Archive for the 'objectification' Category

17
Nov
14

the right to be you

the right to be youI have been on a hiatus of sorts.  It’s not because I haven’t had any thoughts, concerns or opinions about life.  I guess I just found myself coming up against the same roadblocks, questioning the source, perhaps a common one, of these consistent struggles.

Just the other night I was out with a beautiful artist.  I have seen her work many times and she is a kind-hearted, loving individual.  Yet I hear her say the very words which plague my own heart: can I do it?  Do I have any talent?  Am I beautiful?  I know the answer to all of these questions, but when we are alone with ourselves, we tend to create a comparison which always leaves us feeling less than.  Our society, especially American society, thrives on doing and results.  The expectations placed on us, especially women, make it almost impossible to find satisfaction and pride in oneself.

Society tells women that they must achieve an idyllic beauty which requires youth.  Obviously, this is impossible as we all age, but because so many others strive to reach this imposed rule, we do everything in our power to fulfill it.  Countless, beautiful, brilliant women of all ages with whom I’ve had the pleasure to know, have shared their fear of aging and remaining physically attractive.  The constant fear of gaining even a few pounds or showing signs of a wrinkle plagues their existence.

Then there’s the expectation that women should have it all; if they don’t have both a successful career and children, they disappoint someone.  Many women work hard to obtain an education and use it to compete in an unequal marketplace which not only expects them to give as much, but for less compensation.  Simultaneously, society also places pressure on women to have children whilst making it virtually impossible to maintain the same level of job performance.  Meanwhile, if they do give attention to their work, they may feel guilt or anxiety over their parental role.

As a result, society continues to place women in positions which inevitably cause them to seemingly fall short of its expectations in one area or another.  Personally, I’m tired of never feeling like enough.  No matter how much personal fulfillment I may find apart from society, as soon as I step off my island, I am reminded of my failures.

So how do we break this pattern?  How do we defy these expectations and create ones which build us up rather than tear each other down?  It is hard to walk this path against the grain alone and I don’t believe we are meant to go it alone.  Life is short.  Can we come together and simply claim the right to be ourselves?

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30
Apr
14

double edged sword of sexuality

double edged sword of sexualityAre women sexual beings without men?

Women’s sexuality has been a source of war and peace (not to sound cliché).  At one moment a man finds comfort in a woman’s body and in another he abuses it.  A woman’s sexuality seems to be something that for centuries has been taboo; perhaps too dangerous to be out in the open like a man’s accepted, “natural” sexuality.  After all, women aren’t sexual beings unless men make them that way, right?

Within one day, I witnessed two perfect examples of our current patriarchal culture’s view on women’s sexuality.  In one class, we watched videos of various performance artists who do work that is very counterculture.  One man performed naked while literally creating art with his own blood.  But that wasn’t what was shocking to society.  What really got people in an uproar was a woman performing naked.  This was an abomination.  The same artist made some recordings which were sexually explicit and were also deemed extremely offensive (while rap artists have been sharing their highly sexual and violent songs for decades).  All I could think of is the contrast between the two; because one was a man it was acceptable and viewed as serious art while the woman was condemned, considered hypersexual and irresponsible.

Upon leaving class I overheard a group of girls talking in the hallway.  One of them said that she was thinking of bringing a man at her work up on sexual harassment charges.  Her friends seemed shocked by this until she shared the absolutely lewd comments made in her presence, commenting on her body with another coworker.  My thought was to ask what kind of work environment was this that made this male feel that it was acceptable to speak that way?

Women’s sexuality is a double edged sword.  We do not have the same freedoms as men to celebrate and embrace our sexuality without condemnation, but we also fight against man’s objectification of us as purely sexual objects.  So how do we navigate this injustice and redefine our sexuality outside the patriarchal society?  Or are we satisfied with remaining merely objects?

06
Apr
14

merely objects

dolce-and-gabbana-ss-2014-womens-advertising-campaign-04-zoomAre women merely objects?

