Stop Objectifying Yourself: 4 Daily Rituals

Freedom to do what we want to.2Sexual objectification hurts women.

Women who see themselves as primarily objects of desire for others have higher levels of body shame, clinical depressioneating disorders and experience higher levels of sexual dysfunction. They also have lower levels of self-worth and life satisfactioncognitive functioningmotor functioningaccess to leadership and political efficacy. And they waste a lot of time primping. As they age they lose even more value in their own eyes.

Men who objectify also dehumanize women and believe they are less competent and less worthy of empathy. So no surprise that objectifiers are more tolerant of sexual harassment and rape myths.

So says Occidental College professor, Caroline Heldman.

In the post below, originally published in Ms., Dr. Heldman suggests daily rituals that interrupt harmful objectifying scripts. (This is the last of a four-part series. See Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.)

Sexual Objectification 4: Daily Rituals to Start

By Caroline Heldman

1) Start enjoying your body as a physical instrument. Girls are raised to view their bodies as a project they have to constantly work on and perfect for the adoration of others, while boys are raised to think of their bodies as tools to master their surroundings. Women need to flip the script and enjoy our bodies as the physical marvels they are. We should be thinking of our bodies as vehicles that move us through the world; as sites of physical power; as the physical extension of our being in the world. We should be climbing things, leaping over things, pushing and pulling things, shaking things, dancing frantically, even if people are looking. Daily rituals of spontaneous physical activity are a sure way of bringing about a personal paradigm shift, from viewing our bodies as objects to viewing our bodies as tools to enact our subjectivity.

Suggested activity: parkour,”the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment,” can be done any time, anywhere. I especially enjoy jumping off bike racks between classes while I’m dressed in a suit.

2) Do at least one “embarrassing” action a day. Another healthy daily ritual that reinforces the idea that we don’t exist to only please others is to purposefully do at least one action that violates “ladylike” social norms. Discuss your period in public. Swing your arms a little too much when you walk. Open doors for everyone. Offer to help men carry things. Skip a lot. Galloping also works. Get comfortable with making others uncomfortable.

Parkour-Sexual-Objectification-43) Focus on personal development that isn’t related to beauty culture. Since you’ve read Part 3 of this series and given up habitual body monitoring, body hatred and meaningless beauty rituals, you’ll have more time to develop yourself in meaningful ways. This means more time for education, reading, working out to build muscle and agility, dancing, etc. You’ll become a much more interesting person on the inside if you spend less time worrying about the outside.

4) Actively forgive yourself. A lifetime of body hatred and self-objectification is difficult to let go of, and if you find yourself falling into old habits of playing self-hating tapes, seeking male attention, or beating yourself up for not being pleasing, forgive yourself. It’s impossible to fully transcend the beauty culture game, since it’s so pervasive and part of our social DNA. When we fall into old traps, it’s important to recognize that, but then quickly move on through self forgiveness. We need all the cognitive space we can get for the next beauty culture assault on our mental health.

Originally posted in Ms., reposted with permission.
Also posted on Caroline Heldmans’ Blog.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Sexual Objectification, What is it?
Sexual Objectification, The Harm
4 Daily Rituals to Stop Objectification

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 29, 2013, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Savannah Owens

    I absolutely loved this post. It is SO important for women to realize that they are more than just sexual objects. Giving up habitual body hatred, body monitoring, and meaningless beauty rituals is extremely important to a woman’s mental health. From a young age, women are taught that the way they look is very important. We are taught that our bodies are made to attract adoration and sexual desire from others. These messages are extremely damaging to women. In high school, I objectified myself without even realizing it. I wore a full face of makeup, had my hair done, and picked out a cute outfit everyday. I also monitored my weight very closely. When I graduated high school I went through a bit of an identity crisis because after being valued on my looks for so long, I didn’t know who I was. I kind of accidentally went through Caroline Heldman’s four rituals. I started going to the gym to improve the way I felt. I started wearing funny cat shirts and taking myself less seriously. I stopped wearing makeup and doing my hair and started getting good grades at college. Finally, I forgave myself for not being perfect. All I can say is that I am loads happier now than I ever was in high school. When I stopped sexually objectifying myself, I was free.

