Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Sexual Objectification and the media
Part 3 of series
The relationship between the body and sex is unambiguously portrayed in contemporary media. Conforming to a thin body ideal is crucial to sexual attractiveness. Sexually objectifying images of women can be regularly viewed across all types of media from their music and the barrage of images available via the Internet to TV programs and movies they watch and magazines they read.
Although influences on self-objectification might include a variety of interpersonal, social, cultural, and even biological factors, an aggressive purveyor of sexual objectification is undoubtedly the mass media.
Women’s magazine covers often place weight loss messages next to messages about one’s sex life, implying weight loss will lead to a better sex life. They combine articles about weight loss with tips to keep your marriage hot. Stay skinny articles linked with ‘‘What Men Want Most’’ on their covers. Moreover, teen and women’s magazines regularly feature articles on attracting the opposite sex interspersed with advertisements for beauty care products and fashion merchandise. Finally, in television shows popular with adolescents, the most common sexual theme is that women are judged as romantic or sexual partners based on their physical appearance.
Cultivation theory purports that television teaches audiences to adopt certain ‘‘cultivated’’ views of the world around them, the current study predicts that sexually objectifying media content can teach audiences to adopt a certain perspective of the self, one that places primary importance on physical appearance (Harrison & Fredrickson, 2003).
Extensive research has demonstrated the negative results of female objectification in the media. Depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders are only a few among the growing list of repercussions (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997).
Kilbourne (2002) pointed out that advertising is a 100 billion dollar a year industry. Each day we are exposed to more than 2000 ads. Advertising can be one of the most powerful sources of education in our society. Many women feel pressured to conform to the beauty standards of our culture and are willing to go to great lengths to manipulate and change their faces and bodies.
Kilbourne suggests that women are conditioned to view their faces as masks and their bodies as objects. Through the mass media, women discover that their bodies and faces are in need of alteration, augmentation, and disguise.
In addition, women are taught to internalize an observer’s perspective of their own bodies. This phenomenon is called objectification (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997).
Advertisements are loaded with objectified women, and only recently have the effects of objectification been explored. However, the effects of the dismemberment of women in advertising have been neglected.
Dismemberment advertisements highlight one part of a woman’s body while ignoring all the other parts of her body. Dismemberment ads portray women with missing appendages or substitute appendages.
Kilbourne (2002) suggested that the dismemberment of women is a monstrous problem in advertising. Dismemberment ads focus on one part of the body, e.g., a woman’s breasts. Typically, dismemberment ads employ female body parts for the purpose of selling a product. Dismemberment ads promote the idea of separate entities.
These ads overtly and covertly encourage a woman to view her body as many individual pieces rather than a whole. Dismemberment ads leave many women feeling that their entire body is spoiled on account of one less than perfect feature. If a woman has less than satisfactory legs, then her potential for beauty is spoiled.
In other words, if every body part is not flawless, then the possibility for beauty is ruined. As previously mentioned, girls and women are conditioned from a young age to view the body as a “work in progress” or something in constant need of alteration. Instead of being satisfied with their body as a whole, they concentrate on what separate entities they lack. Many women compare their bodies and sexuality to the eroticized images that are plastered on billboards and television and in magazines and movies (Kilbourne, 2002).
Self-objectification largely stems from what we see in advertisement. Publishers use magazines to influence society's expectations for beauty, popularity, and fashion. A recent cover of Cosmopolitan, shows the guide to perfection. The idea of "perfection" is shown in the airbrushed model and "how to" guides the magazine headlines. First off, the model on the cover is seen in a red dress that shows that she has a very slim body and emphasizes her hourglass figure. Unlike most women in society, this model has no blemishes, no fat on her body, and has perfect hair. She is seen as flawless and perfect. These types of models have always been the face of magazines like Cosmopolitan, and will continue to be as long as they attract subscribers. The models are chosen to set the standard of what beautiful and sexy is. It can be assumed that the purpose of this magazine is to guide ordinary, average women into the ideal women that they should be.
