Do Women Buy Into Objectification?
By Jack Smith
Why do some women buy into our objectifying culture?
I wondered about that one day when my women’s studies instructor asked this question:
A feminist friend of mine has a daughter who wants to wear short shorts that show her butt cheeks. Her mom doesn’t like it because she feels that it objectifies her. But her daughter says she’s a feminist and feels women should be able to choose to do whatever they want.
What do you all think about this?
Here’s what I think: While this young woman probably truly believed what she was saying, I can see things from another perspective. Which may or may not agree with her. It depends.
First and foremost, I want to say that when it comes to objectification, I place no blame on any individual woman or man. When dealing with societal problems, it is useless to blame individuals.
But when women are objectified, so much that’s wonderful about them is missed. Whether it’s men looking at women or women looking at themselves in one-dimensional ways. That one-dimensionality is a problem.
But our society bombards young women with messages that they should objectify themselves. The images act as role models. After all, the women in them are called “models.”
It all gets unconsciously into the heads of both women and men. That’s why I blame society and not the individuals who internalize it.
And saying you do it for yourself, and that it makes you feel good, may be more evidence of conformity to other’s expectations — if their approval is what makes you feel good.
The idea that people have choice in those situations can be a damaging myth, depending on the motivation and how self-aware they are. If the choice is either to make yourself a sex object, or be considered to have less worth by your peers, it’s not a real choice.
Does that mean girls should be shunned or shamed for wearing miniskirts? Of course not. Does it mean that in an egalitarian society miniskirts would cease to exist? Of course not! In an egalitarian society women could theoretically walk around naked and not be considered sex objects. There is nothing inherently wrong with revealing clothing.
There’s nothing wrong with looking sexy and enjoying sexuality. Or wearing short shorts. And some women might actually be fighting society’s expectations by wearing them. The question is what is happening here? What’s the motivation?
If society tells you what you are supposed to do and you “choose” to follow that message, it cannot be considered activism of any kind.
Fortunately, if you become aware of this problem, you are more likely to have a real choice, instead of unconsciously conforming to a cultural message.
If the young woman is self-aware and not blindly led by a society that says a woman’s worth lies in a sexy appearance, but is instead expressing her freedom to dress however she wants, then yes, it is a feminist choice.
Even if the world doesn’t change, you can at least think for yourself and influence the people around you to care less about ideals that are damaging to both genders.
This was written by one of my students who gave permission to post it under a pseudonym.
Posted on February 5, 2014, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, women and tagged body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, short shorts, women. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.