Body image in Indian women as influenced by the Indian media




Kapadia, Manisha Kalidas

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Body satisfaction is an important factor in women's health. However, recent trends indicate that women aspire to have an increasingly thin body shape, resulting in decreased body satisfaction (Markey, 2004). Several studies have found that women and girls in many parts of the world experience levels of body image disturbance and eating disorders that are similar to levels found in Western samples (Sharps, Price-Sharps, & Hanson, 200 I ; Wardle, Haase, & Steptoe, 2006). Sociocultural factors have been implicated in presenting standards of feminine beauty that are unrealistic for the majority of women and thus contributing to body image disturbance (Posavac & Posavac, 2002). While the effects of the media on the body image of White women have been well documented, research is lacking for studying this effect in the Indian population. This study examined how Indian women felt about their body size and shape, what factors affected how Indian women viewed their bodies, perceptions of how women are portrayed in Bollywood movies, and the influence of Bollywood on how Indian women perceived their bodies. Consensual qualitative research methodology (CQR; Hill, Thompson, Hess, Knox, Williams, & Ladany, 2005) was utilized in this study to gain a deeper understanding of these women's experiences. Twenty-six women of Southeast Asian descent were interviewed in focus groups of five to six participants. Several factors related to Indian women's body image were elucidated in this study. Overall, Indian women reported dissatisfaction with their body shape and size. The role of other women, especially friends and family, was an important factor in influencing body change. Women tended to use social comparisons with friends, family members, and actresses featured in Hollywood. Participants reported that they have noted a trend for women in Hollywood to become slimmer over time, which has also affected the perception of body image in Indian women. Most of the women, however, were aware of the impact of the Indian media and challenged some of these external sources of influence. Thus, references to the media or Westernization may be only a part of complex sociocultural factors that are contributing to body image concerns in Indian women.



Communication and the arts, Social sciences, Psychology, Body image, Bollywood, India, Indian, Media, Southeast Asian, Women