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April, 23, 2014

The wrong way to fight female objectification

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Name: Iva Kostadinova
Member of: Student Panellist
Joined: April, 2014
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Some of these days in The Guardian’s Lifestyle section I stumbled across a feature on the already viral attempt of Australian comedy duo Bondi Hipsters to fight the over-sexualisation of women. They have copied the recent GQ magazine photo-shoot featuring Victoria Secret’s angel Miranda Kerr, but replaced the model with Dom Nader, one of the guys from the duo.

Photo by the Bondi Hipsters

Photo by the Bondi Hipsters

The reason behind the ridiculous photo-shoot, explained by the Bondi Hipsters before Huffington Post was quite simply put: “the over-sexualisation of the female body in the high-fashion world. For some reason, as soon as you put a man in there … it’s an entirely different thing that we aren’t used to seeing”

So, here we have two men high-minded enough to take a stand against the sexism disgustingly imposed on women in the media world. How thoughtful of them, isn’t it? I guess this is the right time to bring to your attention that I am myself, a woman and moreover, a woman who has always fallen short of understanding feminism. Unburdened by feminist views I spent a few minutes going through the pictures from both photo-shoots trying to figure out what the Bondi Hipster’s mock has to do with women’s equality. The only thing I see in this is parody – a parody of Miranda Kerr as an individual, nothing else.

Photo by Traveller_40

Photo by Traveller_40

Actually it didn’t take me long to jump to the conclusion that the above-mentioned quote was the only thing proving the benevolent nature of the duo’s act. Okay, it’s not the next comedy attempt, got that! Moreover, the former is clearly a much better way to make something viral rather than advertising it as a mere show, but that’s another story.

Anyway, what is easily derived from Christiaan Van Vuuren’s words is that GQ’s cover presents Miranda Kerr as a sexually attractive person and a bearded man, who poses in the same manner, is funny. What can possibly be more evident of the fact that women have been over-sexualised and objectified today?

Photo by Elle Magazine

Photo by Elle Magazine

The thing is that everyone and everything is being over-sexualised all the time. Who wants to argue on the fact whether David Beckham has been objectified on this cover of Elle?

The mere fact that you can barely say “a banana” as in “I’m just eating a banana right now, what are you doing?” without triggering a vulgar joke is enough evidence that it’s far beyond over-sexualisation of the female body. It’s high time everyone realised that if we want to be free from Medieval ‘values’, we’re going to have to think and behave like the sexual beings we are. Sigmund Freud has long defined human libido as the main drive in our existence, we don’t need to discover warm water. In other words, we’re able to see sex in anything, even if it’s not meant to be there, because we simply need it.

Photo By David Monroy

Photo By David Monroy

But let’s get back to the Bondi Hipster’s protest. I believe there’s no need to mention why Dom is not as sexy as Miranda. However, I will mention that if you put a woman in really unattractive cotton white underwear and let her pose in the least feminine you can imagine, it’s best if you’ve been intending to do a parody all along, as the result won’t be any sexier than Nader from the photo-shoot in question.

To sum it up, it’s high time we all gave it up on fighting old, pointless and lost causes. Obviously whether you’re attractive or not, fat or skinny, hetero- or homo-sexual, black or white, woman or man you’ll be able to find something to moan about and blame it all on our “superficial” society. The truth is that you cannot stand against human nature. Moreover, you can’t defeat objectification, for instance, by pointing at something and condemn it “objectifying”. Nothing is objectifying until the society labels it as such.

You are the society.

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  1. Jean Pebereau

    That sex is important to us as humans is indeed obvious.
    But noticing the over sexualisation and objectification in the medias and ads is not trivial or useless. Of course it is being said everyday now. Everywhere you’re being told about it, even the models talk about it and say it’s problematic. And yet, it still exists. The questions to ask are rather what is wrong with it? And how does it have an impact on society.
    The ads, the films and the fashion photography portraying unrealistic and oversexualised women constitute what we hold as our culture. They are the images that inhabit our shared imaginary minds. They are the images that complete our experiences of the everyday life.
    For the things that make you the person you are,

    There is on one side what you live, who you meet and what you do (that includes social life, politics, place where you live, …)

    and on the other side, the cultural objects you are fed with. (some you seek and choose others you are being served without asking like the ads in the tube.)

    Now when most of the visual culture is constructed around an idea of people as objects which fulfill a certain personal desire (in this case, sex) instead of people as individual or a community I think you start giving people a twisted sense of themselves. When a woman is not a woman but a thing you seek as a reward for pride and a hole to jerk in, that’s twisted. When, as a girl, you see some sort of success in being hot and ready, it’s not bad, but it’s twisted.

