Billboards to combat body image issues created by media

Everyday women are told by images of altered models in the media that they have numerous flaws: hair too curly, butt too big, breasts too small, eyelashes too short, nails too dry, skin too dark.Products must be purchased to fix those flaws; eyelash extensions, push-up bras, Botox injections, wrinkle creams, foot scrubs, hair dyes and liposuction are just a few of the hundreds of beauty products women spend billions of dollars on in the U.S. each year, all to reach an unrealistic and often unhealthy goal, according to two twin sister doctoral students of the University of Utah.Lexie Kite, a 25-year-old Communication doctorate student, said, “The unrealistic images of women in the media has created a nation of women who dislike and even hate their bodies.”The beauty industry brought in $100 billion in 2010, proof that it is a profit driven industry, Lexie said. New products are created for a continually narrowing ideal of beauty, like the new eyelash growing prescription, Latisse. That is why women who are reportedly unhappy with their bodies continue to feel dissatisfied even after ‘fixing’ a flaw, Lexie said.Lindsay said, “There will always be another flaw. We have developed a wrong idea of what real looks like – women feel pressure to go to extremes. We say if beauty hurts, we are doing it wrong.”That is the message the twin sisters hope to send women with

<a href=””>12 new billboards</a>

coming to northern Utah starting this week. One will be placed in Logan in August, on the east side of 1120 S. Main Street. Why billboards? Lexie said billboards are another medium that women see every day, often containing seriously enhanced images of women. The Beauty Redefined billboards will not only act as a counter to those messages, but perhaps even help women rethink their opinion about their bodies.”We are not trying to change the industry. That is not a big priority,” Lexie said. “We know the media won’t change, but we can spread messages to help people come back to reality.”The sisters came up with the billboard idea in a random moment, and posted it to the campaign’s Facebook page to solicit feedback. In one day, without asking, $100 in donations came in as support from across the nation.Utah’s Reagan Outdoor, an advertising company, offered to allow the billboards to be public service announcements, meaning the company endorses the billboards’ message did all labor for free. The Kite sister’s organization Beauty Redefined was then approved as a nonprofit under the University of Utah. The campaign pays $220 for each billboard in material costs. Several other groups in Utah have donated to the cause as well, including the New Haven Residential Treatment Center of Spanish Fork.The billboards will contain slogans chosen after consideration of research, like “there is more to be than eye candy” and “your reflection does not define your worth.”Women struggle to consciously make that connection, Lexie said, because they don’t understand to what degree images are manipulated in the media. From celebrities to news anchors, those considered the most beautiful of humanity, are not even real. Rather, they are always altered, whether through filtered lenses, lighting effects or photo enhancements.Lexie said, “Every image of women in the media is manipulated, from wrinkles and scratches to cellulite.”The public does not understand this because they do not know how to critically analyze media, Lindsay said. Right now, kids spend eight hours a day with media, and yet the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not teach media literacy in public schools.Media literacy, according to the

<a href=””>Center for Media Literacy</a>

, is “the process of understanding and using the mass media in an assertive and non-passive way. This includes an informed and critical understanding of the nature of the media, the techniques used by them and the impact of these techniques.”Lindsay said, “There is money to be made in not teaching media literacy. The U.S. is the number one exporter of all things pop culture, which often features altered images of women and beauty products.”Lexie said they understand it can take a lot of money to get a new curriculum but points out there is curriculum for subjects for other such things, like drug use.A large problem relating to women portrayed in the media is racism, Lexie said. Women of color are shown less in the media, and when they are, they’re always whitewashed meaning their skin is lightened, physically or digitally. Also, they are featured with long, straight hair, lighter eyes, thin figures and a slim nose – traditional Caucasian features.Lexie said, “Even when women of color are represented in the media, like Beyonce and Tyra Banks, they have been ‘anglocized’ meaning they are essentially conformed to a white beauty ideal. Young women of color are taught they are not OK how they look naturally.”But why focus efforts of media literacy in Utah? Lexie said according to a 2007 study, Salt Lake City was found to be the vainest city in America on the standard of one plastic surgeon per six people, and Utahns spend the most money on beauty products.”We are not villainizing Utahns,” Lexie said. “We are trying to send a positive message to a population that is very targeted by the beauty industry.”Utah has the youngest marriage age and highest birth rate in the U.S., and thus Utah has a large population of very young mothers, Lindsay said.”These mothers get a lot of marketing targeted towards them in the form of ‘get your body back’ and the ‘mommy makeover.’ Utahns enjoy a higher average income and have extra money to spend. There’s a lot of money to be made telling young mothers they can get their body back after they lose it having kids.”The twins’ research shows media is consistently linked to body hatred, disordered eating an over-focus on appearance.Lindsay said, “So many women internalize ‘being looked at’ and tie happiness to how they look, but women are capable of more than just being looked at. We are worth more than that.”To donate to the Beauty Redefined campaign or for more information, visit

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