A woman’s body: the source of life, love and beauty.   As such, it is a resource to be protected, coveted and desired.  Unfortunately, as a result, man has objectified women.  Women are defined as objects to be obtained and utilized for man’s pleasure.  I came across this current ad for Dolce & Gabbana in a Cosmopolitan magazine which provides some pretty stark evidence to support this reality (later found on the internet)- yes I confess I was paging through it while getting my hair cut and was shocked.  The Dolce & Gabbana advertisement depicts women as sexual objects; nurtured by and for sale to men.

I mean the two primary women pictured in this advertisement are dressed and posed as mere objects for the men to gape at.  On the left side of the photo, a woman, scantily clad, wears a spring themed outfit, representing nature.  The print of her suit is strategically placed as the stem of the flowering plant appears to be growing from her genitals; signaling her ability as a woman to bear fruit.  This could be a sign of power but for the men to her left, who fertilize and feed her with the bread of life in the most convenient form of a phallus which she heartily consumes.

To the extreme right of the ad, is a woman wearing gold coins.  The meaning of this could not be more clear as this woman epitomizes objectification by becoming a product that can be bought.  Her value lies in her body, not her intellect or spirit.  Instead, her position implies that she is thrilled to serve men in this way as her hand anticipates grabbing the phallus of the pelvic thrusting man close beside her.  Both of these women’s bodies are being used as objects to display clothing to other women in order to help them attract men, perpetuating the cycle.

Okay.  Some may say I’m bending things out of proportion, after all is just an ad for clothes, right?  But then why depict women in a way that dehumanizes them?  As long as women’s bodies are used to propagate the patriarchal belief that women are objects, they will be controlled by men.  If women have as much power as men seem to fear we do, then we also have the power to break the cycle.  Perhaps we should stop trading our freedom for attention and simply redefine ourselves as human beings; equal and whole.

 

 

28
Jan
14

inner beauty before outer?

inner before outer beautyCan a person see someone’s inner beauty without first being attracted to their outer beauty?

Today on the way to school I heard the radio announcer mention the name of the piece of the previous song played.  I listen to a classical station while I drive; it really keeps down the stress in freeway traffic.  Anyway, the piece was from Cinderella.  What followed was the announcer’s comment on the Cinderella story.  He said, “Cinderella, who had to dress up in order for the prince to see her inner beauty.”

Busted!  And there is the hole in that fairy tale.  Granted, the prince did not reject Cinderella after he found that she was poor, but he had already seen her decked out, so it didn’t matter.  What if he would have met her before the ball?  Would he have even noticed her then?

Everyone preaches inner beauty but do they practice it?  Do we even really believe that anymore in our society today where outer beauty is so strongly stressed?  I can’t help but wonder if there will ever be anyway for human beings to see beyond our outer layer to the mind, heart and experience of another person.  We’re all in the same boat after all; with time that “beauty” will fade.  So why spend so much time obsessing about it now?

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy going shopping and getting dressed up, it makes me feel good about myself.  Why?  The best reason is that I want my outside to reflect how I feel on the inside – but that’s not completely true.  If that were the case, then when I feel crappy inside, I wouldn’t dress us in hopes of making my insides feel better.  This just goes to show that we do have an inseparable relationship with our body.  We need to care for it or it will let us down and vice versa.

So where is the balance?  Are women destined to live their lives as Cinderella:  forever dressing up and going out to the bar, I mean ball, waiting for her prince charming to notice her?  Or do we wait and hope that in time someone will see our inner beauty without giving heed to how we present ourselves physically?  There must be some sort of middle ground, right?  What if we re-wrote the fairytale and Cinderella dressed up and went to the ball, but never met the prince, and instead found a new sense of self-worth and confidence that she decides to leave her stepmother and stepsisters and start a new animal training business – after all, she has a natural gift with them.  Hey, it could happen.

31
Dec
13

epitome of masculinity

masculinityBond, James Bond.  The epitome of masculinity.  Men love him.  Women love him.  So why doesn’t this translate into reality?

Yesterday my husband and I watched a James Bond film.  Today we had a discussion about the representation of masculinity in the media and entertainment.  Men are taught and trained to how to be a man’s man.  James Bond sets a prime example.  As a result, men learn to be cold-hearted, emotionless, calculating creatures who view women as objects of pleasure.  And we wonder why there is gender confusion and conflict!?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, society through the years, has exaggerated what it means to be feminine.  As a result, society views women as weak, soft, illogical; out of control emotional creatures who need men to serve as sources of security and protection.  Why do we persist on distancing ourselves from one another by turning up the volume on our differences?

