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Are Beauty Pageants Objectifying? Two Answers Heather Klein & Regan A. R. Gurung University of Wisconsin, Green Bay INTRODUCTION METHOD RESULTS DISCUSSION.

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Presentation on theme: "Are Beauty Pageants Objectifying? Two Answers Heather Klein & Regan A. R. Gurung University of Wisconsin, Green Bay INTRODUCTION METHOD RESULTS DISCUSSION."— Presentation transcript:

1 Are Beauty Pageants Objectifying? Two Answers Heather Klein & Regan A. R. Gurung University of Wisconsin, Green Bay INTRODUCTION METHOD RESULTS DISCUSSION ABSTRACT Are beauty pageants sexist? This question has dogged the Miss America pageant from the beginning of its existence. A great deal of controversy persists over the ever-popular beauty pageants and their guidelines; in particular the swimsuit component has been labeled morally wrong and detrimental to women (Harrison, 2000). Over time, more and more emphasis, by the media especially, has been put on health, fitness, and body image (Ogden & Mundray, 1996; Posavac, Posavac & Posavac, 1998). Objectification theory states that society socializes women to see their bodies as sexual objects to be looked at (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Objectification of a woman occurs when a womans body, parts of her body, or sexual capabilities are used to make judgments about her personality without any knowledge about her true self (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1998). Given that objectification has the potential to influence psychological dysfunction, such as disordered eating, depression, and decreased self-esteem (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) it is critical to examine these issues in detail. This study used the 2004 Miss America pageant to determine if sexual objectification and impression formation are related. This study addresses issues of sexual objectification in beauty pageants by manipulating exposure to the swimwear component of the competition in order to analyze influences on judges ratings of contestants. Garments have a significant impact on impression formation (Behling, 1995), and we hypothesized that having women wear swimsuits significantly changes how they are rated. Ninety-five undergraduate students participated in this study. Participation in the study was voluntary, though some students received extra course credit. Participants first completed consent forms in separate laboratory rooms equipped with a computer. The targets were presented using the MediaLab2002 software program (Jarvis, 2002), which presented instructions, photographs, video clips and rating scales. Participants were told they were taking part in a beauty pageant where they were the celebrity judges. Participants in both conditions saw video clips of each of the 5 finalists of the 2004 Miss America pageant in casual wear and formal wear, rating each contestant after each set of clips. Participants in the experimental condition also saw clips of the contestants in swimwear (participants in the control condition viewed the contestants wearing a gown). All participants then answered 5 questions on each contestant and picked a winner (How attractive is she? How healthy is she? How personable is she? How smart is she? How hardworking is she?). Participants used a 9-point scale to respond (1-Not at all to 9 Extremely). Participants were then told they would be part of a second study where fellow students would be contestants. They then saw pictures of 3 students dressed in casual, formal, and swimwear (experimental condition) or casual, formal, and exercise wear. Questions similar to those described for the pageant were answered for each. We are conditioned by images in the media, and influenced by what we see all around us. Beauty pageants are one such conditioning influence. Judges and organizers argue that fitness is an important part of a well-rounded person and therefore the swimwear component of the competition is necessary in the pageant (to measure fitness). Although anecdotal evidence suggests that seeing women in two-piece swimsuits influences how they are rated this finding did not hold up. Some of the other areas where perceptible objectification occurs include pornography, film, music videos, magazines, and television broadcasts (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Our results suggest that practices such as the beauty pageant may not be directly contributing to such problems although we often believe so. One reason that the contestants were not objectified in swimwear may be that the contestants were not portrayed in the contests as they are in the media such as movies, pornography, and music videos. It is possible that the context may have significant importance in objectification and we expect swimwear in Pageants and so do not think worse of the women in them. A multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) compared responses on the five questions across conditions controlling for sex of participant. Ratings for the five contestants in each cell were averaged. One set of analyses examined responses to the Miss American Pageant, the second set tested our student analog. Neither statistical test was significant. Counter to anecdotal evidence, our results suggest that sexual objectification did not take place in our two studies and may not be taking place in the context of beauty pageants. Presented at the 2006 American Psychological Associations Annual Conference. New Orleans, LA. Does wearing revealing clothes promote sexual objectification? With todays emphasis on beauty and perfection, we tested how impressions of women varied with the type of clothes they wore using the example of Beauty Pageants. A total of 95 students participated as judges in two mock beauty pageants. Participants either saw contestants in a swimsuit or just in casual and formal wear. Study 1 used the Miss America Pageant. Study 2 used a student analogy. We found no evidence for objectification due to being seen in swimsuits. Figure 1 :Design Casual Swim Formal Demographics Values Clothing Preferences Ratings of Contestants


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