sexual objectification

After Women Took off Their Aprons, Advertisers Began Taking Off the Rest!

fem 17Once we won our equal liberty to choose our personal “place” in the world, the male ego swiftly began to make sure that women would never forget their universal “purpose” in the world.

By T.L.Dayen

They say “a picture paints a thousand words.” Imagery has the power to elicit emotion and provoke thought. It can also be used to subconsciously persuade or manipulate. Imagery has also historically been used to disseminate propaganda such as the iconic “Rosie the Riveter;” an animated image of a strong-armed woman in a factory uniform intended to convey that it was acceptable to see women; the majority of the domestic work force during the war effort of WWII, as strong and capable. Images can also portray social behavioral norms like iconic Norman Rockwell fem 15paintings depicting ‘normal’ life in middle and working class America from the early to mid 20th century. Culturally, our social norms are reflected through imagery in our media; movies (entertainment mostly) and advertising (expressly to persuade).

Imagery in advertising works to convince, confirm or inform viewers about what they should want, think, identify with or accept as good for them. When advertisers use sexually implicit images to sell a product, it is reaffirming stereotypes that objectify women’s bodies and marginalize their humanity.

Selling Sex

Exploiting sexuality to sell a product is, unfortunately, effective. The ‘sex kitten’ eating Doritos on T.V. prompts the dorritosman to buy the chips because he wants to “get the girl” in the ad, and the woman buys the chips because she wants to “be the girl” in the ad; “We’re a visually explicit culture that’s become comfortable with selling domain names and winter coats on the backs of pretty, naked people” (Thompson, 2011).

Using sex in advertising subliminally links our most primal motive of procreation to the impulse desire for that product/service. In other words, buy the product, get (feel) the sex.

Sell Sex; Buy Sexism

The problem with ‘selling sex’ is that it takes the elemental human drive to procreate (which requires dominant and pliant roles), and attaches it to everything in our lives from food to cars to clothing to cleaning products to insurance. fem 14The dominant/ pliant roles of our sex organs become the roles we identify with as represented subliminally by the products and services we need and use every day. By ascribing the yielding female sex organ to her overall nature and character (as subordinate), advertisers can use sexually explicit imagery to not only potently objectify women’s bodies, but also marginalize female humanity by transforming “actual women into [sexual] objects, devoid of individual will or subjectivity” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256).

The female body, pliant in sex, becomes the objectified woman, subordinate in life.

Even while women have made stellar strides in education and work force parity since the blatantly sexist advertising of the 1950’s; “an era when women’s roles were confined to the corridor between the bedroom and the kitchen” (Thompson, 2011);

the ‘new sexism’ is simply explicitly sexist imagery without the explicitly sexist messaging. In the 21st century, the message of sexual servitude is “implied.”

“Having lost the argument that women are incompetent, American advertising has had to settle on the argument that fem 18women are [still] attractive” (Thompson, 2011). In other words the iconic domestic dependent ‘June Cleaver’ telling viewers something like, “Your husband will never complain about undercooked eggs again with this new and improved egg timer!” has been replaced with the sexually implicit ‘cleavage and stilettoes’ seductively and silently stepping out of a Lincoln Continental. I call this “objectified female imagery.” This more modern version of sexism has only fed new life into age old social constructs of female subordination, because “American women still develop a sense of self-worth based primarily on how they look, rather than how talented or intelligent they are” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256).

Domestic dependent submissiveness has simply been replaced by sexual objectification; both are demeaning and subordinate positions of “service.”

What’s even more poignant is that some of worst offenders of this type of sexist advertising are ‘women on women.’ fem 19Women who appeared on a Phil Donahue Show “fashion segment,” un-apologetically defended their unusual preoccupation with ‘perfecting’ their hair, skin, eyes, clothing and bodies. Susan Bordo took note of their naiveté and that “putting on makeup, styling hair, and so forth are conceived of only as free play, fun, a matter of creative expression,” but in reality is, “also experienced by many women as ‘necessary’ before they show themselves to the world, even a quick trip to the corner mailbox.” Bordo expresses her concern that the true messages being sent by ‘fashion statements’ are merely “whimsical and politically neutral vicissitudes [that] supply endless amusement for women’s [apparent] eternally superficial values.” Bordo goes on to say in the context of the fashion and beauty industry, “the specific ideals that women are drawn to embody…are seen as arbitrary, without meaning [by society].”

