the "somewhat muscular" or "very muscular" categories, and the majority were
categorized as low body fat. The ideal images portrayed in the media in the earlier
decades of this study were heavier and less muscularly defined men; however, time has
shown a shift toward a thin yet moderately to heavily muscled ideal. This research
quantified a trend that some researchers, advertisers, and modeling agencies have been
aware of since the mid-1980s.
Dr. Trent Petrie completed a content analysis of two men's magazines, GQ and
Esquire, and found that the ideal body type remained V-shaped--a broad chest tapering to
a narrowing waist. This research confirmed that the most prevalent masculine image in
the mass media is a V-shaped image. Petrie measured the shoulder-to-chest and
shoulder-to-waist ratios to indicate whether or not an image was V-shaped and found that
the prevailing image was V-shaped and had not substantially changed in the past three
decades. 186 This researcher counted an image as V-shaped if it was categorized into one
of the four male scale categories that were identified as exemplifying a V-shaped body.
While the V-shaped image has nearly always accounted for the majority of mass media
images, as Petrie found, this researcher found that the percentages of these images has
increased over the past 30 years, with a slight decrease in the 1990s. Also, Petrie did not
indicate whether he found an increase in these images; this researcher did. This research
supports the viewpoint that the growing masculine image in the mass medium is a lean,
highly muscular image; the Marky Mark image that many researchers refer to would fall
into this category.
Finally, many researchers, advertisers, and modeling agencies speculate that, not
only are the images of men changing, but also there is an increasing number of these
images in the media. This researcher did find a significant change in what the masculine
images looked like throughout the past 30 years and agrees that a stringent standard for
male beauty has arrived--thinner but more muscular. However, while the image has
changed greatly, the actual percentage of masculine images has risen only slightly.
Research Contributions for Mass Communications
While past researchers have indicated that the male body most portrayed in the
past decades had undergone a change, there was very little quantifiable data to document
this change. This analysis of men's magazines during the past 30 years quantifies what
many have speculated--that men in the media do not look like they used to. There are
countless studies of the way women are portrayed in the media and of the effects of these
186 Petrie, Trent A., "Sociocultural Expectations of Attractiveness for Males," Sex
images. While this study does not suggest any effects concerning men and the media, it
does clearly show the way the male image has changed from 1967 to 1997.
Research Limitations and Opportunities for Future Research
More research was and still is needed as masculine images change into ideals that
may one day be as unattainable as those women have faced for decades. This research
quantified the changes masculine images have gone through in the media and gives a
starting point for future researchers to continue studying how men are portrayed in the
media and to study what effects, if any, these changing images are having on men in their
daily lives. Previous research has suggested that one's body image is influenced by
sociocultural factors such as those found in the mass media. Dr. Harrison Pope, the
leading expert in recent research on muscle dysmorphia, points to the recent increase in
the importance of muscularity in American culture, magazines, and films as a contributor
to increased occurrences of body image disturbances in young men. 187 This research
does support the argument that muscularity has become more popular in at least one mass
medium; however, it does not provide evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship
between the mass media and increases in occurrences of body image disturbances in
A study could be conducted of males of different age groups and a comparison
could be made to determine whether or not men who have been exposed to more
Roles: A Journal of Research, Nov 1996, 581-588.
187 Pope, Harrison G; Gruber, Amanda J.; Choi, Precilla; Olivardia, Roberto and
Phillips, Katherine A., "Muscle Dysmorphia, an Underrecognized Form of Body
Dysmorphic Disorder," Psychosomatics, 38, Nov-Dec 1997, 553.
difficult-to-attain images have experienced more body image distortion. Or a
longitudinal study could analyze males, their body image, and their media consumption
habits through their early teen years into adulthood and to determine if there is a
correlation between the media images and increase in body image distortion or other body
image problems. Also, future research could study the effects on men of the ideal images
in the media using social comparison theory. Previous research has suggested that the
male ideal body and men's own bodies were relatively identical, thus allowing men to
feel comfortable with their bodies. However, in this content analysis, a changed ideal
male body in the mass media was discovered. This researcher suggests, as others have,
that the new ideal seen in the mass media does not represent the body type most men
have, just as female fashion models seen in the mass media do not represent the way most
American women look. Dr. Murray Drummond, a health professor at the University of
South Australia, states that these images in the mass media represent genetically gifted
people and therefore are unattainable for most people. 188 If the average man compares
himself to these images, a discrepancy may emerge between his own body image and the
ideal. According to social comparison theory, once a comparison is made, assuming that
the person wants to be similar to and ranks the other person as superior, then the
existence of the discrepancy will result in action on the part of the person doing the
comparing in order to reduce the discrepancy. While a person's self-esteem may be
lowered by the comparison, the behavior he engages in to reduce the discrepancy could be
dangerous. Behaviors such as excessive concern with diet and weight loss, as well as
188 Nixon, Sherrill, "Men at the Risk of Reverse Anorexia," Australian Associated Press,
2 Sept 97, 25.
excessive concern with attaining lean body mass and using steroids, can be seen as a way
to reduce this discrepancy and are worth studying in connection to the new hyper-
masculine yet thin ideal that has emerged in the mass media over the past 30 years.