    Now how to fight it i don’t know. There are so many things that come into the equation (consumerism, artists responsibility, sensitivisation,…) that it’s hard to say. I think that more than the public, it is the creators who should be both blamed and made aware of their responsibilities as the holders of the public’s collective imagination

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  2. Julline Lagorio

    You need to think again about how to define objectification.

    Of course we all have sexualities, and of course they’re a big part of all of us — and, obviously, we see sexuality in some otherwise unsexual things.

    The problem is none of that. The problem comes when we start seeing people as being there for our pleasure or there to have sex with; it comes when we reduce a personality to a sexuality, as if that’s all a person is. Sexual objectification is not simply viewing people as sexy or having sexualities — that’s a common misconception.

    If you want to know why sexual objectification is a massive problem that we NEED to overcome, look at this as a starter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_4dPB9MVS8

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  3. Pingback: Youth’s opinion: The wrong way to fight female objectification | ivakostadinova

  4. Alessia Mobile

    This is a really great article. I don’t think by him copying what Miranda Kerr was doing is necessarily to point out women’s equality. What ever gender you are you are always going to complain about something that isn’t going right for you because that’s what humans do. If there’s something that doesn’t suit us as an individual, then we simply either complain or fight it. I think we should stop with the endless parodies and hate and look for a better solution. Plus if Miranda Kerr or any other model for that fact wants to be on the cover of a magazine or pose themselves in lingerie for a new brand, then let them do it. It”s a job at the end of the day and they are getting paid because they have the right specifications for it. I say it’s their body and no one should say otherwise. If we really want equality amongst the fashion world, put a plus sized woman in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue or on the cover of vogue. Men are also subject to it too because if you don’t have the right amount muscle or you don’t have the washboard abs then you can’t advertise underwear because it’s not seen as “sexy”. It’s not just women who have to fight for equality but men also

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  5. Iva Kostadinova

    Thank you both, Selena and Jay! Glad to hear my opinion on the topic is shared! :)

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  6. Selena Carter

    I really enjoyed reading this article. It’s rare and a breath of fresh air to find a woman who is prepared to voice her opinion against those who condemn the objectification of women. It is true that women, in this day and age are not the only ones privy to over-sexualisation and if there’s anything to be said here it is that ‘objectification’ is found in most of what we see around us and it’s time we ourselves stopped seeing these models as objects and, as individuals with individual thoughts, see these models as individuals too. Perhaps just those who were born a little more conventionally attractive…

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  7. Jay Antony Sykes

    Thank you for this great article – how fantastic to read a viewpoint which highlights our natural sexuality as humans. For everyone who isn’t asexual, the media is full of somewhat material to enjoy; a plethora of male and female soft pornography is masqueraded as advertising, speculation and narrative.

    For some of the feminism-led comments (however we collectively define feminism now) I would like to raise to your attention to several advertisements which sexualise men – perhaps my favourite is the modern re-working of the infamous Diet Coke advert – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwYCvTpYMCA – isn’t he gorgeous?

    Without further ado, I must admit that I fully behind the increasing sexualisation of men in media, advertising and so on. Dom Nader, in his hairy V-neck, looks incredible, sexy and engaging in the photos you’ve shown us – I wouldn’t say they were out-of-place in today’s media landscape.

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    • Maximillion

      Well I’m a man and I find that diet coke ad degrading.

      It’s stuff like this which has forced me to look in the mirror and realise what some women must feel like in the face of objectification.

      Great if you, or anyone else doesn’t find it degrading. But you can’t turn around and say ‘well if you were accepting of your sexuality blah blah blah’. That’s a load of codswallop! First of all, insecurity is innate in human nature almost as much as sexuality. We *all* feel it from time to time. If someone is made uneasy by something, you can’t just blame them and say it’s their fault. That’s ridiculous and also insensitive. They may not be perfect but can they really help the way they are? If they could then they would. We are all subject to biology and determinism, and it’s not possible to escape that.

      In demanding that people ‘accept’ their so-called innate nature and become ‘comfortable’ with their sexuality, we are moving ever closer to a sexual hegemony, in which there is a ‘correct’ sexuality, anything other than which is seen as a deviation. This is a complete end to sexual freedom. How can we be emancipated if our sexuality is dictated to us by a social and cultural elite? This is the complete reverse of the situation we had before, where sexuality is all ‘bad’ and must be suppressed at all costs. Now we are made to believe that any thought that goes against our ‘sexual nature’ is repressive and Victorian. In reality we have made no progress whatsoever, as our views still lack flexibility.

