We conducted two experiments to test the possibility that sexist humor triggers a state of self-objectification in women. Our findings supported two hypotheses derived from self-objectification theory. In Experiment 1, we found that women (but not men) reported greater state self-objectification following exposure to sexist comedy clips than neutral comedy clips. Experiment 2 replicated this finding for women and further demonstrated that sexist humor causes women to engage in more body surveillance compared to neutral humor.
Funding statement: Funding: This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grants BCS-1014567 awarded to Thomas E. Ford and BCS-1014562 awarded to Julie A. Woodzicka. Funding for this project is gratefully acknowledged.
About the authors
Thomas E. Ford is a Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University. He received his B.S. from Texas Christian University and his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Maryland. His research interests include the role of disparagement humor in promoting expressions of prejudice and the relationship between humor and subjective well-being.
Julie A. Woodzicka is a Professor of Psychology at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, United States. She received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and her Ph.D. from Boston College. Her research examines social and interpersonal consequences of disparagement humor.
Whitney E. Petit is a Ph.D. student studying social psychology at the University of Houston. She received her M.A. in general/experimental psychology from Western Carolina University in 2014. Her research interests focus on disparagement humor and close relationships.
Kyle Richardson is a M.A. student at Western Carolina University. He received his B.A. in psychology at Appalachian State University in 2012. His research interests focus on group processes, social influence, and the relationship between disparagement humor and discrimination.
Shaun K. Lappi is a M.A. student at Western Carolina University. He received his B.A. in psychology at Western Carolina University in 2014. His research interests focus on the social consequences of sexist humor, and the relationship between humor styles and happiness.
Aronson, Joshua, Diane MQuinn & Steven JSpencer. 1998. Stereotype threat and the academic underperformance of minorities and women. In J.K.Swim & C.Stangor (eds.), Prejudice: The target’s perspective, 83–103. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.10.1016/B978-012679130-3/50039-9Search in Google Scholar
Bell, Myrtle P., Mary E.McLaughlin & Jennifer M.Sequeira. 2002. Discrimination, harassment, and the glass ceiling: Women executives as change agents. Journal of Business Ethics37. 65–76.Search in Google Scholar
Buhrmester, Michael D., TracyKwang & Samuel D.Gosling. 2011. Amazon’s mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high quality data?Perspectives on Psychological Science6. 3–5. doi:10.1177/1745691610393980Search in Google Scholar
Calogero, Rachel M. 2004. A test of objectification theory: Effect of the male gaze on appearance concerns in college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly28. 16–21.10.1111/j.1471-6402.2004.00118.xSearch in Google Scholar
Calogero, Rachel M., William NDavis & J. KevinThompson. 2005. The role of self-objectification in the experience of women with eating disorders. Sex Roles52. 43–50.10.1007/s11199-005-1192-9Search in Google Scholar
Calogero, Rachel M., SylviaHerbozo & J. KevinThompson. 2009. Complementary weightism: The potential costs of appearance-related commentary for women’s self-objectification. Psychology of Women Quarterly33. 120–132. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.01479.xSearch in Google Scholar
Calogero, Rachel M. & John T.Jost. 2011. Self-subjugation among women: Exposure to sexist ideology, self-objectification, and the protective function of the need to avoid closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology100(2). 211–228. doi: 10.1037/a0021864Search in Google Scholar
Calogero, Rachel M. & AfroditiPina. 2011. Body guilt: Preliminary evidence for a further subjective experience of self-objectification. Psychology of Women Quarterly35. 428–440. doi: 10.1177/0361684311408564Search in Google Scholar
Calogero, Rachel M., AfroditiPina & Robbie M.Sutton. 2013. Cutting words: Priming self-objectification increases women’s intention to pursue cosmetic surgery. Psychology of Women Quarterly38(2). 197–207. doi: 10.1177/0361684313506881Search in Google Scholar
Ford, Thomas E., Christie F.Boxer, Jacob AArmstrong & Jessica R.Edel. 2008. More than just a joke: The prejudice-releasing function of sexist humor. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin34. 159–170. doi:10.1177/0146167207310022Search in Google Scholar
Ford, Thomas E. & Mark A.Ferguson. 2004. Social consequences of disparagement humor: A prejudiced norm theory. Personality and Social Psychology Review8. 79–94. doi:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0801_4Search in Google Scholar
Ford, Thomas E., Julie A.Woodzicka, Shane RTriplett & Annie OKochersberger. 2013. Sexist humor and beliefs that justify societal sexism. Current Research in Social PsychologySeptember. 64–81.Search in Google Scholar
Fredrickson, Barbara L. & Toni-AnnRoberts. 1997. Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly21. 173–206. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.xSearch in Google Scholar
Fredrickson, Barbara L., Toni-AnnRoberts, Stephanie M.Noll, Diane MQuinn & Jean M.Twenge. 1998. That swimsuit becomes you: Sex differences in self objectification, restrained eating, and math performance. Journal of personality and social psychology75. 269–284. doi:10.1037/0022–3518.104.22.1689Search in Google Scholar