Finally, while this research clearly established a change in the ideal body image
portrayed in magazines, others may want to replicate the study after refining this
researcher's male scale. This male scale was developed specifically for this study and
because it has been used only once, more testing could establish it as a valuable tool to
use when analyzing media images. Only 60 percent agreement was reached when the
male scale categories were taken as a whole, even though overall the researcher and
independent coder disagreed only six percent of the time. When the scale was split into
two parts, level of body fat and muscular definition, the researcher and independent coder
reached 83 percent agreement on muscular definition but only 73 percent agreement for
the level of body fat portion of the scale. It is obvious that agreeing on level of body fat is
more of a problem. Replication could determine whether the disagreement is due to a
flaw in the scale or flaws in the training and directions the independent coder received.
Once refined, the male scale could be used as a way to judge perceptions of what is
considered a healthy male body.
Also, although women's studies have indicated that images in one medium are
similar to those in other media, replication is needed in television and movies to discover
whether the trends found in this study will be found in those other media as well.
The dominant culture in American society has embraced thinness as a cultural
standard of attractiveness for women, and researchers have suggested that this can be
damaging to women in a variety of ways. Women have had more eating disorders and
body image problems compared to men in direct ratio to the number of slimming
messages they receive in the media. Now the dominant culture in American society also
has embraced a new ideal for men. This new ideal--low body fat, very muscular--may be
just as difficult for men to attain as the thin ideal has been for women. Petrie has found
that over the past three decades, males have been exposed to an increased number of
articles and advertisements aimed at how to improve their shape, strengthen and tone
their muscles and how to change their exercise habits. 189 Because men now are being
bombarded with increased messages concerning their physical attractiveness and
difficult-to-attain images, researchers could expect physical attractiveness to become
more important to men. Males then may try to reduce the discrepancy between their
bodies and the ideal seen in the media through certain behaviors. While the importance
of physical attractiveness for men may never reach the same level it holds for women,
some men still may put their health at risk as some women do in order to attain the
cultural ideal. If indeed there is a connection between media images and messages and
women's health risk behaviors, then we may soon see or already may be seeing the effects
mass media images may have on young men. While there are many contributors to low
189 Petrie, 591.
self-esteem and to eating and body dysmorphic disorders, the sociocultural impact of the
mass media in the latter half of this century cannot be ignored.
Bold: Double Coded
Italics: Issue not available next available issue was coded
Year GQ Rolling Stone Sports Illustrated
1967 Mar, Apr, Aug, Dec Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb Mar, Apr, Aug, Dec
1970 Apr, Aug, Oct, Nov Apr, Aug, Oct, Nov Apr, Aug, Oct, Nov
1973 May, Sep, Oct, Nov May, Jul, Oct, Dec May, Jul, Oct, Dec
1976 Jan, Apr, Jul, Sep Jan, Apr, Jul, Sep Mar, Apr, Jul, Sep
1979 May, Sep, Oct, Nov May, Sep, Oct, Nov May, Sep, Oct, Nov
1982 Mar, Apr, May, Dec Mar, Apr, May, Dec Mar, Apr, May, Dec
1985 Jan, Jun, Sep, Nov Jan, Jun, Sep, Nov Jan, Jun, Sep, Nov
1988 Feb, Jun, Jul, Oct Feb, Jun, Jul, Oct Feb, Jun, Jul, Oct
1991 Jan, May, Oct, Dec Jan, May, Oct, Dec Jan, May, Oct, Dec
1994 Jan, Feb, Aug, Oct Jan, Feb, Aug, Oct Jan, Feb, Aug, Oct
1997 Jul, Aug, Sep, Nov Feb, Oct, Nov, Dec Feb, Aug, Sep, Dec
U.r / vWr.Wu
1=Low Body Fat
2=Low Body Fat 3=Low Body Fat
Somewhat Muscular Very Muscular
4=Medium Body Fat
5=Medium Body Fat
6=Medium Body Fat
7=High Body Fat
8=High Body Fat
Part I Counting Pages
1. Count the number of pages in each magazine by looking at the last page in the
2. Adding 4 pages on for the covers, plus any additional "cover flaps."
3. Manually count all the pages in the magazine and add any additional pages
inside that are not included in the printed number of pages (and number with a
sticky according to the directions in #4, to avoid having to recount later,) with
the exception of inserts. Inserts are defined as being intended for the reader to
remove from the magazine (i.e. music offers).
