University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Are Contemporary Media Images Which Seem to Display Women as Sexually Empowered Actually Harmful to Women?

Halliwell, E., Malson, H. and Tischner, Irmgard (2011) Are Contemporary Media Images Which Seem to Display Women as Sexually Empowered Actually Harmful to Women? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35 (1). pp. 38-45. ISSN 0361-6843

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There has been a shift in the depiction of women in advertising from objectifying representations of women as passive sex
objects to agentic sexual representations where the women appear powerful and in control (Gill, 2007a, 2008), and there is
substantial evidence that these representations have a negative impact on women’s body image. However, to our knowledge,
this study is the first experimental research that aims to compare passively objectifying and more recent sexually agentic
representations. British undergraduate women (N ¼ 122) participated in an experiment in which they were randomly assigned
to view sexually passive, sexually agentic, or control print advertisements. Exposure to both types of representations of
women, compared to viewing control images, was associated with increased weight dissatisfaction. The sexually agentic
representations were singularly associated with increased state self-objectification. Media exposure research tends to focus
on the models (e.g., their thinness) shown in advertising and pay little attention to the framing of the image. Our results highlight
the powerful impact different framings can have on women’s body image concerns as well as suggest that recent shifts in
advertising may be particularly problematic because contemporary images increased both weight concern and selfobjectification.
Therefore, these images may have a more powerful impact on psychological well-being and disordered eating
behaviors than traditional images.

Item Type: Article
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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: body image, physical attractiveness, body weight, mass media, advertising, empowerment
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Irmgard Tischner
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2012 10:11
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 16:58

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