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Women looking at, judging other women

Press Association logoPress Association 7/03/2017 By Johanna Carr, Press Association

"A woman looked at me and I felt judged" was one response given during a study on how women look at each other and the impact it can have.

Students were asked to send a text message every time they received a look from another woman or gave a look as part of a project led by Aberystwyth University.

Their messages revealed that those interactions caused feelings of doubt, discomfort and of being judged.

Dr Sarah Riley, reader in psychology at the university, is leading the study. She said the first surprise was just how much looking went on between females.

"There was the overwhelming sense that looks were judgemental and that we are living in a world where you are constantly being looked at in troubling ways," she said.

Audrie Schneller based her undergraduate project around the research and asked for the texts as a way of providing information on real-time experiences.

"When the other students discussed their experiences, it made them realise how often they looked or felt looked at in a judgemental way," Ms Schneller said.

"Even though I expected it, it's still shocking to see the pressure young women put on one another."

Dr Riley said some of the messages referred to young women feeling judged by older women, with one describing coming out of a shop and being "glared at".

Some of the messages were about admiring other women's appearance but then comparing themselves to those women, for example: "I just watched a girl walk past whilst staring at her curly hair bouncing as she walked thinking woah I wish my hair looked that good."

The messages revealed negative feelings about being looked at, with responses such as: "I was waiting in line at a bar and I made eye contact with a woman who was looking at me, then looked me up and down, this made me feel slightly awkward at the time."

But not every experience was negative with some students saying that certain looks made their day: "A couple of women have smiled as they have walked past me. I like it when people randomly smile as they walk past, it sometimes makes my day when I'm stressed."

Dr Riley said it was important to try to reduce feelings of self-doubt and assume the best.

"Looks aren't necessarily negative, they could be admiring, or simply someone lost in thought," she said.

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