Male perception has a direct correlation with female self-esteem, according to a recent study in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Last month, Julie Beck, a reporter for The Atlantic magazine, wrote about the influence that men have on women and how that makes women feel about themselves based on the results of the new study.
In the study, undergraduate heterosexual women viewed images of plus-sized models — between sizes 8 and 10 — representing the “average female undergraduate.”
The women were either told men picked the images because they found them attractive or the images were taken from the media. The control group was told men preferred “thin women.”
The results of the experiment were what researchers expected. The women were more satisfied with their weight when they thought men picked the images.
The group that was told men preferred thin women had the same level of body satisfaction as the group that was told the images were pulled from the media.
“We did not expect women who were led to believe that men desired the ultra-thin women would necessarily feel worse about their bodies than the women who were not given any information,”researchers from Southern Methodist University and Florida State University said about their findings.
“The media already makes it clear that men desire ultra-thin women, and we believed women told nothing would rely on this perception,” they said.
Plattsburgh State Associate Professor of Psychology Dale Phillips said he wasn’t surprised to hear the conclusion of the study.
“It’s pretty sad commentary when men start to see women with normal bodies as being more attractive as if it’s a good thing,” he said. “I think women should seize control of how women interpret themselves rather than be dependent on what men think.”
Phillips said he believes women are socialized from infancy to be subservient to men’s perceptions and wishes, and gender equality is still too far away for anyone in this lifetime to witness.
“I think that these efforts by advertisers to include women with different body shapes is just another way of making money and expanding their markets,” he said, referring to a “rookie” Sports Illustrated model that has gotten a lot of recent attention.
With the introduction of media, there are many more opportunities for companies to show their audiences what they should be doing, whether it’s buying their product or taking the influence of their brand.
Television and other forms of entertainment also influence male perception of female.
Phillips said all types of media show people how to act, and people expect to live up to those expectations. Men and women take what they see and apply the rule that what we see in media is what we tend to imitate.
“We have been trained since the beginning of time to realize men have more power,” junior psychology major Ruby Lainez said. “It started in biblical times, where people were told men were supposed to have more power than women, and they taught their children and then the next generation was told the same, and so on.”
Today, children as young as elementary school are looking at media that is suited for teens or young adults, which influences how they perceive their world.
They look up to models and celebrities, lowering their self-esteem when they don’t meet the unrealistic expectation, subjecting themselves to change for male attention, according to Lainez.
“It’s something that you don’t think about — it’s’ subconscious,” she said. “Studies are showing us how real media influence actually is.”
Email Lisa Scivolette at firstname.lastname@example.org.