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MEDIA CONTRIBUTIONS TO AFRICAN AMERICAN GIRLS' FOCUS ON BEAUTY AND APPEARANCE: EXPLORING THE CONSEQUENCES OF SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION

Authors


  • This research was conducted while I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan and was supported by the Department of Psychology and Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. I would like to thank L. Monique Ward, Pamela Reid, Stephanie Rowley, and Catherine Squires for their assistance with various aspects of this project.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Maya K. Gordon, TAGA Consulting, 1122 Lakeside Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19126. E-mail: kipaho@yahoo.com

Abstract

The media are dominated by images of women as sex objects whose value is based on their appearance. These portrayals can potentially limit girls' self-perceptions and influence their attitudes regarding the importance of appearance. However, relatively little is known about how African American adolescent girls are affected by these images. Using data from a survey of 176 African American adolescent girls (mean age = 15), this project examined associations between Black media use and African American girls' focus on beauty and appearance. Results suggest that both exposure to and identification with portrayals of Black women as sex objects contribute to African American adolescent girls emphasizing the importance of appearance in their own lives and for girls in general. When all the media variables were tested together in hierarchical regression analyses, identification with favorite television character, identification with more objectifying female music artists, and identification with less objectifying female artists emerged as the more consistent predictors of the outcomes examined. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for girls' overall development.

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