Student Activities 2007-2008

Amy Bishop

I Don’t Care What Boys Say – Girls Should Look Thin: Women’s Views of Females in Media

Activity:
National Conference on Undergraduate Research

Abstract:
Researchers have examined the impact of media portrayals of ideally thin females on women's body image. They have also examined the theory of reflective appraisal (i.e., individuals' reliance upon other's assessments of themselves). To date, however, little if any research has been done examining the interaction between these two phenomena. That is, researchers have not examined the impact of men's reactions to media portrayals of ideally thin females on women's body image. The purpose of this investigation is to examine the influence of male responses to media depictions of ideally thin females on women's body image. One hundred fifteen women were randomly assigned to watch one of three videos: a lingerie commercial without commentary, a lingerie commercial with men's reinforcing commentary, or a lingerie commercial with men's undermining commentary. After viewing a video, participants completed several surveys including measures of attitudes toward the video and measures of their body image. Women viewed the video of the commercial without commentary more positively than either of the videos in which men made reinforcing or undermining commentary about the commercial. However, women who viewed the video of the commercial without commentary reported more negative body image than did women who viewed either of the videos with commentary. Women viewing the video of the commercial without commentary held particularly negative views of their sexual attractiveness. Women appeared to endorse the media portrayal of ideally thin females. Nonetheless, exposure to these media portrayals of ideally thin females without commentary negatively impacted their body image. Perhaps for women self-appraisal is more powerful than reflective appraisal based on men's commentary.