Swedish girls feel the pressure of perfection

One in four girls feels pressured to meet beauty ideals displayed throughout the media according to a Swedish governmental study 'Flicka' (Girl) released this week.

Sara Damberg, the woman responsible for the Flicka-project, wasn’t surprised.

“Unfortunately this confirms the picture I got after having met some 50,000 boys and girls around Sweden,” she said while presenting the results at Stockholm’s Fryshuset.

The Flicka-project, which kicked off on December 1st 2003, was designed to examine increasing ‘sexualisation’ and the role the media plays in influencing children and teenagers.

Both boys and girls were polled on a popular youth website, Lunarstorma and 1742 kids aged 11 to 16 answered questions about their self image and the external factors affecting it.

“Young women are more influenced by the idealized view presented by the media than young men,” reported Ms. Damberg.

Three out of ten girls say that fashion magazines, film and TV most influence their choices when it comes to appearance – double the number of boys who state that they are most influenced by media and advertising, according to Monday’s Expressen.

Nine out of ten girls thought it was important to look good, while only a minority actually were totally satisfied with their looks.

“Girls are probably weaker than guys, both on the inside and outside,” said 15-year-old Felicia Roman.

Nearly half of all boys and girls polled stated that they are most influenced by their peers.

“Friends are the biggest influence factor as other studies have showed. However, one mustn’t forget that even friends are influenced by the media,” Damberg told Expressen.

Young men seem more satisfied with their looks. Only 9% of boys felt pressured by the ‘ideal.’

“Many people probably think that a girl’s looks are important. According to magazines and TV a girl should be thin, modern and have hip clothes. But personally I don’t share this opinion,” admitted Jesper Lindqvist, possibly Sweden’s most enlightened 15 year old boy.

But Jesper and his classmate, Robin Spring, pointed out that not all boys have better self confidence.

“There’s pressure on guys too. Guys are expected to be muscular.”

It seems that the failing of society is that the survey needed to be done in the first place, according to Sara Damberg.

“I wonder – must we conduct a national project so that girls can feel that they are the centre of attention?” she said. “Above all, we must teach young girls to be more media-critical.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet