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Ms. Writer: Avoiding (Fashion) Magazines Is Good For Female Mental Health

Illustration for article titled iMs./i Writer: Avoiding (Fashion) Magazines Is Good For Female Mental Health

The new issue of Ms. hits stands today and inside is a story about self-objectification, or "viewing one's body as a sex object to be consumed by the male gaze." More and more women are viewing themselves as sex objects, says Caroline Heldman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of politics at Occidental College, and it's due in large part to the veritable onslaught of advertising images that we're subjected to. The average American, according to Heldman, views "3,000-5,000 ads per day, up from 500-2,000 in the 70s," and a good chunk of those ads show naked and/or fetishized women. It's possible that none of this is news to you, but the far-reaching effects of self-objectifying might surprise you.


Heldman states that self-objectification can lead to all or some of the following in women: depression, low self-esteem, less faith in their own capabilities, which leads to diminished success in life, low political efficacy, disgust and shame about their bodies... the list goes on. (To me, the most interesting side-effect is "low political efficacy", which is just a fancy way of saying that women who objectify themselves do not believe that they can create change, and thus rarely or never get involved with politics.)


Dr. Heldman, bless her soul, tries listing ways to combat self-objectification, but most of them seem fairly implausible, particularly if you're a television and movie lover. A "radical, personal solution is to actively avoid media to self-objectify, which, unfortunately is that vast majority of movies, television programs and women's magazines," Heldman writes. "My research with college age women indicates that the less women consume media, the less they self-objectify, particularly if they avoid fashion magazines. [Emphasis ours.] By shutting out media, girls and women can create mental and emotional space for true self-exploration." I guess the only solution is for women to make our own un-self-objectifying media to combat the other kind. Tina Fey and Diablo Cody? We are looking at you.

Self-Objectification — Seeing Ourselves Through Others Eyes — Impairs Women's Body Image, Mental Health, Motor Skills, And Even Sex Lives [Ms.]

Earlier: Memo To Women's Magazine Editors: White Women Hate Themselves After Reading Your Magazines

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@j_dot: Wow, you really might want to reserve your judgments seeing as you really obviously have no idea who I am. I spent the better part of the year trying to improve their confidence, imploring them to take my women's studies class (which one of them did - and it definitely helped, until the class ended...) and trying to get them to do fun things other than spending hours getting ready in the hopes of snogging some fratboy and only ending up getting trashed and depressed, like having a picnic in the park or going to a student photo gallery opening (which was AWESOME btw). Honestly, it's a battle I could never win. They each supported one another's depressing insecurities and ultimately made each other even worse - one ended up developing an eating disorder from it! And when I confronted that friend about my concerns (with the support of my other suitemates), she blamed me first and foremost and had the whole group completely ostracize me by going on spring break together and not inviting me along - it was truly an example of mean girls. My family and friends are shocked I made it out of there practically unscathed.

My new roommates are actually the opposite but very much the same - they are gorgeous and very boy-experienced fashion majors, and they have pretty intense confidence issues too, only differently. They worry more about communication skills than they do about their looks like "what did he really mean when he texted me: luv ya babe" or "when Sarah sat next to Johnny, was she intentionally trying to make me mad?" It's a breathe of fresh air when "Anne" comes out of the bathroom wearing just her underwear with no reserves. I never really realized the full extent of my suffocating situation until I was living with people who weren't so uptight. Not only that, but these girls EAT and don't care who's watching, whereas my other roommates (who were all very adorable and had great metabolisms themselves) would binge behind closed doors.

Forgive me for not having such nice things to say about my former suitemates, but they were cruel. And I lost an incredible year of opportunity and fun because of them. That's 1/4th of my college years that I'll never get back.