Women who participate in sororities may be more likely to judge their bodies differently than women who don’t belong to a sorority.
Northwestern University student Ashley Marie Rolnik chose the topic for her senior honors thesis. She believes that female undergraduates who join sororities are more likely to use self-objectification: judge their own bodies with an outsider’s perspective. According to the paper, those students also display greater levels of bulimic attitudes and behaviors than female students who skip the sorority recruitment process.
Rolnik argues that over time, the women who join sororities display higher levels of body shame.
Findings are published online in the Springer journal Sex Roles. The study is the first to test objectification theory in a real life. The theory links self-objectification to body dissatisfaction and shame, leading to eating disorders or other associated behaviors.
For the study, the research team surveyed 127 female college freshmen ages 17-20 years. Students were divided into two groups: women who went through the sorority recruitment process and joined and women who didn’t take part in rush.
After reviewing findings, the study authors concluded:
“Interventions aimed at reducing sorority women’s focus on physical appearance may hold promise as one of the many routes to addressing body image disturbance and eating disorders among sorority members. As sororities are very powerful at influencing the norms and ideals of their members, a move away from a focus on appearance and towards a set of norms that encourages healthy eating habits and more positive approaches to body image has real potential.”
The study found that levels of self-objectification and disordered eating behaviors were higher in those who participated in sorority rush. A month after rush was completed, new sorority members displayed higher levels of body shame.
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