Self-Objectification in Women


Self-Objectification in Women

Self-Objectification in Women

Self-objectification tends to increase in situations that heightenawareness of a person’s physical appearance. Primarily, women andgirls are described to have an influence due to expected gender andsocial roles. According to research, not all women are equallyinfluenced as a result of hormonal, genetic, and anatomicaldifferences of a female body. However, their bodies are objectifiedand evaluated often (Calogero et al., 2011). Self-objectification inwoman appear to originate from two majorcauses, which is the internalization of atraditional standards of beauty translated from the media andsexual objectification instances they tend to face in their lifetime.The paper, therefore, will look at how thiscauses result in the consequences.

It is common for women to translate some of their anxieties throughthe media, for instance, over their frequent sense ofself-objectification, which result intoobsessive behavior in their self-surveillance. Serious problems arein turn become severe, especially to thesewomen and girls. Some of the end results are bodyshame, negative attitudes, anxiety towards their menstrual circles,decreased awareness of their internal body states, sexualdysfunction, depression, altered flow of consciousness, and eatingdisorders (Witt, 2010).However, how does self-objectificationoccur in women?

Self-objectification occurs, especially when a person isrecognized by their body parts or bodily sexual function. Ofimportance is that a woman losses heridentity, and is therefore, is identifiedsolely through their bodily physical characteristics (Crawford,2006). The recognition is purposed to elevate a feeling, which willbe enjoyed by others, or to function as society’s sexual object.Self-objectification in women helps to serve as a social constructbetween and among individuals. However, they are known to haveconsequences, both direct and indirect.

Indirect consequences are among them, self-consciousness, forexample, arranging clothes or their appearance to look presentable.Direct consequences involve sexual victimization (Bolton, 2011). Inconclusion, self-objectification is therefore instances in a woman’slife that tends to increase her awareness in her surroundings. Suchinstances have however, are as a result of causes, which in turn leadto consequences, both directly and indirectly.

Literature review

Self-objectification is arguable the most insidious aspect thatshapes how modern women behave, think and act in public and privatelife. Unlike in the traditional societies where women were expectedto behave, act and dress in certain ways, the modern society hasexacerbated women objectification through the influence of massmedia, technology and industrial development. Today, the mass mediaprojects fine, flawless beautiful, ambitious and self-conceitedwomen. Nearly all mass media adverts are accompanied with images oraudios of beautiful young women. In fact the images projected in themedia portray women as objects of desire who should dress in certainways, walk, think and talk in certain ways as depicted by thebeautiful women in the media. The public in turn has been influencedto see women in particular ways that in turn put ‘pressure’ onwomen to behave, dress and act like ladies presented in adverts ormainstream media. The results are that women have been ‘forced’to self-objectification in an attempt to fit in the society andcurrent trends.

McKay (2013) conducted a study to examine the causes, consequencesand the prevention of female self-objectification. In is analysis,McKay (2013) found that the traditional gender role ascription playedan integral role in reinforcing women self-objectification even inthe modern society. Cultural practices that view women as sexualobjects and housewives leads to self-objectification among women.According to McKay, the view of women as sexual objects bothtraditional and modern society continues to reinforce womenself-objectification. After an extensive literature review McKay(2013), found that the cultural context in which women lives play agreat role in prompting women objectification. Most women inpatriarchal societies are made to believe that they are subordinateto men, objects of men desire and take up les subordinate roles inthe society. The result is that women develop an internalself-consciousness that is characterized by constant self monitoringon their body appearance. In extreme cases, women result to eatingdisorders and depression as they strive to put up the ideal bodytype, behaviors and roles.

