I learned about the #WomenNotObjects campaign today over at The Gotham Gal blog. You should check out her post as she has deftly put together two unrelated videos — one from Women Not Objects and the other a commercial by Lane Bryant that has been rejected by the tv networks (!) — to tell a story about women, objectification and body image.
Here’s the video from Women Not Objects
Definitely check out the Women Not Objects website.
I think it’s important to understand precisely why objectification is unhealthy in culture. To be objectified is to be stripped of humanity. We have plenty of examples throughout history and currently of what happens when a group of people are stripped of their humanity by another group. Objectifying a person makes it ok to do things to them that you wouldn’t do to a fellow human.
Personally, I believe there is going to be some sacrifice to be made if we truly want women to retain their humanity 100% of the time in all situations (I’m not talking about the bedroom and intimacy — I’m never talking about that here). Women will have to relinquish the idea of using their own objectification as a means to power (which is an illusion anyway). They will have to stop objectifying themselves.
But I also believe that women must embrace and accept the way that any individual woman deals with her battle with objectification, as often and in as many ways as possible. Solidarity is everything. When I see women go after, say, a Kardashian, I cringe. After all, what is it saying to us when even a Kardashian feels she isn’t enough? That she must dehumanize herself to survive? We must embrace the Kardashians as sisters as much as we embrace Beyonce or Mae Jemison. We must be in a constant effort to return every woman’s humanity back to her.
Women are allowed to be flawed and complicated and to still be ambitious and accomplished. They are allowed to be glamorous and sexy and brilliant and badass all at the same time. Or to not be any of those things, to be introverted, nerdy, soft-spoken and have blue hair. The point is, we must stand up for the right of women to do whatever the hell they damned well please. (All right, so long as it isn’t hurting someone else. There.)
If you’re a woman, as far as I’m concerned any time you criticize another woman, you hurt the cause. Choose those times very carefully.
When we see a woman objectifying herself, we must support her in her struggle for survival. We must insist in seeing the human inside the objectified exterior and return her humanity to her when she has lost sight of it herself. Solidarity like that is tremendously powerful, like a tidal wave.
When my six year old daughter is playing with makeup, I tell her “Yeah, that looks awesome! You’re so creative! Makeup is fun, isn’t it? You get to try on new identities.” I try to frame her as in charge of herself at all times. But it’s important that I interpret the women she sees in media as in charge of themselves, as well. She must see humanity and agency for women as the norm, not the exception.
Women are not objects. But the state of objectification of women is not binary. We need to acknowledge that and arm ourselves with the tools for dealing with it. For me, a simple focal point for responding to various situations of female objectification is to always support the woman. Always.