Ideals up close – Female judgement of lingerie advertisements corresponding to body image and age

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Research Article

Publication Title

Mentalhigiene es Pszichoszomatika

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Background: Our consumer culture is largely defined by the central role it attributes to the human body. Moreover, it views youth and beauty as the ideal and desirable state. Female bodies play a prominent role in this system. Representation of women in lingerie advertisements typically ignores the heterogeneous ages, life stages, body types, and needs of women. How individuals are affected by advertising is influenced by multiple factors. Purpose: Examining the associations of women between the ages of 20 and 65 on lingerie advertisements, and exploring the interaction between the judgement of lingerie models, and women’s body satisfaction. Methods: The pilot study had 95 female participants (mean age: 40.9 [SD = 12.6] years) whose ages reflect a similar age distribution to that of the broader population of Hungary. In addition to analysis of questionnaires, content analysis was applied to interviews and reactions to advertisements. Measures: Fallon-Rozin body shape figure scale (1985), Silhouette-test, Picture association exercise, Situational exercise, Mind Map. Results: 66.3% of women indicated that models featured in lingerie advertisements do not reflect average women. The body size that women saw as ideal for themselves and for lingerie models correlate significantly (r = 0.56, p < 0.001). Body mass index is predictive (ß = –0.16, p < 0.001) of satisfaction with the central areas of the body. Most participants were satisfied with their ankle (59%), and dissatisfaction with hips was most common (37%). 53.7% of participants expressed a desire to have more diverse body types featured in lingerie advertisements. This is independent of their current body satisfaction, body mass index, age or level of education. A significant amount (41.1%) of participants expressed their demand for more diversity in the age of models as well. The frequency of mentioning the demand for changing the body type of models can be predicted based on the expression of discrepancy (OR = 1.95; p = 0.003), and the extent of the demand for changing the age of models can be predicted based on the age of the participant (OR = 1.05, p = 0.008) and the frequency of referring to the discrepancy between models and other women (OR = 1.71, p = 0.009). The demand for more diverse body types strongly correlate with the responses demanding a change of the age of lingerie models (rs = 0.58, p < 0.001). Discussion: A considerable percentage of women point out perceiving a difference between the body types of models and everyday women. Most participants do not regard their current body type as ideal. More women were satisfied with their ‘peripheral’ than their ‘central’ areas. The correlation between the ideal body type that women identify for themselves and for models may indicate that the body ideal represented by models is important in defining women’s body ideals, but it is also possible that women are expressing a wish to see models that are more similar to themselves. A significant number of women expressed a need for more diversity among lingerie models regarding both body type and age, which highlights a need to reconsider the image of women represented in lingerie advertising, especially considering the potential adverse psychological effects of differing from the ideal.

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