Sexual objectification 1 Running head: SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION Why and How Women Are Sexually Objectified Sarah J. Gervais University of Nebraska-Lincoln Theresa K. Vescio The Pennsylvania State University Address correspondence to: Sarah J. Gervais, Ph.D. Psychology Department 338 Burnett Hall University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, NE 68588-0308 Phone: (814) 571-6079 E-mail: [email protected] Sexual objectification 2 Abstract This research examined why women are objectified and what psychological consequences objectification has for objectifiers. We hypothesized that people are objectified to the degree that they deviate from the normative person, which in Western cultures tends to be White and male. Thus, we predicted that women would be objectified. One implication of this hypothesis, however, is that to the degree that anyone deviates from the normative person, they may be objectified. Therefore if men deviate from the normative person they may also be objectified. In two experiments, we examined the objectification of stereotypic and hyper-stereotypic women and men. In Experiment 1, we found that the objectifying gaze was directed at women and hyper-stereotypic men more than stereotypic men. In Experiment 2, we found that women and hyper-stereotypic men were more fungible than stereotypic men. Implications for objectification theory are discussed. Sexual objectification 3 Why and How Women Sexually Objectified Feminist theorists suggest that women are often reduced to their sexual body parts or functions, or sexually objectified (Bartky, 1990; MacKinnon, 1987). Consistent with this notion, women report being sexually objectified by others (Kozee, Tylka, Augustus-Horvath, & Denchik, 2007) and women’s sexual appearance is often regarded as more important than other attributes both by women themselves (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) and other people (Strelan & Hargreaves, 2005). It is clear that women are objectified, but it is unclear why women are objectified and what psychological consequences objectification has for objectifiers. Why are Women Objectified? Although researchers have not examined why women are objectified, researchers have examined why women are categorized by their gender, rather than individuated (Tajfel, 1969). Generally speaking, categorization and individuation processes are anchored at opposite ends of the person perception continuum (Fiske & Neuberg, 1990). Categorization is the default unless people are able and motivated to go beyond category-based perception to individuate others (Brewer, 1988; see also Fiske, Lin, & Neuberg, 1999). Once categorized, similarities within groups (e.g., women seen as similar to one another) and differences between groups (e.g., women and men seen as different from one another) are accentuated (see Allport, 1954; Hensley & Duval, 1976) by the self (Oakes, Haslam, & Turner, 1994; Turner, Oakes, Haslam, & McGarty, 1994) and others (Stangor, Lynch, Duan, & Glass, 1992; Taylor, Fiske, Etcoff, & Rudman, 1977) and intergroup biases often follow (e.g., Vescio, Gervais, Hoover, & Snyder, 2005). People are categorized to the degree that they deviate from the normative person, which in Western cultures tends to be White and male. Thus, White men tend to be individuated while Sexual objectification 4 racial minorities and women capture attention and are categorized according to non-normative features (Zarate & Smith, 1990, Stroessner, 1996). For example, the babyish facial features and emotional expressiveness of women capture attention and provide a basis for categorization because they stand in contrast to the mature facial features and rationality of the normative man. We propose that as people deviate from the norm that they may not only be categorized, but they may also be objectified. When the non-normative features of women’s bodies (e.g., breasts, waists) provide the basis for categorization, women may be reduced to their sexual body parts or sexually objectified. Importantly, within any group of people (e.g., White women, White men), there are individual differences in the degree to which a particular individual differs from the normative person. For example, women with stereotypically feminine physical features differ from the normative person because they have larger breasts and smaller waists than men. Women with less stereotypically feminine physical features, or counter-stereotypic women, differ from the normative man, but less so than stereotypic women because they have smaller breasts and larger waists. Consequently, like men, counter-stereotypic women tend to be individuated, whereas stereotypic women tend to be categorized. Although not the focus of much prior work, women may also have more stereotypically feminine features, than stereotypic women. These hyperstereotypic women have larger breasts and smaller