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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 18-Aug-13


Sunday 18-August-13

I'm glad I'm not a woman

If you're male, it's hard to think what it would be like to be a woman. And probably the other way around too.

The world is still very largely male-dominated and in some cultures women are suppressed to the point of being in constant danger. Even in the West, life's tough if you're female. In business, for example, the glass ceiling is still there and only those with big hammers or enlightened employers find a way to climb the corporate ladder.

The beauty industry doesn't help as they encourage extreme views of what women must do, although occasionally they try with videos such as this one from Dove, which show how 'beauty' is now even more of a photoshopped facade. Even young girls get in on the act and those in school who are not 'pretty' in the right way (or even too pretty) can suffer at the hands of their peers. Bullies act in all kinds of horrible ways, to the point when affected girls withdraw and perhaps harm themselves. And those outside of the bully's attention keep their heads down as they carefully conform to the fashion stereotypes. I was bullied a bit in school, but I fought back. For girls, it seems, it's a lot more subtle and so more difficult to fight.

An interesting bit of research was carried out a few years ago where girls between the ages of ten and thirteen were carefully questioned to identify body satisfaction and confidence, with a predictable number who were not happy with their own bodies. What was interesting was that when they were shown the short Dove video (above) this led to a marked improvement in satisfaction and confidence. All it takes, it seems is to say 'Hey, look! It's all fake'. I guess it would be a kind of awakening, especially for naive young girls, though if all the adult beauty advertising is effective, it seems maybe women also could benefit from an occasional reminder.

No, I'm glad I'm not a woman (though I'd guess many woman would show a reciprocal gratitude). There are many reasons why I prefer being a man, childbirth included.

Halliwell E., Easun A. and Harcourt D. (2011). Body dissatisfaction: Can a short media literacy message reduce negative media exposure effects amongst adolescent girls? British Journal of Health Psychology, 16, 2, 396-403

Your comments

Yes, and as a woman I think other women can rise above all this p*gsh*t and just turn their back on the beauty industry -- which you neglected to say is run by men who care more about Dollars or Pounds Sterling or Euros than about they women they supposedly make the products for. How gussied up a woman looks on the job has NOTHING to do with how good a secretary, engineer, physician, or even teacher she can be.

Do the authors in the referenced article *really* think a short media literacy message can reduce the negative effects of media exposure, etc.? Obviously, they have not spent much time around the average teenager because no mention is made of PEER PRESSURE, which has much more of an impact on a teen's life than does the media. Did they even bother to ask the teenagers in the study, or think to compare the two methods of influence?

-- Debby H

Dave replies:
Hi Debby. As you say, peer pressure has huge effects, which does keep women 'in the box' when they may want to escape. The marketing and advertising industries also know a thing or two about persuasion. The sad fact is that being 'gussied up' does affect how people respond to women.

The research in the article is academic, which means they're never going to make great claims (even though the paper title suggests it). All academics can do is report on their method and data, then hint at possibilities. The interesting thing about this is that a little awakening 'prod' did have some effect, at least for a little while. Maybe it would be good to educate girls (and boys) more on the power and effect of marketing.

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