Why do most girls think they’re fat?

Lee-Anna Bardun

Societal pressures weigh on females’ self-perception

Grabbing her stomach, Rachel Sapper imitated her roommate, “Oh my god, I’m so fat!”

Sapper, a freshman crafts major, is a slender girl herself and said her roommate weighs about fifteen pounds less than she does. But still, she worries about her weight.

Being skinny is simply the standard of beauty in our society, and it is displayed in the media almost everywhere we look, said Janis Crowther, a psychology professor.

“If you look at the individuals portrayed in the media, they are very slender, sometimes emaciated,” Crowther said. “So if that’s the epitome of beauty our society is endorsing, that’s the image women are comparing themselves to.”

Female students are often trying to live up to expectations, said Michelle Miller, senior business management and marketing major.

“Women are always comparing themselves with other girls,” she said.

Miller’s younger sister had issues with weight when she was in high school. Miller said her sister was on the track team and had a muscular build different from the thin models she saw in the media.

Miller said she thinks being skinny is less important than being healthy – eating right and exercising. However, she said she and her friends have discussed their weight before.

“All of us want to lose a little bit of weight,” she said. “Everybody thinks they can improve themselves.”

But this goal toward self-improvement can lead to more negative feelings for other girls.

Aubrey Luther, freshmen special education major, said weight issues and the pressure to be thin sometimes bothers her.

“It’s frustrating when you go to the mall or whatever, and you’re looking for clothes, and they don’t fit you,” she said. “You have to search to find clothes to fit you if you’re curvy.”

Luther said sometimes all you can find are size zeros, and some stores make it a point to only carry smaller sizes.

Luther, who worked at Abercrombie & Fitch, said she saw little girls cry in the store because they couldn’t fit into the clothes. Surrounded by extremely thin co-workers, Luther said she hated working there.

Christen Mullett, junior psychology major, said she thinks girls feel pressured to be skinny mainly from the media, but it comes from peers as well.

Most women’s magazines are telling women how to lose weight and how to get the “best beach body,” Mullett said, adding that trying to live up to media images is unrealistic.

Society and celebrities can be big influences on girls’ issues with weight, but so do guys, Sapper said. A lot of guys say they don’t want a girl who is extremely thin, but those are the girls who seem to get all the attention, she added.

Crowther said everyone has heard anecdotes about what men want in women, but earlier research shows that men typically prefer women who are bigger than models in magazines.

Sapper said even girls who are skinny by society’s standards still complain they are fat.

“It’s (the complaining about weight) kind of something someone says just because,” Sapper said. “They want to be told they’re skinny. They want to know that other people think they’re skinny because it makes them feel better.”

Being college-aged may have something to do with girls’ weight issues, Sapper said. However, Crowther said women who are dissatisfied with their bodies in adolescence tend to remain dissatisfied into adulthood.

“Pretty much every girl I know talks about it (their weight) sometimes,” Mullett said. “I think everybody sees their own faults and magnifies them.”

Society is making strides in small ways, though. Some European countries are making an effort to hire bigger models, Crowther said. It might be a way to start changing how women perceive themselves.

“We should start by portraying women of all shapes and sizes positively,” Crowther said.

Contact student life reporter Lee-Anna Bardun at [email protected].