One of the most pervasive cultural issues of the 20th and now the 21st centuries is the subject of sexism. More and more politically correct material suggests the unnatural inclination of the male ego is to somehow suppress and commoditize the female form for our own amusement and self gratification. More radical material, especially those works of the late Catherine McKinnon, go about showing how objectification of women often leads to the rape and abuse of women. However, within this pantheon of study into the human psyche, one finds very little written about how women objectify males, enforcing stereotypes about behavior and structural form which are rarely duplicated in the real world.
To believe that only males engage in fantasies about the opposite sex is to be naïve. Advertisers jumped on the ‘equalization of the genders’ bandwagon years ago and as our times have progressed, more objectified images of males are being used to sell products and few feminist authors have derided such practice. And just like some males fantasize about the perfect bodily image of women, women also project a similar propensity for perfect male stereotypes of chiseled good looks, washboard abs, and ‘a cute ass.’
There’s no doubt that male-dominated societies have been extremely unfair to women in many ways through the years. The marketplace is one example, and the limiting of their roles to house and child care is another. But these examples don’t really fit within the parameters of physical objectification, although admittedly, these stereotypes are probably more in place today than in times past. But I think these have more to do with the narrow purview of religion rather than extreme cultural notions.
Frankly, I see nothing wrong with both men and women physically objectifying each other. What choice do we have? The discrimination we practice in choosing potential mates is written into our DNA and like much of our instinctual reactions to things; it’s extremely difficult to control. But some women still see the objectification of women by men as insulting and as a way of ‘putting women down.’ Men are supposed to somehow overcome our tendency to notice a woman’s shape, resist our programming, and respect a woman’s need to be thought of as something more than her looks. Certainly, women check out guys too, and often react with awe towards the most eye-pleasing examples of our species. The conversation among the women after the male prototype passes is usually one that includes neither his intelligence level nor his ability to provide security. Yet, that men and women have achieved this parity in objectification doesn’t cauterize the feelings of some feminists one bit, and they often use this objectification as a sign of their continual victimization at the hands of men.
So is objectification the problem? I don’t think so. I think people who see themselves as victims have that view for a number of reasons other than objectification. If objectification didn’t exist within our culture, there would be something else, another societal problem that would make people feel like victims because victimization occurs randomly, and it’s nearly impossible to know why anyone becomes a victim of whatever circumstance they’ve found themselves in. So objectification may only be one among many theories to explain why certain people have experienced horrible occurrences in their lives while other theories testing the veracity of the claim have yet to come forward.
In the meantime, let’s just acknowledge that all humans engage a bit in this roguish behavior and enjoy it. We’re going to, whether we think it’s right or not, and as long as we don’t take it too seriously, we can just relax and accept this as a part of our inheritance from the ages. There are enough things that drive a wedge between the sexes- let’s stop beating this one into the ground.