Distancing Through Objectification? Depictions of Women’s Bodies in Menstrual Product Advertisements
- 2.2k Downloads
Terror Management Theory has led to suggestions that humans may distance themselves from menstruation in order to avoid reminders of their own corporeality and mortality, and the objectification of women has received empirical support as one means to do so. A content analysis of 240 menstrual product advertisements published in Seventeen and Cosmopolitan over 12 years was undertaken to look for evidence of objectification. Idealized images of women were common, lending support to the idea that these tactics can be used to provide distance from reminders of our own mortality, but overtly sexualized images were less common. The fact that nearly half of the advertisements did not include images of women may provide even stronger support for this idea. This indicated that a sanitized female body is not just being paired with reminders of menstruation, we are, literally, removing the female body entirely in many instances.
KeywordsAdvertising Menstrual products Content analysis Objectification Sexualization Menstruation Terror Management Theory Mortality salience Creatureliness
An earlier version of this study was presented as a paper at the biennial meeting of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research in Spokane, WA in June 2009.
This work was supported by a Faculty Advisor Research Grant from Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology.
I would like to thank Gwen Paulson for her work refining the coding scheme and coding advertisements; this project benefitted from her interest.
- Becker, E. (1973). The denial of death. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
- Delaney, J., Lupton, M. J., & Toth, E. (1988). The curse: A cultural history of menstruation. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
- Goldenberg, J. L., Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Kluck, B., & Cornwell, R. (2001). I am not an animal: mortality salience, disgust, and the denial of human creatureliness. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 130, 427–435. doi: 10.1037/0096-3418.104.22.1687.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Goldenberg, J. L., & Roberts, T.-A. (2004). The beast within the beauty: An existential perspective on the objectification and condemnation of women. In J. Greenberg, S. L. Koole, & T. Pyszczynski (Eds.), Handbook of experimental existential psychology (pp. 71–85). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Greenberg, J., Simon, L., Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Chatel, D. (1992). Terror management and tolerance: does mortality salience always intensify negative reactions to others who threaten one’s worldview? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 212–220. doi: 10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.124.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Greenberg, J., Porteus, J., Simon, L., Pyszczynski, T., & Solomon, S. (1995). Evidence of a terror management function of cultural icons: the effects of mortality salience on the inappropriate use of cherished cultural symbols. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1221–1228. doi: 10.1177/01461672952111010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., & Pyszczynski, T. (1997). Terror management theory of self-esteem and social behavior: Empirical assessments and conceptual refinements. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 29, pp. 61–139). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
- Gunter, B. (2002). Media sex: What are the issues? Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Kilbourne, J., (Writer) & Jhally, S. (Producer/Director). (2000). Killing us softly 3: Advertising’s image of women [Videorecording]. Northampton: Media Education Foundation.Google Scholar
- Landau, M. J., Goldenberg, J. L., Greenberg, J., Gillath, O., Solomon, S., Cox, C., et al. (2006). The siren’s call: terror management and the threat of men’s sexual attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 129–146. doi: 10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.199.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Reichert, T., & Lambiase, J. (Eds.). (2003). Sex in advertising: Perspectives on rthe erotic appeal. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Roberts, T.-A., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2007). Wrestling with nature: An existential perspective on the body and gender in self-conscious emotions. In J. L. Tracy, R. W. Robins, & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), The self-conscious emotions: Theory and research (pp. 389–406). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Ussher, J. (1989). The psychology of the female body. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar