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Sexism, Hostility toward Women, and Endorsement of Beauty Ideals and Practices: Are Beauty Ideals Associated with Oppressive Beliefs?

Abstract

Relationships between the endorsement of Western beauty ideals and practices and measures of hostility toward women and sexism were studied in 159 college men and 194 college women. The participants were predominately 18 or 19 years of age and of European American ethnicity. Correlations were computed between five factor analytically derived measures of beauty ideals and practices, two measures of the thin body ideal, and the following measures: Hostility toward Women Scale (HTWS; Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1995), Attitudes toward Women Scale (AWS; Spence & Helmreich, 1978), and the two subscales of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI; Glick & Fiske, 1996): hostile sexism (ASI-H) and benevolent sexism (ASI-B). It was found that endorsement of Western beauty ideals and practices was associated with hostility toward women, traditional sexism, hostile sexism, and, to a lesser extent, benevolent sexism. Results support feminist critiques of beauty practices as oppressive.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    An additional factor that accounts for 7.2% of the variance was also extracted. This factor contained two items: A woman’s eyebrows are unattractive unless they are shaped or plucked, and A woman should always make certain that she does not perspire. Because the reliability of this factor was unsatisfactory (alpha = .47) and its psychological meaning was ambiguous, it was omitted from all analyses. Inclusion of the factor would have made no meaningful change in the results or conclusions.

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Acknowledgement

The authors are indebted to our colleagues in the Millikin University English Department whose generous support made this research possible. We also thank Jaehee Jung, Kelly Haas, and Jessica LeClaire for their assistance.

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Correspondence to Gordon B. Forbes.

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Forbes, G.B., Collinsworth, L.L., Jobe, R.L. et al. Sexism, Hostility toward Women, and Endorsement of Beauty Ideals and Practices: Are Beauty Ideals Associated with Oppressive Beliefs?. Sex Roles 56, 265–273 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9161-5

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Keywords

  • Beauty ideals
  • Sexism
  • Hostility toward women