Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 5/6, March 2005 (
When Gender Differences Surpass Cultural Differences
in Personal Satisfaction with Body Shape
in Israeli College Students
Marilyn P. Saﬁr,
and Amir Rosenmann
This study was designed to examine inﬂuences of gender and cultural background on partic-
ipants’ satisfaction with body-shape. Participants were Jewish and Arab university students
(104 men and 96 women), who completed the Figure Rating Scale (Fallon & Rozin, 1985).
Discrepancy between current and ideal ﬁgures was used to measure body satisfaction. As in
the U.S., women, in comparison with men, were signiﬁcantly less satisﬁed with their bodies.
They exaggerated the magnitude of thinness that they thought men desire. In contrast with
U.S. ﬁndings, there were women as well as men, who indicated dissatisfaction with their bod-
ies because they thought they were too thin. Contrary to our predictions, cultural background
did not inﬂuence body satisfaction. However, gender and age produced signiﬁcant differences
KEY WORDS: gender difference; cultural differences; body image; Israel.
How we perceive and experience our bodies is
a signiﬁcant component of the way we relate to our-
selves (Hutchinson, 1994; Mahler & McDevitt, 1982).
A central component of personal self-evaluation and
self-acceptance is a person’s satisfaction (or dissat-
isfaction) with his/her body. Body image is a com-
plex set of perceptions of and attitudes toward size,
shape, aesthetics, and experience of one’s body (Cash
& Pruzinsky, 1990; Thompson, 1996). Body image is
a subjective concept, produced by inter- and intra-
personal dynamics, and is not to be confused with the
actual physical body or with an outsider’s impression
of it (Cash & Pruzinsky, 1990; Hutchinson, 1994).
Research has demonstrated that dissatisfac-
tion with one’s physical appearance is widespread
in many Western societies (Wood, Becker, &
Thompson, 1996). Cash, Winstead, and Janda (1986)
measured the extent of dissatisfaction with different
aspects of appearance. In their investigation, weight-
related concerns were found to be substantial and a
Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department
of Psychology, University of Haifa, Haifa, 31905, Israel; e-mail:
potential source of dissatisfaction. Other studies have
established that being overweight or obese is highly
stigmatized in many Western societies (Cash, 1990;
Crandall, 1994; Rothblum, 1994). The widespread
negative stereotyping of the obese (as lazy, lacking
self-discipline, less attractive) begins early in child-
hood, and is harsher toward overweight women than
toward overweight men (Tiggemann & Rothblum,
1988; Tiggemann & Wilson-Barrett, 1998).
How individuals classify their weight has a
strong bearing on their attitudes toward their bod-
ies, their eating behavior, and their psychosocial well-
being (Cash & Hicks, 1990). Dissatisfaction with
one’s body was also found to be connected with at-
tempts to control eating behaviors (Cash & Deagle,
1997; Thompson, 1996). In clinical as well as non-
clinical populations, negative attitudes are highly
correlated with dieting behaviors. Cash and col-
leagues’ (1986) Body Image Survey revealed that
55% of women and 41% of men expressed dissatis-
faction with their body weight. A striking difference
was that men were equally divided in their weight-
related dissatisfactions between those who thought
that they were too heavy and those who thought that
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.