According to McKay (2013) gender roles plays significant role inpromoting gender stereotypes that are internalized by individualswhile young. Mackay also found that the media displays projects‘likable’ female bodies and this in turn socializes women in toaccepting that the female body should be attractive. Other sources ofself-objectification include relationships and social influences. McKay, found that in most cases self-objectification leads toobsession with fashion trends, measured eating habits, sexualdysfunction, self-harming and unnecessary surgeries. In his analysis,McKay (2013) found that self-objectification among women was possibleto control through empowering women, promoting positive media, medialiteracy and sexual education to women. The analysis made by McKayindicates that self –objectification in women is indeed true andarises from media influence, cultural and relationships. In part, themedia plays a major role in promoting women self-objectificationmass media and the social media.

A study conducted by DeVries and Peter (2013) on online portrayal anddisplay by women on self-objectification revealed that most women areaffected by online display especially from other women. In thisstudy, DeVries and Peter applied a web-based experiment to examinethe role of internet activities in the modern age and how they haveexacerbated self-objectification in women. In their study, DeVriesand Peter involved college going women in creating online profiles inwhich they were to portray or share photos and opinions with others.

DeVries and Peter (2014) found that most women learned through onlinesocialization on how to evaluate themselves and others based onphysical appearances. In addition, DeVries and Peter study found thattraditional objectifying materials also lead to women selfobjectification. The conclusion from DeVries and Peter (2014) wasthat modern women are exposed to more objectifying content thanprevious generations and hence the increased negative problemsassociated with self-objectification. To this end, it is conclusiveto say that self-objectification by women is influenced by severalfactors that may not be cultural, media or patriarchal based butinfluenced by women themselves. However, regardless of the cause orinfluence of self-objectification by women, self-objectificationamong women leads to adverse effects. These effects range frompsychological, social, sexual dysfunction and eating disorders amongothers.

In a study conducted by Jennifer (2006) conducted a two yearempirical study on the effects of self-objectification among women.Jennifer (2006) explored the effects of the media practice ofobjectifying bodies and how such influence led toself-objectification among women. In the study, Jennifer surveyed therelationship between increased media sexual objectification of bodiesand the influence on women. The findings were that most womeninfluenced by the ‘sexy’ ‘skinny’ images of women portrayedin televisions and magazines.

Jennifer (2006) assessed that most ladies adored the beautiful womenshown in various Medias but were ashamed of their bodies. In thestudy, Jennifer exposed one group of college going women to Mediasobjectifying women in the most attractive physical appearance forms.After the study, several women exhibited low self-efficacy, eatingdisorders and negative body emotions. In this study, Jenniferconfirmed that increased exposure to sexually objectifying mediaincreased self-objectification by women. For this reason, Jenniferdiscovered that women who had been exposed to sexually objectifyingmedia resulted to increased personal surveillance in order to lookattractive. The conclusion of Jennifer study was that increased mediaexposure is related to increased self-objectification andsurveillance that may lead to negative effects on individuals.Self-objectification and increased individual surveillance predisposewomen to negative psychological effects such as eating disorders.

Calogero, Davis and Thompson (2005) set out to investigate whetherself-objectification in women lead to eating disorders. Calogero,Davis and Thompson’s study was based on the objectification theorythat individuals with self-objectification developed negativeemotional experiences such as eating disorders. A sample of 209 womenwho were on treatment for eating disorders was recruited for thestudy. Calogero, Davis and Thompson (2005) sought to measure ifeating disorders were as a result of body shame, media influence andself-objectification.

Majority of the investigated women with eating disorders affirmedthat their ‘sickness’ had been influenced by media ideals thatportray ‘thinness as attractive. Most women, felt ashamed of theirbodies, internalized self objectification and resulted to negativeeating habits to achieve the ‘ideal’ body shape. Calogero, Davisand Thompson (2005) study sheds more light on the effects ofself-objectification among women. Self-objectification and increasedindividual surveillance predispose women to negative psychologicaleffects such as depression and drug abuse.