      Not trying to preach here, but if you think someone is insecure, why not try and have some sympathy and try and understand why that might be? Put yourself in their shoes, rather than labelling them a freak. Some people *are* insecure. Some people *might* be uncomfortable about sex and sexuality. While I’m not saying this is a good thing, you can’t change it. It will always be there. These people, whilst imperfect, have a right to the thoughts and feelings that they have. You can’t tell them they’re wrong.

      And as for your comment about anyone who is not asexual enjoying advertising ‘soft-porn’, just no. As I previously highlighted, not everybody wants sex, or ‘soft-porn’ to invade every aspect of their life. Not everybody wants it to follow them everywhere they go. This doesn’t make them evil, repressive, or any of that rhetorical gubbins. Society includes a hugely diverse cross-section of people and each one of them has a right to be reasonably comfortable in their surroundings. You can’t assume that these people are a marginal 1%, not when you’re only familiar with the opinions of your own social circles. If you like soft-porn (or any kind of porn), go and view it on the internet or something. No-one is stopping you.

      So in short, yes, sexuality is innate in human nature, but, and here is the big but, so is the vast spectrum of emotions causing people to be insecure, uncomfortable and to reject sexualisation, or objectification.

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  8. Iva Kostadinova

    You’re right, CJ and I’d like to congratulate it on your decision to express yourself openly and be ready to make things clear for anyone who misunderstands the terms!
    You’re bringing religion to the table, which is actually even more controversial topic and puts almost anyone who claims themselves as devoted to any religion or atheism easily under fire.
    Tired of explaining my angle on such overused classifications, though, I’ve found that avoiding such topics and words, especially to fresh acquaintances, works best for me. Thus, it’s the real me that they get the first impressions of, not of stereotypes.
    However, as a writer I find it appropriate and even necessary to get out of your comfort zone from time to time in order to engage the public in current topics that are worth discussing and contemplating over.

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  9. CJ

    You accept that “men are pigs, they are all the same” is an unfair statement, but you’re also painting all feminists with the same man-hating brush. Most feminists are moderates, most of them don’t hate men, and it really makes me sad that more and more of them feel they have to stop calling themselves feminists because they disagree with the radical (often pernickety) wing of the movement. There are plenty of feminists I disagree with–there are plenty of feminists I find downright embarrassing–but that doesn’t change the fact that my views on gender equality make me a feminist.

    I’m also an athiest. Unfortunately, I’ve come across a lot of athiests who are horrible and judgemental people and think that being an athiest means you have to be vile to religious people. Should I stop calling myself an athiest, even though that’s the correct way to describe what I believe? Saying “I believe men and women are equal, but I’m not a feminist.” is like saying “I’m not an athiest, I just don’t believe in God.”

    Personally, I’d rather continue to call myself what I am and correct anyone who assumes I hate men because of it. If I didn’t, I’d feel like I was turning my back on all the amazing progress that feminists have made over the decades. I’m not going to let a bunch of eejits failing to recognise intersectionality or berating someone for using the “wrong” definition of sexism change my views.

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  10. Iva Kostadinova

    Hi, Natalie,

    If objectification and sexualisation can be observed separately, you’re giving a good example. However, one can argue that you can see the sexual objectification in it: take a look at the slim and shapely legs, the stilettos that denote sex appeal.
    On the other hand, it is true that long ago, in the feudal system women used to be thought of as goods, not much different from cattle. Fortunately, we’re long past those times, so this would be a matter of discussion only in historical terms.

    You might want to take a look at Objectification theory, discussed in this journal: http://www.apa.org/education/ce/sexual-objectification.pdf.

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    • Rebecca Murphy

      Iva we are not past the times of men feeling they own women. that’s one of the reasons militant feminism is still going strong because even now in 2014 in forward looking western civilizations we still hear men talking about “My woman” and believing they have to right to go home and have sex with her whenever they want. this happens today, will happen today, maybe as you are reading this right now.

      portraying other women as sexual objects, whether they agree to looking like that in the shoot or not, reinforces these men’s outdated and shocking beliefs and encourages them to continue treating “their woman” as a sex object because that other woman on the front of the magazine basically said it’s ok. not everyone has the education or positive role models to disconnect those two things and act respectively towards women.

      so to say “Fortunately, we’re long past those times” is offensive and oppressive to any women in that situation and propagating opinions like that will make it even harder for abused women to get out of these harmful relationships and gain the self reliance and self respect people like you and me expect and know how how to demand already.

