Body image in the history of human society

Even though body images always played an important role through the history of human society, today our society addicted to the perception of these images. While looking at the ancient images people see women always depicted with sexual bodies and men had strong muscular system and well developed body. Even when people look at the pictures from different historical periods, they can always find a difference in body images. Additionally, each culture has its own body images that affected entire culture. Moreover today, body images are playing crucial role in development of the young generation across the world. Only a right perception of these images will create better understanding of various cultures across the world.

Surprisingly, women always cared more about their body images comparing to men. Why is it so different? Men always were in charge of providing their families with all needed items for their surviving. During early stage of human society men were hunters and their main goal was to provide enough food for their families. Since society did not invent any advanced hunting equipment, men had to invent everything on their own, which took o lot of their time. Additionally, men had to create camouflage that will help in hunting. Since men could spend weeks while hunting; therefore, they did not care enough for their body images and everything that was related to its perception. At the same time women, were taking care of their families and education of their children.

Even during later stages of human history, women always stayed in focus of the society. Women’s body images were always appreciated by various artists. Many of them depicted women’s body in their works. These art pieces affected people’s perception of the body images. Moreover, at some point these art pieces became a standard for many people who made everything in order to have similar body types. However, men at this point performed various political or military tasks, which did not require a lot of attention to their bodies. Instead, men concentrated on women’s bodies and this is why so many pieces of antique art depicted women.

Even today, men and women perceive their own bodies differently. Today, modern life is impossible without an advertising background, which is all the more obvious the more active and effective way to change people’s opinions. Advertising, media, or movie industry penetrated into all spheres of society, actively influences its social institutions, and has a significant impact on the social behavior of people living in it. Mass media conveys information not only about goods, products, services, markets, but also on social, political and other types of relationships in society. It affects cultural constructions including the interpersonal relationships between men and women. The latest mass media products, usually stereotyped, simplified and reduced to the level of perfectionism in everything. It is important to understand that this industry creates wrong people’s opinions about body images.

Mass media creates unrealistic body images that affected people’s perceptions. When people watch TV commercials, see advertisement on the streets, or just watch movies on TV shows, they see how bodies of “heroes” of mass media represented. People repeatedly bombarded by ads, movies, or shows with men and women portrayed fit and sexy of course people feel that it is the norm to have a perfect body. Women are sexy and men are well built and well structured. Therefore, people are willing to be similar to these perfect body images. Super man, Spider man, Batman, James Bond, top- models; everybody looks absolutely realistic and perfect at the same time, and many people think that these characters represent perfect body images for the society. Moreover, because of the strong connection between mass-media and today’s society, people make everything in order to create these body images within their own bodies.

Since men and women have a lot differences, women perceive body images absolutely different comparing to men. Additionally, women as future mothers want to receive a lot of attention from men and if women did not receive this attention, the first reason that comes into their minds is body issues. Even if woman’s is absolutely normal, some women think that their bodies are not even close to the most popular body images. This causes in women various psychological and physiological dysfunctions that can end in very tragically for the woman.

No women who are satisfied with the figure, but there are those who have dissatisfaction turns into a disease. In one day the woman decides that her waist or hips are fat, and the only right solution in order to be perfect is to lose weight. Such a conclusion has made because of the unrealistic body images surrounded women everywhere. After woman started losing weight, she is behaving decisively and purposefully. She excludes from the diet all foods that seem to be the most nutritious, limits the list of dishes that she can eat, and a reserves attitude to everything related to nutrition. Further, improvement of “bad body shape” becomes more stubborn. A woman engages in an overexcited intensity work outs such as aerobics, jogging, and weight trainings in addition to the starvation diet.

Starvation diet, hours of physical exercise, everything happens in order to make a women look similar to the perfect body image. At some point a woman loses a lot of her weight. She cannot stop anymore, because in her mind she still has no perfect body. In this case a woman can die because her body cannot function due to the small amount of vitamins, fibers, energy produced, and other chemicals that are crucial for human bodies. Even though, this is an extreme example it shows that women are fanatical about their own bodies and body images surrounded them.

Men on the other hand, are less affected by the male popular body images. However, men’s body image perception is completely different. Most of the time during the history of human society, men were doing tasks related to defending their families and providing them [families] with all needs. Therefore, men were less affected by body images. However, today men changed their perception of their own body image.

