Daily Archives: January 25, 2010

The Situation with The Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore, a reality show on MTV that experienced high ratings and a great deal of media attention, wrapped up its first season last week and the cast is already negotiating salaries for a second season. The show involved 8 roommates who worked, lived, and partied at Seaside Heights in New Jersey. And while the series was met with disapproval from advertisers and the media for a number of reasons, including excessive drinking and violence by and against cast members, one of the strongest criticisms has been the perpetuation of the Guido stereotype.

Throughout the series, the cast members frequently referred to themselves as guidos and guidettes, a term considered derogatory by many Italian-Americans. Moreover, the roommates frequently reinforced and placed a great deal of value on what are considered negative and stereotypical qualities (for instance, Snooki – who is pictured above – describes her perfect man as “Italian, dark, muscles, juice-head, guido”). While endorsement of negative in-group stereotypes may seem problematic to some, the social psychological literature can help us to understand why people might engage in this process.

Much research has shown that negative stereotypes can have detrimental effects on stigmatized individuals, including losses of self-esteem and poor test performance. However, more recent work has shown that stigmatized individuals may endorse negative in-group stereotypes in order to buffer their self-image. Specifically, rather than letting stereotypes affect the self in a negative way, stigmatized individuals may combat the damaging effects of stereotyping by justifying the existence of these labels or reframing them as something positive. This strategic behavior, while not always conscious to the individual, is thought to be a way to manage threats to self-esteem and performance.

The controversy surrounding The Jersey Shore may be somewhat deserved but as a psychologist, I can’t help but hope the series returns next year. Each episode is rich with behaviors that can be understood using personality and social psychological theory. So until next year, don’t forget The Situation and Pauly D’s advice: GTL – Gym, Tan, Laundry.

Companies Pull Ads from Jersey Shore

Italian-American Group Angered over Jersey Shore

Jost, J. T., Ledgerwood, A., & Hardin, C. D. (2008). Shared reality, system justification, and the relational basis of ideological beliefs. Social and Personality Psychology Compass

Women with hairy legs – an oxymoron?

The Daily Telegraph (and other media channels) reported that the actress Mo’Nique caused quite a stir at the Golden Globe Awards, not only for winning an award, but also for her ‘fashion faux pas’. That is, she had hairy legs. Such reactions tell us something about gendered identities and specifically about cultural notions of what is means to be a woman.

The negotiation and representation of women’s identities centre around what is called ‘emphasized femininity’ (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005). That is ‘emphasized femininity’ is a normative femininity, which is oriented to accommodating the interests and needs of men. It presents as the current most honored way of being a woman, even though most women do not enact it. However all women are required to position themselves, and are positioned by others, in relation to this ideal form (Giddens, 2009). Specific practices associated with ‘emphasized femininity’ include presenting oneself as ‘sexually attractive’ by being ‘well-groomed’. In other words, removing body hair other than on the head (and perhaps the genitalia). Those that fail to conform to this norm tend to be held accountable.

Hairy moment for Golden Globes winner

Emphasized femininity

Femininity and Feminine Values