Dressing sexy is something that many teenage and young adult girls feel tempted to do, especially during holidays like Halloween.
With another October 31 behind us, the Christian Science Monitor has pulled together a number of studies that show these societal pressures placed on young women can have a detrimental effect on academic achievement.
Halloween offers parents of teenage girls a “classic teachable moment … to express their values [and say] the ability to look ‘hot,’ that’s not where a girl’s worth comes from,” stated Rebecca Bigler, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of “High Heels: Low Grades” in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.
Bigler’s piece, taking the lead from a number of past studies where researchers have found that dressing sexy contributes to body shame, lower self-esteem and eating disorders, puts forth the finding that grades are affected, as well, and it can lead to “devoting less time to developing competency in work-related skills.”
According to CSM, one of Bigler’s studies “looked at 91 10- to 14-year-old girls,” who were asked to take “a 40-item survey to determine their level of internal sexualization — endorsing the idea that being sexually attractive to men is an important part of their identity.”
If girls scored higher on this Internalized Sexualization Scale (ISS), they tended to have lower grades in three core subjects and on statewide testing. “The study controlled for age, since academic achievement declined as girls got older,” the report notes.
Sarah McKenney, Bigler’s co-author, joined her in setting up an experiment with 95 11- to 15-year old girls.
“The girls thought they were part of a study on students interested in journalism, and they were asked to deliver a mock newscast that would be videotaped,” CSM reported, adding that the girls were “given five minutes alone to prepare” and “told they could use any of the resources in the room, which included the 433-word news transcript as well as various beauty products.”
They were unaware they were being videotaped to see how long they spent reading the transcript versus putting on makeup.
Bigler and McKenney found that the higher the girls ISS scores were, the more time they spent putting on makeup and the less time they spent practicing. Mistakes ensued.
Bigler does tell parents of 10- to 12-year-old girls that “caring about makeup won’t suddenly completely undermine your academic behavior,” but warns that “what could happen is this loop: Even if you only underperform a little, you start to get this message that maybe this area isn’t my strength compared to other girls, and so I should concentrate on, for example, interpersonal relationships rather than work competence.”
What do you think, readers? Are pre-teen, teen and young adult women suffering grade-wise because of a preference for dressing sexy?