Today as I drove home from work I passed an intersection where two guys were walking past a young woman on her phone. I could see from where I was that the one man made some comment to the woman, looked her up and down, and kept his gaze on her as she continued on. The woman never once made eye contact or acknowledged him or his companion in any way.
If you’re a woman then chances are that you have experienced this first hand at least once in your life. I know I have and I’m SICK of it.
Sexism, objectification and victimization go hand in hand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking somewhere and had some guy blow their car horn to get my attention or cat call as I pass by. I’ve been called honey, sweetie and doll in business meetings. A person I had never met before thought it was okay to smack my ass in a bar – it wasn’t – it isn’t. And I consider all of this to be fairly mild compared to what many women have experienced! A woman should not feel that her very presence exists to be ogled, used and thrown away and yet, there are lots of people who DO feel that way.
There are men who would NEVER consider physically assaulting a woman and YET have no problem saying “Niiice” while staring at a woman as she walks past. THAT is objectification and THAT is a PROBLEM.
There is no excuse for sexual harassment or sexual assault and while every decent human being can agree on that fact, there remains a barrier to eradicating the everyday indignities that have depressingly become a part of life for women the world over. If you are a woman, you know what it’s like. If you are a man, you may be starting to feel what it’s like, as objectification of both sexes becomes worse. In the event that you have yet to experience this first hand then let me give you some insight into the lives of women.
As a woman we are programmed to wear armor. It’s not something that we’re taught, but it’s something we realize is necessary for our sanity as we get older. We put our armor on before we walk down the street. It’s the reason we don’t respond to cat calls or crude gestures. Before we go out for a night on the town, we put on our armor. A million thoughts race through our minds on a daily basis, most of them concerning our physical appearance “what should I wear?” – “is that too short?” – “am I showing too much cleavage?” -“is this too tight?” – “what will people think of me?” – “I want the cookie, but then I’ll gain weight” – “what’s the safest route to get home?” – “I better take my pepper spray, just in case.” JUST IN CASE?! I’ve actually had that thought, many times. “I should take this, in case I need to defend myself.” And something tells me that I’m not alone in this. I am aware that men have personal safety concerns as well, but the fact remains that there is a severe double standard here and it needs to change – and by change I mean DISAPPEAR.
We tell ourselves that our armor works, but the truth is that for every deflection; there is another leering glance, another comment, another physical interaction that makes a dent. For every victim blaming and slut shaming on social media the collective armor that encircles every woman gets pierced and causes us to make our armor even harder. This comic strip does a great job of illustrating what it’s like. (Ursa creates thought-provoking comics, link here)
When we objectify, we dehumanize. Both men and women deserve the same right to a life without constant “what ifs” in regards to their personal safety. The world is scary enough without adding the dehumanization of the sexes.
This is NO way to live. The issue is that it’s taken so long for this problem to develop that it’s actually become a societal norm. We’ve all been a part of the problem either through our actions or our complacency. This kind of mentality begins in childhood. Children need to be taught that people are not objects. They need to see that each person has value and that needs to be reflected in our media (both mass and social) to be effective. If I have a daughter, my hope is that by the time she is grown, she will never have been made to feel like an object or that her body is the only thing of value she possesses because it brings the easiest attention. It’s naïve to think that things can change overnight, but I have faith that things WILL change.
I could talk about this forever but I like to keep these things pretty brief. I’ll probably touch on this again in the future. Feel free to share how you (men & women) have dealt with objectification/sexism in your life as well as what solutions you think may help us move forward as a society/humanity.