Advertisement

Sex Roles

, Volume 79, Issue 9–10, pp 609–615 | Cite as

Thin Is In? Think Again: The Rising Importance of Muscularity in the Thin Ideal Female Body

  • Frances Bozsik
  • Brooke L. Whisenhunt
  • Danae L. Hudson
  • Brooke Bennett
  • Jennifer D. Lundgren
Original Article

Abstract

Research has documented an increased emphasis on fitness in media targeting women. However, it is unclear whether this emphasis has resulted in increased muscularity in the perceived ideal female body shape. We sought to evaluate whether the ideal female figure has incorporated increased muscularity into the existing ideal body type that already emphasizes thinness. In Study 1, 78 female undergraduates evaluated images of U.S. beauty pageant winners over the past 15 years on dimensions of thinness, muscularity, and attractiveness. Results indicated that muscularity and thinness ratings of pageant winners significantly increased over time. In Study 2, 64 female undergraduates evaluated two different versions of the same image of a model: a Thin Muscular image and a Thin Only image in which the appearance of muscularity was removed through digital editing. When images were presented in pairs, results indicated that participants found the Thin Muscular image more attractive than the Thin Only image. These results suggest that the current perceived ideal female figure includes both extreme thinness and muscularity and that women prefer this muscular thin figure to a solely thin figure. These findings have implications for clinical treatments related to body image, compulsive exercise, and media literacy.

Keywords

Thin ideal Muscularity Thinness Physical fitness Social media Body image Internalization Women 

Notes

Funding

No funding was obtained for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

Institutional Review Board approval was obtained from Missouri State University prior to the administration of the study.

Informed Consent

All participants signed informed consent.

