Why I object to objectification

I could have written this in my early twenties, and probably did. In those days I knew that my mother’s feisty (yet often closeted) feminism was rubbing off on me. I wanted to be admired for me; not the size of my breasts or my (now expanded) 24 inch waist. I wanted to be appealing as a whole being, not as a form. And I wanted to see others this way.

I’ve always admired the human form and see physical aesthetics as as much of a gift as is talent. But I’ve never been able to separate it from the whole. In fact, it can detract from the whole, and often does—as witnessed in the 2012 Olympics. Is it just me, or has a vast amount of the filming focused not on the extraordinary prowess, but on the physical—and often nameless, form? Here’s a particularly grimy example, now wisely pulled from NBCS. What the hell was that about? Or was it just an honest reflection of NBCS viewership requirements?

According to good ol’ Wikipedia, objectification is an attitude that ‘regards a person as a commodity or as an object for use, with little or no regard for a person’s personality or sentience’.

This ‘use’ might be power, lust, self-gratification, control, or a means to ignore our own inadequacies.

What this means to you and me is this: when the beggar at the intersection becomes nothing more than a nagging ragged body; when the high school water polo player becomes nothing more than a ‘hot young thing’; when the waitress becomes a pair of breasts; when Woman becomes a creature to patronise and ‘celebrate’ (holy crap…) and Man becomes the butt of sexist jokes … then we have lost all sense of the others’ feelings, perceptions and consciousness. We have dehumanised them, and thus dehumanised ourselves.

I hope that I’ve taught my children not to see the world this way. Not to see people—singular and collective—as objects; but rather to glimpse inside for a moment and see the person; as vulnerable, afraid, hopeful and real as we are. I don’t know if I have taught them this, but I do see that they have learned it.

Not to learn it is deadly. Out of objectification rises sexism, racism, bigotry, the delusion of superiority, and violence. If we see others as objects, we treat them as objects. And objects have no self, no feelings; so how could they possibly care how we view or treat them?

But, you may argue, what does it matter how we view others? How will they even know? They know. The waitress feels uncomfortable when she’s being ogled; the beggar knows when he is deemed invisible; the old lady can sense your irritation. And, even if they didn’t know, we do. And our children do. And our peers do. And we thus become objects of inhumanity to ourselves and others. Thus the rot grows and our collective spirit crumbles.

Which is pretty much what is happening all over the world.

Feel free to disagree…