A recent body image survey conducted by the Girl Scouts determined that many girls are feeling the extreme pressures of the fashion industry to be thin and to use any means necessary to accomplish this goal. The survey, Beauty Redefined [PDF], asked 1,000 girls ages 13-17 across the United States how they felt about their bodies. Some of the unnerving statistics:
Girls attribute media and fashion to the pressure to be thin. Nine in ten girls say the fashion industry (89%) and/or the media (88%) place a lot of pressure on teenage girls to be thin. Girls say they would prefer to see more “natural”/“real” images in the media. Eighty-one percent of girls would rather see “real” or “natural” photos of models than touched-up, airbrushed versions.
Additionally, the survey found that many girls have a “love/hate” relationship with the fashion industry, often viewing fashion as very important to them while simultaneously hating what it represents. Girls do seem to notice the problems with too-thin models, race representation, and other unrealistic expectations found in the fashion world:
Sixty-five percent of girls think that the body image represented by the fashion industry is too skinny; 63% think it is unrealistic; and 47% think it is unhealthy. More than a quarter (28%) say the fashion industry body image looks sick…Only 46% think the fashion industry does a good job of representing people of all races and ethnicities, with Caucasian girls the most likely to say this (52%, compared to only 42% of Hispanics and 32% of African Americans).
Interestingly, African-American and Hispanic girls felt more satisfied with their bodies than did Caucasian girls. A media event on the survey and the topic of body image will be held at the Bryant Park Hotel in New York City the day before Fashion Week begins and will include celebrity panelists and other experts.
Body image for young girls in the United States is a serious and often overlooked problem. Girls as young as thirteen are experimenting with diet pills and weight loss attempts while trying to cope with self-esteem issues that come with not being the size zero they see on the runway. These mental and physical pressures are enough to cause emotional stress on girls who should be concentrating on school, playing outside, or enjoying being a teenager. The average size of an adult woman in the United States is 162 pounds and she wears a size 14 – it is time we start seeing her and ignoring the waif model stereotype until it disappears for good.