In other words, obsession with fashion culturally indicates frivolous and superficial priorities.

Bordo’s trepidation with the multi-million dollar fashion and beauty industry is shared by Benshoff and Griffen who assert that this advertising strives to persuade women to “buy their [own] femininity;” be re-made into “some ideal fem 20form” as an “object of the male gaze (objectification).” This, alleges Benshoff and Griffen, actually convinces women “to be complicit in their own objectification.” A massive and still growing fashion and beauty industry in America may be evidence that many women have indeed “internalized the ideology that their self-worth is based upon their public image… that achieving total objectified desirability is the only thing that will give them happiness and fulfillment” and that, “this mythical ideal keeps patriarchal (male) domination in place” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256). If women are buying sexism, then apparently sexist advertising is working.

Hijacked Sexuality

Full disclosure: as a woman myself, I am frustrated that an industry has “hijacked” my God given sexuality for their profits! Can a woman in the 21st century fully express her innate sexuality without the implication that she is consenting to, even encouraging the sexist messages sent by the objectified female imagery in media advertising? And what of those who feed into the ‘cultural messages’ that are fabricated from objectified female imagery in the media; that a woman’s sexuality is by its very nature literally “there for the taking?”fem 5

Can a woman in the 21st century fully express her innate sexuality personally without the implication that she is “asking for it” publically? I fear that the answer to these questions today is “no.”

Sharon Marcus writes of the misleading dialogue used when legislating rape laws or hearing rape cases; “The rape script describes female bodies as vulnerable, violable, penetrable, and wounded.” A website called “Controltonight.com” ran an ad showing a young woman’s legs with her panties around her ankles lying on what looks like a bathroom floor. The ad reads, “2:19 a.m. She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say NO.” The ad intends to warn against drinking and date rape, but the ‘message’ is that women’s bodies are simply up for grabs by anyone who may gain the advantage to take it – and that’s somehow a woman’s fault. Marcus purports, “the adherents of rape culture see female sexuality as a property which only men can truly own, which women often hoard, which can thus justifiably be wrested from us, which women themselves merely hold in trust for a lawful owner. Rape thus becomes the theft or violation of one man’s property rights by another.”

fem 8If women’s sexuality is not even seen in our law as our own rightful possession, it is no wonder it could be unabashedly exploited personally or commercially by whomever and however it serves to benefit.

Audrey Lorde writes of the uses and power of the ‘erotic’ – in this context, ones ‘passions;’ sexual or otherwise; “We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused and devalued within western society… the erotic has been encouraged as a sign of female inferiority.” So a woman’s capacity to “feel deeply” has been equated with weakness, and that “only by the suppression of the erotic within our lives and consciousness can women truly be strong. But this strength is illusory, for it is fashioned within the context of male models of power” (Lorde 188-192).

If we follow Lordes’ premise, then a woman’s capacity to feel her own sexuality is considered “suspect” and therefore only passably expressed within and through our patriarchal society’s consent and capacity to control it.

Conclusion

What came first, female objectification or female objectified imagery? The truth is not what you might think. While media imagery only began in the early 1900’s, female objectification is just one arm of female subordination that has fem 12stigmatized the male/female dynamic for thousands of years. However, in the 21st century human kind is capable of growing beyond our prejudices; capable of a much broader perspective of the male/female dynamic.

In the 21st century human kind is capable of recognizing our two species as ‘different in measure but equal in value.’

This is where the media continues to culturally perpetuate female objectification even as we are collectively capable of moving beyond it. Advertising media imagery is especially harmful because it is scrupulously knitted within the fabric of our consumer based culture. Every decade that passes, fem 4human kind becomes more familiar with women in leadership positions of authority in politics, more acceding to our dependability as an equal successful womanpartner within the home, and more reliant on our equally competent skills in the work place and industry. While this reality of the male/female dynamic may smack of truth, the false postulation of our disparity and subordination continues to be culturally projected before us as sexually objectified minions of the patriarchal social construct.

Women’s sexuality; our very autonomy is reduced to a collective cultural commodity, and only valid through its collective cultural usefulness to the patriarchal bedroom, boardroom or billboard.

If sex is selling, it’s only selling women out.

fem 16

 

References

Benshoff, Harry, and Sean Griffin. America On Film. 2nd. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

238-256. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Material Girl: The Effacements of Post Modern Culture.” Trans. Array

Theorizing Feminisms. N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 385-404. Print.