waists than even stereotypic women and because they deviate most from the normative man, they may also be categorized.1 Integrating this research with our suggestion that people will be objectified as they deviate from the normative person, we hypothesized that stereotypic and hyper-stereotypic women would be sexually objectified. One implication of our suggestion, however, is that to the degree that anyone deviates from the normative person, they may be objectified. Thus, if men Sexual objectification 5 deviate from the normative person, they may also be objectified. The normative person tends to be a stereotypic man, with broad shoulders and a narrow waist. However, like women, the physical features of men may capture attention and provide a basis for categorization when their masculine features are exaggerated or are hyper-stereotypic. This reasoning formed the basis of two experiments that examined the objectification of women and men. What Effect Does Objectification have on Perceivers’ Attention and Memory? We reasoned that if people are reduced to their sexual body parts and functions, then basic cognitive processes may indicate objectification. Scholars have noted that one way in which sexual objectification becomes visible is through the “male” or objectifying gaze (Berger, 1972; MacKinnon, 1987), which is attention focused on sexual body parts. The objectifying gaze, for example, is often apparent when the camera lens focuses on women’s sexual body parts in the media (Mulvey, 1975; Archer, Iritani, Kimes, & Barrios, 1983). Although consistent with women’s reports that their sexual body parts receive increased attention (Kozee, et al., 2007), the suggestion that people may exhibit the objectifying gaze toward women has not been empirically examined. Based on this rationale, we hypothesized that the objectifying gaze would be directed at women more than men. In addition, if deviation from the normative person predicts objectification, then the objectifying gaze should be directed at women, regardless of stereotypicality, but also hyper-stereotypic men more than stereotypic men. Objectification theory also posits that when sexually objectified, women become fungible or interchangeable with similar things (Haslam, 2006; Nussbaum, 1999). Just as a knife handle is irrelevant and any knife with a sharp blade should be sufficient, a stripper’s face may be irrelevant, and any stripper with a sexy body should be sufficient for stripping. Furthermore, Sexual objectification 6 while categorization research reveals that people are perceived as very similar to one another once categorized on their physical features, traits or behaviors, objectification theory suggests that women become completely interchangeable with one another on the basis of their sexual bodies or body parts. Based on these considerations, we hypothesized that women, regardless of stereotypicality would be more fungible than men. In addition, if deviation from the normative person predicts objectification, then hyper-stereotypic men should also be more fungible than stereotypic men. To examine these hypotheses, we presented images of stereotypic and hyperstereotypic men and women and measured attention to sexual body parts compared to non-sexual body parts in Experiment 1 and we measured memory for faces and bodies in Experiment 2. Experiment 1 Method Participants, Design, and Predictions Seventy-six (39 female, 36 male) Pennsylvania State University undergraduates participated for course credit. Participants worked at computers to complete the experiment, which used a body part (sex relevant or irrelevant) X target feature (stereotypic or hyperstereotypic) X target gender (male or female) within-participants design. We hypothesized that people who deviated from the normative person (i.e., stereotypic men) would be objectified, as evidenced by a significant target feature X target gender interaction. Procedure After providing informed consent, participants completed a dot-probe task (MacLeod, Mathews, & Tata 1986). Participants saw full body images of stereotypic women, hyperstereotypic women, stereotypic men, and hyper-stereotypic men. Stereotypic and hyper- Sexual objectification 7 stereotypic targets were created using Photoshop to modify the waists and chests of equally attractive men and women. Pilot testing confirmed that, within gender, hyper-stereotypic targets were rated as significantly more stereotypic than stereotypic targets. Although created from photographs rated as equivalent in attractiveness at the outset, following the modification, the bodies of hyper-stereotypic targets were rated as more attractive than stereotypic targets. The faces of targets were equal on stereotypicality and attractiveness. On each trial, a fixation point appeared in the middle of a screen for 1500 milliseconds (ms) prior to the presentation of the target. Next, a stereotypic or hyper-stereotypic