Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Thesis

College

Communication and Information Studies

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas Lindlof

Abstract

This study investigates preadolescent girls’ interpretations of images of and messages about women’s bodies presented in both traditional and online media in the American cultural context. Using qualitative methods including in-depth interviews, email diaries, and digital photo collages, this study gives voice to girls aged nine to eleven from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds so that they might tell their stories about interacting with media that is relevant to their relationships with their bodies. Employing objectification theory as well as concepts from the cultural studies tradition, the findings suggest that the process of becoming a female body in the 21st-century American media environment is far more complex than a simple linear, cause-effect equation can express. Differences among girls in terms of media use, degree of media criticism, age, and interpersonal discursive environments moderate their relationships to mediated imagery and to their bodies. The findings also describe the mediated bodily ideal that is most relevant to preadolescent girls, the celebrity girls who embody this ideal, the ways in which girls experience self-objectification and body surveillance, and the nature of girls’ conversations with friends and family members about body-related topics. The study concludes by providing recommendations to concerned researchers, educators, and parents.

Included in

Communication Commons

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