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While watching a trailer to a video on advertisement's image of women the following statement is made:

It creates a climate where there is wide spread violence against women. I am not at all saying that an add like this directly causes violence, it's not that simple, but turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step against justifying violence against that person. We see this with racism, we see this with homophobia, we see it with terrorism, it's always the same process. The person is dehumanized and violence then becomes inevitable.

Is there support in psychology that this is actually happening? That people being depicted as objects would cause others to commit violence against them?

An example from the video

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I'm bordering on down-voting and/or closing because there's not even a remote attempt to clearly define "turning women into objects". – user5341 Dec 12 '11 at 20:05
@DVK In the video I linked to she literally shows pictures of women morphed into inanimate objects in advertisement, please assist if you think I could be more clear. – Kit Sunde Dec 13 '11 at 9:20
@KitSunde, I've edited the question to make it clear that the issue is with causation and not correlation. – Sklivvz Dec 13 '11 at 10:52
@KitSunde - you can't expect people to watch the whole video. Best approach would be to take still shots and add to Q, or describe in your own words. Also, while not an avid commercial watcher by any stretch of imagination, I don't think I've EVER seen an ad shoing that morph, so it probably isn't frequent enough to even remotely have any measurable effect, unless they did a specific study with a carefully picked set of ads. – user5341 Dec 13 '11 at 14:57
I'm slightly concerned that this question is taking a, perhaps poorly worded, example of a common claim - that sexual objectification of women is one of the factors that leads to a rape culture - and misreading to mean (a) a literal interpretation of "women are objects, as demonstrated by photomorphing" and (b) only the women so depicted are affected by a rape culture. – Oddthinking Feb 13 '13 at 4:29

2 Answers 2

Objectification is the "process of representing or treating a person like an object" rather than treating them as full and equal human being with equal rights and needs. The process of representation could include portrayals of women in ways and contexts which suggest that women are objects to be looked at, ogled, touched or used, anonymous commodities/things to be purchased or to be taken and once tired of, even discarded, often to be replaced by newer, younger editions which can be further analyzed through articles mentioned here.

Per Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997, objectification theory postulates that many women are sexually objectified and treated as an object to be valued for its use by others. Research by APA taskforce on sexuality of girls indicates that young women and adult women are frequently, consistently, and increasingly presented in sexualized ways in advertising, creating an environment in which being female becomes nearly synonymous with being a sexual object using indirect advertising techniques.

There is a strong impact made by the objectification of women within society which is shown by videos like these and ads displayed here which portray interconnectedness between violence against women (domestic and sexual violence) and the objectification of women in the media.

  1. Per M. Meghan Davidson in 2015, intimate partner violence is found to be linked to body shame through body surveillance, as well as the combined effect of self-objectification and body surveillance, as theorized by objectification theory.

In addition, these findings extend objectification theory, suggesting that objectifying experiences that are not necessarily explicitly sexual in nature, but are still related to violence and dehumanization within the context of a romantic intimate relationship, can predict objectification-related variables. This finding is also consistent with the notion that violence and objectification are linked for people who perpetrate it (Moller & Deci, 2010) as objectification is often a precursor to enacting violence (Haslam, 2006; Johnson, 2005), as well as people who experience it given that being objectified and dehumanized is associated with experiencing violence.

2. Some studies suggest that objectification can lead to dehumanization, which increases risk of violence. Dehumanized social perception may have detrimental consequences on attitudes and behaviors toward women, including sexual coercion, assault, and violence as well as victim-blaming.

Objectification is a form of dehumanization (Heflick & Goldenberg, 2009; Heflick, Goldenberg, Cooper, & Puvia, 2011; Loughnan, Pina, Vasquez, & Puvia, 2013; Puvia & Vaes, 2013). This research further connects to issues of violence against women because it is considered easier to physically violate an object compared to a human (Bandura, 2002; Nussbaum, 1999). Indeed, Loughnan, Pina, Vasquez, and Puvia (2013) found that an objectified woman was more often blamed for her own rape than a woman who was not presented in an objectified manner, and this effect was due to a decrease in moral concern for the objectified woman.