The headlines of the top articles say a lot about the magazine as well. "15 Things All Girls Need to Learn to Do" is one of the top stories that show the nature of the magazine. The wording in the title is very demanding. The word "need" shouts out to the audience as a demand; if they don't do these certain things there will be repercussions. This idea of having to act in a certain way or do certain things in order to be a girl shows how influential the media can be on society. The readers of Cosmopolitan, for example, are being told how to live their life without them realizing the demands given to them. They see images and subconsciously think that in order for them to be beautiful they need to act and look a certain way. The models are an example of this perfection that should be achieved by all women.
The centerfold syndrome is defined by five principal characteristics: voyeurism, objectification, trophyism, the need for validation, and the fear of true intimacy. Brooks mentioned several possible causes of the centerfold syndrome such as biology, instinct, and survival of the fittest. However, it is exceptionally interesting to note that of all the possibilities mentioned, Brooks found the socio-cultural explanation to be the most probable.
Brooks claimed that the centerfold syndrome is a product of the way in which men have been taught to think about and experience relationships, intimacy, and sex. The widespread sexualization of women in our culture easily lends itself to the adoption of the Centerfold Syndrome.
Men are not the only ones who have adopted this harmful attitude towards relationships, intimacy, and sex. Women can just as easily adopt a negative self-image and attitude, perpetuating the negative stereotypes about women, sexuality, intimacy, and relationships (Brooks, 1995).
The problem is not that media is showing these objectifying images; the problem is that people see those images and then start to see themselves as nothing other than a sex-object. She adds that there wouldn't be a problem if society knew to separate what they see from how they see themselves. Having your self-esteem based only your physical appearance rather than your intelligence or personality is the underlining problem. People need to see themselves as human beings and not objects. If they believe that all they are is an object and act like an object, the result is that society will see them as the object that they are portraying.
Change can happen if people can try to make the conscious decision every day to promote themselves as a human with thoughts and feelings rather than an object to be used. The way society can start to "dis-objectify" itself is to look behind the images you are seeing and trying to see the underlining story of the person in the image.
The Sexy Lie February 9, 2014 by Caroline Heldman:
Heldman doesn't just describe to her audience what sexual objectification is but she also gives her plan of action to provide knowledge on the topic and hopefully fix it. Heldman splits up her solutions into two categories, personal and political action plans. Heldman's personal plan of action is also split into girl and boy action plans. The girl action plan included, "stop consuming damaging materials, stop competing with other women, and stop seeking attention for your body".
The boy action plan included, "be a supportive ally, don't evaluate girls/women based on appearance, and speak out against objectification". Both of these action plans are ones that can be done on an individual basis and by any age. This is important because this speech is aimed at youth in the country and they need to be able to have the option to make a difference. If the action plan they are given isn't possible for them to do, it will only lead to discouragement.
Heldman also includes a political action to help aid in change. This action plan includes,"boycott objectifying media, contact media producers, produce your own media, and new media activism".
An excerpt from her show:
“Good afternoon. Are we having a transformative afternoon so far? Let’s hear it. Well, I am here today to talk about a lie, in specific, a sexy lie. I know there are lots of lies. Some of them are sexy, some of them are very unsexy.
I’d like to talk about specifically about the lie or the idea that being a sex object is empowering. I’d like to convince you that it is not empowering, first, by talking about what’s sexual objectification is, and then moving on to theoretical and data driven analysis of why it’s damaging. Lastly, provide you a plan of action, so that you can both navigate objectification culture, and change objectification culture. Let’s jump right in.
What is sexual objectification? It’s the process of representing or treating a person like a sex object, one that serves another sexual pleasure. What’s so interesting about sexual objectification is we used to have a vocabulary for it.
