Application of a racially expanded model of objectification theory to Asian and Asian American women
The current study sought to find support for a racially expanded model of objectification theory for Asian and Asian American women by including culturally relevant components of body image concerns, per Moradi’s (2010) recommendations. Specifically, socialization experiences were included in the model to represent sexual objectification experiences for Asian and Asian American women (i.e., racial teasing and appearance-focused social pressure), and both dominant (U.S.) and culturally specific (Asian) modifications in the model were considered for several of the mediator and outcome variables.
Positive associations between socialization experiences (i.e., racial teasing and appearance-focused social pressure) and the outcome variables (i.e., social physique anxiety and consideration of cosmetic surgery) were hypothesized to be mediated by self-objectification processes (i.e., internalization of beauty standards, body surveillance, and lower body esteem). Additionally, appearance-contingent self-worth was hypothesized to moderate the association between socialization experiences and self-objectification processes (i.e., internalization of beauty standards and body surveillance).
Results using path analysis showed that both dominant (U.S.) and culturally specific (Asian) body surveillance were significant mediators between socialization experiences and the outcome variables. However, internalization of both dominant (U.S.) and culturally specific (Asian) beauty standards were not significant mediators for this association, demonstrating partial support for the mediation hypotheses. Results did not support the moderation hypothesis, in that appearance-contingent self-worth was not a significant moderator for the association between socialization experiences and self-objectification processes (i.e., internalization of beauty standards and body surveillance). Multiple groups analysis results showed that the associations among the proposed variables in the model were equivalent for Asian international and Asian American female students, indicating that the model is equally applicable to both populations. Lastly, post hoc results demonstrated support for separating some of the variables in the model into their culturally specific components.
The current study applies a well-validated theoretical model that has mostly been studied with European Americans to an understudied population, challenging common misconceptions that Asian women do not struggle with body image issues. Results show that self-objectification processes for Asian and Asian American women may unfold in ways unique from their European American counterparts, with distinct contributions from both dominant and culturally specific beauty standards that extend beyond the Western “thin ideal.”