Here's a new, if slightly disheartening study that might explain why media images participate in the objectification of women on a daily basis.
The study, which is set to be published in the European Journal of Social
Psychology, reveals that when it comes to the human brain, women are
more likely to be analyzed by the sum of their parts, while men are
processed as a whole. Sarah Gervais, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska, conducted the study which involved identical experiments with a total of 227 undergraduate participants:
Each person was shown non-sexualized photographs, each of either a young man or young woman, 48 in total. After seeing each original full-body image, the participants saw two side-by-side photographs. One was the original image, while the other was the original with a slight alteration to the chest or waist (chosen because these are sexualized body parts). Participants had to pick which image they'd seen before.
In some cases, the second set of photos zoomed in on the chest or waist only, asking participants to pick the body part they'd seen previously versus the one that had been altered.
The results showed a clear schism between the images of men and women. When viewing female images, participants were better at recognizing individual parts than they were matching whole-body photographs to the originals. The opposite was true for male images: People were better at recognizing a guy as a whole than they were his individual parts.
So basically, that meant every woman walking around today is being seen as just tits, legs, ass, and not sister, mother, kindness, funny, smart, etc.
And even more surprising is that both men and women are doing this to other women. The reason this is such a problem is that when you see someone as an object, you
tend to end up treating them as an object as well.
As for whether this "objectification" is truly damaging our society, you don't have to look far for examples. Take for instance thinspo blogs and tumblrs which are packed with "inspirational" images of taut torsos, thin
thighs, slender hips, spindly arms, ribs, spines, etc. Usually there are
no heads in the photographs, because the identity of these subjects aren't of any importance. In regards to this, Gervais says:
The damage caused by widespread female objectification in popular
culture is not just theoretical. We now have over ten years of research
showing that living in an objectifying society is highly toxic for girls
The same can be said when women bitch about another woman's hips or lips or eyes or thighs, which is actually an effective way of separating the body part from the person. You may have done it yourself, even though it might not have been on purpose:
There could be evolutionary reasons that men and women process female bodies differently, Gervais said, but because both genders do it, "the media is probably a prime suspect."