I don’t think the objectification of women is actually an accurate reflection of women’s sexuality, this is the problem. I feel like this manifestation is a gross exaggeration of men’s sexuality.
I do not think that the objectification of women is an accurate reflection of women’s sexuality, it’s a gross and inaccurate exaggeration of men’s sexuality. I think that it’s male bias that is causing this form of sexuality to be seen as our only option. Women are pretty much only allowed to display sexuality, when they’re behaving passively and submissively, paying more mind to mens’ desires than their own. We expect sexualized images of women to be highlighting women’s youth and naivety. If women are not young or naive, they’re often expected to behave as if they are, and if they can’t “pass”, they’re desexualized completely. Instances where women objectify men or express appreciation for mens’ bodies, for example, are seen as shocking, bold and out of the ordinary. They aren’t expected to ever be lustful, sexually forward or aggressive. Media that displays men in passive, sexually submissive positions is often assumed to be marketed toward gay men, rather than straight women. I think that if women were writing the songs and the music videos more often, we would see them behaving passively, acting as sex objects, fetishizing violence against women much less often. It’s true that women conform to norms and perpetuate these things to a certain degree too, but by nature of capitalism and the pressures of the market, women are forced to conform to male preferences in order to keep their head above water. In a society where women were just as likely to write a song as men were and were just as respected for it, they wouldn’t have to stick to our current “male-approved” topics. We’d see a wider variety of material coming out.
There is a huge difference between the way sexuality is treated in the music of Ani Difranco, Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, who cater to a largely educated female audience, and the way it’s treated in the music of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, who cater to a mainstream “male-dominated” audience. Difranco, Amos and Apple are not prudes. They often sing love songs, songs about sexual desire, raw, emotional break up songs and raunchy odes with detailed descriptions of their partners’ bodies that would make you blush. Check out Fiona Apple’s Hot Knife, or Slow like Honey, or Limp, orPeriphery.
These songs are not that different content-wise from the Rihanna’s bedroom slow jams or Taylor Swift’s “He done me wrong” tunes. But there’s something distinct about them. In the Rihanna and Taylor Swift examples, I get the impression that their sentiments have been filtered and censored to be more palatable to men. In Cyrus’s “wrecking ball”, she’s saying she came in like a wrecking ball, but her body language in the video is the complete opposite of that. She’s laying completely submissively on top of the wrecking ball. She’s allowing the wrecking ball to completely control her. The video isn’t about Miley Cyrus’s experience with the person she’s singing about, it’s about the audience’s relationship with and sexual attraction to Miley Cyrus. Her actual voice is completely secondary.Taylor Swift always expresses anger within these strict confines, she needs to be a certain amount of “feminine” when she’s expressing anger at men. She can’t betoo loud or too violent or too weird or too crazy and emotional. She still has to be pretty, she still has to be pining for the guy on some level. In Fiona Apple’s songs, she talks about sex and having crushes and going through breakups, but it’s her pure voice that’s telling the story. It’s not sugar-coated to be more main-stream. It’s not feeding into an exaggerated corporate driven male fantasy.
They also don’t shy away from the aspects of sex that women have to deal with, that make men uncomfortable to hear. Ani Difranco’s Out of Range and Out of Habit use very graphic, explicit imagery to convey her experiences with men as a musician, and her experiences with the cyclical nature of domestic violence. Tori Amos famously talks about surviving rape, in me and a gun.
I think by virtue of allowing women to be in top, respected positions in mass media, by giving them more of a direct role in the creation of these structures, rather than allowing them to make choices within structures where men still make all the rules, we would break some of this cycle, by expand the material we display and consider to be acceptable, giving people a lot more options and consequentially reducing the amount of “peer pressure” that people face now in regard to objectification.
