The Sexualization of Appalachian Women

While we have made improvements from years past, gender inequality is rampant in our society as is indicated by the gender pay gap, rape culture, and the denial of sexual abuse survivors. How, then, are women expected to behave, and what consequences do these expectations hold? The purpose of this paper is to explore the contradiction of the simultaneous oversexualization and desexualization of women in Appalachia. How are these messages created and disseminated? Furthermore, how do women internalize and grapple with these messages in their own gender expression? This paper uses a qualitative meta-analysis approach, combining evidence from multiple scholarly articles to describe and deconstruct this contradiction and analyze how popular media has contributed to and perpetuates the negative stereotypes with which Appalachian women contend. Findings suggest that women in Appalachia encounter a form of gendered stereotyping that is unique to their region. In their youth, they are often characterized as daft, scantily clad, busty blondes that only serve as sexual stimulation for their male counterparts. As they age, women are faced with the common “barefoot and pregnant” stereotype, and later, they lose their sexuality completely. These labels can have lifelong effects.