Advertisement

Sex Roles

, Volume 66, Issue 11–12, pp 764–775 | Cite as

Too Sexualized to be Taken Seriously? Perceptions of a Girl in Childlike vs. Sexualizing Clothing

  • Kaitlin Graff
  • Sarah K. MurnenEmail author
  • Linda Smolak
Original Article

Abstract

Girls in the United States are increasingly confronted with a sexualized culture, including sexualized clothing made especially for pre-teen girls. Previous research has shown that when adult women are portrayed as sexualized they are seen as less competent. In the present study we depicted a pre-teen girl in sexualized clothing to determine if similar effects would occur as have been found with depictions of adult women. One hundred sixty two male and female students from a small liberal arts college in the Midwestern U.S. looked at one of three images of a fifth-grade girl (obtained from an internet advertisement and manipulated through computer software) who was presented in either childlike clothing, somewhat sexualized clothing, or definitely sexualized clothing. Level of accomplishment was also manipulated so that the girl was described as either average or above average in accomplishment. Participants then rated the girl on ten different traits. The clothing and accomplishment manipulations significantly affected ratings of the girl’s masculine-stereotyped traits such that the girl who was portrayed as more sexualized and less accomplished was seen as the least intelligent, competent, determined, and capable. In addition, the sexualized girl was seen as perhaps “responsible” for her sexualized clothing in that she was rated relatively low in self-respect and morality. Possible implications of the sexualization of girls are discussed.

