An examination on gender role and ethnic identity in the utility of self-objectification theory in a diverse sample of women
Parrillo, Jessica Lindsey
MetadataShow full item record
Objectification theory (OT) provides a useful framework in conceptualizing how sociocultural and psychological risk factors combine to impact some of women’s disproportionate mental health risks. OT (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) is based on the concept that sexual objectification is infused in Western culture and is exacerbated for women. The resulting internalization process, known as self-objectification, involves adopting a third party, objectified perspective on the physical self, assessing one’s own body in an attempt to conform to the culture’s standards of attractiveness, and prioritizing the appearance of the body over its functioning. Research has documented that self-objectification may result in negative psychological consequences such as greater levels of shame and anxiety, reduced awareness of internal bodily states, decreased peak motivational states, depression, eating disorder symptomatology, and sexual dysfunction (Buchanan et al., 2008; Harrison & Fredrickson, 2003; Miner-Rubino et al., 2002; Fredrickson et al, 1998). The present study extended research by testing a more comprehensive framework of OT that included the roles of internalization of sociocultural standards of beauty as well as gender and ethnic identity across a sample of diverse women so as to clarify the development of self-objectification and to gain a better understanding of the potential differences in the experiences of women of color and Caucasian women. The study utilized a sample of 172 female students at a large university in the southeastern United States. Collectively, the current findings demonstrated that many factors likely combine to impact how sociocultural factors are translated into experiences of self-objectification and provided preliminary support for the relation between gender role identification, ethnic identity development, and ethnicity in this process. Increased levels of self-objectification were associated with greater internalization of sociocultural standards of beauty and identification with traditional feminine gender roles. Significant differences in self-objectification were found between White women and women of color. For women of color, there was a significantly negative relation between self-objectification and ethnic identity. Although further research is needed, the findings seem important when considering risk factors that may contribute to some individuals being more susceptible to self-objectification, while others are able to prevent this process, in the face of societal sexual objectification.