  2. What an awesome blog! I like number 1 and 2.

    When im at school, i do calf raises with each step as i’m climbing that huge flight of stairs and sometimes people who were behind me looked at me weird and i just kind of laughed to myself. I go back and forth from not caring what people think of me to questioning myself if I am just too weird. Some days i dont care and some days i tell myself to stop and just be boring like everyone else.

    For number 2, there was this one time where i was telling my friend i met at school about my bathroom routine and how i poop. I told him about how i like to fold the toilet napkin a special way, and how i poop, and which types of poop i hated the most and it was hilarious. But the even more funnier thing was that he said, “no way dao, i dont believe you. Girls don’t poop.” and i was like, are you crazy?? girls poop! well i dont know what kind of girls you talk to or hang out with but I for sure poop. I poop everyday. And he had this disgusted look on his face and im just laughing at him. Im sure not a lot of ladies would talk about their bathroom stories, but i didnt mind. i think it’s funny. Females poop!

  3. Sarah Lau Y. G

    I like these! I agree that I spend so much time making my body look pleasant to others. I think its time for me to care less about how people think about my body and be my own self. About the second rule, I think it’s funny in the first place. It makes me realize how important this rule is when I think about converntional thinking. It gives women practice to think outside the box so that they don’t have to act out their gender role.

  4. Juan Leonardo

    Somehow I see these 4 rituals as: “try to act like a man.” I actually believe that this will increase women’s confidence and higher their self esteem. It is true that even until nowadays in this modern society, women are still being objectified rather than men. I just went to another class lately that was discussing about gender inequalities and offenses towards females. Many advertisements uses violences towards females bodies. This is one example: http://static2.businessinsider.com/image/5193e94e69bedd4f49000000-960/dolce-gabbana-gang-rape-ad.jpg. I feel sorry for women who feel objectified. But what I want to say to them is to stay confident and know their own beauty. The first ritual will work the best since it makes women feel stronger and more independent, thus making them more confident. I am not sure about the second ritual about doing one embarrassing thing a day because that may actually break their confidence. But overall, these four rituals are perfect to stop objectifying themselves.

  5. So often we can see girls turn their heads and glimpse themselves in the mirror when they pass by one, even if they do nothing to adjust their appearance (smoothing down the slightly tumbled hair, make sure the makeup does not crease, or to please themselves only). Such behaviors are much less likely to be observed among men. But most girls act this way even without noticing it: they notice a mirror, they pass it, they turn and glance then keep walking. It seems so natural that females are supposed to continuously beatify their appearance. Constant pursuit of beauty weakens female cognitive ability. The post is meaningful because it encourages girls to behave in a direction opposite to the major trends. However, it will definitely have a hard time since it is always easier to follow the social stereotype than break the “rule”, the culture and the society encourage women to be dependent.

  6. I love all these rituals! I actually find myself doing most of these things daily. I think number 3 and 4 are very important because focusing on your personal develop rather than beauty gives you more advantage than just a pretty face and forgiving yourself makes you a happier person than someone who continuously self-loathes themselves creating a bad energy for others. I agree with igomez008 that when I was younger, I didn’t really care about following a trend or how cool something was. I’ve always been that type to just have simple things and enjoy them. As I got older in high school I noticed and hear about people worrying about their hair, look, clothes, and needing to fit in. I can’t imagine what it would be like in the future. I also agree with igomez008 that reflection on self character, morals, and ideas is very important! It makes you who you are whereas clothes, hair, and etc. doesn’t.

  7. I completely understand how this post would help women, the younger generation generally speaking, to realize their self worth by choosing to neglect “beauty standards” as their guide or role-model. I always wished they could view the world and themselves in a less sexually objective way and more empowered! It was always confusing to me growing up. From a teen and into young adulthood I never dubbed it necessary to follow a stereotype. In high school I could care less what the trend was or how cool it was to look like the girl in the magazine. A pair of jeans and some clean Nike’s….. that’s about all i needed to be happy. The simple things. I didn’t care about being with the in-crowd even though I knew most of them. I stuck to my gut and represented myself as nobly as possible. I wasn’t worried about nails and hair dye but rather what I had to do to humble myself more. Nowadays it seems so different. I cant even imagine what our future entails. Anyway, i think the point I was trying to make is that sometimes I wish the world would be more strong-willed so we could worry about more meaningful things rather than body image and social worth. The world would be in a better place. We should be a reflection of our character, morals and ideas and not a representation based simply on our body image.

