CCS research: The Objectification of Women

I’ve been doing lots of research for my last CCS essay, and my topic of choice is the objectification of women, mostly in the media. Above is a really interesting PSA video I came across here. It’s very short and straight to the point. The examples they’ve chosen are ones you would see in every day life in ads, billboards, TV etc.

Another thing I’ve looked at was this report by the American Psychological Association. It speaks about the sexualisation of girls, how and where it happens, what the consequences are and even what you can do about it. They’ve made a whole list of different PDFs that you can view here and read the report in smaller chunks rather than the whole 72 page thing.

What I found really interesting in that particular report, was the statistics and the behavioural things connected with the sexualisation of girls. A couple of things that shocked me were that clothing stores often sell inappropriate clothes (thongs with sexualised slogans, aimed at 7-10 year old girls), how dolls are advertised to girls – they specifically spoke about Bratz dolls, and how the girl dolls are always sort of passive in the adds, mixing drinks or being sexy, whereas the Boyz dolls were shown as always ready for action or playing guitars etc. Another thing that was interesting to read about was the consequences of the sexualisation of girls; the most observed side effects were:

  • chronic attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other mental and physical activities
  • limits the for and effectiveness of a girl’s physical movements
  • leads to increased feelings of shame about one’s body
  • creates appearance anxiety
  • leads to greater bodily dissatisfaction among females
  • associated with negative mental health outcomes in adolescent girls
  • a huge spike in anorexia nervosa in the last 50 years that correlates to the changes in the fashion industry
  • earlier onset of smoking cigarettes by young women
  • self-objectification that correlated with decreased sexual health
  • idealised narrow ideals of female sexual attractiveness makes it difficult for some men to find an acceptable partner

Some other interesting key points: female athletes are usually depicted with only their faces in the picture or standing sexily in front of, say, a swimming pool, whereas male athletes are depicted DOING the activity (easily proven by a simple Google image search, the difference is quite upsetting); the statistics of sexualisation and sexual harassment on TV are a little bit more than shocking (“In their analysis of sexual harassment on prime-time programming, Grauerholz and King (1997) reported a similar focus on the denigration of women that alluded to their sexuality and lack of intellect and that objectified their bodies. Of the 81 episodes analyzed, 84% contained at least one incident of sexual harassment, with an average of 3.4 incidents per program.The most frequent acts were sexist comments (33.3% of the incidents) in which a wide variety of deprecating words were used to describe women (e.g., broad, bimbo, dumb ass chick, toots, fox, babe, blondie).The next most frequent occurrences were verbal sexual comments (32% of the incidents).These comments typically focused on women’s bodies or body parts, especially breasts, which were referred to as jugs, boobs, knockers, hooters, cookware, and canned goods.The third most common category was body language (13%) and generally involved men or adolescent boys leering at women or girls.”) and lots of other terrifying things. The report is really worth a read, if not the full thing then at least the shortened version for the press.

After doing a short Wiki search about sexualisation and looking for more sources to read, I accidentally clicked on a page called “Dehumanisation” and it fit the topic quite well – read it here. The article itself doesn’t 100% focus on the sexualisation of women, however, some, if not all, of the terms and “requirements” for dehumanisation DO apply to women as a group (idiomatic language that compares them to animals, ignoring individuality, depicting women in imagery which doesn’t always portray them in a positive light or even limits their role in the image completely, and so on and so on). All of this is not very nice to read while being a woman in this world, but it’s very interesting and I think also beneficial for everyone to educate themselves on, especially men who don’t see the point of women being upset about objectification.

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