A study conducted by Erika (2011) found that self objectification bywomen leads to negative behaviors such as drug abuse. Erika (2011)based her study on the objectification theory posited by Frederickson&amp Roberts (1997) that women were more likely to result tonegative self-harm if exposed to sexual objectification. Erika used asample of 300 women selected from the diverse American society tomeasure the extent of self-objectification, body shame, depressionand substance abuse. After the study, Erika (2011) found that womenwho had experienced sexual molestation and exposed to sexuallyobjectifying media adverts resulted to substance abuse to cope withdepression, body shame and feelings of inadequacy. Erika’s studyconfirms Frederickson &amp Roberts (1997) objectification theory andhow women result to self-harm when exposed to sexually objectifyingmaterials. Self-objectification among women not only leads tosubstance abuse but also leads to changes in sexual orientation orsexual dysfunction.

Tiffany (2013) conducted a study with an aim of demystifying howprolonged exposure to sexually objectifying materials or relationshippartner leads to changes in sexual orientation. In her study, Tiffany(2013) was concerned on the widespread heterosexual relationships. Inthe study, a sample of 162 women was involved in the study to assessthe influence of partner objectification and sexual pressure on selfobjectification by women. Tiffany argument was that if relationshippartners views women as sexual objects, this has negativeconsequences on women who view their body as sexual objects fordesire. In the study, Tiffany recruited women who had experiencedsexual pressure, coercion and violence. The results were that mostwomen who had experienced partner objectification resulted toself-objectification. However, Tiffany (2013) also found that mostwomen who had experienced sexual pressure, coercion and violence inheterosexual relationship were due to women objectifying themselves.Tiffany’s study indicates that self-objectification wheninternalized by women expose them to other vulnerable such as sexualpressure, coercion and violence.

A scholarly article written by Taylor (2014) explores on variousways through which women could be assisted to overcome theself-objectification experiences. Taylor (20140 argues thatself-objectification among women, is a psychological problem that iscan be reduced through Yoga exercises. Taylor (2014) observes thatwomen need to replace the negative emotions and behaviors throughmentally heath exercises. Yoga exercise helps individuals to connectthe mind to the body thereby giving individuals a new outlook ontheir bodies. Taylor (2014) argued that Yoga is a multi-directionalapproach that not only prevents mental health disorders but alsohelps women concentrate on positive ways of improving their bodyimage.


Self-objectification in women is influenced by various factors.Cultural practices, gender roles, media materials and online displayof women lead to increased self-objectification among women. Mostwomen with high self-objectification attitude are influenced bysexually objectified materials displayed in media platforms. Womenare also prone to sexual harassment in which their bodies are viewedas objects of sexual pleasure and this leads to increasedself-objectification. Self-objectification among women has negativesocial, physical and psychological effects. Women results to feelingof inadequacy, low self-efficacy, depression and increased personalbody surveillance. As women become more self-conscious on their bodythey feel inadequate if they compare their bodies to those projectedby the media or other women. The overall result is that most womenengage in unhealthy eating practices, drug abuse and anxiety therebyruining their bodies. However, women require media literacy, sexeducation and engage in exercises to shed of negative emotions.


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Crawford, M. (2006). Transformations:Women, gender, and psychology.Boston, Mass: McGraw-Hill.

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McKay, Tanjare` (2013) &quotFemaleSelf-Objectification: Causes, Consequences and Prevention,&quotMcNairScholars Research Journal: Vol. 6:Iss. 1, Article 7. Available at:

Peter Jochen and Dian A. de Vries (2013).“Women on Display: The effect of portraying the self online onwomen’s self-objectification.” Computers in Human Behavior 29(2013) 1483–1489. Available from: Dian A. de Vries

Retrieved on: 30 July 2015

Taylor Allard and Harwood Elizabeth (2014). “Minimizing theconsequences of self-objectification in college women through Yoga.” Insight: Rivier Academic Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, spring2014.

Witt, C. (2010). Feministmetaphysics: Explorations in the ontology of sex, gender and theself. Dordrecht: Springer.