Merchandising/Marketing/Retailing: Branding

Objectification of Women in Sportswear Brands’ Instagram Accounts

  • Wenzhao Mu (Indiana University - Bloomington)
  • Sharron J. Lennon (Indiana University - Bloomington)


Objectified images are spread on social media which increases the likelihood that people will compare to others and self-objectify, with potentially negative effects. One industry known for its sexually objectifying images is the women’s apparel industry and sportswear brands advertise heavily social media. An increased presence of women in social media ads means that female viewers are likely to encounter images that evoke self-objectification.

Women make up 40% of the sports population in the U.S., but receive less than 2% of television media coverage which delivers a misleading message that women are not capable of sports participation. Media presentations of women in sports are closely associated with an objectified appearance. Our research questions were: (1) To what extent are women, as compared to men, featured in sportswear brands on Instagram? and (2) What is the extent of objectification of women in sportswear brands on Instagram?

Content analysis of ads from sportswear brands’ Instagram accounts found that women were featured in these ads at a rate consistent with their sports participation, answering Research Question 1. To address Research Question 2, the number of women-only ads that were objectifying was compared to the total of ads featuring only one person. More than a third of the women-only ads were objectifying. The fact that so many ads featured an objectified image could lead female viewers to self-objectify. Self-objectification has many negative effects, which could discourage sport participation by women and girls.

How to Cite:

Mu, W. & Lennon, S. J., (2018) “Objectification of Women in Sportswear Brands’ Instagram Accounts”, International Textile and Apparel Association Annual Conference Proceedings 75(1).

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Published on
01 Jan 2018
Peer Reviewed