Lorde, Audre. “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” Trans. Array Theorizing Feminisms.

N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 188-192. Print.

Marcus, Sharon. “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention.”

Trans. Array Theorizing Feminism. N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 369-

  1. Print. (Marcus, 369-381)

Thompson, Derek. “Are T.V. Ads Getting More Sexist?.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly

Group, 31 Oct 2011. Web. 16 Oct 2013. <theatlantic.com>.

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Dressing for Success or Suc-sex?

T's Toes

The trade-off for having to listen to us is getting to look at us!

By T.L. Dayen

Objectification…. That one “feminist” term that you’ll find in every feminist genre. We all know what it is, and most of us are complicit! Let’s face it; we have no choice. Either we look like “women” or we don’t. The truth is the majority of girls in the U.S. anyway, are concerned with their appearance on a scale that ranges from at least brushing one’s hair to spending 2 hours a day “prepping” before they leave the house. I’ve known many women who confess they never leave the house without make-up. They couldn’t imagine it. Don’t get me wrong; I know many girls that could care less about dressing or looking like a woman, but those are not the women I’m speaking to right now, and I’ll be addressing our gay and rebel sisters later on. But even those of us [females] who choose to not play the “lady” game will at least be color coordinated – hell, even Goth is just complimentary shades of black – with a pop of red.

All girls from a very young age are taught that their “appearance” is crucial to their “female” identity. We are taught that it is our female duty to let others know through our appearance that we know we’re a woman and we understand what that “looks like.”

make-up3

So what does “looking like a woman” really mean?
How are we complicit in our own objectification?

Female objectification or “treating a [female] merely as an instrument of sexual pleasure, making them a “sex object;” is the oldest tool in the shed of the dominant male ego for keeping gender division intact and the human female subordinated and marginalized. And when I say “oldest” I mean that female objectification is so resolutely entrenched within our global human social construct, that even women believe that this is “natural;” for the most part, we’ve accepted that women are expected to be pleasing to the eye of the human male. Women have internalized this socially constructed “rule” to the point that we compete with ourselves and one another as to how “pleasing” we are to “look” at. How many men stand in the front of the mirror trying on three different outfits until they’re satisfied that their “ass” or “waist line” doesn’t “look too big?” How many men claim to be having a “bad hair day?” Why are these things apparently so important to women? The animal mind of the male ego has conditioned the human female over tens of thousands of years to present ourselves to the world [men] in a manner that lets men know that we know we have a vagina and we know what that vagina is for – them! We “display” ourselves – in a sexually pleasing manner; and many of us pride ourselves on how well we do it!

successful woman

“Just because I look “sexy,” does NOT mean I think “ditsy!”

This is where things start to get complicated. This is where the female image of the social construct and reality begin to “butt heads;” because ladies, we have understandably invested in this socially constructed female image over thousands of years as a sense of pride and yes, even personal power. But it was the animal mind of the male ego that created this female image over thousands of years because of what this image really means to them, and how that manifests for us. I say “complicated,” because I’m not suggesting “unisex,” and so in that case, what are we really to do about female objectification? What we really need to do is take the sex out of the female body and put it in the bedroom between two consenting adults where it belongs!! It’s time that females stop taking responsibility for the oversexed, immature, one-tracked animal mind of the sexually controlling male ego that cannot gaze upon skin without seeing “sex.” And yes, ladies, it’s time that we start taking responsibility for the fact that we are more than our appearance. Women must stop associating sex with our own bodies if we are to break free from the dominant sexually controlling male ego global social construct of female objectification. We cannot have it both ways! But alas, the male ego is counting on us to continue to try and do just that!

You see, if we don’t look like “women” we’re socially chastised as too masculine (not “sex”y). If we do look like “women” we’re complicit in our own sexual objectification. This is simply fighting the male ego on its own turf within its own socially constructed image of the female – It’s a losing battle that we cannot win!

The Female Imperative is finally giving both men and women of “human mind” the permission to STEP OUTSIDE THE MALE EGO FEMALE IMAGE and to stop letting our “sex” determine our “consciousness;” our own or others. Sex is not our bodies. Sex is not our personalities. Sex is not our roles, our functions, our self-perceptions, our value, our worth. Sex is NOT our clothing or our accessories – or lack thereof. Sex is something we choose to do when, why, how and with whom we choose to do it. Our sex does NOT define us. Our consciousness defines us, and our consciousness is NOT our sex!

