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The role of the mass media in promoting a thin standard of bodily attractiveness for women


Eating disorders appear to be more common among women than among men and more common now than they were in the past. Recent speculation has focused upon the role played by an unrealistically thin standard of bodily attractiveness for women in the promotion of these disorders. To demonstrate that this standard does play such a role, and to implicate the mass media in the promotion of this standard, it is first necessary to demonstrate that the current standard of attractiveness for women portrayed in the media is slimmer than that for men, that the portrayed standard is slimmer now than it has been in the past, and that these findings apply to many of the major media. The four studies presented here demonstrate that the current standard of attractiveness portrayed on television and in magazines is slimmer for women than for men and that the recent standard for women portrayed in magazines and in movies is slimmer than it was in the past.

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We thank all the people who did the ratings of the models and actresses, including Valerie Bick, David Sticker, Sue Olafson, Jeannie Mercer, Monica de Sica, Lisa Silvers, Elda Ramirez, and Cecelia Pizzolo.

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Silverstein, B., Perdue, L., Peterson, B. et al. The role of the mass media in promoting a thin standard of bodily attractiveness for women. Sex Roles 14, 519–532 (1986).

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  • Social Psychology
  • Eating Disorder
  • Mass Media
  • Current Standard
  • Major Medium