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      • Iva Kostadinova

        Sure, Rebecca, there are still women being abused by their men in our modern Western society. However, I don’t really see the link between the relationships belonging to the “domestic violence” category and the portrayal of women in the media. I don’t believe what happens in such relationships has anything to do with sexual objectification as it is rather a matter of desperate need of control and domination.

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  11. Iva Kostadinova

    Hi, CJ,
    You may have noticed that my article/opinion here deals with the common perceptions and believes in the society nowadays. It is true that the term feminism has been coined to define the movement aiming to establish equality between the two sexes. However, for inexplicable reasons it has grown to define the widespread contempt among women towards men in general, as in the statement “men are pigs, they are all the same” (you can’t have missed out to hear that at least several times). This contempt is said to stem from the long decades and centuries during which women had been suppressed by men and is widely believed not much has changed since then. Hence, passionate feminists often show themselves as quite radical and tend to argue constantly about almost everything that they’ve been neglected due to their gender.
    This is what in my opinion is totally unacceptable and this is why I don’t what to associate myself with feminism.

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  12. CJ

    Apparently the author was “unburdened by feminist views”, except for the ones that allow her to make her own decisions, own things, or write this article. A feminist is someone who believes that women and men are equal. You don’t need a book of jargon to “[understand] feminism”, you don’t even need to believe that all the same fights are worth fighting, you just have to believe that you are as valuable as a man.

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  13. Natalie

    ok, yes, there is a lot of sexualisation in our society, but you seem to be saying that sexualisation and objectification is the same thing. It is not. When we talk about objectification of people we are regarding them as objects, something to be acted upon, things for mere purposes of pleasure. And this is not right to do. I do not agree with you saying that nothing is objectifying until society labels it so when in some adds woman’s bodies replace actual objects for marketing purposes such as in this image here http://www.gotstared.at/organize/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/objectification.jpg And when woman are continuously objectified they start to see themselves as being there for someone else’s pleasure to look at or to be with, not there to act, but be acted upon, passive, not active. While both men and woman are sexualised, women more often are also objectified.

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  14. Izzy

    This is the most ignorant article I’ve ever read

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    • Jyoti

      Hi Izzy,

      Would you like to expand on why? It would be interesting to hear your view!

      The OP Team

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    • Maximillion

      I agree, I find it very ignorant.

      The author is basically saying that because sexuality is part of human nature, over-sexualisation of society is a direct natural consequence of it, and that any attempt to fight it is futile and makes you ‘Medieval’.

      Iva, you should know that not everyone sees sex in everything, and that not seeing sex in everything does not make you abnormal or unhealthy.

      In fact, Freud’s foremost student, Karl Jung, completely disagreed with him on his ideas about sex being the primary motivator for all human behaviour. And modern psychoanalysis is based primarily on the works of Jung, not Freud. Freud may have been a pioneer, but he had substance abuse problems, amongst other issues, which drastically affected his work.

      Disagreeing with over-sexualisation is so much more than the mere Medieval viewpoint you take it to be. It can have a lot of negative consequences, and failing to acknowledge them is just sheer ignorance. It doesn’t mean you are opposed to sex or sexuality, just that you are not pre-occupied with it and feel that there is a right time and place for it. Sexuality is a subtle and nuanced topic, and perhaps it is true that it pervades a lot of our behaviour, but this is absolutely no justification for over-sexualisation, which in my view can be very unhealthy.

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      • Iva Kostadinova

        Maximillion, I haven’t said that not seeing sex in everything is abnormal/unhealthy. Another story is what we perceive on subconscious level.
        The thing is that, as I have stated in the article, is that what we now call sexual objectification is a natural result of our human sexuality combined with the power of the mass media and the following respond. There is, of course, the circle of need-demand-supply. It’s the needs of the society that have provoked the media to include sexual content and given these needs are so vastly common, you cannot judge the society. My point is that it is when someone starts to add a negative connotation to this phenomenon as in “OVER-sexualisation” that the problems arise. After all, if those critics didn’t have any problems with accepting their sexuality and didn’t fear it, such images as those of Miranda Kerr, would probably go as a kind of Art or mere advertisement. Then, once you have already dubbed something wrong and degrading, an avalanche starts and you can do really little to stop it.

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