Today men are strongly follow popular body images with their societies. Men are not affected by pursuit for the perfect body, but more of them prefer to look similar to the main stream. Willingness to look better transferred them from working and watching TV individuals into people who can develop healthier bodies.

Marriage is not only a want of a couple to live together, but also an opportunity to continue human society by giving a birth to children. Therefore, many women are seeking for a better looking mate, who can provide future offspring with better genes. In order to meet “potential demand” men tried to change their current body image into the perfect muscular and well built one. However, men who are not taking care of their own body image develop a psychological complex that decreases their self-esteem. Since this type of men is not physically attracted for women because of the different body type comparing to the general male body image, men think that they cannot find a potential mate. This psychological problem causes inability to communicate with women, which causes depression in this group of individuals.

The bright side of the body image problem is its ability to create healthier society. When people see perfect body images, their willingness to be healthier is increases. Many people see perfect body image as an opportunity to change themselves into something better.

It is not a secret that obesity kills and makes many people disabled. Each year people are suffering from obesity by having heart failures, heart strokes, blood pressure, cancers and other diseases that can kill millions of people across the world. Perfect body images created by the community make these people willing to change their lives and increase their chances for survival. When these individuals compare themselves with something that is accepted and widely imaged within society, they start to do everything in order to be more accepted and look similar to these perfect “fake” images. In other words, for some groups of people the same body images that can destroy bodies viewed as a chance for survival and strongest push for changes in people’s behavior. Moreover, some people whom I know were able to change their bodies with help of the stereotypical perfect body image. This change not only helped them to look better, but also improved their self-esteem and provided additional respect for these people from others.

It is important to understand that body image affects various individuals differently. Additionally, body images and their perceptions are changed every time since each society chooses what looks better. Through humans history people can easily see that every society had its own perception of each body image. If individuals will compare today’s accepted body images with what was accepted twenty or thirty years ago, they will see how our society changed its perception. The only thing that people can do in order to make body images improving our society is make sure that no matter what perception of the body is, it does not damage people and only helps them to improve. As long as this will be enforced people will learn how to accept others and some people will be able to change themselves.

Igor Platitsa

Prof. Christopher Moffat

Biology 330



Each society today posses various customs, including gender labels and stereotypes. Typically masculine image includes a set of traits associated with professional competence, rational thinking and active lifestyle; a typical female image has strong social and communication skills, personal warmth and emotional support. However, gender stereotypes and labels had enough power to change in both positive and negative ways gender perceptions within various societies.

What is gender in general? According to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary, gender is the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex. This means that all anatomical and physiological characteristics of people are included in gender, depending on what is defined as male or female within a specific society. Lately, gender became constructed by society as a social model of women and men that determines their position and role in society and its institutions such as family, political structure, economy, culture and education. Furthermore, gender labels differ in various societies and cultures. However, in most of these cultures and societies, gender labels are non-proportional since men are dominant, and women always have secondary roles in these societies.

Many people across the world suffered because of gender labels and stereotypes. Various professional fields and careers have very powerful gender labels, which are almost unbreakable. Military service, for example, in many countries is mandatory only for men. Since men are stronger and muscular, many societies think that good soldiers are men only. From my past military experience, I can clearly say that female soldiers can be characterized by the same high rates of sociability, courage and self-control compared with the male personnel. Moreover, it is obvious that stereotypical gender differences, such as high growth, greater weight, muscle mass, and physical strength of men are very unstable and much less related to the different sexes.

On the other hand, there are various professional fields that have female gender labels. Nursing, for example, has high numbers of females who are interested working in this field. If the man, in some cultures, changed his profession of mechanic to nurse, he might be viewed as in the wrong light by the society around him. However, most of the gender labels depend on the society and cultures around surrounded them. This means that gender labels can be inherited even if these labels are incorrect.

Lately, gender labels created gender identity and sexual identity issues for various people. Since men and women became so similar, many individuals felt that mentally they belong to the opposite sex/gender even though physically they cannot be considered as this sex. However, reaction of the society can cause various issues on how people who are ready to admit their different gender identity will be accepted.

