Female and male adolescents' interpretations of body imagery: Implications for school programs

Year: 1995

Author: Kirk, David

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purpose of this paper is to report on a study that investigated
females' and males' interpretations of body imagery in magazines and
other visual media. Forty 15 year olds, 20 females and 20 males, were
selected for the study. Participants were required to complete 2 tasks
that involved interpreting 2 sets of 10 images of visual
representations of bodies. The affective responses of males and females
differed in a number of ways. The males responses suggested that they
objectified images of female bodies and were uncomfortable with images
of male bodies, unless in a sports context. The females' affective
responses suggested that they looked for personal meaning in the images
and sought to identify themselves with some images. In terms of
cognitive responses, a majority of the participants demonstrated
sufficient knowledge of the associations of body imagery, particularly
imagery that associates health or health-related products with
slenderness and physical attractiveness, in order to decipher the
messages a range of images and advertisements presented to them.
Nonetheless, it is suggested that there is a role for school programs,
drawing on the Health and Physical education Statement and Profile, to
provide young people with the skills and information required to make
critical appraisals of media representations of bodies. It is proposed
that programs for male adolescents foreground a better understanding of
their affective responses to body imagery, while a critical consumer
focus might be foregrounded for females.