The Difference Between Self-Expression and Self-Objectification

Dove Self-Esteem Project | English

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…

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