Everyone deserves the consideration of being appreciated for all their qualities, not merely for appearances. To judge a person for physical beauty is to negate their humanity and personhood. Objectifying women is often considered the first step in a mindset toward intimidation and a disposition for violence directed to women. Reducing women to nothing more than body parts dehumanizes them and leads to a view of them as mere “decorations” and not intelligent beings with feelings or abilities.
Objectifying Women: The Myth of Gender Hierarchy
Women are not naturally objects, but become so as a consequence of gender inequality. When inequality and objectification are acted out socially, it is not perceived as harmful, just as “the way things are.” It may be “the way things have been,” but does not have to be the way they are. When women are cast as submissive by nature; it creates a “gender hierarchy” that is reinforced by society.
Women can often be their own worst enemies by falling prey to this idea that they must submit to males to preserve their femininity and avoid being perceived as sexually undesirable. This projection upon women who do not compete against one another is a way of desexualizing the female and creating the notion that she has no appeal. Thereby, it neutralizes her power (her sexuality) and renders her ineffectual. This is routinely seen in the arena of politics, where women who are confident and powerful are a great threat to the male ego.
Objectifying Women: The Perception of Submission
Women have often been cast, unfairly, in submissive roles in society. They have always been judged on a certain standard of beauty, which can vary from culture to culture. Women seem to be more valued for their looks and body image, while men are valued for their intelligence and ability to achieve wealth and power. Women receive continual reinforcement to appear more youthful. When they age or lose their figures they are no longer considered “viable.” They are not valuable to men as the representation of worth and power. Women are urged to marry successful, powerful men, not to create their own wealth and power.
The Role of Media in Objectifying Women
From the surgically induced proportions of movie stars to the steroid-infused bodies of athletes, Americans receive mixed messages from the media as to how they should present themselves. Amid a constant dialogue to “be yourself,” the idea that is communicated is that artificial and reconstructed beauty is the real norm. Statistics show that 53% of 13-year-old American females are self-conscious about their bodies; the number grows to 78% by the age of 17. It stands to reason that being bombarded with media images that represent an unattainable standard with respect to appearance would engender feelings of insecurity.
In the film “Miss Representation,” written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom of the Representation Project the media’s objectification of women is exposed and challenged. Society and the media have given women the impression that being in positions of power or influence are strictly the purview of men. Women continue to be shut out of positions of power in politics, leadership, and the media.
Pornography is, of course, the most extreme objectification of women. Instead of accepting the female body as a thing of beauty, it is portrayed as a receptacle for male lust. The further degradation of women as objects to be used for male pleasure completes the total denigration of the female as merely a vehicle for men; women are envisioned as nymphomaniacs who are in a constant state of arousal, just waiting to be satisfied by a man, any man. This is a direct attempt to depersonalize women, to portray submissiveness as the natural state of the female, to take away any sense of self and to render her powerless in denying a male anything he desires. It is ultimately a power issue, with the male feeling he has to always dominate, to objectify.
Once the objectification is successful and a man views a woman as nothing more than property, it opens the door to abuse. If men view women as beings without feelings, as dehumanized and defenseless entities, the leap to physical violence is not so great. The woman ceases to have any sense of autonomy or self-determination; she is merely a tool for the man’s purposes. He sees her as interchangeable with his other possessions, and there are no boundaries to his use of the objects he owns. He begins to view her as someone whose feelings do not need to be taken into account. If his needs are not met, there is confrontation, then violence.
Statistics on Objectifying Women
Women in the United States comprise 51% of the population, yet represent only 20% of Congressional seats. There have been only 35 female governors, compared to 2,319 men. The U.S. has never had a female president, though 71 countries throughout the world have had female leaders. Women in the U.S. still make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Young people spend an inordinate amount of time watching television, on cell phones, listening to music, and online (up to 10 hours per day by some estimates). This leads to a massive amount of exposure to image-related information and the type of information they receive is responsible for forming their perceptions of self-image, worth, and acceptance.
Objectification lowers women to the status of objects and ignores their humanity. The qualities that make people special (their dignity and “inner worth”) are negated. The constant reinforcement via magazines, TV commercials, TV show, movies, and online advertising does little to dispel the myth of women as vacuous objects. We are immersed in the devaluation of women and allowing it gives the impression that we condone it.