A while ago, I watched this interesting video. Caroline Heldman of Occidental College makes some really good points in the first part of her talk about what constitutes sexual objectification. If an ad focuses on just one sexy part of a woman’s body, for example, or implies that being sexually attractive is her most important characteristic, than it is sexual objectification. (That last one covers very nearly all advertising that has women in it!)
Ms. Heldman also points out that such objectification has become increasingly prevalent in the last 10 years, largely due to the increase of consumption of technology. We see approximately 5,000 ads a day. Honestly, that statistic was quite surprising to me.
Her analysis becomes considerably less useful when she gets to the “Plan of Action” part of her talk. She gives a lot of vague fluff about encouraging women to “stop objectifying themselves” and for men to not judge women based on appearance.
Well, that sounds nice, but it’s a bit too fluffy.
My advice to women is: Don’t buy fashion magazines. Avoid partying and celebrity gossip. Dress modestly. Practice chastity. Choose the people you spend time with and the places you go to with care.
The extreme sexual objectification of women we see in today’s society is only possible because women are complicit. Actresses and models who wear skimpy clothes for movies and advertising are doing so of their own free will. Actresses in blockbuster movies performing nude scenes are not doing so with a gun to their heads. They are willing participants in their own degradation. Similarly, women who wear skimpy clothes are actively objectifying themselves. They think they are empowered, but really they’re just inviting men to think dirty thoughts about them.
Of course, once I say something like this, I’ll have lots of whiny feminists accusing me of “blaming the victim.” Let me be really clear: a skimpy outfit does not in any way excuse sexual harassment, assault, or any other kind of aggressive or demeaning behavior towards women. You don’t, however, get to control other people’s thoughts. Something seen can not be unseen. If bending over at work reveals your thong, you can’t really expect your coworkers to not remember that, or think about it later.
Personally, I have experienced relatively little of what could be termed sexual harassment. This is largely due to the type of company I choose to keep. I spend time with people who treat me with respect, and avoid the ones who don’t.
I know many men who like to act very macho, but that “macho” behavior never means harassing women. In fact, they would be the first ones to defend me if someone tried.
If you go to a boozy party with a bunch of drunken college students, for example, you can expect to be harassed. If, as a woman, you go alone to a bar, you can expect guys to flirt with you, and it’s entirely possible that they will be uncomfortably persistent.
Why are guys in bars so obnoxiously persistent?
Because that kind of behavior is being rewarded, rather than discouraged.
When a woman goes to a bar, gets hit on, stays put, and goes to the same bar again, she is sending the message that she doesn’t really mind being hit on. If a woman does not tell him no in no uncertain terms, or keeps coming back without saying anything, she is actually sending the message that she doesn’t really mind it.
So…what should you do with unwanted attention at a bar?
First off, tell him very clearly that you are not interested. Don’t hint or try to be cute; he might think you’re actually encouraging him. Secondly, leave. Tell the manager you are leaving and will not be back because of the rudeness of his clientele.
If enough women choose to not frequent a bar because the guys are jerks, one day, one of those jerks will say something like: “Hey, how come there aren’t any women in here any more?” and someone will respond with something like: “Because you’re a pig!”
You might counter that you deserve to go to a bar without being harassed. I agree with you. Therefore, you should find a bar you can go to without being harassed. A bar that allows harassment of its female customers does not deserve your business.
People seriously underestimate the value of the free market. If a bar loses enough business from all the women going elsewhere, management will make changes.
Women have a lot of degrading, objectifying media to deal with. Teenagers and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to its harmful messages. It’s sad and horrific. Participating in it, however, will only make it worse. We have to make a stand against the sexual objectification of women by refusing to participate in it.