In the 60’s and 70’s, we were concerned about sexual objectification and its harm on girls and women. In the 80’s, 90’s, and today, we’ve actually been relatively quiet when it comes to public discourse. Even though our sexual objectification culture is more amplified, we see more images, and 96% of them are female of sexually objectified bodies. We don’t have a vocabulary to talk about it. In fact, young people I think have even mostly lost the ability to identify it.
New objectification culture has emerged in the past 10 years, and it’s marked by two things. One is an increase in the number of sexually objectifying ads in television, movies, videogames, music videos, magazines, and other mediums. The second advertising component is that the images have become more extreme, more hyper sexualized.
Why are we experiencing this now? It can really be boiled down to technology. New technology has increased the sheer number of images that you are exposed to everyday. In the 70’s, we saw about 500 ads a day. Now, we see about 5,000 ads a day.
Children, those ages 8 to 18, are spending an average of eight hours a day hooked up to devices where advertisers can reach them. What do advertisers do? They cut through the clutter with increased emphasis on violence, hyper violence, and hyper sexualized.
How is this not empowering? I want to make an appeal first to logic. When we’re talking about sex objects, we’re talking about dichotomies. In Western thinking, we think of black and white, yes/no, two opposing categories. When we’re thinking about sex objects, we’re thinking about the object subject dichotomy. Subjects act, objects are acted upon.
Even if you become the perfect object, the perfect sex object, you are perfectly subordinate because that position will always be acted on; so there’s not power in being a sex object when you think about it logically. Beyond that, this idea that sex sells, I like to challenge that directly because the fact is if sex sold, most women are heterosexual and we are sexual beings, so why wouldn’t we see half naked men everywhere in advertising.
I would like to propose that something else is being sold here. To men, they’re being sold this idea constantly that they are sexual subjects. They are in the driver’s seat. It makes them feel powerful to see images of objectified women everywhere.
Also, sexual dysfunction. This idea that sex sells, isn’t it strange that if you think of yourself as a sex object, and we’re raised in a society that raises little girls to view their bodies as projects to work on and be sex objects that it actually gets in the way of good sex?
What tends to happen is that women who are high self-objectifies actually engage in what’s called Spectatoring Drink-Sex Act. Instead of being involved and engaged in the pleasure and what’s happening, you tend to view yourself from a third-party perspective, a spectators perspective where you’re worried about rolls of fat hanging out, what that leg looks like. Again, it gets in the way of sexual pleasure.
If there’s anything I can pitch to you about why you don’t want to live in a culture that sexually objectifies, it diminishes your sexual pleasure.
First, Sociological Images, a blog run by Dr. Lisa Wade; worked with students to pull Abercrombie and Fitch’s padded bras or padded swimsuits for toddlers. They ran a campaign where they blogged about it. It got some press coverage. There were some petitions, and they pulled the product nationally from their stores.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Self-Objectification (Part 2)
In Part two let’s focus on self-objectification.
According to Calogero (2013), “self-objectification occurs when the objectifying gaze is turned inward, such that women view themselves through the perspective of an observer and engage in chronic self-surveillance.”
Female self-objectification can best be defined as “regular exposure to objectifying experiences that socialize girls and women to engage in self-objectification, whereby they come to internalize this view of themselves as an object or collection of body parts” (Kroon & Perez, 2013, p. 16)
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) postulated that self-objectification can increase women’s anxiety about physical appearance (i.e., fear about when and how one’s body will be looked at and evaluated); and increase women’s opportunities for body shame (i.e., the emotion that results from measuring oneself against a cultural standard and coming up short).
The media influences (dictates) to society what is sexy or desirable in a man or woman’s body. For example:
Men are expected to have small waists, wash-board abs, muscular arms, hairless chests and a large thick penis.
Women are expected to have small waists, full pert breasts, shapely legs with a thigh gap, a round firm ass, smooth skin, thick luxurious hair, full lips and exotic eyes.
