Tag Archives: Miss Representation

Women and Words: Women Who Read Objectifying Words More Likely to Seek Cosmetic Surgery

I’ve tried to write about this article on a few occasions and had to stop because I simply felt terrible with the implications of the research. In short, as the headline of this post suggests, when women read words that are objectifying, they’re more likely to seek cosmetic surgery. I’ve written about the importance of words and how they can have an effect on us in the past, but this is one of the first times I’ve written about it with such awful implications. Here’s a bit more from the researchers:

Our results provide the first evidence that intentions to pursue cosmetic surgery stem (in part) from being in a state of self-objectification— a state where women are focused on how their bodies look in the eyes of others as opposed to what their bodies can do. Compared to the non-self-objectifying conditions, women primed to self-objectify reported more body shame and a greater intent to pursue cosmetic surgery.

You might consider this finding to be intuitive, but it’s really important when research like this is published and we can say with more conviction that the words we use can have a catastrophic effect on some people. In particular, impressionable young women. I should clarify that I don’t mean for that to come across as paternalistic. The study focused on women (and didn’t include look at whether this effect holds in men, too).

While the headline from the article is mostly “Bad News Bears,” there’s still a ray of hope to be found [Emphasis Added]:

In addition, we found that body shame was significantly lower among women primed with the non-self-objectifying physicality words compared to the neutral words. This finding suggests that exposure to text that emphasizes body functionality and competence without a focus on observable physical attributes may be protective against selfobjectification and body shame.

As the researchers suggested, this should be subjected to further investigation. Regardless, these findings are very important for all of us who write for consumption in any form, but probably more so for folks who write for consumption by young women. Before I end this post, I wanted to include a few more passages from the article that I think are important, with some commentary [Emphasis Added]:

Our research has a number of implications for practitioners. First, knowledge of this link between self-objectification (stemming from a sexually objectifying environment) and intentions to have cosmetic surgery should be useful to practitioners who work with girls and women. In particular, it is necessary to move beyond the understanding that sexual objectification makes women feel bad per se to identify the potentially harmful actions against themselves that women might take in response to such encounters.

For those who are in any kind of counselling profession or role, this seems very important. Understanding the actions that a client/patient may take as a result of their state can be key to offering the right kind of counsel.

Second, community members who wish to advocate for girls and women—including activists, educators, counselors, and policymakers—must raise awareness of the harms of self-objectification more consistently, including the pressure to undergo risky elective surgery.

Raise awareness. That’s why, despite my difficulty in trying to complete this post, I persevered. Persevere is probably too strong of a word, but I felt it important to write this, so that when you read this, you may consider changing your behaviour and hopefully, educate those around you in the hopes that they may change their behaviour, too.

Third, more emphasis should be placed on expanding the self and identity of girls and women to provide other domains in which they can glean social rewards and secure esteem beyond a sexualized appearance.

Please, please, please, rent/buy Miss Representation and tell your friends about it. It’s one of the most succinct (and recent) documentaries exploring the issues with how women are portrayed in the media.

Fourth, it is necessary to provide girls and women with specific actions that can be taken in the face of sexual objectification that do not require modification of one’s body in order to arm them with a greater sense of control over these largely uncontrolled and uncontrollable situations.

This goes back to that first point about those in the helping professions — it’s so important that one is able to offer a different avenue of action for one who is seeking out something like cosmetic surgery as a result of self-objectification.

Fifth, to the extent that self-objectification might be a risk factor for repeated surgery and low satisfaction with surgical outcomes, engagement with cosmetic surgery professionals to at least think about the implications of these patterns is worthwhile.

Almost as a “last resort” kind of thing, as the researchers suggested, it would be important for folk who work in cosmetic surgery offices to have knowledge of this issue of self-objectification (through the words they’ve read). While it may not be “good for business,” I would hope that for folks who work in this industry, counselling their potential clients on research like this would come first. I should clarify that I don’t mean to imply that anyone working in the cosmetic surgery industry is simply in it for the money, it’s as noble as any other medical field (consider those who work in plastic surgery, which is the umbrella that cosmetic surgery falls under, that seek to help burn victims).

Finally, it is critical that practitioners take up the challenge of changing the system of sexual objectification that perpetuates self-objectification and the concomitant consequences in the first place (Calogero & Tylka, in press). In light of the potential risks of undergoing any surgery and anesthesia, the pursuit of elective cosmetic surgery may represent another harmful micro-level consequence of selfobjectification for women, which will require our attention on many fronts.

