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August 2015 Policy Study, Number 15-7


The Impact of Self-Objectification on Political Efficacy: Does Self-Image Affect Feelings of Political Adequacy





The phenomenon of self-objectification is the act of seeing oneself as an object of desire for others, rather than through intrinsic individual qualities (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Fredrickson and Roberts note the mass media’s sexualization of the human body, particularly the female body, as a contributing factor to this effect (1997). Corresponding with the rise of third-wave feminism, which promotes women’s sexualization as a source of power (Heldman & Wade, 2011) and the rise of the internet in the 1990s, which created a greater medium for the circulation of sexualized portrayals of the female body, the proportion of women elected to statewide office stagnated in the 1990s, in comparison to the sharp increases in statewide female elected officials during the 1970s and 1980s. It seems plausible that the increasing prevalence of self-objectification has stimulated increased feelings of inadequacy among women related to their appearance, and these negative feelings about oneself may affect other realms of life, including self-perceptions regarding individual importance and capability in a democratic society, or internal and external political efficacy. If this is true, it may serve as a valid explanation as to why the number of women elected to public office has generally not increased over the last two decades, if fewer women are running due to increased feelings of inadequacy or unimportance.




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