Objectification is a hot topic in the realm of gender equality. There’s all these debates about what is or isn’t objectification. If a woman wears a mini skirt and high heels, is she objectifying herself? What if she drinks a little and starts dancing? What if she dances on stage and sings into a microphone?
These are all things that people like to point at and cry, “Objectification!” Is it really, though, or is claiming a woman is objectifying herself by wearing revealing clothing another form of slut-shaming?
The definition of objectification or objectify in the dictionary is simple: to treat (someone) as an object rather than a person. As a verb, objectify is something a person does, but can a person do that to themselves?
The easiest example I can think of is that of a stripper. While I’ve heard the profession often demands dancing experience of newcomers interested in that line of work, it almost seems obvious that a career revolving around removing clothes and gyrating would be objectifying. That still doesn’t answer the question of who is doing the objectifying, though. Is the dancer objectifying herself when she takes off her clothes, that is, is she treating herself or viewing herself as an object? Or is it the spectators who are objectifying her, seeing her not as a person but as a tool for their gratification?
No matter the clothes or actions a person takes, are they ever responsible for the way other people react to them?
I’ve asked these questions because I don’t buy the idea that a person who wears revealing clothing, no clothing or acts in a certain way will always be objectified. The other day, I was having a conversation Kylie (from Kenny and Kylie) about porn and objectification. I wondered, if watching a naked person or naked people have sex always resulted in the objectification of said naked people, then what do people think of their lover when they have sex with them? Are they nothing but an object to them in that moment? Do they suddenly lack the ability to recognize someone’s humanity at the site of a breast or a penis?
That can’t be the case, which means it’s possible for people to enjoy the attractiveness of a person, receive sexual gratification from that person and still see them as a human being. There’s a plethora of issues when it comes to porn, including (but not limited to) the stereotypes it perpetuates, the health of the actors and the discrimination they face after they leave the industry. I’m not writing this to comment on any of those issues or to pass judgement on whether or not porn is okay to create or watch. What I am here to point out is that a person can watch porn without objectifying the actors if they so wish. They can be attracted to them and get off on them, if that is their wish, without degrading them.
We live in a society that accepts the idea it’s okay to objectify a person in that light. That does not justify objectification in any sense nor does it mean its inevitable people will objectify other involved in those careers. The situations in which a person is and isn’t objectified varies by culture, anyway. In the Western world, many are inclined to objectify people who dance in revealing clothing on the dance floor. In other countries, people are inclined to objectify women who let their long hair flow freely. In some countries, wearing a burka doesn’t prevent a woman from being objectified, given the high rates of assault that tend to exist in countries where such clothing is required.
Why are people objectified regardless of what they do or don’t wear? I’m inclined to say it’s because what a person wears is not the reason they are objectified. A person may use what someone chooses to wear as an excuse for objectifying them, but that’s not the real reason. A person objectifies another because they see them as less than human. They see them as being below them.
Throughout this post, I’ve tried to say people are objectified, as opposed to women, because anyone of any gender can be objectified. However, this is something we usually associate with the treatment of women. I don’t think it’s because women usually wear less than men or because they are somehow bringing it upon themselves. The reason why it’s more common for women to be objectified is because it’s more common for them to be treated as less than men across the world.
You could probably through non-binary sexualities and genders in that box, too. People will talk about sleeping with a transsexual or watching a homosexual couple have sex like it’s a kind of kinky conquest. Are they really seeing them as people, or are they just thinking of how they could use them as a tool for their sexual gratification?
People are responsible for their own actions, whether those actions involve choosing what they wear, what their occupation is or how they treat another person. While the porn stars and strippers of the world may not be completely innocent, they are still people, and they deserve to be treated as such.
Do you think humanity will ever rise above objectifying others? Is the solution of the future no objectification or equal objectification (where all genders and sexualities are equally objectified)? If a society routinely objectifies certain clothing or actions, are those choose to wear that clothing or take those actions automatically disrespecting themselves? How fair is it for us to judge whether or not a person wants to be objectified, or whether they respect themselves based off what they wear?