Lost Values: The Objectification of Women

I was unclear if it was artful slow motion or simple writhing, but whichever it was, it was disconcerting. And not strictly necessary. The picture in question was in the toilets of a particularly trendy London restaurant, all exposed brick and artisan gin. Repurposed industrial space with shabbily chic leather armchairs. The picture frame contained a video screen with a very slowly moving and distinctly naked women on it. This was less suggestion than blatant demonstration. Sex sells, or so they say.

The Objectification of Women

Don’t get me wrong: there’s a time and place for everything. I am no prude. But there’s a difference between a trendy restaurant and a strip bar. Or so i thought. The same images, i was assured, played in the ladies toilet. It speaks of a low lying objectification: the same reason women are draped across sports cars, motorcycles and countless conference stand literature. It’s been particularly on my mind recently since a friend shared a copy of ‘She Shreds’ magazine, a guitar mag dedicated to female guitarists and bassists that has successfully gained traction in challenging stereotypes and overly sexualised imagery.

It’s a complicated subject (or possibly a simple subject that we complicate), but it’s through these small reinforcements of inequality and unequal portrayal that stereotypes are made, are reinforced, are perpetuated. What kind of role models do we present, when the overwhelming imagery is subservient and sexualised. As i say, there’s a time and a place for everything, but not all the time in all places.

It’s easy to laugh it off, to dismiss it. I feel somewhat stupid for writing about it, but the point is that the big targets of inequality are easy to spot and easy to deal with, at least on some level, but the small, pervasive and ever present friction of these small and deeply embedded portrayals of women as simply being there for our viewing pleasure reinforce inequality. Because it normalises already deeply embedded stereotypes.

Equality

The other reason i raise it is this: because i spoke to someone recently who denied inequality exists, that the battle was won. That it was all a fuss about nothing. That plenty of women are paid more than men, that it’s a bit of a fuss about nothing. He spoke, of course, from the winning team. It’s easy to forget about privilege when you have it.

My language and thoughts behind this piece are imperfect, but it’s one of a series of pieces exploring ‘An imperfect humanity’. I’m #WorkingOutLoud exploring ideas in this space, exploring how we navigate equality and fairness in the Social Age.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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10 Responses to Lost Values: The Objectification of Women

  1. johannawyers says:

    I think difference is a more laudable objective than equality. The point is not to treat women exactly as men, or pay them exactly as men, but to explore the differences between men and women and transgendered people so that their differences are fairly considered – that room for difference be built into systems themselves. I recently heard of a study that looked at the reasons behind pay differences between men and women that found that yes, women are generally paid less, but generally not because they couldn’t make more; more often because they chose to take positions that paid less but offered greater flexibility. (That’s also another conversation entirely, the one of parental leave.) The challenge is to try to make the access to systems equitable but also flexibility enough to consider differences, that is, not the same . By definition, the playing field can’t be level because we all approach it from different angles of privilege. In an ideal world the point would be to make all the pathways get to the same place, but by following different means.

    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks for sharing these thoughts Johanna: it’s certainly a nuanced area, but we have to be careful not to hide excuses behind nuance i guess? It’s one thing to actively make a choice, another to do so in a perspective and frame that paints you with assumed roles of normality. Perhaps we should make those choices from a level playing field

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