By Marty Duren
When you see an image of a woman who is presented passively, and who demonstrates no other attributes aside from her physical or sexual being, that’s objectification.
Naomi Rockler-Gladen, from her article “Media Objectification of Women“
A year or so ago I removed all my domain registration accounts from Godaddy.com. It was the first hosting company I ever used because it was the most well known due to their heavy advertising.
Gradually though, something began to gnaw at me about their ads. For years companies have used sensuality to sell everything from beer (remember the Swedish Bikini Team?) to burgers (the current Hardee’s middle-school mentality). Go Daddy was doing the same thing. It was like they were afraid most people could not conceive of domain space in the same way they could a hamburger. The result was skin tight leather, lots of cleavage and scant information about how to reserve mywebsite.com.
The movement to liberate women from the supposed shackles of male oppression in the U.S. celebrated the right of women to assert themselves, to use their feminine wiles to their lasting advantage. “If you have it, flaunt it,” was expressed by more than one approving feminist.
But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to, or perhaps as a result of liberation: objectification.
One end of liberation has clearly been a loss of respect. Men have certainly lost respect for women, but women have also lost respect for themselves. When primary expressions of liberation include women making objects out of themselves someone needs to ask, “Is this all there is?”
While Rockler-Gladen’s definition above is valid, I think the issue is deeper. Objectification is to disregard the humanness of any person for any purpose of self-satisfaction.
Objectification takes place when a pimp beats a women into submission and lies repeatedly to keep her there, so he can sell her for profit. She is not feminine, she is not human, she is an object to be traded. Objectification takes place when a professional rapist humiliates, assaults and violates an eight-year old girl in some dank Indian brothel until her spirit is broken. She is not feminine, she is not human, she is an object to be rented. Objectification takes place when twenty adult males file in to rape that same girl on Monday, twenty more on Tuesday and another twenty day after day until emotionally she is destroyed, mentally she is decimated and physically she is diseased. Then, like an object, she is thrown onto the streets.
In India, a 23-year-old student takes a bus home from a movie and is gang-raped and assaulted so viciously that she dies two weeks later.In Liberia, in West Africa, an aid group called More Than Me rescues a 10-year-old orphan who has been trading oral sex for clean water to survive.
In Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players are accused of repeatedly raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl who was either drunk or rendered helpless by a date-rape drug and was apparently lugged like a sack of potatoes from party to party.
And in Washington, our members of Congress show their concern for sexual violence by failing to renew the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law first passed in 1994 that has now expired.
Most do not see most objectification for what it is. However, the attitude is the same even if the end result is not. That we oft mistake it for beauty speaks as poorly on the viewer as on the victimized.
In January 2012 Kent Meuller posted “Marketing and our Messed Up Priorities: How We Got it Wrong with GoDaddy” on his blog at Inkling Media. Part of his argument against objectification included this story from a girl who worked for a short time at a Hooters restaurant. She said,
A restaurant like that makes it appear okay to objectify women in a sexual state and a sexual state only. I’m an attractive girl carrying your food wearing a tank top showing off my [breasts] and booty shorts. On top of this, we were encouraged to flirt and ‘tease’ our customers in order to not only get bigger tips, but continue business. Even worse, people bring their CHILDREN in there…we had a birthday party for an 8 or 9 year old. I mean, they have a kids menu!I was embarrassed by my job so much that I didnt tell my family thats where I worked. At that time, I was also suffering from the affects of bulimia and anorexia, so I think obviously it had a negative effect on that as well.
I felt like a stripper with clothes on, basically. Innapropriate is not even the word to use with some patrons. They feel it is okay to brush against your butt, stare down your shirt, but the uniforms encourage that, so in return, the restaurant is basically encouraging it.
Being asked on a date is one thing, but being solicited for sex, is another. If a patron was very rude or inappropriate, they would be asked to leave [by management], but butt taps, etc, were not punishable. “Just let it go,” was a normal response.
It absolutely was my choice to work there, and it gave me a better understanding of self worth and what our society has done to women.
When a society allows, yea encourages, objectification of a class that class loses their innate humanity. It is not possible to see people as humans created in God’s image and as objects at the same time.
Objectification and exploitation can only be stopped by men, because in almost every case men are the end users. Men fill the brothels, men descend upon the Super Bowl host city to pay for the opportunity to exploit women and girls for the night, men fly into cities like Atlanta, Georgia to attend “parties” where they’ve paid for the opportunity to rape girls, many of them drugged into compliance. Men pimp, men coerce, men kidnap, and even when women are in the line of exploitation it is often because they have victimized previously. Men can stop this. Men must.
The differences between the woman in the revealing swimwear, drunken coeds on Girls Gone Wild, a prostitute, a stripper or a sexually exploited child are only in the extremes and opportunities. The mindset is the same. Objects have no opinion, no right of refusal, no humanity, no femininity. Like a tire or a piece of lumber they are only good for as long as needed, then discarded. Human waste.
Christian husbands are instructed to
love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself i splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28, New Testament, HCSB)
Far from objectifying my wife, or allowing others to do it, my responsibility as a husband is to prevent such a thing.
I was amazed to read last year a Christian man on social media excited because he could not wait to get to the beach to see his wife in her hot new bikini. What kind of attempt is this to inspire Christlikeness? Unless they were heading to a private beach, then he encouraged her to be the object of other men’s lust. Human? Feminine? Objectified.
Recognition and rejection of the objectifying mindset is also something we must teach our children. Our daughters need to learn the God given gifts of femininity and mystique (think Ruth) and our sons the view of Jesus toward those He died to redeem.
If you want to stop prostitution, the sex trade, manipulative advertising, exploitive movies and television, then refuse to participate in objectification at any level. The money flow will cease when all humans are treated as created in God’s image, marred as it may be. And, when money can no longer be made, it will stop.
Marty Duren is the Social Media Strategist at LifeWay Christian Resources. He enjoys reading across a broad spectrum, writing, and teaching. Marty lives with his family in the Nashville, TN area.