References

  1. Bell, B. T., & Dittmar, H. (2011). Does media type matter? The role of identification in adolescent girls’ media consumption and the impact of different thin-ideal media on body image. Sex Roles, 65, 478–490.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-9964-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benton, C., & Karazsia, B. T. (2015). The effect of thin and muscular images on women's body satisfaction. Body Image, 13, 22–27.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2014.11.001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bissell, K. L., & Zhou, P. (2004). Must-see TV or ESPN: Entertainment and sports media exposure and body-image distortion in college women. Journal of Communication, 54, 5–21.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2004.tb02610.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boepple, L., & Thompson, J. K. (2016). A content analytic comparison of fitspiration and thinspiration websites. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49(1), 98–101.  https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.22403.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cramblitt, B., & Pritchard, M. (2013). Media's influence on the drive for muscularity in undergraduates. Eating Behaviors, 14(4), 441–446.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2013.08.003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Crystal Group, Inc. (2014). Miss Texas USA: Judging criteria. Retrieved from http://www.misstexasusa.com/judging.html.
  7. Cusumano, D. L., & Thompson, J. K. (1997). Body image and body shape ideals in magazines: Exposure, awareness, and internalization. Sex Roles, 37(9/10), 701–721.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02936336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Daniels, E. A. (2009). Sex objects, athletes, and sexy athletes: How media representations of women athletes can impact adolescent girls and college women. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24(4), 399–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dittmar, H. (2008). Consumer culture, identity, and well-being: The search for the “good life” and “body perfect”. London: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  10. Eisenberg, M. E., Wall, M., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2012). Muscle-enhancing behaviors among adolescent girls and boys. Pediatrics, 130(6), 1019–1026.  https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2012-0095.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Engeln-Maddox, R. (2005). Cognitive responses to idealized media images of women: The relationship of social comparison and critical processing to body image disturbance in college women. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(8), 1114–1138.  https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2005.24.8.1114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Garner, D. M., Garfinkel, P. E., Schwartz, D., & Thompson, M. (1980). Cultural expectations of thinness in women. Psychological Reports, 47(2), 483–491.  https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1980.47.2.483.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Garvin, A. W., & Damson, C. (2008). The effects of idealized fitness images on anxiety, depression and global mood states in college age males and females. Journal of Health Psychology, 13(3), 433–437.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105307088146.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. George, M. (2005). Making sense of muscle: The body experiences of collegiate women athletes. Sociological Inquiry, 75(3), 317–345.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-682X.2005.00125.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ghaznavi, J., & Taylor, L. D. (2015). Bones, body parts, and sex appeal: An analysis of #thinspiration images on popular social media. Body Image, 14, 54–61.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.03.006.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Groesz, L. M., Levine, M. P., & Murnen, S. K. (2002). The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction: A meta-analytic review. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31(1), 1–16.  https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.10005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Holland, G., & Tiggemann, M. (2016). A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes. Body Image, 17, 100–110.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.02.008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Homan, K., McHugh, E., Wells, D., Watson, C., & King, C. (2012). The effect of viewing ultra-fit images on college women's body dissatisfaction. Body Image, 9(1), 50–56.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2011.07.006.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kelley, C. C. G., Neufeld, J. M., & Musher-Eizenman, D. R. (2010). Drive for thinness and drive for muscularity: Opposite ends of the continuum or separate constructs? Body Image, 7(1), 74–77.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2009.09.008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Lew, A. M., Mann, T., Myers, H., Taylor, S., & Bower, J. (2007). Thin-ideal media and women’s body dissatisfaction: Prevention using downward social comparisons on non-appearance dimensions. Sex Roles, 57(7), 543–556.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9274-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Martins, N., Williams, D. C., Harrison, K., & Ratan, R. A. (2009). A content analysis of female body imagery in video games. Sex Roles, 61, 824–836.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9682-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Miss America Organization (2014). Miss America: National judging process. Retrieved from http://www.missamerica.org/news/press-kit/national-judging-process.aspx.
  23. Mosewich, A. D., Vangool, A. B., Kowalski, K. C., & McHugh, T. L. F. (2009). Exploring women track and field athletes' meanings of muscularity. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21(1), 99–115.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200802575742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sabiston, C. M., & Chandler, K. (2009). Effects of fitness advertising on weight and body shape dissatisfaction, social physique anxiety, and exercise motives in a sample of healthy-weight females. Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, 14(4), 165–180.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9861.2010.00047.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schaefer, L. M., Burke, N. L., Thompson, J. K., Dedrick, R. F., Heinberg, L. J., Calogero, R. M., … Anderson, D. A. (2015). Development and validation of the sociocultural attitudes towards appearance Questionnaire-4 (SATAQ-4). Psychological Assessment, 27(1), 54–67.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Shaw, H., Stice, E., & Becker, C. B. (2009). Preventing eating disorders. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 18(1), 199–207.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2008.07.012.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Silverstein, B., Perdue, L., Peterson, B., & Kelly, E. (1986). The role of the mass media in promoting a thin standard of bodily attractiveness for women. Sex Roles, 14(9), 519–532.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Simpson, C. C., & Mazzeo, S. E. (2016). Skinny is not enough: A content analysis of fitspiration on Pinterest. Health Communication, 32(5), 560–567.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2016.1140273.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Spitzer, B. L., Henderson, K. A., & Zivian, M. T. (1999). Gender differences in population versus media body sizes: A comparison over four decades. Sex Roles, 40(7–8), 545–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stice, E., & Shaw, H. E. (1994). Adverse effects of the media portrayed thin-ideal on women and linkages to bulimic symptomatology. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 13(3), 288–308.  https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.1994.13.3.288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sypeck, M. F., Gray, J. J., & Ahrens, A. H. (2004). No longer just a pretty face: Fashion magazines' depictions of ideal female beauty from 1959 to 1999. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 36(3), 342–347.  https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.20039.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Thompson, J. K., & Stice, E. (2001). Thin-ideal internalization: Mounting evidence for a new risk factor for body-image disturbance and eating pathology. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(5), 181–183.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Thorton, B., & Maurice, J. (1997). Physique contrast effect: Adverse impact of idealized body images for women. Sex Roles, 37(5), 433–439.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025609624848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tiggemann, M., & McGill, B. (2004). The role of social comparison in the effect of magazine advertisements on women's mood and body dissatisfaction. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 23(1), 23–44.  https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.23.1.23.26991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tiggemann, M., & Polivy, J. (2010). Upward and downward: Social comparison processing of thin idealized media images. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34(3), 356–364.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.2010.01581.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tiggemann, M., & Zaccardo, M. (2015). “Exercise to be fit, not skinny”: The effect of fitspiration imagery on women's body image. Body Image, 15, 61–67.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.06.003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Varnes, J. R., Stefellson, M. L., Janelle, C. M., Dorman, S. M., Dodd, V., & Miller, M. D. (2013). A systematic review of studies comparing body image concerns among female college athletes and non-athletes, 1997-2012. Body Image, 10, 421–432.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.06.001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Wiseman, C. V., Gray, J. J., Mosimann, J. E., & Ahrens, A. H. (1992). Cultural expectations of thinness in women: An update. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11(1), 85–89.  https://doi.org/10.1002/1098-108X(199201)11:1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frances Bozsik
    • 1
  • Brooke L. Whisenhunt
    • 2
  • Danae L. Hudson
    • 2
  • Brooke Bennett
    • 3
  • Jennifer D. Lundgren
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Missouri-Kansas CityKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMissouri State UniversitySpringfieldUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Hawai’i at MānoaHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations