by Dr. Sara Schwartz Gluck, Phd, LCSW
Popular American media such as TV, movies, and music videos often affects the way people see themselves and the world around them. This study looked at the ways in which women are shown on screen, and how that affected a group of Orthodox Jewish young women. The media often makes it seem like in order for women to be beautiful, they need to be very thin and perfect. Many researchers have studied college-aged women, and have found that when women watch American media, they are more likely to have low self-esteem and to be unhappy with the way they look (Aubrey, Hopper, & Mbure, 2011; Wright, 2009).
On the other hand, girls who grow up in the Orthodox Jewish culture often learn that it is best to be modest by covering their bodies so that they would be noticed for their minds and hearts rather than how they look (Andrews, 2011). Some Orthodox Jews even choose not to watch any non-Jewish media at all. These differences between Jewish teachings and American media mean that American Jewish women might learn completely opposite things from the media than what they learn from Jewish books.
This study of 155 single, Orthodox Jewish young women included people from colleges, seminaries, and public areas in the state of NY. The study participants included some who reported that they watched a lot of American media, and others who reported never having watched any non-Jewish media in their entire lives. All of the participants were asked to complete a survey about their beliefs and behaviors but were not exposed to any media during this study.
After all of the surveys were analyzed, there were some interesting results that were found. When participants watched higher levels of media, this was associated with lower levels of general self worth and lower levels of body confidence. Those who reported higher levels of religiosity were less likely to watch American media and more likely to have higher general levels of self worth. This was the first time that Orthodox Jewish girls and popular media were looked at by a psychological researcher.
To review Dr. Gluck’s full research paper, download here