Worth the Weight: The Objectification of Overweight Versus Thin Targets
Although the negative ramifications of others objectifying the female body are well established, little research has examined whether certain portrayals of women are more susceptible to being objectified. The present study sought to examine the effect of two target characteristics—body size and clothing style—on objectification. One hundred and ninety-one Australian undergraduate participants (95 female; Mage = 19.35 years) viewed either an image of an overweight woman or a thin woman, who was either dressed in plain clothes or lingerie. Participants then completed three tasks measuring their objectification of the woman to include attributions of mind, attributions of moral status, and a dot probe task assessing attention towards the target’s body relative to the face. Results indicate that overweight women, as well as those dressed in plain clothing, were attributed more agentic mental states and moral value, as well as elicited less of the objectifying gaze, than thin targets and those wearing lingerie. These findings suggest that contrary to popular opinion, there may be unforeseen benefits of being overweight.