In a new study, female participants felt better about their bodies when told that men are attracted to plus-sized models.
Writer Julie Beck at the popular news site The Atlantic reported on the research of SMU social psychologist Andrea L. Meltzer, who was lead author on a new series of studies that found that telling women that men desire larger women who aren’t model-thin made the women feel better about their own weight.
Results of the three independent studies suggest a woman’s body image is strongly linked to her perception of what she thinks men prefer. The researchers found that how women perceive men’s preferences influenced each woman’s body image independent of her actual body size and weight. “On average, heterosexual women believe that heterosexual men desire ultra-thin women,” says Meltzer.
The article, “Women’s Self-Esteem and What Men Want,” was published Jan. 14.
Meltzer is an assistant professor in the SMU Department of Psychology.
By Julie Beck
Last summer, Meghan Trainor’s doo-woppy single “All About That Bass” was seen by a lot of people as a body-positive empowerment anthem, with its condemnation of magazine Photoshop, and accompanying video of people of all sizes dancing in front of pastel backgrounds. But other people took issue with some of the lyrics — “I’ve got that boom boom that all the boys chase,” or “boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Writers at Jezebel, Slate, and other publications accused the song of implying that self-esteem comes from male acceptance, that of course women shouldn’t worry about their size, because men still like them.
“Loving yourself because dudes like what you’ve got going on is a pretty flimsy form of self-acceptance,” Chloe Angyal wrote at Feministing. “In fact, it’s not really self-acceptance at all if it depends on other people thinking you’re hot.”
Trainor’s message might not be a perfect one, but new research shows it is effective. A recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that telling women men were attracted to non-stick-thin models increased their body satisfaction.
The researchers, from Southern Methodist University and Florida State University, had undergraduate heterosexual women look at images of plus-sized models (“plus-sized” in model terms—the models in the photos were estimated to be between a size 8 and 10, or “representative of the average female undergraduate,” the study says). In some cases, the width of the pictures was reduced by 30 percent, “to depict the thin-ideal.”
The women were either told that men picked the images because they found them attractive, or just that the images were taken from the media. In one experiment, another control group was told that men prefer thin women.
The participants reported higher satisfaction with their weight when they were told men were attracted to the average-sized models. But body satisfaction when women were told nothing was the same as when they were told men are attracted to ultra-thin women. This didn’t surprise the researchers, though.
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