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psychology of women

Psychology of Women

PSYC 330

Fall 2010

Tammy Lynn Kirichenko

calendar description
Calendar Description
  • An examination of the major theories, research methodologies, and data in the field of the psychology of women. Philosophical values of feminism and the psychological impact of women's historical roles in society will be considered throughout.

Prerequisites: PSYC 101, 102, and two 200 level

courses in the social sciences (or permission of

the instructor)

why psychology of women
Why Psychology of WOMEN?

“An examination of the psychology of

women looks at the ways women’s shared

experience is distinct from that of men”

(Lips, 1999)

potential topics
Potential Topics
  • Gender Theories
  • Stereotypes
  • Friendship & Other Relationships
  • Female Aggression
  • Violence Against Women
  • The Culture of Youth & Beauty
  • Communication (differences between women and men)
  • Portrayals of Females in the Media
  • Sexuality
  • Power & Leadership
  • Women and Mental Illness
  • Other?
selected discussion topics example
Selected Discussion Topics (example)
  • Should women and girls (of any age) be encouraged to participate in beauty pageants?
  • Discuss (and jot down your conclusions)
should women and girls of any age be encouraged to participate in beauty pageants

Competition can be healthy

Pride in accomplishment


Opportunity to do humanitarian work

Okay if it is the girl/woman’s own choice


OVERLY competitive

Many girls are ‘forced’ into it

Focus on superficial qualities

Can promote unhealthy behaviours (e.g., lead to eating disorders)

Should women and girls (of any age) be encouraged to participate in beauty pageants?
research background
Research Background

From Princess to Sex-Object:

A Content Analysis of Portrayals of Femininity in Popular Media Directed Toward

Girls and Young Women

research background1
Research Background
  • content analysis of various media
    • Clothing
    • Disney Animated Features (princess)
    • Lyrics
    • Music Videos
    • Toys (product descriptions)

to examine popular media and the ways in

which females are portrayed in terms of

(a) physical appearance

(b) gender-stereotypical roles

(c) sexuality

(d) values and personality characteristics

(e) expectations

objectification theory1
Objectification Theory
  • ‘Objectification theory’ was proposed by Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) as their attempt to explain how females are socialised to internalise observers’ perspectives of their bodies
  • This, in turn, leads to a preoccupation with one’s own physical appearance (self-objectification)
  • They argue: ‘When objectified, individuals are treated as bodies and, in particular, as bodies that exist for the use and pleasure of others’ (Fredrickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge, 1998, p. 269).
consequences of objectification
Consequences of Objectification
  • The consequences of exposure to objectifying images, words, or ideas often manifest in ways that are not always easily identifiable
  • For instance, internalising an observer’s perspective can increase a female’s shame and anxiety about her own physical appearance/attractiveness, decrease her awareness of internal bodily states, and, subsequently, inhibit her ability for peak motivational states (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997)
  • This lack of internal awareness may make an individual more vulnerable to developing mental health problems such as unipolar depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997)
sexual objectification
Sexual Objectification

Sexual objectification occurs when a woman’s

body is treated as an object (especially an object

that exists for the pleasure and use of others),

and is illustrated interpersonally through gaze or

‘checking out’, and in the representation of

women in the media … very few women are able

to avoid contexts that may be potentially

objectifying. (Slater & Tiggemann, 2002, p. 343)

