Female peers with low self-respect and a negative body image are some of many reasons why anthropology major Sebastian Bannister Lawler decided to do a content analysis of how female models are depicted in fashion magazines for his senior project.
Being a male that has never particularly read fashion magazines, Lawler said he chose the medium because he had no personal biases to it. But over the years, Lawler said he has seen many females with low self-respect and body image.
“Perfectly attractive, compelling and intelligent young women either believe themselves to be inferior in some way or give into the sexual demands of men they hardly know,” said Lawler.
He said he wondered if it was the media that was portraying this image to young women and started his project from there.
Working on a content analysis type project, Lawler worked with his advisers Aaron Greer and Cheleen Mahar. He found many studies that looked at both the direct effects on one’s body image and also at the social effects on women, such as men viewing women as sexual objects.
Lawler’s conclusion was that fashion magazines and other forms of media do in fact portray women in an objectified manner. He said the worst part of what he found was that women are the main people who buy the sorts of fashion magazines that objectifies themselves. Lawler said women are literally paying to expose themselves to imagery that makes them feel inferior.
Also in his conclusions, Lawler believes his project shows that women with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem are probably getting that negative feeling from an outside source. He said companies want people to feel down about themselves and to use their products to fix those feelings.
Although Lawler does not plan on doing any further research on the topic, he said this project gave him a new perspective on popular culture and advertisements. He is most interested in women and men and how they are portrayed, whether it is in positive or negative imagery.
Lawler will present in the Center for Languages and International Collaboration, Scott 101 at 2 p.m. April 25.