As well as purveying unrealistic beauty ideals, the mass media send us a slew of contradictory messages as if to confound us further. It is common for a single magazine cover to promote both the latest miracle crash diet and a quick and easy recipe for Double Fudge Overload Brownies. That same magazine might pair an image of a scantily dressed woman in a sexually provocative pose with an article on The Rewards of Abstinence. The contradictions are obvious: restraint and indulgence, seduction and chastity, “good” girls and “bad” girls. How can we possibly live up to such mixed messages?
Of course, the answer is we can’t. Such contradictory messages ensure that we will always feel inadequate and insecure. And our insecurity is good for those who want to sell us quick-fixes in the form of such things as diet plans, exercise videos, anti-cellulite lotions and steel-reinforced undergarments.