ResearchBlogging.orgCalogero, R., Pina, A., & Sutton, R. (2013). Cutting Words: Priming Self-Objectification Increases Women’s Intention to Pursue Cosmetic Surgery Psychology of Women Quarterly, 38 (2), 197-207 DOI: 10.1177/0361684313506881

Advertisements

The Partisan Gap Amongst Female Politicians is Likely to Get Worse

If I’m being honest, when I first read the title of this journal article “A partisan gap in the supply of female potential candidates in the United States,” I didn’t think twice. Pew often publishes surveys/research that seemed to indicate that the gap between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, with regard to women candidates, was very unequal. As a result, I didn’t expect to be surprised when reading the journal article. However, there was one section that I think is especially important [Emphasis Added]:

Previous studies demonstrating single digit gender gaps in US party identification have not been able to explain the much larger gap when it comes to US elected officials. But representatives do not emerge from the public at large: they are disproportionately individuals with high education, high occupational prestige, and clear partisan preferences.

The researchers are implying that the people who run for office aren’t usually representative of the population at large (something we already knew). The important part here, though, is that they used this assumption to extrapolate to future Congress’s [Emphasis Added]:

By estimating the gender composition of this select group by partisanship, we find that the partisan gender gap is much larger among the kinds of citizens who tend to become representatives and that the emergence of this gap was contemporaneous with the historical emergence of a partisan gender gap in the US House.

Meaning, amongst those people who are more likely to seek political office, there is a larger gender gap than there is amongst the general population. Taking this one step further [Emphasis Added]:

Given the current associations between gender, partisanship, and other attributes among the public, the data suggest that future generational replacement may exacerbate the already significant gap in women’s descriptive representation between the parties, potentially reshaping the behavior of each party’s elected officials, the quality of representation available to diverse members of the public, and opinions of the public toward the Republican and Democratic parties.

Translation: if things continue as they are, the gender gap between Democrats and Republicans is likely to get worse — much worse — and it’s already pretty bad.

~

Given how things can shift from year-to-year (or session-to-session), it’s hard to too confident in categorically saying that the Democrats will continue to have more women in their ranks than the Republicans. However, the data certainly seem to point to things not getting better.

While my views tend to lean to the liberal side of the spectrum, I’d still like to see more women represented in the Republican party. They are one of the two dominant (only? viable?) parties in the US and if there’s only one party that’s represented by women, that won’t necessarily lead to the best decisions for women or for Americans (and by extension, citizens of the world in general).

~

Assuming that Hillary Clinton is able to become the first woman POTUS, I’d be really curious to see the result of a longitudinal study on women in politics. Theoretically, by having a Madam President, there’d be a role model for young women to aspire to. So, I’d want to test the attitudes of young women (pre-teens and teens) every year for the next 20+ years to see if there is an increase in the number of young women who aspire to be Congresswomen, Senators, and maybe even President of the United States! My hypothesis is that there’d be an increase in the desire amongst the people tested, but as the research earlier in this post alluded to, in order for there to be an increase in the number of women in politics, there needs to be an increase in the number of women who are more likely to run for President from that group of people.

ResearchBlogging.orgCrowder-Meyer, M., & Lauderdale, B. (2014). A partisan gap in the supply of female potential candidates in the United States Research & Politics, 1 (1) DOI: 10.1177/2053168014537230

Why Does Respect Fly Out the Window When Women are Involved?

Yesterday, Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland asked — ahem, tried to ask — a question during Question Period of the government. Unfortunately for her (and those watching), she wasn’t given the same respect afforded other MPs. As far as I can tell, this was the first question she’s asked during question period and as folks would expect who’ve read her work, she asked a question that was grounded in research [this one happened to be from the IMF]. The video doesn’t seem to be up on YouTube and all I could find was the link through AOL, which doesn’t embed nicely on this site, so you’ll have to watch the video here (2 minutes and 23 seconds in all).

On most days, Question Period can seem a bit immature, but I took particular issue with this instance because of some of the comments that followed on Twitter. Actually, the comment from the Minister of State was a bit off the wall, but most answers in Question Period don’t really address the details of the question. The comment on Twitter that came from a journalist (!) no less, which has since been deleted:

Part of the reason that it seems so appalling that this came from a journalist is because Freeland herself, was a journalist before she became an MP. I would have thought that if any profession were to cut Freeland a little more slack, it might be journalists. Freeland’s response on Twitter:

Exactly! It’s 2014! Why are we still marginalizing women in such a sexist fashion. I was glad to see Michelle Rempel, a Conservative MP, tweet the following, shortly after Freeland’s tweet:

This was the same Michelle Rempel who came under fire because of the way she posed in her Twitter pic! It’s absurd to me just how awful we still treat women in our society. As Freeland said, it’s 2014, for Pete’s sake!

Beyond all of this, though, I don’t necessarily hold the journalist completely at fault for what he said. [He did apologize, too — twice.] Yes, it was awful and unnecessary, but in a way, we are all a bit culpable. How? Why? Well, because we all live in this society and we all help to create the norms and values upon which we act and behave. One of the best ways to help effect change here: awareness. Go watch Miss Representation and tell your friends to do the same!