In her book Femininity and Domination: Studies in the phenomenology of oppression
Sandra Bartky (1990) describes a time where she was made a victim of objectification:
“It is a fine spring day, and with an utter lack of self-consciousness, I am bouncing down the street. Suddenly I hear men’s vices. Catcalls and whistles fill the air. These noises are clearly sexual in intent and they are meant for me; they come from across the street. I freeze. As Sartre would say, I have been petrified by the gaze of the Other.
My face flushes and my motions become stiff and self-conscious. The body which only a moment before I inhabited with such ease now floods my consciousness. I have been made into an object. While it is true that for these men I am nothing but, let us say, a “nice piece of ass,” there is more involved in this encounter than this mere fragmented
perception of me. They could, after all, have enjoyed me in silence…I could have passed
by without having been turned to stone. But I must be made to know that I am a “nice piece of ass”: I must be made to see myself as they see me.
Sexual objectification means that women are widely seen as sex objects for male sexual pleasure. This objectification occurs in two areas:
(1) interpersonal or social encounters, and
(2) media exposure.
Interpersonal or social encounters include catcalls, checking out/ staring at, or gazing at women’s bodies, sexual comments, and harassment.
Media exposure spotlights women’s bodies and body parts while depicting women as the target of a non-reciprocated male gaze. (Calogero, Tantleff-Dunn, & Thompson, 2011).
Female self-objectification has many consequences, including eating disorders, which are associated with depression. According to National Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (2013), up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. This site also reports that 5% of American females believe in a body type ideal, commonly described as “petite” (Eating, 2013).
While this might not seem like a large enough number to create concern, data show that 47% of girls in the 5th- 12th grade report wanting to lose weight because they compare themselves to idealized magazine photographs, and 69% of girls in the 5th-12th grade report that such images influence their idea of a “perfect” body shape (Eating, 2013). This paper will address the ways that women are objectified, the negative consequences of self-objectification and ways to prevent it.
Franzoi (1995) writes that “there are two basic ways of thinking about one’s body that have a particular relevance to a discussion of gender differences in body esteem. One way is to view the body as an object of discrete parts that others aesthetically evaluate, and the other is to conceptualize it as a dynamic process where function is of greater consequence” (Franzoi, 1995, p. 417). The vast majority of people tend to view the female body in terms of its form, rather than function, and “it is this aspect of the physical self that influences people’s first impressions and forms the basis for the physical attractiveness stereotype”
Self-Objectification: Contributing Factors Media Influences.
With respect to how self-objectification is influenced by media, Aubrey (2006) states that, “the relationship between the body and sex is unambiguously portrayed in contemporary media, and conforming to a thin body ideal is crucial to sexual attractiveness” (p. 366). Tolman and Debold (1994) agree, stating that a thin female body is associated with success and power. All of this communicates to women that their
bodies are important commodities that can influence life experiences (Muehlenkamp & Saris-Baglama, 2002). The thin body ideal refers to the European concept of a slender female with a small physique and little body fat. “Thin-body ideal occurs as a result
of social pressure to attain a lean figure, placed on individuals by the media, family, peers, and interpersonal encounters” (Stice & Shaw, 1994, p. 289).
The media displays this through messages in popular magazines, films, and television. For example, “in magazines, weight loss messages are often placed next to messages about one’s sex life, implying that weight loss will lead to a better sex life,” while “on television shows, women are judged as romantic or sexual partners based on their appearance” (Aubrey, 2006, p. 366-367).
In a longitudinal study, Aubrey (2006) examined the long-term relationship between media habits and self-objectification, and whether media exposure increases self-objectification, or whether self-objectification drives the selection of sexually objectifying media. She found that “exposure to sexually objectifying television programs is associated with an increase in viewers’ definition of their physical selves in terms of how the body appears, rather than what it can do” (Aubrey, 2006, p. 381).
This occurs through frequent and repeated exposure to television programs, soap operas, talk shows, music videos, and advertising. From this study, Aubrey (2006) concluded that how long someone is exposed to sexually objectifying messages is less damaging than how frequently such messages are viewed over time.
