Managing your appearance is essential because attractiveness can translate into increased opportunities for both men and women, whether in the workplace or on the social scene. For women, managing appearance is significant; a woman often ties her values to her looks. Even though men are not immune to the negative impact of being less physically attractive, it is women more often than men who are often judged primarily based on their attractiveness. Now, fashion & health have risky appearance management behaviors,
Thus, it is not too surprising that being physically attractive is essential to women. Some women are willing to engage in risky appearance management behaviors to obtain what they consider ideal.
Risky appearance management behaviors include activities that, if engaged in for a prolonged period of time, pose a threat to the individual’s health and well-being. These behaviors include smoking to curb one’s appetite, abuse of diet pills and diuretics, purging after eating, and abuse of laxatives, among other behaviors. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University have been interested in identifying variables that impact young women’s willingness to engage in risky appearance management behaviors. Their research has documented several factors that contribute to a young woman’s willingness to engage in risky behaviors for the sake of her appearance. One of the first variables identified was the extent of self-objectification.
Objectification refers to treating an individual as an object. To be looked at and evaluated rather than being treated as a person. Self-objectification refers to the process of internalizing an outsider’s view of the self. In other words, self-objectification is concerned with the extent to which an individual views themselves as an object. The researchers found that the more a young woman accepted the idea that she was “like an object,” the more she engaged in risky appearance management behaviors.
What leads to self-objectification?
Doctors Smolak and Murnen, researchers at Kenyon College, argue that an essential precursor to self-objectification is sexual objectification or sexualization. They argue that sexualization facilitates women’s belief that a sexy appearance is essential not only to be appealing to others but also to be successful in all life areas. Agree that sexualization of women is an ever-present phenomenon occurring in women’s clothing, appearance enhancing products, media and messages from parents and peers. They point to the media, particularly as a source of extreme sexualization of women.. There is unnecessary sexualization of women in the portrayal of women in the media. They are using items (e.g., wearing thong underwear) and poses (e.g., advertisements for Calvin Klein jeans) that featured only in pornography.
Sexualization of women makes women vulnerable both physically and psychologically and is a form of oppression. Engaging in the activities, meeting the goal of being beautiful may mean that women will put their health at risk by engaging in risky appearance management behaviors. Diverting their energies away from empowering pursuits.
There are numerous obstacles to overcome in preventing self-objectification in women, but there are some simple steps that can be taken, including helping young women recognize and label instances of sexualization as well as promoting media literacy.
Women, in their interactions with other women, can emphasize achievements during their conversations (e.g., what are you working on?) rather than focusing conversation on each other’s appearance (e.g., have you lost weight?). Empowering women to achieve through their intellect, personalities and character rather than solely through their appearance is a large undertaking but will ultimately improve the quality of their lives.
By Kim Johnson, PhD, University of Minnesota