WGS students analyze the effects of media and peer pressure on body image

From the Dec. 5 edition of the Gettysburgian
by staff writer Alexis Grant

It’s that time of the semester again when the Women, Gender, and Sexuality classes are wrapping up their Making Change projects.  These projects are assigned to students taking the introductory course and urge them to address the issues they have learned about during the semester by making a change in the campus community. 

One group chose to focus on the topic of self body image and related trends that appear on the Gettysburg College campus.  For their project, they designed a simple survey and sent it out to four random major aliases to get an idea of how students of both genders feel about their personal image and how important students think body image is. 

The results suggested that media and peers have the largest influence on college students’ perception of body image and more than half of the sample said they have dieted to lose weight or alter their body.

Senior Alli Grant said, “misconceptions about ‘an ideal body image’ can lead young adults, especially females down a dangerous path toward self-esteem issues and eating disorders.”  She believes that people should focus more on living a healthy lifestyle than obtaining a desired body shape.

“It is something that we should look at as a society and be ashamed of how manipulative the media is in telling people what they should look like,” said Patrick O’Grady, one of the project members.  He thought that the results were surprising from a male’s perspective.  “The amount of people that say they compare their bodies to others, I did not see coming.”

A surprising ninety percent of the sample often or occasionally compared their own image to others, most of the sample representing females on this campus.  About ten percent of the sample feels insecure about their bodies while forty-six percent only feel secure sometimes.

“It is interesting to note who influences the idea of beauty and how students attempt to change their own appearance to fit into others’ idea of beauty,” said project member, Sarah Kaboly.

While the survey only reached a fraction of students and consisted mostly of upperclassmen, there is room for improvement in determining the statistical evidence of the issue on campus.  However, with around 100 random respondents the group was able to conclude that self-esteem and security appear to be threatened for several students.

The group hopes for members of the campus to read this article and understand that body image issues are all around Gettysburg College.  Senior Lizzie Donatoni said, “Our goal is to raise awareness to students about the large volume of insecurities that may be going unspoken and causing self-esteem issues for many people.”