Franzoi (1995) writes that “starting at a young age, from Barbie dolls and toy makeup cases, girls are encouraged to play with, to the close attention given to clothing fashion and other bodily adornments, females are taught that their body as object is a significant factor in how others will judge their overall value” (p. 418). These messages are conveyed by important socializing agents such as parents, peers, and teachers. Typically, gender role socialization includes heavy emphasis on how girls/women should look, and if this is overemphasized, girls may continually seek reassurance about their appearance to make sure they are socially accepted and not subject to ridicule or rejection.
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) find that self-objectification can lead not only to depression, but also to body shame and eating disorders. They state that “women’s ongoing efforts to change their body and appearance through diet, exercise, fashion,
beauty products, and perhaps most dangerously, surgery and eating disorders, reveal what may be a perpetual and hardly adaptive body-based shame, which results from a fusion of negative self- evaluation with the potential for social exposure” (p. 181).
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) find that body shame arises from “not knowing exactly when and how one’s body will be looked at and evaluated can create anxiety about potential exposure. Data further show that women’s appearance anxiety may have roots in negative early life social experiences, including histories of receiving negative appearance-related comments” (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997, p. 182).
Lastly, they state that “eating disorders are passive, pathological strategies, reflecting girls’ and women’s lack of power to more directly control the objectification of their
bodies” (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997, p. 192). Two feminist thoughts that support this are that women’s concerns with dieting and weight control reflect their normative discontent toward their bodies, and that women view eating disorders as a political
statement of protest against the patriarchal system (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997, p. 192).
Female self-objectification can also lead to sexual dysfunction, because engaging in sexual activity involves another person focusing attention on one’s body. During sexual relations a woman can be distracted by thoughts about her body rather than experiencing sexual pleasure (Tiggemann, 2011).
Wiederman (2000) found that during sexual intercourse one third of college women experienced problematic body image self-consciousness.
Female self-objectification is something most women experience at some point in life because society sends many such messages in many ways, offering an idealized version of the perfectly shaped woman that is, for most, unattainable or inadvisable to seek. Preventing and treating self-objectification in girls and women will lead to increased societal rewards and social powers (Breines, Crocker and Garcia, 2008). The paper offers explanations for how and why female self-objectification occurs and what can do to counter its negative consequences in our society.
This information has been gleaned from sources on the internet and presented here for discussion. Either comment here or on the Facebook post.
Friday, December 25, 2015
Part 1: What is Sexual Objectification of men or women?
Objectification of men or women is the act of treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality or dignity. Sexual objectification (SO) takes this a step further making them an object for a person’s sexual gratification with no consideration for them as human beings.
Sexual objectification (SO) of the female or male body equates their worth with their
body’s appearance and sexual functions which is highly subjective. The person’s body or body parts are singled out and separated from them as a person and they are viewed primarily as a physical object of male or female sexual desire and gratification.
Objectification affects both men and women but to simplify I will use Objectification of women as referenced in the following study.
Fredrickson and Roberts study (1997) asserted that women to varying degrees
internalize this outsider view and begin to self-objectify by treating themselves
as an object to be looked at and evaluated on the basis of appearance.
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) postulated that self-objectification
can increase women’s anxiety about physical appearance (i.e., fear about when and how one’s body will be looked at and evaluated); and increase women’s opportunities for body shame (i.e., the emotion that results from measuring oneself against a cultural standard and coming up short).
This SO often intersects with women’s other sociocultural identities, such
as sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and social class, to form unique sets of media portrayals and experiences for subgroups of women (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997).
For example, lesbian and/or same-sex female relationships have become increasing sexualized, exploited, and used in the media to target some male fantasies of being involved sexually with two or more women at the same time.
In addition, the sexual exploitation and victimization of African American women from the days of slavery to the present has led to media images and stereotypes of Black women as sexual aggressors and sexual savages (Greene, 1994; Thomas, Witherspoon, & Speight, 2004).