3. There is limited but important empirical evidence for the link between objectification and violence against women.

Rudman and Mescher 2012 demonstrated that men who implicitly associate women with objects have a higher proclivity toward sexual aggression.

4. Some studies have connected media exposure to sexist beliefs and acceptance of violence against women. Given that viewing sexualized and objectifying portrayals of women is associated with many of these attitudes, viewing sexualized portrayals of girls may also lead to these same effects and to a greater acceptance of child sexual abuse myths, child sexual abuse, and viewing child aged girls as acceptable sexual partners.

Several studies have shown that viewing objectifying media perpetuates violence against women. For example, men who viewed nonviolent scenes from a movie that portrayed the objectification of women were more likely to perceive a date rape victim as enjoying her rape and being partly responsible for it occurring, compared to men who viewed a control video of a cartoon (Milburn, Mather, & Conrad, 2000).

Similarly, objectification in video games causes increased rape myth acceptance among men (Beck, Boys, Rose, & Beck, 2012). Perhaps even more starkly, aggressive erotica has been experimentally shown to increase aggression toward a female target (Donnerstein, 1980).

  1. Research by Sarah J. Gervais in 2012 shows that women are sexually objectified. Also, there’s no real difference between men and women’s perception of women as sexual objects.

Women's bodies were reduced to their sexual body parts in perceivers' minds. Local processing contributed to the sexual body part recognition bias, whereas global processing tempered it.

This shows that the cognitive process behind one's perception of objects is the same that one uses when looking at women, and both genders are guilty of taking in the parts instead of the whole. When one looks at men, he or she uses global processing to see them more fully as people.

  1. Per Theresa K. Vescio, recent research revealed that sexual objectification is related to decreased mind attributions, diminished perceptions of personal agency, and dehumanization.

  2. Per Caroline Heldman, "internalized sexual objectification has been linked to problems with mental health (clinical depression, “habitual body monitoring”), eating disorders, body shame, self-worth and life satisfaction, cognitive functioning, motor functioning, sexual dysfunction, access to leadership and political efficacy".

  3. Shana Meganck through review of research literature argues that regular degradation of women and portrayal of sexualized violence in the media (with particular attention paid to advertising throughout this review of the literature) provides a backdrop for rationalizing gender violence within our society.

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Thanks! In the studies in this section #2 were the results measured long term or immediately? What was the sample size? – Kit Sunde Oct 2 at 15:06
@KitSunde-Your welcome! Not very sure about the sample size or measurement time of the results since its behind a paywall. – pericles316 Oct 2 at 15:10
@KitSunde-please also have a look at research done in a sample of 572 undergraduate women updated in section #1. – pericles316 Oct 2 at 15:32

I'll comment on this statement: The person is dehumanized and violence then becomes inevitable.

Rhythm 0, 1974

The artist Marina Abramović did an exhibition, Rhythm 0, 1974. The following as described by Wikipedia:

To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramović developed one of her most challenging (and best-known) performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force which would act on her.

Abramović had placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions.

Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained impassive) people began to act more aggressively. As Abramović described it later:

“What I learned was that... if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.” ... “I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation.”

There's an audio explanation of the results of the exhibition here:

Where she describes people cutting her skin, drinking her blood, stabbing the knife between her legs, putting a bullet in the gun posing it to shoot herself and asking her if she would resist.

Stanford Prison Experiment

You also have the Stanford Prison Experiment:

Twelve of the 24 participants were assigned the role of prisoner (9 plus 3 alternates), while the other twelve were assigned the role of guard (also 9 plus 3 alternates). Zimbardo took on the role of the superintendent, and an undergraduate research assistant the role of the warden. Zimbardo designed the experiment in order to induce disorientation, depersonalization and deindividualization in the participants.

