Monday, December 3, 2012

More about objectification

I'd like to think things are shifting when it comes to the portrayal of women in the media. While this blurb (below) about a study regarding articles about athletes in Sports Illustrated looks somewhat promising, it's clear that advertising and other aspects of the media are still missing the boat. I can't find the actual study anywhere, so it's hard to take the following completely seriously. Besides, a quick glance at recent Sports Illustrated covers tells me that women are definitely still portrayed as sexual objects in that magazine, and it's not just Sports Illustrated who's guilty. Still, I hope that the findings in the study are true. It would be nice if anything written on athletes focused on their abilities instead of their looks. 

Improvements in 2010? 

Analysis of Sports Illustrated yields interesting data on portrayals of women athletes

A new study indicates that representation of women athletes is improving, but there’s a caveat to that point.

The University of Buffalo’s Kiera Duckworth analyzed Sports Illustrated issues during Olympic years and found that the majority of articles portrayed women athletes as “strong, competent athletes.” Her research was presented Thursday at the annual conference for the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in New Orleans.

This is a positive signal for women’s sports because it is imperative that women athletes are recognized for their athletic prowess and not being sexualized.

However in her analysis of advertisements in the same issues, Duckworth found that there were differences in representation based on race. White women were portrayed as “the girl next door”, black females were shown predominately in a sporting context and Asian women were sexualized.

Taken together, Duckworth’s research indicates that the focus needs to be placed not just on journalists, but on advertising companies who also create societal representations of women athletes.

Still a LONG way to go. 

In addition to the short write-up above, I read an article in Psychology Today about the possible benefits of women being objectified. The topic was whether or not women want to be objectified. A foolish quote by Cameron Diaz was offered as some kind of evidence that there are women who think it's OK to objectify women. Cameron takes it one step further and seems to believe that EVERY women secretly wants it. I can guarantee there's at least one women who does not. I'm sure I'm not alone. She states, "I think every woman does want to be objectified," as if she has any kind of qualifications to determine this. 

Here's the thing...

Who the fuck cares what Camreon Diaz says? She's is a mediocre actress with nothing of substance to say who, despite her claims of being a mother but not actually having any children, knows zero minus about creating a healthy environment for youngsters. She's fine with objectifying women, because that's how she got famous and probably how she became quite full of herself, though her insecurity screams through her fits of bravado. Cameron's first movie (not Mask) was probably only available behind the secret curtains in the back of your local video store, so it's not surprising that she associates being objectified with something good following -- in her case, lots of money. Considering the damage she has done to herself with plastic surgery, I have to wonder how this objectification she claims to like is going to work out for her in the end. Hollywood isn't kind to the ageing. 

She continues, "If a woman who's a successful actress weighs 300 pounds and has warts, nobody ever asks her, 'Do you think you made it because you're ugly?' So why should there be prejudice against someone who's had some success in films and looks a little better than average. It's all in my genes, so don't hold it against me." 
Cameron Diaz

Yes, there are just so many actresses who weigh 300 pounds and have warts hanging around to answer these questions. 

I don't think Cameron Diaz understands the difference between the desire to feel sexy and comfortable in one's skin and being sexually objectified. In the case of the former, I might agree that most people don't mind having a good body image and being admired, but, unfortunately, stating it the way she did makes it seem like objectification is a positive thing. The Psychology Today article pointed out that getting attention based on outer appearance for those who already self-objectify and are already feeling good about themselves can cause a temporary boost in mood, but it also cautioned:

"..for people who base their self-worth on appearance (aka most of us, to some extent), self-objectification may be a double-edged sword. It feels great when you're getting positive attention, but it can easily turn sour when attention is negative or lacking, and these ups and downs can wreak havoc on mental and physical health.
Even when objectification feels good, it can have negative effects, taking precious time and attention away from potentially more important tasks or goals. For example, let's say you are a female attending an academic conference. Your central goals are presumably along the lines of learning something, networking, engaging in meaningful conversations, and presenting your best work."

Let me make one thing really clear: Women are not on this planet to look good for anyone. This article describes the warped thinking even highly educated individuals can have when it comes to women. The constant pressure women face to look good takes them away from achieving other goals in life. Objectification de-emphasizes individuality and often reduces whole beings into parts, dehumanizing and devaluing them in the process. When women are not seen as whole, they are no longer taken seriously. Notice that despite the obvious intellectual capabilities of the women at the conference, Dario Maestripieri is more concerned with a woman's outer beauty than her worth overall. He wrote, "My impression of the Conference of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. There are thousands of people at the conference and an unusually high concentration of unattractive women. The supermodel types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone.''  I'm not sure where he was going with that first fragment, but, incomplete sentences aside, this guy is part of a big problem for women. In stating this, he reduces women to nothing more than items to be viewed, and if viewing them doesn't bring him pleasure, he insists they are ugly. Guess what? Not everyone is going to find you attractive, no matter how high up on the scale of hotness you think are. But, as idiotic as Maestripieri's comments are, they are still damaging and shouldn't be brushed aside. I have already gone into how objectification of women leads to self-objectification, which leads to lower-self esteem and can spiral into decreased cognitive ability, eating disorders and increased incidents of abuse against women. 

I wonder what the women at the conference had to say about the appearance of the men there. 

This shit makes me so angry. I feel like screaming out, "Fuuuuuuuccckkkk Youuuuuu!!!" to this messed up society sometimes. We need to call people like this out more often. Things like this that reinforce an unhealthy climate for women should not be happening. 

At some point, I will get back to writing about other things. For now I'm on a roll and feel the need to make an effort to raise awareness about how harmful objectification can be. Things need to change.


  1. Oh yeah, that Maestripieri dude...with a face like that, I almost confused him for Ryan Reynolds. I bet my neuro prof (a brilliant woman who I'm fairly sure has to dumb down her thoughts by a factor of 10 to teach our class) could take him.

  2. I want brains AND beauty. I want it all.