Coping Strategies Used by Teens When Criticized by Their Peers for Their Brand Choice

Remember back in high school, middle school, or elementary school when you were worried to go to school because your jeans weren’t Levis, or Jordache, or Lucky, or whatever name brand was popular when you were an adolescent? A couple of researchers from Paris decided that they were going to take a closer look at this phenomenon. That is, how we coped (or cope) with being criticized for not wearing the ‘right’ clothes.

Their results revealed that we have five main coping strategies for these situations: justification, revenge, denial, self-reproach, and making the criticizers feel guilty. Can you remember how you reacted (or might have reacted) if you were in one of these situations? Personally, I have a hard time remembering what I might have said (or did say), so let’s take a look at some of the responses.

In justification:

I tell them why I bought this particular brand.

I justify my choice, explaining why I picked this brand, the circumstances of my purchase, etc.

I explain what are the reasons that pushed me to make this brand choice in particular.

In revenge:

I no longer bother to criticize their clothes.

I try to get my own back by criticizing their clothes.

From now on I’ll carefully take note of how they look and won’t hold back from criticizing it.

In denial:

I act as if I hadn’t heard what they said.

I act is if nothing’s been said. [sic]

I imagine that they haven’t said anything and that’s enough to fix the problem.

In self-reproach:

I bear a grudge against myself: why did I choose this jeans’ brand? It’s rubbish!

I think that I wouldn’t have to buy an unknown brand for my friends.

In making the criticizers feel guilty:

I tell them it’s not cool to criticize people about their appearance.

I tell them it’s not very nice for one’s friends to make comments like that.

After reading the responses under the five strategies, do you think adolescents would be more inclined to use one strategy over the other? What about in girls vs. boys? It turns, that’s the case.

The researchers found that the emotion-centered coping strategies (denial and self-reproach) were the strategies that were mostly influenced by “perceived controllability,” which is, “evaluation of the capacity people believe they have to do or not do something when confronted with a situation.” This runs opposite to previous theories, with regard to coping and so the researchers advocated caution when examining coping strategies from the perspective of major dimensions and that more care should be taken to include context.

One last piece that I found interesting were the differences between boys and girls. That is, the researchers found that girls, more than boys, were more likely to make the criticizers feel guilty. This made me wonder about this whole idea of girls developing emotionally before boys and that girls are more empathetic. I wonder if we looked at boys when they reached the same “level of maturity,” would they begin using this last coping strategy more than the others?

More than this, though, I wonder about the cultural effects on coping strategies. I continuously refer back to the documentary Miss Representation and its soon-to-be released brother, The Mask You Live In. The perspectives presented in those documentaries highlight the importance of culture and media on our youth, too. Maybe our adolescents wouldn’t have to develop coping strategies for combatting criticism about their clothing, if kids didn’t even think it was “cool” to criticize someone for the clothes they wear.

ResearchBlogging.orgSarah Benmoyal-Bouzaglo, & Denis Guiot (2013). The coping strategies used by teenagers criticized by their peers for their brand choice Recherche et Applications en Marketing DOI: 10.1177/2051570713487478

Quick Thoughts on Last Night’s Golden Globe Awards

Last night was the 71st Golden Globes. They’re a little behind the Academy Awards who are on their 86th taking place in about a month. Anyhow, I usually like watching these awards shows, especially if I’ve seen some of the movies that are in contention. This year, I had the chance to see a few of the movies that had garnered a number of nominations: American Hustle, Her, 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Gravity, and Dallas Buyers Club.

I really liked American Hustle, but after watching Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave, I was torn between who I thought deserved the awards in some categories. I thought that Jennifer Lawrence had a great performance in American Hustle, but I also thought that Lupita Nyong’o had an excellent performance in 12 Years a Slave. I think they’re both talented and terrific actresses, but with the underrepresentation…

… I’m torn.

I wish that this weren’t an issue in our society. I wish we could judge/award movies/performances on their merits and not worry about whether we’ve been fair in accounting for diversity. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely know and understand that because of our history, white people have a decided advantage when it comes to events like this (and life, in general), but I wish I could just be happy for Jennifer Lawrence and not wonder about Lupita Nyong’o. Unfortunately…

I was also torn when it came to the Best Actor in a Drama category. I’d seen three of the films for which actors were nominated in that category and in my opinion, it would be a toss up between Chiwetel Ejiofor (Choo-it-tell Edge–ee-o-for) and Matthew McConaughey. I thought they both gave excellent — excellent — performances. When Jessica Chastain announced Matthew McConaughey, I was happy, but as was the case for Jennifer Lawrence, I was a bit sad that Ejiofor didn’t win (or, for that matter Idris Elba, who I’ve read gave a great performance in Mandela).

