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Gender Objectification and Oppression

Fredrickson and Roberts’ Objectification Theory provides a framework for understanding the experience of being female in a sociocultural context that sexually objectifies the female body¹ It argues that many women are sexually objectified and treated as an object to be valued by its use for others.¹ Sexual objectification occurs when a woman’s body or body parts are singled out and separated from her as a person and she is viewed primarily as a physical object.¹

Evidence for the sexual objectification of women can be found practically everywhere. From the media, to women’s interpersonal  experiences, to specific environments and subcultures within U.S. culture where the sexualization of women is cultivated and culturally condoned, objectification is found.¹

ASA did a review of studies examining depictions of women in the media including commercials, prime-time television, movies, music lyrics and videos, magazines, advertising, video games and Internet sites. This revealed that women more often than men are depicted in sexualizing and objectified manners.¹

According to Louis Grubb, a leading New York retoucher, “almost every photograph you see for a national advertiser these days has been worked on by a retoucher to some degree...Fundamentally, our job is to correct the basic deficiencies in the original photograph, in effect, to improve upon the appearance of reality.”¹

From 2000 to 2009, as reported by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) (2009), there was a²:

  • 36% increase in breast augmentation surgery
  • 84% increase in abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
  • 132% increase in buttock lifts

What are the societal implications of this? In patriarchal societies, the roles and privileges accorded to women are inferior to those assigned to men.² These include lower wages for equal work and unequal distribution of domestic labour. Moreover, the existence of patriarchal structures and attitudes result in significant relationships between sexist attitudes and the endorsement of beauty ideals and practices.² There has been drastic increases in plastic surgery, a steady number of sexual assaults, and an overwhelming occurrence of eating disorders.

Sexual objectification often intersects with women’s other sociocultural identities, such as sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and social class, to form unique sets of media portrayals, and experiences for subgroups of women.¹




1. Szymanski, Dawn, Lauren Moffitt and Erika Carr. Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from

2. Berberick, Stephanie. (2010). The Objectification of Women in Mass Media: Female Self-Image in Misogynist Culture. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from

Gender Inequality in the Media

Can I get help with this discussion question: 'Examples of gender inequality are prevalent throughout all forms of media: TV ads, newspaper ads, billboards, magazines, etc. Do you believe the government should regulate gender inequality in the media, or is this a cultural issue? Why, or why not?'

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1. If you had to summarize in ordinary language the concept of "gender as structure," what would you say? (How would you explain "gender as a social institution" to a relative or a friend?) 2. How would you demonstrate the different significance gender categories have for the individual and for society? (Hint: It may help to