male or female target appeared in the upper left, upper right, lower left, or lower right quadrant of the screen for 200 ms. At the conclusion of the 200 ms, participants pressed the space bar if a dot appeared on the screen where the target had been. If no dot appeared, participants refrained from responding. There were a total of 128 (64 dot, 64 non-dot) trials and the dot trials were created by crossing target feature, target gender, and type of body part. Specifically, thirty-two male and thirty-two female targets were randomly presented. Of the male and female targets, half were stereotypic and half were hyper-stereotypic. In half of the trials, the dot appeared behind a sex relevant part (waist). In the other half of the trials, the dot appeared behind a sex irrelevant part (arm). If participants directed their attention to sex relevant body parts, they should be quicker to react when the dot appeared where the sex relevant body parts were than where the sex irrelevant body parts were. Results Reaction times faster than 150 ms and slower than 1500 ms were removed from analyses to correct for outliers and reaction times were log transformed (Wittenbrink, Judd, & Park, Sexual objectification 8 1997). Log transformed reaction times for sex relevant body parts were subtracted from sex irrelevant body parts, with higher numbers equaling more of the objectifying gaze. Log transformed difference scores were submitted to a target feature (stereotypic or hyperstereotypic) X target gender (male or female) within-participants analysis of variance (ANOVA)2. Two significant effects emerged from this analysis. A main effect of target feature, F(1, 73)=13.41, prep=.99, ηp2=.16, revealed that the objectifying gaze was directed at hyperstereotypic targets (M=22.49 ms, SD=56.54) more than stereotypic targets (M= - 15.45 ms, SD=58.10). As Figure 1 shows, the hypothesized target feature and target gender interaction, F(1, 73)=9.01, prep=.97, ηp2=.11, revealed that the objectifying gaze was directed at hyperstereotypic male targets (M=34.22 ms, SD=88.36) more than stereotypic male targets (M= 26.03 ms, SD=87.79), F(1, 73)=16.91, prep=.996, ηp2=.19, whereas the objectifying gaze was directed at hyper-stereotypic female targets (M=10.76 ms, SD=60.56) marginally more than stereotypic female targets (M= - 4.86 ms, SD=63.65), F(1, 73)=3.19, prep=.842, ηp2=.04.3 Supporting our hypothesis, the objectifying gaze was directed at women, regardless of stereotypicality, and hyper-stereotypic men more than stereotypic men. This is consistent with our more general suggestion that people will be objectified as they deviate from the normative person. In a second test of this suggestion, using another indicator of objectification, we examined whether people that deviated from the normative person would be fungible in Experiment 2. Participants completed a surprise memory task in which they matched faces and bodies of stereotypic and hyper-stereotypic male and females. We reasoned that when people’s bodies are interchangeable, participants should have difficulty matching people’s bodies to their faces. Sexual objectification 9 Experiment 2 Method Participants, Design and Predictions Sixty-six (51 females, 15 males) Pennsylvania State University undergraduates participated for course credit. Participants worked at computers to complete the experiment, which used a target feature (stereotypic or hyper-stereotypic) X target gender (male or female) within-participants design. We hypothesized that people who deviated from the normative person would be fungible, as evidenced by a significant target feature X target gender interaction. Procedure After providing informed consent, participants saw full body images of six stereotypic women, six hyper-stereotypic women, six stereotypic men, and six hyper-stereotypic men (from Experiment 1). Each of the 24 photographs was first presented individually in random order. Next, participants were given the surprise recognition task requiring that they match the faces and bodies of previously seen targets. Half of the participants completed the matching task for female targets first and vice-versa for the other half. The bodies of the 12 previously seen men (then women, or vice-versa) were randomly ordered and presented individually for 5000 ms. Above each body, the previously seen faces of the same 12 targets were presented in a different random order while no response was permitted from participants. Participants were then shown the 12 faces a second time. In response to the presentation of each face, participants indicated a face-body match or mismatch with an appropriate key press. Because factors like neck size and skin tone may have aided memory, black and white images were used and faces appeared in a standard box above the bodies. This procedure was repeated for all of one gender then the other gender. Face-body mismatches Sexual objectification 