Society esteems appearance higher than intellect

Society places a great deal of value on images presented in the media.

“One of the things that we see on TV and through media is the constant sexual objectification of women, and it’s not just women. We also see themes that run across sexualizing young girls,” said Andrea Hunt, assistant professor of sociology and family studies.

Senior Tia Nall said being raised to respect and value herself was important, and dealing with guys who were disrespectful helped her realize what she wanted.

“I learned I would rather be told I was pretty,” she said. “I would rather be told I’m beautiful versus being told that I’m hot.”

The sexual objectification of women has become the social norm, Hunt said.

“I am so concerned with the over- sexualization, of young girls in particular ,because it really sets the tone for those girls and boys as they get older of how we value girls in our society,” she said.

Other forces like peer groups, school environments, dominant themes in the environment, themes of romantic relationships for young kids on TV shows, as well as advertisements focused on appearance and styles reflective of older girls have an impact, Hunt said.

“I think really we have to first focus on how we’re socializing young boys,” she said.

Young men are socialized into a world of violent masculinity, Hunt said. They end up seeing themselves as dominant in the relationship.

Junior Lee Brooks said he feels the way the adult industry portrays women has a large impact on youth and adults.

“They’ve definitely become more of sexual objects than anything else,” he said. “Even though we do make light of it sometimes I believe it’s a serious problem that we can definitely tackle.”

Another issue that arises surrounding sexual objectification is whether women should be complimented on their physical appearance or personality.

“I think you’re going to have some women that are very invested in having compliments that are based on their physical appearance,” Hunt said.

This is not to say people do not want those compliments, Hunt said. There is a big difference between a compliment and a catcall. It does not necessarily mean the people making those comments are bad, but they may not realize how it makes the other person feel.

Young girls are unintentionally taught physical appearance is valued higher than intellectual achievements, she said.

Hunt said she stresses the importance of doing the same for boys so they know how to interact with other people, have a good sense of self and know what is appropriate.

“You will see men that are perfectly able to make compliments, but then you also see other men that, possibly, are socialized differently that make comments that are more about sexual objectification,” Hunt said. “We have to redefine what it means to be a man.”

There is a social pressure to look a certain way creating an internal pressure, Hunt said.

It is important to have support in building self-confidence, self-esteem and a sense of self, she said.

“It’s important for guys to try to read the situation, and it’s safer just to not make the assumptions that people are going to like those comments,” Hunt said.

Sexual objectification of women has been normalized and we are going to have to reframe our societal standards, she said.

“I have found that students here really want to talk about these things, so I think having conversations in mixed gender groups so we can see how do you perceive this. We have to hear from both sides so that we can really know how to move forward with it,” Hunt said.