OBJECT(IFICATION) LESSON

Feminist “journalist” Jane Gilmore provides “analysis” for Fairfax’s Lifestyle section (Daily Life).

In another example of academic research proving something we already know, psychologists from Melbourne University and Sydney University recently ran an experiment showing men are more likely to become aggressive towards women who reject them if the women are sexually objectified.

No Jane, “we” do not know that sexual objectification is anything other than a theoretical feminist construct. (It would be helpful if the link you provided actually worked.)

Sexual desire and sexual objectification are two very different things. Desire is a feeling someone has for a specific person, they are humanised more, not less, by being desired. Objectification is the opposite, it dehumanises. 

No Jane, desire for a specific person does not necessarily humanise the desired person.

An objectified woman is nothing but a collection of body parts, interchangeable with any other objectified woman. She exists only to provide gratification to the man gazing at her.

No Jane, I value Sabine Schmitz solely as a superb driving talent and derive no sexual gratification whatsoever from watching her in action.

Both men and women feel less empathy for sexually objectified women. They are perceived as less moral. People are less concerned if they are harmed, less likely to report violence done to them, and more likely to blame them for that violence if it occurs.

No Jane, there is no empirically sound evidence that “both men and women feel less empathy for sexually objectified women.”

Research (and common sense) says women sexualise themselves for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to attract attention from men, but they are equally likely to do it just because it’s fun or it makes them feel good about themselves.

 No Jane, both males and females sexualise themselves to attract attention.
Taking ownership of sexuality can also be a powerful feeling, it’s something women can choose for themselves rather than have it imposed upon them. Other women say they do it because they feel pressured to look sexy.
No Jane, females are not pathetic creatures who allow males to impose upon them.
While women play with expressing sexiness for a variety of reasons, most men respond to sexual women the same way: they assume (wrongly) that any woman displaying sexuality is available for sex. 
No Jane, women express sexiness so as advertise their availability for sex, with the right man.
According to the research, “because sexualised women are presumed to be more interested in having sex, rejection by a sexualised woman constitutes a greater ego threat than rejection by a non-sexualised woman”.
Jane finally gets it right, sort of: male primates do respond to female displays of sexual receptivity. The male response is primarily biological.
The combination of damage to the ego and a dehumanised woman makes aggression much more likely. An objectified woman is a thing and sex with her is an entitlement she has no right to deny to a man who claims it. Men will react aggressively and sometimes violently to objectified women who reject them.
Yes indeed, a male might well become aggressive when rejected by a female who blatantly flaunts sexually suggestive behaviour. Again, this has more to do with biology (arousal) than with a male sense of entitlement.

Jean Kilbourne, writing for MediaLit, says, “Advertising is an over 100 billion dollar a year industry and affects all of us throughout our lives. We are each exposed to over 2000 ads a day, constituting perhaps the most powerful educational force in society.”

No Jane, because I use Adblocker, I see very few adverts.

Research from the Geena Davis Institute shows a distinct difference in how men and women are depicted in those 2000 images. Men are significantly more likely to demonstrate intelligence, have a job, be funny and be older than twenty. Women are six times more likely than men to be shown in sexually revealing clothing.

It is a compliment to females that the internet, equally available to males and females, shows a preference for the female form.

I live in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. The tram ride to the CBD takes about half an hour. Late last year I spent a week counting every sexualised image of women I could see from my seat on the tram. I couldn’t get below 100 images on any single half hour journey. I’ve been catching that tram for 20 years and until that week I’d barely noticed those images, let alone how pervasive they are. The things we don’t notice are far more dangerous than the things we do.

There is nothing wrong with extolling female beauty in hundreds of images you’d “barely noticed”. Feminist Wendy McElroy summarises nicely:

The assumed degradation is often linked to the ‘objectification’ of women: that is, porn converts them into sexual objects. What does this mean? If taken literally, it means nothing because objects don’t have sexuality; only beings do. But to say that porn portrays women as ‘sexual beings’ makes for poor rhetoric. Usually, the term ‘sex objects’ means showing women as ‘body parts’, reducing them to physical objects. What is wrong with this? Women are as much their bodies as they are their minds or souls. No one gets upset if you present women as ‘brains’ or as ‘spiritual beings’. If I concentrated on a woman’s sense of humor to the exclusion of her other characteristics, is this degrading? Why is it degrading to focus on her sexuality? 

Back to Jane:

It’s impossible to measure the effect of ubiquitous objectification because there’s no way of finding a control group of men who have never been exposed to it, but it makes logical sense that if men react aggressively to one sexually objectified woman the overall effect must be true when women in general are objectified.

No Jane, as feminist Wendy McElroy points out, self-sexualising females are not victims:

The assumed degradation [of women] is often linked to the ‘objectification’ of women: that is, porn converts them into sexual objects. What does this mean? If taken literally, it means nothing because objects don’t have sexuality; only beings do. But to say that porn portrays women as ‘sexual beings’ makes for poor rhetoric. Usually, the term ‘sex objects’ means showing women as ‘body parts’, reducing them to physical objects. What is wrong with this? Women are as much their bodies as they are their minds or souls. No one gets upset if you present women as ‘brains’ or as ‘spiritual beings’. If I concentrated on a woman’s sense of humor to the exclusion of her other characteristics, is this degrading? Why is it degrading to focus on her sexuality?

Yet more from Jane:

And then there are the women we don’t ever see. The invisible women. Trans women. Lesbian women. Aboriginal women. Women with disabilities. Older women. Working women. Asian women. Black women. Brown women. Women bigger than a size six and older than 22.

No Jane, Lesbians, older women, disabled women, trans women, women of colour, large women, working women and the like are highly visible online and in the real world.

The women that don’t fit the old white man’s narrative of womanhood are completely erased from public view. They’re dehumanised by not being allowed to exist. For these women, before they can have their voices heard, they have to fight to have their very existence acknowledged. The debilitating exhaustion of that is unimaginable.

No Jane, old white men aren’t silencing women and don’t deny their existence.

Research that proves what we already know is necessary because it takes a feeling and makes it fact.

No Jane, the research you cite tells us exactly nothing.

Feminists are not decrying objectifying images of women because they are the hairy fun police hating on joy and freedom. They do it because these images make women less human and men more dangerous. And if we can’t stop it we can at least notice.

Feminists argue that scantily clad females are not placing themselves in danger yet maintain that advertising images are an existential threat. Weird, ain’t it?

One thought on “OBJECT(IFICATION) LESSON

  1. “…old white men aren’t silencing women and don’t deny their existence.”

    It’s usually other women who exclude the ‘sisters’ who don’t ‘fit’ their bitchy little cliques, not men. Women are their own worst enemies, but it’s convenient to blame men.

    Like

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