Yes, we are different.  But we are also more the same.  Couldn’t we stop obsessing and measuring masculinity and femininity and simply focus on being better, well-balanced human beings?  I mean, isn’t that enough of a challenge?  Until we end our promotion of the ideal genders we’ll never be free to just be.  It’s up to us to boycott the images and ideas bombarding us and future generations with false and unrealistic expectations.

The irony is that in many stories the men who are emotional and sensitive end up dying as a result or lose out in one way or another.  Meanwhile, the tough and cool James Bond lives on to see another day.  But what kind of existence is that?  Sure he lives on to fight another fight, but if one feels nothing, are they really experiencing life?  Perhaps instead of defining gender by quantity we need to look at the quality of life and determine what really matters.

In the end, what will mean the most?  Living the best life as a human being or fulfilling society’s definition of masculinity?

 

22
Dec
13

a happy girl is a pretty girl

a happy girl is a pretty girlEver come across something so shocking that you just can’t even wrap your mind around it?  That’s what happened to me a few days ago when shopping for a gift for a new friend.

I started at a Hallmark store, figuring that they would be the most likely place I’d find just the right something for this occasion.  It was to say goodbye to a foreign exchange student I’d just met this semester.  So I looked in the area of more inspirational gifts for women.  And this is where I found it.  The plaque which said, “A happy girl is a pretty girl.”

Okay, did we just go into a time warp?  “What?!,” I said perhaps a little too loud in the store.  I quickly hauled my butt outta there because there was no way I was giving my money to someone who sold something like that –and as a gift to give to some poor girl!  What does that even mean?

How can we make sense of this phrase?  Is there any positive way of receiving a phrase or gift such as that?  I mean, here are the translations I came up with:

A happy girl is a pretty girl            =             You are pretty only because you are happy

Be happy otherwise you won’t be seen as pretty

If you’re not happy you are ugly

Being pretty is very important, so even if you are not happy, act happy so that you have a shot at being happy                                                                                      because you can’t be happy if you’re not pretty

Ok, so maybe I embellished on the last interpretation a bit.  But really?  I mean, is this the message we’re still sending to girls and women?  If that is the case, we are in big trouble because we have been thrown back to the Cold war era and we’re still recovering from the damage of that time period.

It just scares me when I see things like this which seem all harmless – hand painted, with pink and purple flowers surrounding it, being sold in a reputable gift shop next to a miniature of Jesus Christ.  But these are the messages that sink deep into a girl’s heart, form and shape her and are never forgotten.

So what other messages are we sending to each other and have even been embedded in our own hearts and minds which we need to replace with the truth?

07
Dec
13

reclamation

reclamationWhy are we so obsessed with body image?  It doesn’t represent us, who we really are.  After all we don’t get to choose our bodies, mother nature does that for us.

There are men and women out there having dangerous surgeries or performing damaging self-treatments in order to obtain the “perfect body.”  In Korea and China painful leg-lengthening surgery, calf muscle removal and eye-lid surgeries are common.  In America breast implants, liposuction, facelifts, nose jobs, botox, chin implants, the list goes on and on.  All over the world women and men seek to alter their bodies so they reflect who?  Themselves?  Or some made up person airbrushed by an artist?

At the same time, there are men and women who are punishing their bodies with drugs, purging and self-mutilation because they don’t live up to that “perfect ideal body.”  Depression, self-deprivation and anxiety permeate the lives of people daily because of size, height, weight, color.  Will we ever be satisfied?  Will society ever accept nature?

We all conform in some way whether we’re aware of it or not.  The products we buy, where we live, the careers paths we choose –  most are strategically presented to us in order to  assimilate.  At the same time, ironically, it’s in fashion to be different.  We all want to be unique individuals and yet we are a society which does not celebrate those that do not look, speak or behave “normal.”

So how and when do we break free?  Maybe if we reclaim our bodies we’ll reclaim true selves.