As our reality becomes more entwined with social media, an ever-increasing number of girls and women are engaging in self-objectification. And while gaining money, resources and agency may seem empowering, there are hidden impacts to this behavior that can have far-reaching consequences for women, girls, and our society as a whole. Today’s guest, Dr. Caroline Heldman, describes this phenomenon as ‘the sexy lie’ and outlines it in her new book The Sexy Lie: The War on Womens Bodies and How to Fight Back.

Dr. Heldman has spent the bulk of her career engaging in issues around gender and social justice. She has published seven books on gender justice and politics and is a professor of Critical Theory & Social Justice at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in numerous documentaries, including Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In. She is also the  Executive Director of The Representation Project, a political commentator for Spectrum and CNN, and co-founder of the New Orleans Womens Shelter, the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum, End Rape on Campus (EROC), Faculty Against Rape (FAR), and led the End Rape Statute of Limitations (ERSOL) that successfully abolished the time limit on prosecuting rape in California.

In today’s conversation with Caroline, we tackle the difficult topic of how women are sexually objectified, the way it’s normalized within mainstream culture, and how this makes it virtually impossible for women to achieve full value in society. Caroline provides a comprehensive breakdown of ‘the sexy lie’ and how mistaking attention for power has led to the common misconception that self-objectification is empowering before unpacking the profoundly harmful effects of objectification on girls and women. Listeners will also hear her expert insights on the role of capitalism, profit margins, and the patriarchy in women’s sexual objectification and the structural changes it will take to alter these entrenched systems of power.

Our conversation also explores the insidious impact of objectification culture in the workplace before hearing some much-needed advice on what women can do to fight back against internalizing the sexy lie and how to change society for the better. It’s no secret that our culture objectifies women, but by facing it head-on, naming it, and recognizing it for what it is, we can find new ways to ignite change and fight for better outcomes. Caroline is a deeply inspiring guest and I personally learned so much from this conversation.. Be sure to tune in to this today and share it with the men and women you know.

Key Highlights From This Episode: 

  • Introducing Dr. Caroline Heldman, her definition of “the sexy lie” is, and the harmful effect this has on girls and women.  [01:52]
  • The overlap of power, influence and impact; why women tend to shun power; and how power is regularly defined in masculine terms. [09:57]
  • How society (de)values women; the gains and setbacks over the past few decades. [12:44]
  • The appeal of self-objectification and how we mistake attention for power. [15:14]
  • An overview of society’s deeply entrenched anti-fat bias, diet culture, and the harmful misconceptions we have when it comes to weight and size. [17:15]
  • How to understand power in the context of monetizing your image, reinforcing the male gaze, and the consequences for one’s self and broader society as a whole. [19:11]
  • Sexual objectification, how it dehumanizes people, and the many harms that this causes, especially for marginalized women. [24:17]
  • The serious impact of porn and social media on younger generations and their understanding of sex. [30:07]
  • Caroline’s advice on how to navigate objectification culture: recognizing to what extent you’ve internalized the sexy lie, reframing your outlook, and changing your habits. [35:31]
  • How our culture of objectification affects women in the workplace, and the extensive work that still needs to be done when it comes to creating an equal and just society. [43:01]


For More Information:

Dr. Caroline Heldman

Dr. Caroline Heldman on YouTube

Dr. Caroline Heldman on Instagram

Dr. Caroline Heldman on X

Dr. Caroline Heldman on Facebook



Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Caroline’s latest book, The Sexy Lie: The War on Womens Bodies and How to Fight Back

Caroline’s TEDxTalk, The Sexy Lie

Learn about The Representation Project and End Rape on Campus

Check out her work in Miss Representation and The Mask You Live

Learn more about New Orleans Womens Shelter, the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum, End Rape on Campus (EROC), Faculty Against Rape (FAR)

Listen to Finding Brave Episode 248: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women with Octavia Goredema
Octavia’s book Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women

Listen to Finding Brave Episode 4: Gender, Power and Relationships: The Crushing Effects of Patriarchy with Terry Real


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“The sexy lie is the lie that being a sex object is empowering.” — @carolineheldman [0:04:35]

“We know that the more you internalize this idea that you’re supposed to be sexy for the outside world — and that your appearance is your primary form of value — the less happy you are.” — @carolineheldman [0:07:28]

“At the end of the day, women are still treated as second class citizens in fundamental ways. Especially marginalized women.” — @carolineheldman [0:13:28]

“We’re still devalued. And how do we know this? Because one in six women will experience sexual violence over the course of her lifetime. And only 1% of rapists ever see a day inside a jail cell.” — @carolineheldman [0:13:52]

“This is not about women’s sexual pleasure. This is about feeling bad about our bodies and buying more stuff because of it.” — @carolineheldman [0:27:50] 

“Little girls view their bodies as these projects to work on and constantly be improved. And little boys view their bodies as these tools to master their environment.” — @carolineheldman [0:47:59]


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Kathy’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss shares vital information on the 7 most damaging power gaps that 98% of professional women face and how to overcome them. Boost your power and confidence today!


Best Career Coaches 2020