Abstract from "Objectifying Sarah Palin: Evidence that objectiﬁcation causes women
to be perceived as less competent and less fully human." The entire article is AT THIS LINK
and shows the unique, unfair and grossly sexist challenges that Governor Palin had to endure. That she did against a hostile media and Democrat opposition and is still a person of significant influence is a tribute to her unique character.
This article is well read as an adjunct to "The Contemporary Effects of Vice-Presidential Nominees:Sarah Palin and the 2008 Presidential Campaign" LINK
and "Gender Bias Against Sarah Palin: A Content Analysis of National Newspapers" LINK
which also reinforces the incredible bias against Palin in 20008 which continues today from the same forces.
Nathan A. Heﬂick*, Jamie L. Goldenberg
University of South Florida, 4202 E. Florida Avenue, PCD4118G Tampa, FL 33618, United States
Objectiﬁcation of women
Although a great deal of research has examined the effects of objectiﬁcation on women’s self-perceptions
and behavior, empirical research has yet to address how objectifying a woman affects the way she is perceived by others. We hypothesize that focusing on a woman’s appearance will promote reduced perceptions of competence, and also, by virtue of construing the women as an ‘‘object”, perceptions of the
woman as less human. We found initial experimental evidence for these hypotheses as a function of
objectifying two targets – Sarah Palin and Angelina Jolie. In addition, focusing on Palin’s appearance
reduced intentions to vote for the McCain–Palin ticket (prior to the 2008 US Presidential election). We
discuss these ﬁndings in the context of the election and the objectiﬁcation of women.
‘‘There is a gigantic difference between...me and my Vice-Presidential opponent. She’s good-looking”.
Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States
The Republican National Committee reportedly spent upwards of
$150,000 improving US Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s
wardrobe and appearance (Isikoff & Smalley, 2008). And, despite facing criticism for this, in a sense, it ‘‘worked”. A clip of her wearing a
swimsuit on the internet site YouTube received well over a million
views, and Time magazine declared her a ‘‘sex symbol”, reporting
that ‘‘photos” and ‘‘beauty pageant” were the second and third most
popular internet search words in conjunction with Palin’s name
(Tancer, September, 2, 2008).
In addition to the focus on her appearance, exit polls indicated that 60% of American voters thought that
Palin was unqualiﬁed for the job (Barnes, 2008). But, is there a link
between the focus on Palin’s appearance and negative views of her?
In this study, we examined three questions. One, does focusing
on a woman’s appearance reduce perceptions of her competence?
Second, does it promote perceptions of the woman as an object –
and consequently, as less fully human? Third, although there are
undoubtedly a number of reasons for the McCain–Palin defeat,
could the focus on Sarah Palin’s appearance have contributed to
reduced willingness to vote for their ticket in the 2008 US Presidential election?
Building on the work of feminist scholars (e.g., Bartky, 1990),
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) argued that women are objectiﬁed
when they are viewed as if their body is capable of representing
them. Research on objectiﬁcation has provided an in depth analysis
of the psychological consequences for objectiﬁed women (see
Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997); but, researchers have yet to address
how focusing on a woman’s appearance affects perceptions of her.
Philosopher Martha Nussbaum (1999) speculated about several
possible ways that objectiﬁcation inﬂuences perceptions of objectiﬁed persons, including females valued solely for appearance.
Some of these are directly related to minimizing their competence:
denying self-determination, agentic qualities and uniqueness of
talents (i.e., they can easily be replaced). Others likely minimize
the perception of the individual as fully human, such as denying
that their feelings and experiences matter and having less concern
when they are physically or emotionally harmed.
Perceptions of competence
Women who self-evaluate based on appearance (i.e., self-objectify) perceived themselves as less competent (Gapinski, Brownell,
& LaFrance, 2003), and perform less competently when objectifying themselves (e.g., Fredrickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge,
1998; Quinn, Kallen, Twenge, & Fredrickson, 2006).
But, as far as
we know, no empirical research has directly tested if focusing on
women’s appearance versus their personhood reduces other’s perceptions of their competence.
There is, however, a large body of research on female attractiveness and perceptions of competence. While ‘‘what is beautiful is
good (and competent)” is generally supported (e.g., Jackson, Hunter, & Hodge, 1995), when women are evaluated for high status
jobs, attractiveness reduces perceptions of women’s, but not men’s,