Although feminists cry foul regarding the objectification of women, at the first sound of it most humans will immediately think of the pictures that paint red our movies, magazines, ads- be it in prints, hoarding, on TV or internet, and on the Internet itself, of women in differing stages of nudity, dolled up figurines and dished out for the hungry wolvish male gazes. Yet, while sexual objectification is a huge problem, sadly only a fraction of people realize its ill-effects on the psychology of the young and old minds.
Because of the stark difference between the ways women and men are portrayed in newspapers and other media – women are frequently reduced to the sum of their body parts, which these days are ardently Photoshopped to fit into an ever narrowing image of true beauty. When all of this starts to grab attention, there’s realization that something isn’t right. Then, it isn’t impossible to assert this sexism in action. And its right, of course.
When we talk about these issues, people overemphasize the ‘sexual’ aspect often. This can obscure the much more problematic aspect of ‘objectification’. It can be likened to an iceberg, the ever-visible tip of which is sexual objectification. The fact that people don’t understand is that being presented in a sexual way doesn’t entirely cover objectification as a whole.
So, what do I mean when I say that sexual objectification is simply the most visible part of objectification? Well, let’s start by differentiating between subject status and object status. While a subject is active, with agency, an object is passive, being acted upon. For example, when we hear, “Sara cuddled the kitten,” here we find that ‘Sara’ is subject, while ‘the kitten’ is object. In real life, we would find ourselves randomly become either subject or object at varying times, depending on the situation. However, in the male dominated society that we live in, subject and object status is heavily gendered, with men granted subject status the majority of the times, and women markedly objectified.
This is indicated to all humans right from their cradles. A study was conducted which showed that male characters in children’s books far outnumber female ones, and that even neutral animal characters are referred to as males by parents. This pattern is holds true even in kid’s TV programs, where only one-third of lead characters are girls.
Since our childhoods, we’ve been brought up listening to and learning a plethora of stories revolving around boys and men; so much so that this male-centered pattern is subconsciously stuck in our heads and thus followed throughout life. A sizable majority of films tell the stories of only men, with women cast as girlfriends, wives, or mothers, or in other peripheral roles.
Not just in the media, but even we in our everyday conversations have male pronouns dominate our speech and ideas. At first sight, every animal (unless very obvious) we see is a ‘he’, every humanly figure a ‘he’, humans thought of as simply ‘mankind’. Exceptions do exist though. Yatches, cars, bikes, etc. always seem to be ‘she’, but these should hardly excite us once we realise that they are all materialistic and prized possessions of men, mostly.
The cumulative effect of all this is that we have, generation after generation, began to see the world, and the women in it, from the point of view of men. This has had a drastic result, as only men are seen as full and complete human beings, not women. So, women are looked at like materials or things of possession or in other words ‘objectified’ – this means we are denied our full rights, and are perceived from what we are on the outside, whereas our own consciousness, our emotions and thoughts get absolutely overlooked.
Ever Imagined how its like for us to live in such dual faced society, where in one place women deities are worshipped in every corner of this part of subcontinent and yet because society tells us that women are objects, they’re literally treated like dirt in the same society?
Ever Imagined how its like for us to live in such dual faced society, where Stephen Hawking can declare women to be “a complete mystery”, and the newspapers cheerfully endorse this, making women “the greatest mystery known to man”- a common topic for men to gossip about women. But, honestly this is only because they have simply never tried, and because society has never trained them to look at life through the eyes of a woman.
Ever Imagined how its like for us to live in such dual faced society, where even good male counterparts of the society, while speaking out to discourage violence against women, tell others to imagine her as “somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife, somebody’s mother or somebody’s sister,”. Why has it never occurred to them that maybe, just maybe, a woman is also “somebody”?
It is petrifying to even consider just how deep the roots of female objectification really goes. No doubt sexual objectification must be fought away too, but the battle will not end there. Women are objectified in more sinister and profound ways than we realize, and we must tear down every entwined piece of the masochistic thought, in order to attain a simple right of being recognized and treated as equal human beings in this world.