Breaking Down the Western Beauty-Ideal: Body Image, Marketing, and the Media

Institution: Carleton University (Nicol Building 3040)
Category: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Language: English

Course Description

There has been a growing understanding in society that social media is fake. We are becoming more familiar with the idea of Instagram being a “highlight reel,” and acknowledging the use of makeup, photoshopping, lighting, and favorable angles in photos. But can the media’s constant promotion of unrealistic body and beauty standards really impact people’s mental health and body image? Where does the beauty ideal even come from? How do major companies play a role in this messaging? And are Canadian policies and education systems doing enough to address this issue?

This course is designed to break down the layers behind the beauty ideal. You’ll learn about the correlation between social media use and body image, the effect media has on society’s misconceptions about weight, and the role major companies play in creating these ideologies. The focus will not just be on social media, but more traditional media as well to discuss how messaging interacts with psychological factors to impact societal ideals and body image. Demographics that are often excluded from these conversations, such as male youth and people of color, will also be addressed.

A psychology lens will be taken to explore this topic through concepts such as social comparison, body dissatisfaction, self-evaluation, and self-esteem. This course is for students who are interested in media, mental health, and public policy. The final project for the course will provide students the opportunity to create a research-supported policy proposal to their chosen group of stakeholders outlining an avenue of change relating to this topic.
This course would be especially important to the grade 8-11 demographic, as this age group is most vulnerable to declines in self-esteem, poor body image, as well as the internalization of media messaging.