The researchers held an orientation session for guards the day before the experiment, during which they instructed them not to physically harm the prisoners. In the footage of the study, Zimbardo can be seen talking to the guards: "You can create in the prisoners feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree, you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they'll have no privacy... We're going to take away their individuality in various ways. In general what all this leads to is a sense of powerlessness. That is, in this situation we'll have all the power and they'll have none."

After a relatively uneventful first day, on the second day the prisoners in Cell 1 blockaded their cell door with their beds and took off their stocking caps, refusing to come out or follow the guards' instructions. Guards from other shifts volunteered to work extra hours in order to assist in subduing the revolt, and subsequently attacked the prisoners with fire extinguishers without being supervised by the research staff. Finding that handling nine cell mates with only three guards per shift was challenging, one of the guards suggested that they use psychological tactics to control them. They set up a "privilege cell" in which prisoners who were not involved in the riot were treated with special rewards, such as higher quality meals. The "privileged" inmates chose not to eat the meal in order to stay uniform with their fellow prisoners. After only 36 hours, one prisoner began to act "crazy", as Zimbardo described: "#8612 then began to act crazy, to scream, to curse, to go into a rage that seemed out of control. It took quite a while before we became convinced that he was really suffering and that we had to release him."

Guards forced the prisoners to repeat their assigned numbers in order to reinforce the idea that this was their new identity. Guards soon used these prisoner counts to harass the prisoners, using physical punishment such as protracted exercise for errors in the prisoner count. Sanitary conditions declined rapidly, exacerbated by the guards' refusal to allow some prisoners to urinate or defecate anywhere but in a bucket placed in their cell. As punishment, the guards would not let the prisoners empty the sanitation bucket. Mattresses were a valued item in the prison, so the guards would punish prisoners by removing their mattresses, leaving them to sleep on concrete. Some prisoners were forced to be naked as a method of degradation. Several guards became increasingly cruel as the experiment continued; experimenters reported that approximately one-third of the guards exhibited genuine sadistic tendencies. Most of the guards were upset when the experiment concluded after only 6 days.

Zimbardo aborted the experiment early when Christina Maslach, a graduate student in psychology whom he was dating (and later married), objected to the conditions of the prison after she was introduced to the experiment to conduct interviews. Zimbardo noted that, of more than fifty people who had observed the experiment, Maslach was the only one who questioned its morality. After only six days of a planned two weeks' duration, the Stanford Prison experiment was discontinued.

While the Stanford Prison Experiment was only roleplay, it went into real violence and humiliation in less than a week.

Do note that the Stanford Prison Experiment has also been criticized as being anecdotal, and the experimenter Zimbardo was personally involved in the experiment itself.

However, this is towards proving that dehumanization causes violence. I don't think sexy ads are dehumanizing, which might be the flaw in the line of thinking.

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The evidence seme quite anecdotal in nature, and thus likely not reliable. – Sklivvz Feb 24 '13 at 9:43
Good point, but outside of historical examples, it's difficult to find actual recorded/controlled situations. Added the Stanford Prison Experiment as well, which has also been criticized as anecdotal. But it is the closest to an actual lab experiment allowing dehumanization and violence, and why I doubt many first world nations would be funding any such research in the future. – Muz Feb 25 '13 at 0:46
@Muz, te Stanford Experiment isn't dismissed because it is anecdotal, it is dismissed because the conductor of the experiment inserted himself into an authoritarian position over the guards, most of the gaurds didn't behave like reported in the study (the most notorious on nicknamed John Wanye). The Dr. got exactly the result he was looking for, but that's science for you. – user1873 Mar 4 '13 at 3:07
I'm reluctant to accept an event designed as an artistic performance as scientific evidence of any kind. – Nate Eldredge Oct 2 at 15:11

protected by Community Feb 24 '13 at 9:06

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