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Undergraduate Students Research Objectification of Women on TV

Posted Mar. 24, 2014
enter photo description
Kent State University students Rachel Plymale (left), Megin
Feczko
(right) and Leslie Kramer (not pictured) completed
a study with Jihyun Kim (center), an associate professor
of fashion merchandising at Kent State, regarding
objectification of women on TV and in other media.

Previous research says female members of Generation Y are likely to have low self-esteem, resulting in negative behavior because of how women are portrayed in the media, but three undergraduate students from Kent State University have found this is not always true.

Fashion merchandising students Megin Feczko, Leslie Kramer and Rachel Plymale teamed up with faculty mentor Jihyun Kim, Ph.D., an associate professor of fashion merchandising at Kent State, to create “Objectification of Women on TV: Effects on Generation Y Female Consumer” to explore the behavioral effects the objectification of women has on Generation Y female consumers, specifically at the university.

“Objectification is when a person views oneself or another as an object, without human traits such as thoughts or feelings,” Feczko says. “The woman, in this case, is seen as an object, separate from her person to be evaluated solely upon looks. Repeated exposure to the media images of sexually objectified women is directly linked to self-objectification, where the media messages are internalized and self-objectification manifests.”

Their research examined the psychological effects of media exposure of objectification on the Generation Y female consumer. The project focused on a broad research topic using three subtopics that were directly related to the objectification of women on television. The students found that the exposure to female objectification on TV has negative, psychological impacts on the Generation Y female consumers.

“Almost half of our participants admitted to buying things in order to make themselves feel better, but the majority had no feelings of anxiety on days they did not go shopping,” Feczko says. “Our results showed that our participants had high self-esteem and are not compulsive shoppers, however, they are materialistic.”

Female Objectification in the Media

The research focused on the relationship of female objectification in the media through the following subtopics: negative body image, low self-esteem and the resulting behavioral outcomes, such as compulsive buying behavior and unhealthy eating behavior.

“The teammates conducted in-depth interviews on the previous literature about objectification of women in the media,” Kim says. “They formulated their research hypotheses and collected the data using college students as the sample.”

According to previous research, there is a positive relationship between low self-esteem and increased purchase behavior, meaning as self-esteem lowers, shopping tendencies rise. However, as the team found, Kent State students did not report experiencing these tendencies after exposure to objectified women on television.

Planning Stages

The three students collaborated to develop their research through a term project in a course called Fashion Marketing that Kim taught in fall 2013. Feczko says the team decided on the topic after all three members took the marketing course Consumer Behavior. In the course, the students watched a documentary titled Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women by Jean Kilbourne. “What we took away from that class and video really left an impression on us,” Feczko says.

“All three of us are fashion merchandising students, so we chose the topic because it personally resonated with us,” Plymale says. “Through many forms of media, women are almost always objectified, and many people do not realize how harmful this is. I feel people do not take this topic seriously, but the objectification of women in the media is silently influential.”

Undergraduate Symposium on Research

The students will be sharing their research by participating in the university’s first Undergraduate Symposium on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. The symposium will be held April 2 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the University Library. Attendees of this free event can find out more information about their research and other undergraduate research findings.

The symposium showcases the entire spectrum of faculty- and graduate student-mentored research, scholarship and creative activities across all disciplines. The goal is to establish a university infrastructure to make undergraduate research an integral part of the Kent State experience, better prepare students for graduate and professional opportunities, and make for an enriching academic experience. Cash awards will be provided to exemplar and promising student presenters.

Kim promoted the symposium to her fashion marketing students and encouraged the teammates to submit their research work. Currently, Kim and the students are working together to produce a full-length manuscript for a journal publication.

“The experience has been tremendously rewarding,” Kim says. “Both the students and I are intrinsically motivated to achieve a top-quality educational experience regarding undergraduate research. The students are truly inspirational for my own scholarly work and instructional endeavor.”

For more information about Kent State’s Undergraduate Symposium on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity, visit www.kent.edu/undergradstudies/ugresearch