My Eyes Are Up Here: The Nature of the Objectifying Gaze Toward Women
Although objectification theory suggests that women frequently experience the objectifying gaze with many adverse consequences, there is scant research examining the nature and causes of the objectifying gaze for perceivers. The main purpose of this work was to examine the objectifying gaze toward women via eye tracking technology. A secondary purpose was to examine the impact of body shape on this objectifying gaze. To elicit the gaze, we asked participants (29 women, 36 men from a large Midwestern University in the U.S.), to focus on the appearance (vs. personality) of women and presented women with body shapes that fit cultural ideals of feminine attractiveness to varying degrees, including high ideal (i.e., hourglass-shaped women with large breasts and small waist-to-hip ratios), average ideal (with average breasts and average waist-to-hip ratios), and low ideal (i.e., with small breasts and large waist-to-hip ratios). Consistent with our main hypothesis, we found that participants focused on women’s chests and waists more and faces less when they were appearance-focused (vs. personality-focused). Moreover, we found that this effect was particularly pronounced for women with high (vs. average and low) ideal body shapes in line with hypotheses. Finally, compared to female participants, male participants showed an increased tendency to initially exhibit the objectifying gaze and they regarded women with high (vs. average and low) ideal body shapes more positively, regardless of whether they were appearance-focused or personality-focused. Implications for objectification and person perception theories are discussed.