objectifying media images
Objectifying Media Images
  • This is apparent in the media
    • e.g., music lyrics and videos, magazine covers and advertisements, television, movies, etc.
    • Women often put themselves on display (e.g., wearing revealing clothing, dancing or acting provocatively in order to get attention)
    • Women often refer to themselves in self-objectifying ways
  • ‘advertising’ that one is an object to be stared at, lusted after, or touched
    • Music lyrics & videos
    • Clothing
  • Examples of objectification in lyrics
    • Self-objectification
    • Being objectified by others
    • What messages do such songs transmit to
      • Girls?
      • Boys?
music videos
Music Videos
  • close ups of body parts: breasts, buttocks, groin, midriff
  • male gaze/‘checking out’
  • dancing/gyrating
  • touching oneself seductively/sexually suggestive
clothing text
Clothing Text
  • Seven themes emerged from analyses of the clothing text (/97)
  • The text in each category included words related to
    • Innocence (9)
    • Naughtiness (11)
    • Objectification (29) – 30%
    • ‘Princessy’ (22)
    • Spoiled (12)
    • Superiority (7)
    • Competitiveness (7)
should we close our eyes
Should we close our eyes … ?
  • merely encountering words (visually) that describe one’s physical appearance activated a state of self-objectification in women (and led to greater appearance anxiety; see Roberts & Gettman, 2004)
  • imagine all of the situations in which females are exposed to such words …
    • … and, therefore, are at risk for feelings of self-shame, disgust, anxiety, and unattractiveness …
social identity1
Social Identity
  • We think of ourselves in terms of various identities. Some of these may include:
    • Gender
    • Ethnicity
    • Nationality
    • Religion
    • Sexual Orientation
    • Talents
    • Accomplishments
    • Appearance
    • Relationships
gender theories
Gender Theories
  • One of the first of these identities that develops is gender identity
  • Gender identity is the personal construction and acceptance of the self as male or female (Bukatko & Daehler, 2003), which most children acquire by the age of three (Santrock, 2004).
  • Gender roles, however, are socially constructed sets of expectations that influence how females and males think, feel, and behave (Santrock, 2004).
  • Although gender-role socialisation is a life-long process, it is particularly noticeable during children’s formative years (Marliene, 1999).
1 psychoanalytic identification
1. Psychoanalytic/Identification
  • From an early age, girls learn to feel inferior to and envious of males
  • Freud:
    • Development and resolution of the Oedipus Complex; Castration anxiety; Penis envy
  • Horney:
    • Unconscious fear of vaginal penetration
    • Girls are valued less than boys and are treated as though their sexuality is the most important part of their identity
2 social learning
2. Social Learning
  • From birth, children are treated in gender-specific ways, and parents and other adults reinforce gender-specific attitudes and behaviours.
  • Gender identity, therefore, is formed through imitation, direct reinforcement for sex-typed activities, and vicarious learning from peer or adult same-sex models (Burr, 1998).
  • Bandura (1986) refers to these phenomena as ‘differential reinforcement’ and ‘observational learning’.
3 cognitive developmental
3. Cognitive Developmental
  • Children mature through interaction with their environment and take an active role in organising their world; they create schemas (i.e., mental categories) that are fluid and that emerge through interaction with their social environment (Marliene, 1999)
  • Kohlberg (1966, as cited in Levy & Carter, 1989) proposed several stages of gender development:
    • gender identity: children are capable of labelling themselves and others by gender (based on physical features);
    • gender stability: children understand that gender does not change over time; and
    • gender constancy: children understand that gender is constant across time and situations, and that it is independent from what they wear or how they behave.
4 gender schema enculturated lens theory
4. Gender Schema/Enculturated Lens Theory
  • The development of gender identity is embedded in the socio-historical context of each culture, and culture operates as a lens through which gender identity and roles are defined and passed on from one generation to the next (Bem, 1993).
  • Gender schema theorists consider both cognitive developmental and social learning theories (i.e., schemas are socialised cognitive networks of sex and gender roles) as components of gender schema theory.
  • Gender schemacity refers to judgements about the social world as being organised into female and male categories (Ruble & Stangor, 1986). Individuals with strong gender schemas are more susceptible to stereotypic perceptions and behaviours, whereas gender aschematic individuals tend to be less bound by stereotypical roles and perceptions (Bem, 1999; Ruble & Stangor, 1986).
  • Although children learn about their own sex and sex-/gender roles primarily through interactions with others (e.g., caregivers, siblings), they also internalise gender-role stereotypes from books, songs, television, and movies (Thorne, 1993), and learn sex-typed behaviour from these ‘symbolic’ models (Burr, 1998).
gender stereotypes
Gender Stereotypes
  • Gender stereotypes differ from many racial stereotypes in that people often want to confirm them. Many men want to be “masculine” (assertive and dominant); many women want to be “feminine” (gentle and self-less). Not only do people often internalize, value, and agree with sex roles and gender stereotypes, but they also feel societal pressure to conform. (Worchel, Cooper, Goethals, & Olson, 2000, p. 212)
stereotypes roles
Stereotypes: Roles
  • Women are
    • Nurturers
    • Domestic
  • Occupations
    • Teachers, nurses, secretaries
    • Other examples?
stereotypes attitudes behaviours
Stereotypes: Attitudes & Behaviours
  • Women are preoccupied with their appearance
  • Women are overly emotional
    • Weak
    • Dependent
    • Need to be rescued
  • Women are … ?
media models
Media Models
  • Childhood
    • toys, books, audio-visual media, role models and adult influences, computers
  • Adolescence
    • books, television & movies, magazines, music videos, “role models” (e.g. actors, models, musicians), fashion, video games, internet
  • Adulthood
    • values, stereotypes, portrayals are still being reinforced (e.g., ‘reality’ television)
    • internalized  cumulative effect
      • Prince Charming (aka “Mr. Right”), the “fairy tale wedding”
the princess phenomenon
The Princess Phenomenon
  • Fairy tales
    • Books, dolls, tiaras, castles
  • Disney
    • Books, movies, video games, merchandise
  • Clothing
    • T-shirts, jewelry, accessories
  • Electronics
    • DVD players, televisions, ipods, cell phone covers
  • Household appliances and accessories
    • Toasters, dishes, bedding, bathroom decor
  • Movies
    • A Cinderella Story; Mean Girls; The Princess Diaries
  • Commercials (e.g., toothpaste/mouthwash)
  • Reality Shows (e.g., The Bachelor)
  • Other?