Glick, Peter & Susan T.Fiske. 1996. The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology70. 491–512. doi:10.1037/0022–3522.214.171.1241Search in Google Scholar
Greenwood, Dara & Linda M.Isbell. 2002. Ambivalent sexism and the dumb blonde: Men’s and women’s reactions to sexist jokes. Psychology of Women Quarterly26. 341–350.10.1111/1471-6402.t01-2-00073Search in Google Scholar
Gruner, Charles R. 1997. The game of humor: A comprehensive theory of why we laugh. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Search in Google Scholar
Harper, Brit & MarikaTiggemann. 2008. The effect of thin ideal images on women’s self-objectification, mood, and body image. Sex Roles58. 649–657. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9379–xSearch in Google Scholar
Hemmasi, Masoud & Lee AGraf. 1998. Sexual and sexist humor in the work place: Just “good fun” or sexual harassment? Proceedings of Decision Sciences Institute, 455–457. Las Vegas, NE: DSI.Search in Google Scholar
Jost, John T., MahzarinBanaji & Brian A.Nosek. 2004. A decade of system justification theory: Accumulated evidence of conscious and unconscious bolstering of the status quo. Political Psychology25. 881–919.10.1111/j.1467-9221.2004.00402.xSearch in Google Scholar
LaFrance, Marianne & Julie A.Woodzicka. 1998. No laughing matter: Women’s verbal and nonverbal reactions to sexist humor. In J.Swim & C.Stangor (eds.), Prejudice: The target’s perspective, 61–80. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.10.1016/B978-012679130-3/50038-7Search in Google Scholar
Love, Ann M. & Lambert HDeckers. 1989. Humor appreciation as a function of sexual, aggressive, and sexist content. Sex Roles20. 649–654.Search in Google Scholar
McGhee, Paul E. 1972. On the cognitive origins of incongruity humor: Fantasy assimilation versus reality assimilation. In J. H.Goldstein & P. E.McGhee (eds.), The psychology of humor, 61–79. New York: Academic.10.1016/B978-0-12-288950-9.50009-2Search in Google Scholar
McKinley, Nita Mary & Janet ShibleyHyde. 1996. The objectified body consciousness scale: Development and validation. Psychology of Women Quarterly20. 181–215. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1996.tb00467.xSearch in Google Scholar
Neuliep, James W. 1987. Gender differences in the perception of sexual and nonsexual humor. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality2. 345–351.Search in Google Scholar
Noll, Stephanie M. & Barbara LFredrickson. 1998. A mediational model linking self-objectification, body shame, and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly22. 623–636. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1998.tb00181.xSearch in Google Scholar
Quinn, Diane M., Rachel WKallen, Jean MTwenge & Barbara LFredrickson. 2006. The disruptive effect of self-objectification on performance. Psychology of Women Quarterly30. 59–64.10.1111/j.1471-6402.2006.00262.xSearch in Google Scholar
Quinn, Diane M. & Steven JSpencer. 2001. The interference of stereotype threat with women’s generation of mathematical problem-solving strategies. Journal of Social Issues57. 55–71.10.1111/0022-4537.00201Search in Google Scholar
Roberts, Toni-Ann & Jennifer YGettman. 2004. Mere exposure: Gender differences in the negative effects of priming a state of self-objectification. Sex Roles51. 17–27.10.1023/B:SERS.0000032306.20462.22Search in Google Scholar
Romero-Sanchez, Monica, MercedesDuran, HugoCarretero-Dios, Jesus LMegias & MiguelMoya. 2010. Exposure to sexist humor and rape proclivity: The moderator effect of aversiveness ratings. Journal of Interpersonal Violence25(12). 2339–2350. doi:10.1177/0886260509354884Search in Google Scholar
Ryan, Kathryn M. & JeanneKanjorski. 1998. The enjoyment of sexist humor, rape attitudes, and relationship aggression in college students. Sex Roles38. 743–756. doi:10.1023/A:1018868913615Search in Google Scholar
Saguy, Tamar, Diane M.Quinn, John F.Dovidio & FeliciaPratto. 2010. Interacting like a body: Objectification can lead women to narrow their presence in social interactions. Psychological Science21. 178–182.10.1177/0956797609357751Search in Google Scholar
Sev’er, Aysan & SheldonUngar. 1997. No laughing matter: Boundaries of gender-based humour in the classroom. Journal of Higher Education68. 87–105.10.1080/00221546.1997.11778978Search in Google Scholar
Steele, Claude M. & JoshuaAronson. 1995. Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology69. 797–811.10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1997Search in Google Scholar
Tiggemann, Marika. 2011. Mental health risks of self-objectification: A review of the empirical evidence for disordered eating, depressed mood, and sexual dysfunction. In R. M.Calogero, S.Tantleff-Dunn, & J. K.Thompson (eds.), Self-objectification in women: Causes, consequences, and counteractions, 139–159. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.10.1037/12304-007Search in Google Scholar
Tiggemann, Marika & MichelleBoundy. 2008. Effect of environment and appearance compliment on college women’s self-objectification, mood, body shame, and cognitive performance. Psychology of Women Quarterly32. 399–405.10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00453.xSearch in Google Scholar
Tiggemann, Marika & J. KKuring. 2004. The role of body objectification in disordered eating and depressed mood. British Journal of Clinical Psychology43. 299–311.10.1348/0144665031752925Search in Google Scholar
Thomae, Manuela & G TendayiViki. 2013. Why did the woman cross the road? The effect of sexist humor on men’s rape proclivity. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology7(3). 250.Search in Google Scholar
©2015 by De Gruyter Mouton