Saturday, September 29, 2018

Boys will be Boy and Girls will Self-Objectify

by Madeleine Kando

Today was the lengthy Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which both the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the accused, Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh give testimony about Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

What makes a high schooler think that he has the right to lure a girl into a bedroom, lock the door, turn up the music and, as his inebriated buddy eggs him on, tries to take off her clothes and have intercourse with her against her will?

Some commentators reacted to the Kavanaugh case with the old ‘Boys will be boys’ excuse. Really? Boys might be rough or break things, but as far as I know, the definition does not include trying to rape a girl.

Kavanaugh’s nauseating actions, if they are true, are the result of what some of Kavanaugh’s high school peers described as ‘a widespread culture of sexual objectification of women’ at the all-male prep school that Kavanaugh attended. But before you can sexually objectify a person, don’t you need to objectify her first, to treat her like an object?

Objectification *

According to my favorite philosopher, Dr. Martha Nussbaum, there are several ways to treat a person as a thing:

The first type Nussbaum calls ‘instrumentality’, i.e. treating a person as a tool for someone else’s purpose. The second type is called ‘inertness’ , which means that a person lacks autonomy and self-determination, so you can do what you want with her, like one of those sex dolls. Another way to objectify is to treat someone as interchangeable with someone else of the same type, like models on a runway.

One of the worst ways to objectify someone is to ignore its boundaries or bodily integrity. It is permissible to break up, smash, or break into. And obviously the concept of ‘ownership’, treating a person as something that is owned and can be bought and sold, is as old as mankind itself.

Sexual Objectification **

History is pockmarked with cultural practices that objectify women. From genital mutilation to foot binding in China, it has caused so much pain and suffering that it is beyond belief. It is a small and logical step to go from objectifying someone to sexually objectifying them. In a revealing video: The Sexy Lie, Dr. Carolyn Heldman describes how the media (movies, newspaper, video games, etc.) have become over-saturated with sexual objectification of women.



Is this due to us becoming more and more visually oriented? Let’s be honest, women are a lot more visually appealing than men. But why should they be sexually objectified? Why see women as sex objects rather than what they really are: beautiful renditions of the human form?

The real problem is that normalization of female objectification in American culture has caused women to self- objectify and see themselves as objects of desire for others.

Self-objectification ***

I have experienced sexual objectification first-hand. Being the daughter of two photographers, I felt the daily pressure my looks placed on my self-perception. The days that I woke up and found my face less than perfect, slight bags under the eyes or puffy eyelids, that day would be a bad day. Whenever I would see someone look at me, I would want to melt into the pavement, become invisible.

Did other girls feel that way? Why was my roommate a successful TV anchor? Where did she find the self-confidence to go out there and show her face in public every night. She did have an inch of make-up spliced onto her face, but she looked good, smelled good, had beautiful jet-black hair, spoke with the confidence of a man. Where was I? I was fretting in my dark bedroom about my pimple and the invisible bags under my eyes.

This is the story of countless young girls who have unwittingly soaked up the culture of objectification and made it their own. Self-objectification is a tragic event in one’s life, considering that we only have one life to live.****

So you see, it is a vicious circle. Objectification leads to sexual objectification which leads to self-objectification, which leads to objectification etc. If you see yourself as an object, others will do likewise. Hence, it is within a woman’s power to break the cycle.

Men who are equally uncomfortable with the objectification of women, speak of breaking out of the ‘Man Box’, the cult of masculinity, in which men are taught to suppress their feelings, to seek power over others, etc. Tony Porter, co-founder of, A Call To Men, an organization dedicated to prevent violence against women, says that men are brought up to distance themselves from what it is to be a woman. There is a lack of interest, which easily leads to objectification.

So you see, Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct is a symptom of a deep-seated disease in American culture. Objectification and sexual-objectification, which leads to self-objectification fit together perfectly, like the pieces of a puzzle.

Neither men nor women benefit from the increasingly detrimental effects of this arrangement, but habits die hard. Some sections of society (mostly male and white) are so addicted to these habits that it will take some vigorous prying before the decay can be removed.

In other words cultural norms need to be changed and although it may take some time, man made ideas are just that: man made. They are not given to us by God, no matter what our male dominated, patriarchal system wants you to believe. leave comment here

Footnote: * The action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object. Objectification more broadly means treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality or dignity. ** The process of representing or treating a person like a sex object, one that serves another’s sexual pleasure. *** The psychological process by which women internalize people’s objectification of their bodies, resulting in them constantly criticizing their own bodies.*** The Beast of Beauty Culture: An Analysis of the Political Effects of Self-Objectification.