  8. It wasn’t until reading this post that I was able to realize how far I myself have come in this battle against internalized misogyny, and how much work it requires. Woman grow up not understanding how much of their self disdain is coming from a patriarchal society, and while that in itself may be one of the most obvious statements of the century, we often forget how hard it is to actually acknowledge, accept, and furthermore undo our ways of thinking. While I truly believe all four of these rituals are fundamental to a healthy self image and body love, I particularly think 2 and 4 are phenomenal, and perhaps the most representative of the tools I have used in my own journey. While I don’t believe that ’embarrass’ is the most motivational term for breaking gender norms, I think the idea is great. Notice what you are doing that is a gender restrictive act, even if its as simple as how you sit. The point is to start doing what is comfortable and what you want to regardless of how it fits in the ‘female role’. And more importantly , forgive yourself. That is my favorite. When overcoming such internalized thought patterns, it is so important to remember that you dont have to make everyday a battleground. If taking baby steps is all you can handle, don’t cause yourself unneeded guilt. Those baby steps are still big strides and you should be proud of how far you’ve come, and if you have an ‘off’ day, so what! I truly believe this is a positive practice for all people, and only good can come of it!

  9. As much as we would like to think or do to not care about what others think of ourselves, we still sometimes find ourselves falling back into old habits. I like the point this article makes as seeing our bodies as tools not objects, the human body is a beautiful comlplex part of us and is incredible how much we can do with it with proper maintnence. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so as long as you know your are eating right, exercising and watching what else goes into our bodies, we shouldnt really care what other think of us. I feel and know that those four steps arent only for women, men too feel the cultural pressures of ¨looking good¨and being lookd upon in a good manner. It isnt hard having the ÏDGAF¨mentality but you have to know when to care and when not to. Expand your knowledge, learning new skills are someways somebody can take their mind of physical beauty which is what the media advetisement because they make money of the people trying to be ¨beautiful¨, where most of the time its photoshopped beauty.

  10. Gilbert Nguyen

    I think this is a great blog post for women and girls who feel dehumanized in life. I think these four daily rituals could help boost a women or girl’s self-esteem and make them feel more human. They would feel more satisfied with life and more self-worth. Even though I am not a woman, I find it nice to see women doing something to boost their morale. It’s nice to see people not work on how to make themselves look better and instead find a way to make themselves feel like they are worth more than something other than appearance.

  11. While I do really value the presence of regular mental and physical activity (and so I think the application of suggestion 3 is a good idea in general), I don’t understand why “beauty” and “personality” are so often placed in opposing categories when we discuss body image. It seems like many people today try to advocate a rejection of beauty culture- and while I can see how being less obsessive and fault-fearing over your body can help self esteem when this rejection is practiced, I think many of these advocates leave out an important element to the discussion- and that is self-expression. Beauty is intertwined with creativity- for me at least. I would suggest women who are suffering with this sort of self-hate to venture more towards diversifying their appearance and to dress and make-up more to serve their own personal passions than to fit societal expectations. Maybe think back to your childhood, your favorite characters, artists, colors, time periods, etc for inspiration. Ditch style magazines in favor of defining beauty for yourself, with your own expression and creativity. Not only do you set yourself apart from the fickle, trend-following crowd, but you can value your beauty as something of your own construction while also taking ownership (hopefully) of any body quirks that used to cause you fear and stress.

    I think this might be important for young women and teenagers especially^.

  12. Stop Objectifying Yourself
    I absolutely love this post! I’ve just promised myself to work on number’s 3&4. I will make it a point every day to focus on something that is not beauty related. I’ m going to take back myself and do something for me that fills me with joy like reading or listening to music that I like.

    Another point is that I must forgive myself for not being the perfect everything to everyone, if I’m not that to myself. I hadn’t realized what a tremendous hold the patriarchal society has on me. Every thought I have is based on their acceptance of me, devaluing me and pressuring me to be perfect.

