Although titled “student” conferences, I truly wasn’t expecting the speakers to be students, undergraduate students nonetheless. I attended Session D of the General Education Student Conferences called Selling You “You”: The Impact of Advertisements on American Culture. The two presenters in my panel were both sophomores who were presenting their essays that they had written in their GWRIT classes last year, and it was strange thinking about how next year I could possibly see one of my classmates from this year or up there, or even myself.
The first speaker, Shannon Collins, presented on advertising’s effect on one’s body image. I was hoping for a new approach to this topic, but yet again it was the same spiel about the negative aspects of advertising, the unrealistic body images that it spits out at people, how it’s a possible cause of eating disorders, etc. Some of her statistics were interesting in the downfall of our society over the years: 25 years ago, models weighed 8% less than the average American, but now that has increased to 23%. Collins also briefly touched on the outrageous proportions of Barbie and G.I. Joe. If Barbie were life-size, she would be 5”9, weigh 110 pounds, and would have a 39” bust, an 18” waist, and 33” hips. G.I. Joe would have a 55” chest and a 27” bicep, making his bicep the same size as his waist! Collins said that advertisements should feature normal Americans, and during the discussion period, someone raised the point that 2/3 of Americans are obese. That raised the question of whether featuring people who are drastically overweight than those who are drastically underweight would be a better solution. This member of the audience noted that obese people in advertisements wouldn’t help the problem of self-image. However, I think that if people walking around viewed ads depicting obese people, those images would be with those viewers all day. Wouldn’t people try to avoid things that could result in those images, such as fast food? However, this could backfire and totally terrify people of looking like that, which could result in eating disorders.
On to the second speaker, Samuel Uanserume, who presented on junk food advertisements aimed at children. He spoke of a term called “purchase power” where most junk food ads are targeted at kids because they can persuade their parents to buy them those things. I never realized this concept had a name, even though I’ve seen it numerous times. I remember when I used to go grocery shopping with my mom and my sister. Every single bag of candy or cookies or chips my sister would beg for. I clearly remember silently slipping out of the aisle while she screamed for that one box of gushers or fruit roll-ups or Count Chocula cereal or whatever crap she then desired. Ah, the power of “purchase power.”
The statistics Uanserume presented were frightening. 1 out of 5 kids in America are obese or overweight. The only people I can truly get mad at are the parents. Uanserume advised that the government should take a bigger step in monitoring ads, but I think parents are the true ones to blame. Most of these kids are too young to leave the house themselves and make their own purchases. It’s the parents who by wanting to make their kids happy, put up with their complaining, purchase unhealthy food, and therefore put their kids in danger of becoming obese or acquiring unhealthy eating habits.
What I really found ironic was that the girl presenting about advertisements being linked with eating disorders was unnaturally thin for her height. Of course this doesn’t mean she allows advertisements to influence her in such a way that she’ll resort to starving herself, it only sparked a memory of this girl back in high school. She was one of the editors of this trashy overpriced magazine, and in one of the issues, she wrote an article about anorexia nervosa. It shocked me because she herself was anorexic. Maybe it was her method for warning people about the disorder in hopes of preventing people from experiencing what she was going through, I don’t really know. Simultaneously, the guy presenting on junk food advertising was slightly overweight. Again, I’m not pinpointing the fact that the guy just sits in front of his T.V. all day watching food ads and then goes out and buys that food, but it’s just something that caught my attention.