Unveiled women experienced more objectification by others than veiled women. There were no significant differences found between veiled and unveiled women in self-objectification and eating disorder symptomatology. There is a significant negative relationship between modesty of clothing and objectification by others. No significant relationship was found between modesty of clothing and the self-objectification and eating disorder scales. For the objectification by others scale, data show that there is a positive relationship between this scale and eating disorders. Eating disorders were found to have a negative relationship with self-objectification.
Please find below a very important and very interesting study from Kuwait, ‘ Modesty, Objectification, and Disordered Eating Patterns: A Comparative Study between Veiled and Unveiled Muslim Women Residing in Kuwait’. We share this for information purpose only.
Modesty, Objectification, and Disordered Eating Patterns: A
Comparative Study between Veiled and Unveiled Muslim Women
Residing in Kuwait
Background: The common thread running through all forms of sexual objectification is the experience of being treated as a body (or collection of body parts) valued predominantly for its use to (or consumption by) others. If girls and women adopt a peculiar view of the self, an effect called self-objectification, this may contribute to depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders. The objective of this study is to investigate the impact of modesty (in terms of veiling, i.e., hijab) on objectification, by others and by the self, body image, and behaviors indicative of eating disturbance in veiled and unveiled Muslim women in Kuwait. Methods: This is a community-based, cross-sectional study conducted through an online survey. The respondents were females living in Kuwait. Results: Unveiled women experienced more objectification by others than veiled women. There were no significant differences found between veiled and unveiled women in self-objectification and eating disorder symptomatology. There is a significant negative relationship between modesty of clothing and objectification by others. No significant relationship was found between modesty of clothing and the self-objectification and eating disorder scales. For the objectification by others scale, data show that there is a positive relationship between this scale and eating disorders. Eating disorders were found to have a negative relationship with self-objectification. Conclusion: The results of the study are significant as they clearly demonstrate a weak negative relationship between clothing preferences/affiliations and eating disorders.
©2018 The Author(s) Published by S. Karger AG, Basel
Significance of the Study
Several studies have been conducted on self-objectification, eating disorders, and their relationship with modesty of clothing with specific reference to the Western population. This study is significant as it has been conducted in a Middle Eastern Muslim population, where modest clothing is mandatory for females. The results of this study could partly remove the misconceptions about modest clothing and other factors responsible for the initiation of eating disorders.
Religious practice and traditional values in terms of modest dressing are significant prognosticators of eating disorder behaviors. Pedwell  uncovered the heterogeneous variations of covering that all fall under the English term “veil.” This word refers to a very wide array of women’s Islamic dresses around the world, including, but not limited to, “the turban in Turkey, the chador in Iran, the hijab in Britain, the burqa in Afghanistan,” and many more international variations of Islamic covering in other regions. The majority of participants cover their hair, waist, stomach, calves, thighs, arms, shoulders, and neck in public; this is in line with social values and practices of modesty in the area. Droogsma  suggests that the veil functions to define Muslim identity, perform a behavior check, resist sexual objectification, afford more respect, preserve intimate relationships, and provide freedom. Muslim women who choose to wear the veil argue that an Islamic identity, including the use of traditional clothing and veils, de-emphasizes appearances and protects them from public scrutiny. Moreover, they believe that the Islamic dress protects them from comparisons that they would otherwise be subjected to against unrealistic Western physical ideals .
A curvilinear relationship was found between religious orientation and eating attitudes among a subclinical and clinical college population receiving inpatient treatment for eating disorders . On the other hand, Ellison  found that the positive influence of religious certainty on wellbeing is direct and substantial. Individuals with strong religious faith experienced higher levels of life satisfaction, greater personal happiness, and fewer negative psychological consequences of traumatic life events. It is often argued that eating disorders are “Western culture-bound syndromes” and that individuals from non-Western societies have some immunity against such disorders. Conventional wisdom dictates that it is acculturation, i.e., the influence of, adoption of, and overidentification with Western values and cultures, that has led to the rise of eating disorders in the non-Western world. In the present study, 1,359 of the respondents had lived in a Western country for over 6 months. This serves to elucidate the effect of unrealistic Western ideals that promote thinness and body image comparisons [1, 3, 6], especially when it comes to the social practice of modesty. A clash between a traditional culture and adopted culture may heighten the risk for eating and body image disturbances in susceptible individuals. The studies, either conducted on Arab populations in Western countries or in Middle Eastern countries, which follow traditional values in terms of modest dressing, have shown either similar or relatively few differences in eating pathology results.
Nobakht and Dezhkam  suggested that the prevalence of eating disorders among female adolescents in Tehran is comparable to prevalence rates reported by studies in Western societies. In addition, Gargari et al.  found that disordered eating attitudes are just as prevalent among Iranian females. He also found that high social physique anxiety and low self-esteem accompany eating disorders. Ford et al.  replicated a study conducted on a Western (i.e., American) population in Egypt; both populations yielded similar results. In fact, the study showed a strong preference for thinness in Arab cultures. Ford et al.  recommended that future research be conducted to determine the role of Arab culture in encouraging disordered eating.
Religious affiliation and gender are two additional variables whose importance has been questioned in relation to eating attitudes. In their investigation of Asian and Caucasian adolescents, Ahmad et al.  concluded that Muslim adolescents have eating patterns that are congruent with characteristics of eating disorders. The study showed unhealthy eating attitudes and behaviors and high levels of body satisfaction. The eating attitudes of Muslim adolescent males were particularly poor relative to those of adolescent males of other faiths.
The tenets of the objectification theory were tested by examining the role the veil played in the relationship between body image and eating disorder symptoms. Tolaymat and Moradi  found, in a sample of 118 Muslim women in the US, that different forms of veiling were negatively related to reports of sexual objectification. In addition, sexual objectification experiences showed a significant positive, indirect, relationship with body surveillance, body shame, and eating disorder symptoms. These relationships are mediated by internalization. Furthermore, internalization of cultural standards of beauty also had a significant positive relationship with eating disorders.
A meditational model of disordered eating, derived from Fredrickson and Roberts’  objectification theory, was tested by Noll and Fredrickson . This study focused on one aspect of objectification theory, the proposition that self-objectification increases women’s experiences of body shame. This in turn may contribute to an increased risk for disordered eating. The study is in agreement with the claims by Fredrickson and Roberts . A culture’s practices of female sexual objectification can have profound negative effects on a woman’s sense of self, her emotional experiences, and the risk of developing a psychological disorder. Although conducted independently, the study by McKinley and Hyde  offers an indirect explanation for the relationship between self-objectification, body shame, and disordered eating that was previously explained by the objectification theory. In studies conducted by Dakanalis et al. [15, 16], it was found that self-objectification was the biggest contributing factor towards eating disorders amongst young women, over other variables such as ideal internalization, body dissatisfaction, dieting, and negative affectivity. Sinclair  investigated the relationship between objectification experiences, sociocultural attitudes towards appearance, and objectified body consciousness. Results indicated that there is a significant positive relationship between sociocultural attitudes towards appearance and two of the components of the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (OBC), i.e., body surveillance and body shame. There was a significant negative relationship between sociocultural attitudes towards appearance and appearance control beliefs. Dakanalis et al.  reported the same in another study, which explains how cultural values negatively impact adolescents’ perceptions and behaviors concerning their body and the complexities of disordered eating.
This study examines the hypotheses that women who wear the Islamic veil do not experience objectification by others, self-objectification, and eating disturbances. It also tests the hypothesis that there is a relationship between modesty of clothing and 3 other variables, namely objectification by others, self-objectification, and eating disorders.