When a person at the young age tries to admit and show that his/her gender identity is different, parents’ reaction becomes extremely crucial. Parents are often either not notice, or do not attach importance to the fact that their child is not like everyone else. Sometimes parents ignore problems of their child, even when they [problems] go beyond the family, which has negative effects on the child. Since different sexual identity is inappropriate in various countries, parents think that by not paying attention to sexual identity issues all issues will completely disappear. However, by ignoring these issues parents are creating psychological problems for their children.

Many countries apply law on issues related to gender identity. In former Soviet Union, for example, any gender identity besides heterosexual was illegal and prosecuted. Every time, when a society accused a person of different gender identity, this person could not have a normal life within this society. These accusations were always transferred to authorities. Solutions that authorities enforced were always painful. An individual who has gender identity issues was forced to undergo through various painful steps such as treatment in prison-like psychiatric hospitals. Moreover, a person who was attached with different gender identity could be trialed and forced to be imprisoned. All of these “treatments” caused many suicidal attempts, since everyone whose gender identity was labeled as illegal could not survive in that society.

When many people cannot find jobs, or live normally within society, they are racially discriminated. Racism is a belief that one group of people is better comparing to other social, cultural, or national groups. At the same time it is important to understand that people can be gender labeled because of the fact that they just look differently comparing to others.

Personal traits are playing a significant role in physical appearance. Physical appearance forms when a person is unborn and it depends on genes received from parents. Since every unborn person has probability to look physically different from “gender standards”, this person’s gender identity might be labeled wrongly in the future. Additionally, many individuals do not understand how physical look depends on presence of various chemical elements inside of the body, which also creates mistaken gender identity labels. In this case, people who look differently to the “gender standard” automatically receive a wrong gender identity label, which might affect their mental health and can cause irreparable mental and physical dysfunctions.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand that every person is different from each other and every one must be treated by the society equally. Equal does not mean identical, especially since people cannot be completely identical to each other. As a result if a person physically looks or acts similar to his/her opposite sex, it does not mean that this person’s gender identity is opposite comparing to the physical look of this person. Consequently, people and society should never label gender identity of others.

There was always a group of people who openly admitted that they were born with different sexual identity and who desire to live and be accepted as representative of the opposite sex. These people have strong desire to bring the body through surgical and hormonal treatment in accordance with the preferred sex. Today, science and medicine can help these people to repair wrong gender identity. This is a long process, but it provides a hope and opportunity for people who are willing to change their gender and to end various physical and mental issues. Therefore, medicine should provide this opportunity unless people with gender identity issues understand all circumstances on these procedures.

Opponents of this medical treatment use various arguments that medicine should not provide treatment for the gender transformation. They say that medicine should not change something that was created by God. Since medicine did not choose a gender of an unborn child, any doctor has no right to change this gender. Additionally, transgender surgeries cannot provide to patients an opportunity to reproduce and give a birth (Ettner, Monstrey, Eyler, 209). This is a large issue for religious opponents of transgender surgeries since reproduction of human beings is one of the most important Biblical principles.

On the other hand, proponents of transgender surgeries might say that these surgeries change people’s lives and give them a chance not only to feel who they are, but also to defeat various mental issues surrounded them. Many people who have gender identities issues might commit suicide because of society’s inability to accept them. Therefore, sex reassignment surgeries are saving people’s lives, which should not be less important than human reproduction. In addition to eliminating multiple psychological issues, sex reassignment surgeries can help to eliminate racial and sexual discrimination, which would make today’s society better and more respectful to each other.

Most of the gender and sexual identity issues are cause by the society around people who experience these problems. Moreover, society creates sexual or gender discrimination and even sexual racism. Instead of trying to help these individuals, society in many cases creates negative environment which causes depression, and makes gender identity issues even bigger. However, if gender related issues were openly discussed within the society, people experiencing these problems would feel more comfortable to talk about them. Each individual must know how to respect each other and only this respect might move today’s society to the level where everybody would be more acceptable. Only this acceptance and understanding of people who suffer will give back to these people a feeling of importance and will bring them back into society.

Work Cited

Ettner, Randi, Stan Monstrey, and Evan Eyler. Principles of Transgender Medicine and Surgery. The Haworth Press, 2002.

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