People talk with an authoritative tone about how women are objectified in other cultures, as though USA were in some way above that. In a recent discussion with my Ethics professor, I pointed out a truth many people tend to ignore: WE objectify women. In the Islamic culture women wear the berka to cover up; this is a show of respect for their husbands and for their own bodies. What is so awful about that? In our culture, women wear string bikinis to the beaches and on TV and even, sometimes, into Wal-Mart and we say, “Oh, damn, that chick’s hot!” “Fat chicks” are told to cover up because it is nasty to see their bodies, but thin chicks are told to wear as little as possible because “if you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Young, single women who are physically attractive put their bodies on display, and men can look at them like they would a herd of cattle or a prize show dog, and pick out the best one to take home and breed. Young, single women who are not deemed physically attractive by society’s shallow standards are told to cover their bodies up, not out of any sort of respect for themselves, but so that people don’t have to look at them. But it doesn’t stop with single women. Married women, too, are going around scantily clad, much to the chagrin of their husbands in many cases. The husbands are called “insanely jealous” if they dare tell their wives to cover up. Meanwhile, married overweight women, again, are told to cover up to spare everyone’s eyes. In magazines, on TV shows, in movies, on billboards and just about anywhere in between, we are inundated with images and phrases that all send the exact same message: women should be thin, chesty, tan, blonde, and well-manicured and should wear makeup and jewelery in our endless pursuit of that ultimate goal of finding a man. Once we’ve found said man, we are to continue to do the those things so that we can keep him. Nevermind if we are tired from all of our responsibilities, nevermind if we have had one or many children, nevermind if makeup and jewelry irritate our skin, nevermind any other “excuse” we might come up with; we’re supposed to please men with our hot, painted and bejeweled bods. In my African Literature course this semester, we are reading about the cultures of some of the tribes of Africa. Women walk around unclothed. During the ritual of discussing the bride-price, the bride-to-be is painted, wears jewelry and a belt with dangling beads, and sometimes might be peirced or wear a mask. What is the difference between that ceremony and the one we participate in a daily basis to catch and keep our men? What really disturbs me about our misguided efforts to eliminate opression of the female form, is that younger and younger girls are being subjected to the pressures to “take it off.” We are creating an entirely different kind of opression. When I worked at Wal-Mart, I saw little girls, toddlers really, wearing miniskirts and tube tops. Many retail clothing stores sell these outfits under the names of “Hannah Montana” or “MaryKate and Ashley” or whatever innocent girl turned Pop tart is popular these days. It’s bad enough that I have to face ridicule on a daily basis for not conforming to socety’s views of what woman should be, but now my little girl will go to kindergarten and feel over-dressed when all of her classmates are wearing daisy dukes and belly-shirts and I’ve made her wear a long-skirt or jeans and a loose-fitting t-shirt that hangs past her hips. She’s only one right now, and doesn’t have to deal with these pressures just yet, but I worry. What is her future, if year after year the skirts get shorter and the shirts get tinier? I don’t want her to be ashamed of her body, but I also know from painful personal experiences that pedophiles and rapists are plentiful. It is never a person’s fault if they get raped, but you cannot expect pedophiles or rapists to behave themselves when you wrap what they want in such a revealing package. I see a lot of arguments with Luna in the future, as she sees her friends wearing what can really only be called slutty clothing and feels the pressures to conform. May the gods and goddesses (all of them, I’ll need the help) grant me the strength to keep fighting this fight for her safety and self-respect. Agathocles–Do you see women as objects to be used? Inferior, feeble creatures? Your male-ego’stool?
View the full blog at heartchasms.blogspot.com and like the blog on Facebook.