FEATURE

The Difference between Self-Expression and Self-Objectification

“Difference

Magazines, films, TV shows, adverts and music videos: society is saturated with sexualized images of women, often sending girls mixed messages about how to represent themselves. Although you can’t control the media, you can encourage appropriate self-expression in your daughter.

As your girl explores and develops her identity, it’s natural for her to want to look to popular and successful women for role models. But today, it’s increasingly common to see her favorite celebrities presented in sexualized ways, often blurring the line between female empowerment and self-objectification. With the wildly popular teen idol Miley Cyrus singing nude in her controversial Wrecking Ball video and superstar singer Beyoncé being featured on the cover of Time magazine in her underwear, it’s understandable that our girls may equate success with sexuality, an assumption that can have a negative impact on your daughter’s development. And recent research confirms that self-objectification can lead to issues such as body dissatisfaction, lower self-esteem and decreased academic performance.

Crucial to supporting your daughter is educating her as a self-publisher. Using different photos of your girl, ask her a few of the following questions to open up a conversation about appropriate self-expression:

What would Grandma (or another favorite relative) think if she saw this picture?

Getting your daughter to put herself in the shoes of people she loves and respects could give her a different perspective she hadn’t considered when she posed for the photo. This isn’t about making judgments but rather getting her to consider whether she is presenting an accurate representation of who she really is.

Does the photo reflect who you are and your interests?

This question is about encouraging authenticity. It’s natural for your daughter to begin exploring her developing sexuality, but you can help her see that the many other aspects of her personality are valuable and deserve to be reflected in how she puts herself out in the world.

Would your classmates and extended family recognize you?

If she responds that others might not recognize her in the photo, explore the pros and cons of acting versus being authentic.

What would you think of a close friend if she posted a similar photo online?

Researcher Dr Elizabeth Daniels of Oregon State University and Eileen Zurbriggen of UC Santa Cruz found that when girls upload sexualized photos of themselves to Facebook, other girls tend to view them…

Continue reading at the Dove Self-Esteem Project website.

Bio

Sharon HeadshotSharon grew up in a suburb of Toronto, Canada and earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology (B.Sc.) and Exceptionality in Human Learning (B.A.) at the University of Toronto. In her last year of study, she was a regular guest on the radio program Life Rattle where she orated several of her short stories, many of which addressed body image and violence against women. After graduation she devoted her energies to a career in social work, in roles that included supporting families and individuals with intellectual and physical handicaps, co-facilitating eating disorder support groups, and acting as a literacy assessor and educator for homeless women. Upon reaching burnout, she decided to re-evaluate her professional goals via traveling, studying alternative healing arts, and writing.

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Bio

Sharon grew up in a suburb of Toronto, Canada and earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology (B.Sc.) and Exceptionality in Human Learning (B.A.) at the University of Toronto. In her last year of study, she was a regular guest on the radio program Life Rattle where she orated several of her short stories, many of which addressed body image and violence against women. After graduation she devoted her energies to a lengthy career in social work, in roles that included supporting families and individuals with intellectual and physical handicaps, co-facilitating eating disorder support groups, and acting as a literacy assessor and educator for homeless women. Upon reaching burnout, she decided to re-evaluate her professional goals via traveling, studying alternative healing arts, and writing. After backpacking throughout Mexico, Southeast Asia, and much of South America, she found her second home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was there she committed herself to writing. She studied the craft, joined a writer's group (Thursdays@Three), and experimented with various styles of fiction and non-fiction, which led to her participation as an author, editor, and presenter at the International Book Fair in Buenos Aires in 2008 and 2009 representing the U.S. Embassy.

Today, she is a freelance writer and editor who has worked with a wide variety of subjects, including but not limited to medicine, web design, the American justice system, wind technology, anthropology, psychology, and the English and Spanish languages. She has authored textbooks and several online courses for colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Latin America. From authoring white papers to copy editing university-level exams, from ghostwriting for bestselling authors to development editing quarterly and annual reports, Sharon's experience is far-reaching.

She especially enjoys combining her love of the written word with her passion for body image activism and feminism. She regularly writes for Herizons, Canada's leading feminist magazine, and most recently, has contributed to Fifty Shades of Feminism (Virago), an anthology of "fifty women young and old - writers, politicians, actors, scientists, mothers - [who] reflect on the shades that inspired them and what being woman means to them today."

In 2009, Sharon joined the London-based AnyBody team, part of the international movement Endangered Bodies, which inspired her to organize Endangered Species: Preserving the Female Body in Buenos Aires, one of five international summits held in March 2011. Subsequently, she founded AnyBody Argentina, the Buenos Aires chapter of Endangered Bodies, which fights against sizeism and promotes healthy body image for Argentine girls and women, issues that Sharon writes about in both English and Spanish. From 2009-2014, she was co-editor for AdiosBarbie.com, a website that promotes healthy body image and identity for people of all sizes, ages, races, cultures, abilities, and sexual identities and orientations; currently, she acts as an advisor for the team.

Since January 2013, Sharon has been a member of the Global Advisory Board for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, advising on issues affecting today's young people with a specific focus on improving their self-esteem and body confidence. Sharon also contributes to various resources for parents, mentors, and youth leaders, and in addition to writing original, extensively researched articles for the Dove Self-Esteem site.

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Proud Contributor to:

Fifty Shades of FeminismPublished in March 2013, Sharon contributes "Owning the F-word" to this anthology of "fifty women young and old - writers, politicians, actors, scientists, mothers - [who] reflect on the shades that inspired them and what being woman means to them today."

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