Keywords

Sexual objectification Sexy clothing Gender stereotypes 

References

  1. American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2007). Report of the APA task force on the sexualization of girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx.
  2. Bailey, R. (2011). Letting children be children: Report of an independent review of the commercialization and sexualization of childhood. London, England: Department for Education. Retrieved from https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationDetail/Page1/CM%208078
  3. Barbiemedia.com (2012). Retrieved from http://www.barbiemedia.com/?subcat=24
  4. Bordo, S., & Heywood, L. (2004). Unbearable weight: Feminism, western culture, and the body, tenth anniversary edition. Ewing: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Boyd, H., & Murnen, S. K. (April, 2011) How sexy are girls’ dolls? A content analysis of the sexualized characteristics of age 3–11 girls’ dolls. Paper presented at the Ohio Undergraduate Psychology Conference. Gambier: Kenyon College.Google Scholar
  6. Brownmiller, S. (1984). Femininity. NY: Linden Press.Google Scholar
  7. Calogero, R. M., Tantleff-Dunn, S., & Thompson, J. K. (Eds.). (2011). Self-objectification in women: Causes, consequences, and counteractions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  8. Carli, L. L. (2001). Gender and social influence. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 725–741. doi: 10.1111/0022-4537.00238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought. NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Collins, R. L. (2011). Content analysis of gender roles in media: Where are we now and where should we go? Sex Roles, 64, 290–298. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9929-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook, D. T., & Kaiser, S. B. (2004). Betwixt and between: Age ambiguity and the sexualization of the female consuming subject. Journal of Consumer Culture, 4, 203–227. doi: 10:1177/1469540504043862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deaux, K., Winton, W., Crowley, M., & Lewis, L. L. (1985). Level of categorization and content of gender stereotypes. Social Cognition, 3, 145–167. doi: 10.1521/soco.1985.3.2.145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Donovan, R., & Williams, M. (2002). Living at the intersection: Effects of racism and sexism on Black rape survivors. Women and Therapy, 25, 95–105. doi: 10.1300/J015v25n03_07.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Douglas, S. J. (2010). Enlightened sexism: The seductive message that feminism’s work is done. NY: Times Books.Google Scholar
  15. Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  16. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1994). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theoryand research (pp. 17–41). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  18. Glick, P., Larsen, S., Johnson, C., & Branstiter, H. (2005). Evaluations of sexy women in low- and high- status jobs. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 389–395. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2005.00238.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goodin, S., Van Denburg, A., Murnen, S. K., & Smolak, L. (2011). “Putting on”sexiness: A content analysis of the presence of sexualizing characteristics in girls’ clothing. Sex Roles, 65, 1–12. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9966-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grauerholz, E., & King, A. (1997). Prime time sexual harassment. Violence Against Women, 3, 129–148. doi: 10.1177/1077801297003002003.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Greenwood, D. N., & Isbell, L. M. (2002). Ambivalent sexism and the dumb blonde: Men's and women's reactions to sexist jokes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 341–350. doi: 10.1111/1471-6402.t01-2-00073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greenwood, D. N., & Lippman, J. R. (2010). Gender and media: Content, uses, and impact. In J. C. Chrisler & D. R. McCreary (Eds.), Handbook of gender research in psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 643–699). NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gurung, R. A. R., & Chrouser, C. J. (2007). Predicting objectification: Do provocative clothing and observer characteristics matter? Sex Roles, 57, 91–99. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9219-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harrison, K., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2003). Women’s sports media, self-objectification, and mental health in Black and White adolescent females. Journal of Communication, 53, 216–232. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2003.tb02587.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Herbozo, S., Tantleff-Dunn, S., Gokee-Larose, J., & Thompson, J. K. (2004). Beauty and thinness messages in children's media: A content analysis. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 12, 21–34. doi: 10.1080/10640260490267742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holub, S. (2008). Individual differences in the anti-fat attitudes of preschool-children: The importance of perceived body size. Body Image, 5, 317–321. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2008.03.003.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jeffreys, S. (2005). Beauty and misogyny: Harmful cultural practices in the West. NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Kaiser, S., Chandler, J., & Hammidi, T. (2001). Minding appearances in female academic culture. In A. Guy, E. Green, & M. Bannin (Eds.), Through the wardrobe (pp. 117–136). Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  29. Kim, J. L., Sorsoli, C. L., Collins, K., Zylbergold, B. A., Schooler, D., & Tolman, D. (2007). From sex to sexuality: Exposing the heterosexual script on primetime network television. Journal of Sex Research, 44, 145–157. doi: 10.1080/00224490701263660.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Klein, H., & Shiffman, K. S. (2006). Messages about physical attractiveness in animated. Body Image, 3, 353–363. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2006.08.001.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lindberg, S., Grabe, S., & Hyde, J. S. (2007). A measure of objectified body consciousness for preadolescent and adolescent youth. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 65–76. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-2006.00263.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mahalik, J. R., Mooray, E. B., Coonerty-Femiano, A., Ludlow, L. H., Slattery, S. M., & Smiler, A. (2005). Development of the conformity to feminine norms inventory. Sex Roles, 52, 417–435. doi: 10.1007/s11199-005-3709-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Matschiner, M., & Murnen, S. K. (1999). Hyperfemininity and influence. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 631–642. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1999.tb00385.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McKinley, N. M., & Hyde, J. S. (1996). The objectified body consciousness scale: Development and validation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 181–215. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1996.tb00467.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Moradi, B., & Huang, Y. (2008). Objectification theory and psychology of women: A decade of advances and future directions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 377–398. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00452.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Murnen, S. K. (2000). Gender and the use of sexually degrading language. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 319–327. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.20000.tb00214.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Murnen, S. K., & Seabrook, R. (2012). Feminism and body image. In T. Cash et al. (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Body Image and Human Appearance. Academic Press.Google Scholar
  38. Murnen, S. K., & Smolak, L. (2012). I’d rather be a famous fashion model than a famous scientist: The rewards and costs of internalizing sexualization. In E. Zurbriggen and T. A. Roberts (Eds.). The sexualization of girls and girlhood. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Noll, S. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). A mediational model linking self-objectification, body shame, and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 623–636. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1998.tb00181.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Reichert, T., & Carpenter, C. (2004). An update on sex in magazine advertising: 1983 to 2003. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 81, 823–837. doi: 10.1177/0887302X08327087.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rudman, L. A., & Borgida, E. (1995). The afterglow of construct accessibility: The behavioral consequences of priming men to view women as sexual objects. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 31, 493–517. doi: 0.1006/jesp.1995.1022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Simpson, L., Douglas, S., & Schimmel, J. (1998). Tween consumers: Catalog clothing purchase behavior. Adolescence, 33, 637–645.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Six, B., & Eckes, T. (1991). A closer look at the complex structure of gender stereotypes. Sex Roles, 24, 57–71. doi: 10.1007/BF00288703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Smolak, L., & Murnen, S. K. (2011). The sexualization of women and girls as key antecedents to self-objectification. In R. Calogero & J. K. Thompson (Eds.), The objectification of women: Innovative directions in research and practice (pp. 53–75). Washington: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  45. Smolak, L., Don, B., & Murnen, S. K. (2011). “Get your sexy on”: Gender and self-sexualization Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  46. Stankiewicz, J. M., & Rosselli, F. (2008). Women as sex objects and victims in print advertisements. Sex Roles, 58, 579–589. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9359-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Strelan, P., & Hargreaves, D. (2005). Women who objectify other women: The vicious circle of objectification? Sex Roles, 52, 707–711. doi: 10.1007/s11199-005-3737-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tiggemann, M., & Lacey, C. (2009). Shopping for clothes: Body satisfaction, appearance investment, and functions of clothing among female shoppers. Body Image, 6, 285–291. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2009.07.002.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Turner, J. S. (2011). Sex and the spectacle of music videos: An examination of the portrayal of race and sexuality in music videos. Sex Roles, 64, 173–191. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9766-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wallis, C. (2011). Performing gender: A content analysis of gender display in music videos. Sex Roles, 64, 160–172. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9814-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weitzer, R., & Kubrin, C. E. (2009). Misogyny in rap music: A content analysis of prevalence and meanings. Men and Masculinities, 12, 3–29. doi: 10.1177/10997184X09327696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kenyon CollegeGambierUSA

Personalised recommendations