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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jessica Rey: moral stand or marketing scheme?

If you're LDS, have friends who are LDS, or are somewhat savvy with today's viral topics, than you've more than likely seen this video of Jessica Rey speaking on why she decided to start a line of one-piece swimsuits for women. She speaks of the history of swimwear, and then talks a little bit on two studies done on the correlation between bikinis and male objectification of women. 

Obviously if I'm posting about this, I have issues with this video.

For the sake of length, I'll ignore the historical issues with her video. I'll just say that Bikini-type swimwear dates back to around 4000 bc, and was quite common in ancient Greece. 

On to the neuroimaging studies. Or study. It's actually just one study, published here

Jessica Rey argues that the study proves that bikinis cause men to objectify women. She says that neuroimaging proves that men will view women as sexual objects when shown immodest wear. The reality is the study actually doesn't prove that, and actually kind of disproves that point. 

The first first part of the study tested the amount of time it took four groups of people to sort 1st and 3rd person verbs while being shown images of clothed and bikini clad women. (This video gives a rough demo) Two male groups and two female groups. All groups were divided by gender and hostile sexism scores, high and low. The idea is that those who objectify women will associate them with 1st person verbs and sort quicker with 1st person verbs being in the same column as the bikinis.  From the Study:

In line with our first hypothesis, male participants with high HS [hostile sexism] scores were faster to associate sexualized female targets with first-person action verbs and clothed female targets with third-person action verbs than the inverse. This suggests that sexualized women are more closely associated with being the objects, not the agents, of action as compared to clothed women, but only for men who possess hostile sexist attitudes. [p. 547] 

Or in other words, Only men who had high HS scores objectified the sexualised women as compared to the others. 

In the second part of the study, 21 men were shown images of women in bikinis. neuroimagery was used to show what the neurological reaction was to these images. Again, men were ranked according to their HS scores. According to the study, the higher a test subjects HS score, the less activity in the parts of the brain associated with empathy; likewise, there was an increase in the regions of the brain associated with tool use. For those test subjects with high BS [Benevolent Sexism] scores, the opposite was true; they had no increase in objectification as shown in the neuroimaging. \

So basically, only sexist tools associate bikini-clad women with tools. At least that's what this study suggests. 

But there are a few major flaws in the methodology of this study.
1) Sample size is was too small. 21 men does not in any way constitute scientific research. 
2) As of yet, there has been no reproduction of the study or peer review.
3) There was no control group of any kind in the second test.
4) The images had no face. From the study: "For the body recognition task, images were cropped from neck down to mid-thigh." [p. 543] This is problematic because we associate the face, especially the eyes, as the "person." When you look at someone, you look them in the face. Because the faces were removed, there was  an added incentive to objectify the images because the body is naturally perceived as an object in comparison to the face, where we naturally perceive the "person" to be.  

Now, I support modesty, but only in it's true form, and for the right reasons. We should never allow another person's possible perceptions dictate our behavior and choices. Whether or not a bikini, or any other type of clothing, is modest if highly subjective; likewise, modesty should always be a matter of personal choice. May we follow the admonition of Joseph Smith, Jr. when he said "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."  I use this as the base for my class rules in my youth sunday school class. I have only one rule, to be Christlike. I do not tell them how to interpret that, nor do I give any requests beyond that. It's worked wonderfully. 




1 comment:

  1. Very true. However, I still commend Jessica Rey for providing attractive swim suits that cover more skin for girls who don't feel comfortable showing 90% of their bodies to the public. Even if the larger point she's trying to make isn't completely validated, I still think it's great that she's getting people to think about modesty and that she took action on what she believes.

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