4. If a page is not counted as a page in the magazine (i.e. Rolling Stone has a lot
of pages that look like pages but have a slightly different paper weight) count
it as the previous page number before and add a ".1", ".2", etc. until next real
page number begins. For ease of coding, mark with a sticky so you don't have
to recount later.
5. Keep track of any special issues of magazines by recording a yes or no on the
coding sheet (i.e. Sports Illustrated swim suit edition).
Part II Counting Masculine Images
1. Count any page as containing a masculine images) if there is at least part of a
male torso (the human body excluding the head and limbs) -- back, front, or
side view -- on the page, with the following exceptions:
a. Do not count pictures of pictures. (i.e. pictures of album covers,
picture of a picture of someone on TV or in a movie)
b. Do not count cartoons or art work.
c. Do not count images that are smaller than 2 inches wide or 2
inches in length.
2. If the image is a head shot and you can see some of the chest or shoulders,
then count the image. If you can only see the head and lower neck, do not
count as an image.
3. If the image is a leg shot and does not show any torso above the waist, do not
count it as an image.
4. If an image spreads across two pages (i.e. a double-truck) record both page
numbers on one line of the code sheet.
5. Designate cover as ".1", inside front cover as ".2", inside back cover as ".3",
and back cover as ".4" for coding purposes.
6. If there is an extra flap on the cover add another decimal place, such as 42.11
to indicate a fold out on the front cover side and 42.22 to indicate the fold out
on the inside front cover side.
Part III Coding Masculine Images
1. To be codable, the masculine images (torsos) must be shirtless or have on
form fitting clothing that allow the researcher to determine muscular
definition/level of body fat.
2. Muscular definition: Check for biceps or pectorals and abdominal
3. Level of Fat: Look for protruding stomach or waist, "love handles," or a
softness in the abdominal area.
4. PICK THE CLOSEST REPRESENTATION ON THE SCALE.
5. For example, if an image has large biceps, and/or large pectorals AND bumpy
or defined abdominal muscles, pick the "very muscular" category. Then
examine the abdominal area. If the area is soft or protruding pick the medium
fat/very muscular category. If the area is flat or concave pick the low fat/very
6. Rule #1 needs to be applied to all images (i.e. pictures of obese men in suits or
other non formfitting attire will not be coded even though it is easier to judge
their muscular definition and level of body fat, to avoid overrepresentation of
this category in coding.
7. If there is more than one codable image on the page, count clockwise starting
at the upper left hand corer of the page.
8. If the same codable image appears separately on more than one page or the
same page, code it as many times as it appears.
9. Keep a separate tally of the images that are codable since pages that contain
masculine images may have more than one codable image per page.
10. If the image is a double truck (over two pages) code it as only 1 image.
Mag Special Month Year Total Page Image # (if more Cat #1-8 from
Issue? __Pages than one per page) male scale*
I I 1 _
I I 1 _
I i 1 1
I il 1 _ _
I it l 1 ___
*Category: 0= "Not Codable"
I it l 1 ___
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Cheryl Lynn Law was born in 1965 in Brunswick, Maine. She graduated from
Mt. Ararat High School, in Topsham, Maine in 1984 and received a B.A. in Journalism
(Advertising) and Psychology from the University of Maine in 1989. While attending
college, she received a commission in the U.S. Army Reserves through the Reserve
Officer Training Corps in 1988.
After graduating from the University of Maine, she attended the Defense
Information School's Public Affairs Officer Course and Electronic Journalism Course at
Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. Following her completion of these courses, she moved
to Southern California where, in addition to managing training issues at an Army reserve
public affairs detachment in Los Angles, she worked as a graphic artist in for two weekly
In 1992, Cheryl moved to Europe where she lived in Greece and Germany. She
helped plan and execute U.S. military public affairs activities for WWII commemoration
activities in Normandy, France, and conducted media relations activities during the
Rwandan relief operation. In 1995, she cross-commissioned into the U.S. Air Force
Reserves and was assigned as a public affairs officer at the U.S. Air Forces in Europe
headquarters, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. She deployed to Aviano Air Base Italy,
during the NATO bombing campaign in Bosnia to assist in media relations, escort news
media representatives to Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina following the Dayton Peace Accord,
and conduct media training exercises for Air Force commanders throughout Europe. In
1996, she was reassigned to the Air Force Press Desk at the Pentagon where she conducts
media relations. She has handled numerous sensitive press inquiries: aircraft crashes,
base closure lawsuits, fraternization, suicide, and sudden high-level personnel changes as
well as worked several high-interest issues regarding military readiness with CNN and
other national outlets.
Following graduation she will relocate to California and work in a public relations
position in the entertainment industry.