In contrast, Asian American women are often portrayed in the media as sexually
subservient, childlike, and exotic (Root, 1995). Furthermore, women in lower social class positions are often considered gross, overly sexed, untamed, crude, and deserving of sexual exploitation and aggression (Pharr, 1988; Smith, 2008).
For example, the APA’s (2007b) review of studies examining depictions of women in the media including commercials, prime-time television programs, movies, music lyrics and videos, magazines, advertising, sports media, video games, and Internet sites revealed that women more often than men are depicted in sexualizing and objectified manners (e.g., wearing revealing and provocative clothing, portrayed in ways that emphasize their body parts and sexual readiness, serving as decorative objects). In addition, women portrayed in the media are frequently the target of men’s sexists comments (e.g., use of deprecating words to describe women), sexual remarks
(e.g., comments about women’s body parts), and behaviors (e.g., ogling, leering,
Cat-calling and harassment).
Many women also experience immersed forms of SO that occur when women are part of situations, environments, and subcultures where the SO of women is encouraged and promoted. For example, certain situations that accentuate awareness of observers’ perspectives on women’s bodies, such as ballet dancing, beauty pageants, modeling, and cheerleading, are likely to enhance SO (Slater & Tiggemann, 2002).
In addition, many women work in environments whose main purpose is to offer explicit targets for men to objectify them and that reward them for treating themselves as sexual objects (e.g., exotic dancing and cocktail waitressing).
The first criterion for a Sexual Objectification Environment (SOE) is the existence of traditional gender roles.
Gender roles are the set of behaviors, personality attributes, self-concepts, and
expectations organized according to cultural definitions and prescriptions of masculinity and femininity (Gutek, 1985; Worell & Remer, 2003). Defined in a traditional manner, men’s gender roles are oriented towards competency, achievement, and agency and include traits such as independence, aggression, competitiveness, rationality, problem solving, and objectivity (Bakan, 1966; Parsons & Bales, 1955).
In addition, traditional gender role socialization encourages many men to be powerful, controlling, and dominant; see women as sex objects; view sex as a conquest; and believe that women are their property (Worell & Remer, 2003). Alternately, women’s traditional gender roles tend to be relationally and expressively oriented and include characteristics such as nurturance, emotionality, passivity, dependence, and
harmony (Bem, 1993).
Also, traditional gender role socialization encourages many women to be submissive to men and fulfill their needs and wants, seek men’s protection, and accept responsibility for limiting and controlling men’s sexual behavior (Worell & Remer, 2003). Thus, the existence of traditional gender roles in an environment is likely to contribute to attitudes and behaviors that allow for and normalize the SO of women.
The final core criterion for an environment to be sexually objectifying is the acknowledgement and approval of male gaze in that setting. As Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) asserted, “The most subtle and deniable way sexualized evaluation is enacted—and arguably the most ubiquitous—is through gaze, or visual inspection of the body” (p. 175). Quinn (2002) reframed sexual gaze as “girl watching,” a specific, yet subtle, form of sexual harassment that cannot be avoided and is not under women’s control.
According to Quinn, girl watching is a “targeted tactic of power” where men use gaze to demonstrate their right to physically and sexually evaluate women. The activity serves as a form of playing a game among some men; however, the targeted woman is generally understood to be an object, rather than a player, in the game. Thus, from a male point of view, “acts such as girl watching are simply games played with objects: women’s bodies” (Quinn, 2002, p. 398). The effects of male gaze on women may be intensified by the accompaniment of sexually evaluative commentary (Allen, 1984).
Two other manifestations of objectifying gaze that may be present in an SOE are the inclusion of visual media showing interpersonal encounters (i.e., men looking at women in advertisements) and visual media depicting women’s bodies and body parts Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997).
In subsequent parts this will be further discussed and any points made in the comments here will be addressed.