Tuesday, February 27, 2007

APA Reports on Sexualization of Girls

Television, music, magazines, advertising and other media images frequently convey sexualized images of girls and women. A new report by the American Psychological Association has studied these images and resulting harm to girls, including mental health problems like eating disorders, low-self esteem, and depression. The Report recommends that schools teach "critical skills in viewing and consuming media" to help reduce the harmful effects of sexualized images. The Report also suggests that increased access to athletic and other extracurricular programs for girls can counteract the harm that results from overexposure to images that demean and devalue women.

One particularly interesting aspect of the study supports a possible link between sexualized images and the gender-based performance gap in math and science. The Report reviewed one study of college students who were asked to try on either a swimsuit or a sweater. While they waited alone in the dressing room for 10 minutes wearing the garment, they completed a math test. Women in swimsuits performed significantly worse on the math problems than did those wearing sweaters, but in men, no differences were found. "In other words, thinking about the body and comparing it to sexualized cultural ideals disrupted mental capacity."

(Via Feminist Newswire)

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