‘Instead of fighting for women’s bodies to be viewed as valuable, let’s fight for women to be valued for more than their mere bodies.’
Objectification in simple terms means to perceive and treat someone like an object. In the age of 24/7 media, we have become so accustomed to the portrayal of women as a sum total of their sexual body parts, that we do not even realize when in real life also we manifest that behavior and objectify women by singling out body parts of women without finding anything wrong in doing so. As a consequence, in our society, women are dehumanized and are considered to be mindless entities with no internal virtues or as mere accessories to the men in their lives or worse still as objects to be used for utilitarian purposes like sales, branding etc.
I am young girl in the capital city of India. As I am growing up, I see my friends and other young girls under extreme pressure to facsimile or copy women who are portrayed to be immaculate goddesses in movies, banners, advertisements, magazines etc. I do not intend to put forth that there is anything wrong in looking beautiful, and that girls in modern attires or in makeup are trying to objectify themselves. However, judging a person based only on their looks, accentuating merely their external features is erroneous. The girls are found to not only pressurizing themselves to look impeccably ‘beautiful’ but are also found to be making fun of those who really do not believe in matching the artificial beauty standards that have been set by the entertainment, media and the beauty products industry. In the process, they tend to develop a superiority complex and end up objectifying themselves. Those who are not able to attain the benchmark that have been set up in this society also have to undergo deep discrimination. They are made to feel small and in turn suffer from inferiority complexes, mental health issues etc.
While trying to achieve these artificial standards, girls engage in monitoring their physical appearance so frequently that it brings about developing a feeling of self-consciousness or become sheepish among people. This may even mean that they cease to do well or be efficient in their daily tasks. The energy they can direct towards self-improvement is centered towards their appearance. This means they are not able to attain their peak motivational state, when a person outstretches their capacities to achieve or accomplish the high targets, they have set up for themselves on a discretionary basis. They may even undergo emotions of anxiety, shame and diffidence. She might even start to lose a sense of her internal states. Heightened mental health risks like Depression; eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia; and sexual dysfunction are the names of some of the repercussions to objectification, which in turn can be of body, feelings or sexual.
The biggest contributor to this state of affairs is the entertainment industry. For instance -The concept of ‘anchored drift’, which is a recurrent theme in advertisements, where in a male is shown to be gazing or leering at a woman who is looking far-off or daydreaming. This means that the male class is shown to be looking at their female counterparts more often than the converse which usually goes hand in hand with condescending and colored remarks about her appearance in authentic life.
Now a very important aspect that needs to be brought into consideration is the way in which women respond to being objectified, which in turn depends on a number of factors like age, class, physical and individual characteristics, ethnicity and so on. The impact of objectification on a woman can be both positive and negative. However, in most instances it has been witnessed that the affect is usually has a negative connotation to it. Apart from the mental health risks that a woman might face due to objectification, one of the major reasons why women tend to make themselves look ‘attractive’ is that the benefits they might get along with it. For instance – Studies like that of Snow and Harris in 1985 show that the overweight or obese girls are likely to be not be accepted by students in colleges in contrast to thin girls. Furthermore, if a woman is adjudged to be unattractive, then she is delineated in a dismissive manner as compared to men who are deemed to be unattractive. Thus, we can infer that the more attractive a woman is, the more will be the chances for her political or economic sense. This even has been explained by Unger (1979) that attractiveness can be construed into power that a woman may hold. However, the degree of this power might differ with differing attitudes of people throughout various societies.
If we have to change this state of affairs then the changes have to start from our classrooms. Changes in the education system, should encompass gender neutral education and awareness programs. Several preschools in Sweden have adopted an approach which aims at instilling gender neutral education. I robustly believe schools in India and other countries can adapt this approach. Awareness is the key through which we can not only make students aware about what is objectification and they regularly face objectification in their daily life, but are not able to do anything, just because they do not know about. Since the impact of such objectification can adversely affect the person deeply, therefore compensation should be a provision of the objectification law.
Therefore, as a young student myself, my appeal to all young girls and women is to not let yourself to be turned into things to be scrutinized, judged and to be used like a commodity. Try to be cognizant of your bodily selves. You are a woman and that’s your superpower.
Author Bhavya Gupta is a student of Montfort Senior Secondary school. She is interested in writing on the subject pertaining to gender issues and women’s status in the society.