Objectification Theory is a psychological “framework for understanding the experiential consequences of being female in a culture that sexually objectifies the female body” (1, p. 173). “Objectification” means treating a person as an object or merely a body. Objectification runs from leering and catcalling to sexualizing portrayals in media such as TV shows, movies, advertisements, music videos, and pornography. Objectification Theory provides a way of understanding some of the problems that differentially affect women in our society and other Western societies. This effortpost focuses on objectification of the female body and subsequently neglects interactions between, for example, objectification and race, and the effects of objectification on men, though these topics have been investigated (see, e.g., Testing a Culture-Specific Extension of Objectification Theory Regarding African American Women’s Body Image and Reasons for Exercise and Body Esteem: Men’s Responses to Self-Objectification
- Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks. This is the paper that started Objectification Theory. Fredrickson and Roberts suggest that objectification may be at least partly responsible for the higher incidence of depression in women, sexual dysfunctions, and eating disorders. The suggested causal pathway is from objectification to self-objectification which results in habitual body-monitoring, which results in shame, anxiety, and distraction. This theory has received extensive empirical support to which I now turn.
- Objectification Theory and Psychology of Women: A Decade of Advances and Future Directions. This article provides a nice overview of research within the Objectification Theory framework, including objectification’s effects on men and interactions with race. The article displays the wide empirical support for Objectification Theory but also identifies limitations and directions for future research such as the need for more cross-cultural research and investigation of interactions with other variables such as age, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.
- Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research. This article extends Objectification Theory to understanding substance abuse and presents a definition of “sexually objectifying environments” (SOEs) in which “(a) traditional gender roles exist, (b) a high probability of male contact exists (physically speaking, a male-dominated environment), (c) women typically hold less power than men in that environment, (d) a high degree of attention is drawn to sexual/ physical attributes of women’s bodies, and (e) there is the approval and acknowledgement of male gaze” (20-1). They give Hooters and related restaurants as examples of SOEs and suggest that more research be done into SOEs. Just such research will be discussed next.
- Experiencing Sexually Objectifying Environments: A Qualitative Study. This article uses the definition of SOE given above to investigate the experiences of 11 heterosexual female Hooters employees. The interviews highlight, among other things, the ambivalence the employees feel toward their job, the negative emotional effects of constant objectification, and competition with other women. I have to say, the concreteness and “realness” of this article can get depressing.
- Everyday Stranger Harassment and Women’s Objectiﬁcation. This article presents an investigation into the negative effects of stranger harassment. They found that stranger harassment was positively related to self-objectiﬁcation for women who reacted to stranger harassment with passivity and self-blame, but not for women who reacted with active coping strategies such as confronting the harasser. Stranger harassment was also positively related to women’s fear of and perceived risk of rape.
- A Test Of Objectification Theory: The Effect Of The Male Gaze On Appearance Concerns In College Women. In this study, female participants were made to believe that they would be interacting with a male or a female. Mere anticipation of male gaze, but not female gaze, resulted in greater body shame and anxiety, but no changes in dietary intent were seen.
- The Role of Body Objectification in Disordered Eating and Depressed Mood. This study provides support for Objectification Theory’s claim that objectification can lead to habitual body-monitoring, which can lead to depression and eating disorders.
- The Role of Self-Objectification in Disordered Eating, Depressed Mood, and Sexual Functioning Among Women: A Comprehensive Test of Objectification Theory. This article provides a more recent replication of the results of the previous study.
- My Body or My Mind: The Impact of State and Trait Objectiﬁcation on Women’s Cognitive Resources. This paper investigates whether objectification can impair women’s cognitive performance. It was found that women prone to self-objectification had longer response latencies when performing in the presence of a male experimenter.
These studies represent a small sample of the psychological research on Objectification Theory. Here’s a link to a zip folder containing all the articles in this post.
Buy, Eat, Consume, Appear… Welcome to the Era of Media-Dictatorships!
This image is dedicated to young girls everywhere, who are constantly bombarded and sexually objectified by society, manufacturers and the media. You are conditioned to believe that your main goal in life is to become merely an ornament to please and gratify males, and only valued by your sexual attraction, instead of being nurtured of your attributes and talents, that can fulfill and empower you as a whole woman.