    Once I started my family, it became incredibly difficult to separate myself as a person from that of wife and mom. This was a fantastic reminder that if I am to be my daughter’s role model then I must be a strong woman who does not objectify herself!

  13. Eleanor Normile

    This is a great post- girls and women can do something every day that will train them to think of their bodies as strong, amazing tools rather than as objects that need to be constantly perfected and beautified for the admiration of others. As women we’re regularly bombarded with cultural ideals of feminine beauty. From an early age we become self-conscious about our appearance and our perceived “flaws” and devote much time and money to trying to “perfect” ourselves to conform to this ideal of beauty and attractiveness.
    The more serious damage is the effect this has on our health and self-esteem,
    These four daily rituals sound like great antidotes. Doing some physical activity every day would make us appreciate our bodies for their physical strength and ability and improve our health in the process. Focusing on developing our minds and our talents rather than obsessing about our outward appearance would build self-esteem and make for a happier life. When women value themselves more highly they will demand that others treat them in a more respectful way and not as objects.

  14. I completely agree with point number 3 that we should “Focus on personal development that isn’t related to beauty culture”. Having a spectacular personality is more attractive and satisfying than being beautiful on the outside. We should indulge in various activities like reading, music, travelling etc., to brush our skills, build self-esteem, and enhance our knowledge. It is also true that we will “become a much more interesting person on the inside if you spend less time worrying about the outside”. To me, a person who can laugh at himself/herself is attractive and someone who I choose to be friends with. Doing one embarrassing action a day is a great way to stop objectifying ourselves. Feeling self -conscious and hating our bodies is a complete waste of time. We should embrace ourselves and focus on the positive side. Women should stop making themselves objects of desires just to be accepted. Intelligence and good heart lasts forever. Beauty on the other hand is mortal.

  15. It’s usually men who objectify women, but to stop objectifying ourselves is kind of a fresh idea and good tips to know. First, having high-self esteem and considering bodies as important in themselves is the best way to stop objectifying. Also having awareness of being women is effective. Nowadays women have more opportunities in society and have more power than the past. So they usually forget they are actually “women” as opposed to “people.” If they aware that they are women, and don’t need men’s help or power, they will value themselves higher and can rely on men sometimes. I believe it is the good way to stop objectfying.

  16. Love the idea of a college professor doing parkour in a suit. Have you been practicing this as well, Georgia? Would love to see dive roll on the grass in front of your classroom. 🙂

  17. I love #1 & #3 and I love that women have begun to embrace their inner child and use activity and athleticism to place pride on their powerful selves. A great example of this is some of the “fun” runs (especially in the Bay Area) that are women only. Sure- sometimes there is a mild pandering element (Kiss Me Dirty has a lipstick print and screams PINK) but these events are just as challenging as some of the co-ed runs that men run. How cool is it so see women run hard, help each other over obstacles and sweat in the name of play!!!

    Women used to be thought of as the “weaker sex” and now I doubt that anyone could watch the Olympics or go to the local rock climbing gym and legitimately think that. We are a long way from great equalizers like women in combat or women as a president… but I believe that with each freeing activity you have mentioned- we get one step off a bike rack, one mud run closer to that point!

  18. I liked this post a lot. Looking back, in middle school and high school, I spent so much time feeling so self-conscious about my body and my face– I felt like I was living my life from the outside in; always watching myself and critiquing almost every aspect about my body and mannerisms. My family spent a lot of time calling me vain, but the truth is, I hated the way I looked so much it was hard to go outside. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I started developing some of these practices for myself. I’m much happier with myself now that I’ve begun to learn how to separate my self-esteem from my “desirability”. It’s still a struggle, especially in the cultural climate we’re in today, but practice does make it easier over time.

  19. For number 2, I hula hoop. This was very embarrassing thing to do since it was difficult, public and ungainly. Things get easier with practice. 😉

    • Well, sounds like a whole lot of fun to me! Enjoy!

      • Tis much fun. It was SO hard to get started. I had to let go of what people thought. It’s easy to hoop in public now. Rest areas, parking lots. I even took it in the car to a job interview to loosen up in the parking lot beforehand. (I didn’t get the job, thank goodness). 😉

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