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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 results of this study establish the negative relationship between the phenomenon of self-objectification and political efficacy. These findings indicate that individuals who experience the effects of self-objectification, namely heightened body surveillance and body shame, have reduced internal political efficacy rates, resulting in feelings of political inadequacy. Self-objectification affects women more significantly than men, and the negative impact of self-objectification on internal political efficacy has more damaging effects on feelings of political adequacy in women than in men. The variable of body shame further corresponds to reduced external political efficacy, negatively affecting feelings of importance in the eyes of governmental institutions, especially among women, which is damaging to the validity of governing bodies.


Overall, women experience self-objectification and the negative effects thereof at higher rates than men, resulting in fewer women believing they are qualified to run for and hold public office. The implications of fewer females running for office has negative consequences for the role model effect for girls and young women, resulting in fewer conversations within the family unit regarding women’s capability as political leaders, negatively impacting the perceptions of young women’s personal views regarding their own leadership capabilities. Further, fewer women running for public offices hinders efforts toward establishing gender parity in political leadership and reinforces the unrepresentative demographic nature of current political leadership in America. Governing bodies that are demographically similar to the public they represent, also referred to as descriptive representation, result in higher external political efficacy rates among the electorate than their unrepresentative counterparts. As the external political efficacy rates of an electorate are indicative of the validity of a governmental institution, this adds to the problematic nature of self-objectification and the negative implications associated with it. Overall, the negative consequences of the phenomenon of self-objectification are more damaging than indicated by previous research, as its impact negatively affects the function of democracy as a whole, not just the individuals directly affected by the phenomenon.


With this in consideration, efforts to reduce the commodification and objectification of the human body, particularly the female body, should be made, as it is damaging to the validity of governmental institutions by negatively affecting feelings of political adequacy, predominantly among women, which results in fewer women running for and holding public office. Without efforts to reduce the phenomenon of self-objectification and improve feelings of political adequacy among women, it will not be possible to achieve gender parity in the political realm, resulting in the continuation of gender inequality in society and reduced democratic governmental validity.




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