Consider that it is ONLY women who must bear the burden of this principle. In other words, the “sex is our bodies and therefore our purpose” principle according to the male ego image of the female is only displayed by the woman. Men do not hold themselves to the same standard. In fact, they can all look the same, and still be considered “virile.” The male uniform, or “suit,” simply says it all about their virility; “I wear a suite. I have a penis; period!”

men 1

But it goes further than that. The male uniform (suit or pants/shirt) doesn’t just indicate masculinity (virile penis) it also says, “Don’t look at me. Listen to me.” In other words, men do not want to draw attention to their bodies, because that would distract from the allure of their “intellect.” Men do not have to draw attention to their penis to be considered virile, and if they do, they are considered by their peers to be foolish, narcissistic and anything but intellectual. For women on the other hand, it’s just the opposite. If we are not drawing attention to our “femininity” through seeking attention to our appearance, then our self-awareness is questioned, and therefore so is our psychological “stability.” Our intellect doesn’t even factor into the equation. In fact, the further a woman climbs the ladder of authoritative success, the greater the pressure on her to inform the world (and her co-workers) through her appearance that she hasn’t forgotten she’s got a vagina.

men-women
From TFI:
“Girls are taught the female image seeks attention, but boys are taught the male image seeks respect. Respect is a suit and tie. Attention is a form fitting sleeveless V-neck that accentuates the hips and breasts; exposes skin; a pair of pumps that accentuate the legs and lifts a woman’s butt; earrings that draw attention to a woman’s cosmetically altered eyes and a necklace that draws attention to her cleavage and slender neck. I’ve just described to you two typical news anchors sitting side by side on a nightly broadcast. One image is saying, “Listen to me. I am [intelligent] man” while the other image is saying “Look at me. I am [sexual] female.”

“The civilized dominant male ego has cunningly constructed a modern society that maintains the appearance of social equality while still marginalizing a woman’s authority within that society to the presentation of her body parts. The more authority a woman has in the male ego dominated society, the more her sexuality is scrutinized, analyzed and objectified. This is the male ego rule; “If I have to listen to you, then you must remind me that you know you’re still a woman when I look at you.”

“I am speaking here only about women in positions of authority and leadership in finance, politics and the corporate world; where, by the way, the female perspective is so desperately needed in the 21st century. I am not speaking of women in research, medicine and academia. The very sectors of humanity where the male ego is doing the most damage to humanity and our world are the very sectors where female sexual objectification is the most rampant; marginalizing her contribution by objectifying her body.” (Excerpts from Chapter 26)

This was illustrated just recently when Senator Kristen Gillibrand confessed in her recent book that she, as a Senator from New York, has endured comments about her “body” and her “appearance” by her own Senate colleagues. This comes as no surprise to me, but what many don’t seem to acknowledge is that if Senator Gillibrand was a “secretary” or an “intern,” these “advances” would be considered completely inappropriate and possibly criminal sexual harassment in the workplace. But because she is a “colleague;” not in a position of servitude, she’s expected to just “suck it up;” “deal with it.”

gillabrand

The beltway press has been having a field day with Gillibrand’s refusal to “name names.” But many (especially women) are rightly pointing out that if she does name the offenders, then her career will forever be “defined” by the fact that she “couldn’t keep her mouth shut.” She will be seen as “weak.” Ironically however, if she were these men’s secretary, her revelations would be considered “courageous;” but as a supposed “equal” among the power brokers in D.C., she now has the obligation to play by the rules of women in positions of authority: that is if a woman is no longer in some kind of physical or domestic servitude, she is now in [sexually] visual servitude – that’s the trade-off! And as Stewart and I explain in TFI, this trade-off is the brilliant mechanism of the male ego to maintain the appearance of equality in the 21st century while still maintaining the female image of sexual purpose and servitude, which effectually negates the authenticity and originality of the intellectual contribution of the human female among male global power brokers.

TFI spends a great deal of time explaining not just blatant, but also nuanced female oppression and subordination in all its facets and phases. We spend a great deal of time explaining how and why the animal mind of the male ego uses female oppression and subordination to keep the male and female consciousness “separate” and how this effectually strengthens the male ego and feeds his need for battle and dominance. TFI explains how men and women of “human mind” are “going down with the ship.” TFI also explains how this can be corrected – and why it must.

We call on all of you to join in the EVOLUTION REVOLUTION!