Title

The Beast within the Beauty: An Existential Perspective on the Objectification and Condemnation of Women

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

2004

Keywords

sex role attitudes; women; existentialism; objectification; condemnation; death attitudes

Abstract

Throughout the history of the sexes, women have been perceived as inferior to men, but also have been elevated to the status of goddesses on earth. We suggest that these paradoxical biases often associated with women can be linked to an existential need to distance humanity from the natural world. The sources of discrimination against women are most commonly associated with their biological nature. In this chapter we provide initial evidence for our proposition that women's "nature" plays a critical role in societal attitudes and behaviors toward women, and that these reactions to feminine nature are at least in part a result of existential concerns associated with the awareness of our vulnerability toward death. To explain why this connection between "man" and nature has disproportionately affected reactions toward women, we propose integration of an existential perspective that emphasizes threats associated with women's childbearing and menstruating bodies and with men's animalistic attraction to them, with a feminist perspective that emphasizes power inequities between men and women and men's greater influence on social and cultural mores. Finally, we discuss some implications of these dual reactions toward women, using objectification theory to explain a number of negative consequences of the seemingly innocuous and sometimes even "benevolent" objectification of women.

Was this content written or created while at USF?

Yes

Citation / Publisher Attribution

The Beast within the Beauty: An Existential Perspective on the Objectification and Condemnation of Women, in J. Greenberg, S. L. Koole & T. Pyszczynski (Eds.), Handbook of Experimental Existential Psychology, Guilford Press, p. 71-85

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