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Young Swedish women's conformity to feminine norms - the importance of 'natural' beauty

Authors Johanna Kling
Kristina Holmqvist Gattario
Ann Frisén
Published in Appearance Matters 6, 1-2 July 2014, Bristol
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords body image, appearance, feminine norms
Subject categories Psychology


Background. Gender role norms are important in that they influence identity development (Bem, 1981). Further, conformity to feminine norms, especially beauty norms, has been associated with both body dissatisfaction and eating disorders (Mahalik et al., 2005). Aim. To find out to what extent young women in Sweden conform to feminine norms, and how they experience these norms. Methods. A community sample of 330, 21-year old, women completed the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory (CFNI-45, Parent & Moradi, 2011). In addition, four focus groups with women (aged 19-23) were held. Results. Compared to a US sample of young women (Parent & Moradi, 2011) the Swedish women generally conformed less to feminine norms, but more to the norm ‘Invest in appearance’. Results from the focus groups showed that norms regarding thinness and appearance were the most important to conform to, since thin and beautiful women were considered feminine regardless of their degree of conformity to other norms. Also, the participants experienced pressure to conform to norms of beauty and at the same time maintaining an image as nonconforming (for instance by eating anything in public, but nothing when alone). Discussion. Young Swedish women conform to feminine norms, and find beauty norms to be the most prominent. Further, it seems that young Swedish women, while living in a society with a strong gender equity discourse, experience a double burden of having to conform to feminine norms of beauty and to do it in secret.

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