~

I don’t have a solution to this dissonance I feel, but I wanted to express my desire for a time when feelings like these needn’t be had. Maybe it will come in 10 years, maybe it will come in 100 years. When it does, I will welcome it with open arms.

How Our Culture Failed Women in 2013

I’ve written before about my affinity for the documentary Miss Representation and its “brother” film that’s coming out in a few weeks The Mask You Live In. Well, a few weeks ago, the organization responsible for those movies put out a wonderful — well, in some ways — video detailing the ways in which the media has failed women in 2013. At first, it lists some of the great achievements that women have had this year and then… the video turns a bit sour.

We see a time lapse of a woman being airbrushed on the cover of a magazine, very sexist advertising (magazine and commercial), oversexed music videos, movies, tv shows, and then it turns to how the media cover some news events. There are — seemingly — ignorant men (mostly) patronizing women either in person or talking about women in patronizing ways. However, there are some really powerful moments. There’s a segment from Rachel Maddow where she’s discussing how women can have all of these ticks in the boxes and still get talked to in a negative way. There’s also — and this is my favourite — a video from this past summer when the Texas legislature was trying to ram a bill through that severely limited the rights of women regarding abortion.

I realize that for some, this can be an issue that incites a lot of passion in one direction or the other, but my preference for the video has nothing to do with that issue and everything to do with this woman, this strong and powerful woman, standing up for herself and for women to what is a room and a profession dominated by men. I remember when the now famous Wendy Davis filibuster was first starting to take shape in June and I remember turning on the stream sometime in the evening and having it running in the background. And then as they got closer to the end when things were really getting interesting. I remember trying to understand some of the wonky ways that procedure was being applied and then I remember Leticia Van de Putte…

It was one of the most powerful things I’d ever seen live. And if I recall correctly, I think these words were enough to motivate the gallery (the visitors sitting up above watching) to make noise until the clock ran out and the filibuster worked. Again, I want to make it clear that I’m not arguing in favour or against the merits of the filibuster, but just to draw your attention to that moment when Leticia Van de Putte said those words and the crowd erupted. I wish it weren’t, but it seems an apt metaphor for so much of how the world works today.

~

On a slightly happier (?) and stranger point, in an edition of The Economist from late last year, someone pointed out that Angela Merkel, the Chancellor (kind of like a President or Prime Minister) of Germany, appointed a female defence minister. And not only was this defense minster going to be a woman, but also that she is a gynecologist, entered politics at age 42, and has 7 children.

I think it’s great that Germany has appointed a female defence minister, but I wish that it weren’t news that Germany appointed a female defense minister. I look forward to the time in my life where the fact that someone’s been appointed to high political office or has been crowned the CEO of a big corporation and happens to also be a female is not newsworthy.

Note: You’ll notice that I made the title of this post about “our culture” and not “the media” and that’s because I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to pin the failure all on the media. There’s a feedback loop between our culture and the media. Yes, the media could certainly end that feedback loop, but so could the culture. In a way, everyone deserves a bit of the blame.

Should it be Illegal to Call Someone ‘fat’ on TV?

Jennifer Lawrence thinks so.

Take a look:

She certainly makes a good point. If we’re regulating other words that are spoken on TV because of the effect they have on younger generations, why not the word fat? I can already begin to see the argument against: “if we start regulating words like ‘fat,’ does this become a slippery slope into regulating other words?” While I understand that practically, regulating criticisms like ‘fat’ on TV might be a bit difficult, I think it’s certainly something interesting to consider.

I originally saw this clip as part of a bit from Morning Joe, but that doesn’t embed so well here, so I found a clip of Walters’ interview with Lawrence on YouTube. The actual bit I saw had some commentary from some of the folks who make regular appearances on the morning television program on MSNBC. As I said, I can’t embed that video, so take a look.

Similar to how the opinion can be understood of the “slippery slope,” the first fellow that speaks on the video that’s telling Jennifer Lawrence (and other celebrities) to ‘shut up’ because they always blame the media for everything — I don’t buy that. It’s not that the media’s at fault for everything, but as has been demonstrated, they certainly do have a large impact on the way that people feel about themselves. In particular, young and impressionable people.

As a result, someone who outright denies the possibility that the media can have an opinion on the way that young people (and even not young people!) can feel about themselves, to me, seems out of touch. To reiterate, I can see where this fellow is coming from, but putting that aside for a second, Jennifer Lawrence absolutely has a point. There’s certainly a culture of highlighting flaws that is perpetuated (not just in the media), but in our culture — and in particular, with young women. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if you haven’t yet, take the time and watch Miss Representation. It’s an important documentary that I hope will shed some light on this issue.

To be clear, I’m not implying that people, the media, or our culture are necessarily perpetuating this attitude intentionally, but that doesn’t mean that there completely innocent, either.