Science Says Men Are Sexist Pigs! Except . . . Not.

When I came across a headline this morning that read “Men really do see half-naked women as sex objects, scientists claim,” I felt that this had to be inherently untrue.

Though I certainly do not doubt the findings in the study that some men react to images of scantily clad women the same way that they would react to an object (rather than a human), I didn’t believe that this was something that could possibly be true of “men” in general. I also felt that rather than being used to point out how sexist images of women and sexist attitudes towards women do actually end up hurting men and women alike, as feminists have claimed for some time, that it would be used instead to make some argument about how men naturally behave and how we can’t change it.

I was right on both counts.

Actually, what the study says but the headline neglects, is that this reaction was seen in men who were determined to be in other ways sexist.  That’s right, “men” don’t see half-naked women as objects; sexist men see half-naked women as objects.

Which is something that, again, feminists already knew.

But while the Telegraph article does manage to point study author Susan Fiske’s analysis, which states that this reaction may indeed have something to do with how women are portrayed in the media, guess how the Telegraph also chose to illustrate their article?  That’s right, with a picture of a woman who just so happens to not be wearing any pants.

The article by the Guardian, a news source that we would generally believe to be a lot more reliable, also ran with a headline that says “Sex Objects: Pictures shift men’s view of women,” as though it’s some kind of universal response.  They don’t mention the whole aspect of how this response is predominantly seen among sexist men until the very last paragraph of the article.

Funny how what this study seems to say — and I say “seems” because of course no one bothered to include the title of the study so that I might be able to find a copy of it or even an abstract (help, anyone?) — is, “shockingly, sexist assholes are sexist assholes.”  But yet again, the media has decided to turn it into “sorry ladies, guys are scum who don’t see you as human and you’re just going to have to learn to live with it.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Yup, us feminists are the ones who hate men, all right.

0 thoughts on “Science Says Men Are Sexist Pigs! Except . . . Not.

  1. frau sally benz

    Who comes up with these headlines? Seriously?? I just don’t understand…

    I took a look at Dr. Fiske’s CV and she has a number of studies currently listed as “in press” or “under review” so I’m assuming this information comes from one of those. If she’s already presenting her findings at conferences, I’m assuming it should be published soon. Anybody out there have access to PsycInfo or PsycArticles? Also, I love Fiske’s work and used it all the time for my Psych & WST papers. Love it!

    (Just an aside, what’s w/the picture from the first link? Is that a runway? Where was that woman going with that outfit? Serious question… Totally. lol)

  2. Glia

    That Telegraph article is truly terribly written. Aside from confusing affect/effect and extent/extinct, there is also this sentence:

    “With men, who were known to have sexist tendencies, they also discovered that a part of the brain that usually turned on during social interaction actually de-activated when they saw the photograph.”

    It would actually be correct, if only that first comma were omitted, ie, “With men who were known to have sexist tendencies,…” NOT “With men, who were known to have sexist tendencies.” A small difference, but so very vital.

    I have access to the psych article databases, and nothing about this research seems to be available yet. However, in my (related but not identical) field, it is extremely common to report results at meetings well before they are ready for publication. I would guess this was just an abstract and meeting talk on some very recent work, as opposed to an article in print, and therefore may not be available at all for some time yet.

  3. Etherspirit

    I believe all men objectify images of women, perhaps in varying degrees, AND act on it (masturbating). However, I believe this is very different to how men interact with living, breathing, 3-dimensional women. The reasons against sexual images in the workplaces is redundant. After all, that’s why people use the NSFW acronym. Secondly, because men do objectify images of women, it’s extremely important that the women in those images are perfectly okay with that and under no pressure whatsoever to model.


  4. lauredhel

    Yes, it looks like conference proceedings, which means it hasn’t been published (and therefore hasn’t passed peer review). But newspapers never report journal titles or references: it’s one of my giant bugbears about science reporting. Generally, all they’re doing is regurgitating a press release; the journalists have not accessed the paper or report or proceedings in the first place.

  5. Marco

    Ah! Another confusing; possibly misleading Psch article. I am certainly glad that I am no longer a shrink!

    Obfuscation is useless…

  6. Pingback: Uber Marianne » Blog Archive » But! Before I Go . . .

  7. zooeyibz

    I didn’t believe that this was something that could possibly be true of “men” in general. I also felt that rather than being used to point out how sexist images of women and sexist attitudes towards women do actually end up hurting men and women alike,

    Er, why not? Trust me, I can count on one hand the number of men who I’m confident *don’t* instantly and automatically judge me according to my looks and relative sex-ay-ness(and that includes friends). All in all, I think sexist images of women hurt WOMEN quite a lot more than they, hypothetically, hurt men. So I’m not going to worry my pretty head about thu boyz


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