10 within a condition were divided by the number of trials, with higher numbers representing increased fungibility. Results Fungibility scores were submitted to a target feature (stereotypic or hyper-stereotypic) X target gender (male or female) within-participants ANOVA. A main effect of target feature F(1, 64)=6.99, prep=.95, ηp2=.10, indicated that hyper-stereotypic targets (M=.38, SD=.21) were more fungible than stereotypic targets (M=.36, SD=.20). As Figure 2 shows, the hypothesized target feature X target gender interaction, F(1, 64)=3.55, prep=.87, ηp2=.05 revealed that hyperstereotypic men (M=.38, SD=.23) were significantly more fungible than stereotypic men (M=.34, SD=.23) F(1, 65)=10.72, prep=.98, ηp2=.14, whereas hyper-stereotypic women (M=.37, SD=.23) and stereotypic women (M=.37, SD=.22) were similarly fungible, F<1.4 General Discussion To our knowledge, this is the first research to examine why women are objectified and the objectifying gaze and fungibility hypotheses derived from objectification theory. Across two experiments, using two indicators of objectification, we found that women, regardless of stereotypicality, were objectified. These results are consistent with objectification theory. Consistent with our suggestion that people are objectified to the degree that they differ from the normative person, hyper-stereotypic men were also objectified. An alternative explanation for the findings from Experiment 2 is that participants focused on women and hyper-stereotypic men’s faces and ignored their bodies altogether. We find this alternative unlikely given that Experiment 1 revealed that initial attention was directed toward the sexual body parts of women and hyper-stereotypic men. Future research should also measure initial attention to faces and attention to faces and bodies over time. Sexual objectification 11 The present research also reveals the importance of examining the full stereotypicality spectrum. Although deviation from the stereotypic mean has been shown to lead to individuation for counter-stereotypic targets, the present research suggests that deviation in the other direction – being hyper-stereotypic – may lead to increased category-based processing. Further research should examine whether counter-stereotypic men and women are objectified. These findings also suggest that sexual objectification may be a particular type of categorization that involves being categorized solely on the basis of sexual body parts. Future inquiries should consider whether correlates of categorization, like stereotyping, follow from objectification. For example, objectification theory suggests that human traits (even stereotypic human traits) may be less accessible, but sexual stereotypes may be more accessible when women are objectified. One might argue that attention and memory for bodies represent relatively benign indicators of objectification. After all, attention and memory are only in people’s heads. These cognitive biases, however, may lead to more insidious objectification. When objectified, people may not only be fungible, but may also be more likely to be used as a means toward an end (Gruenfeld, Inesi, Magee, & Galinsky, 2008). 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Evidence for racial prejudice at the implicit Sexual objectification 15 level and its relationship with questionnaire measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(2), 262-274. Zarate, M. A. & Smith, E. R. (1990). Person categorization and stereotyping. Social Cognition, 8 (2), 161-185. Sexual objectification 16 Acknowledgements Thank you Tom Tiegs and Anson Long for reviewing previous versions of this manuscript. Sexual objectification 17 Figure Captions Figure 1: The objectifying gaze (ms sex irrelevant – sex relevant body parts) as a function of target feature and target gender. Figure 2. Fungibility (percentage of incorrect face-body matches) as a function of target feature and target gender. Difference between sex-rel and sexirrel body parts (ms) Sexual objectification 18 50 40 30 20 10 Stereo 0 -10 Male Female -20 -30 -40 -50 Target gender Hyper Sexual objectification 19 Fungibility (percent incorrect) 0.44 0.42 0.4 Stereo 0.38 Hyper 0.36 0.34 0.32 0.3 Females Males Target gender Sexual objectification 20 1 There are similar arguments for racial hyper-stereotypicality (e.g., Blair, Judd, Sadler, & Jenkins, 2002; Livingston & Brewer, 2002; Maddox & Gray, 2002). 2 Participant gender did not predict objectification in Experiment 1 or 2 (see Strelan & Hargreaves). 3 The contrast comparing the objectifying gaze directed at hyper-stereotypic men and women (regardless of stereotypicality) to stereotypic men, F(1,73)=13.54, prep=.966, ηp2=.16, was also significant. 4 The contrast comparing fungibility for hyper-stereotypic men and women (regardless of stereotypicality) to stereotypic men, F(1,65)=2.40, prep=.80, ηp2=.04, was marginally significant.