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On Feminine Fridays: Objecting to objectification.

In somewhat of a continuation to my post from last week, Feminine Friday this week is more thinking about the objectification of women.

I know that this isn’t a ‘feminine-only’ issue, but it does seem like it’s a ‘feminine-mainly’ issue. Maybe that’s unfair of me though, I’d love to hear the thoughts of others (especially if you disagree!) so feel free to add a comment at the bottom.

The news has been awash with stories of objectification this week, and obviously the publication (and not-publication) of the naked photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge have dominated everything, but aside from that I have had my own personal brush with objectification in the last week and frankly it has left me feeling pretty darn irritated.

Yesterday evening I took a brief-ish stroll from my house to my new ballet class. I wandered from the charming, middle-class suburb where I live, to the (equally charming and middle-class) suburb next door. The evening was autumnal, the sun was setting and dusk drawing in, and all was quite delightful. And then, a taxi drove past and young man called out to me from the front passenger seat. I won’t repeat what he said, because frankly, I don’t want to use that kind of language on my blog, but I’m sure you can fill in the blanks if I let you know that he invited me to do something that it is not slightly appropriate to ask of a stranger, and he didn’t ask it in a terribly nice or PG-certified way.

And my response? Anger, irritation, disgust, and a little bit of sadness, and initially I was quite confused by feeling that way; it’s not as if I haven’t heard that kind of language before, after all.

Actually, the whole episode reminded me of life in Jo’burg where that kind of incident was a little more common. Every time I walked from my house to the Wits campus (a 45 minute journey) I would pass by approximately 15-20 men, and walk past a stretch of building site. Each man would say something, sometimes equivalent to what was called to me last night, sometimes the more innocuous: ‘Hey baby’, ‘I love you’, ‘Marry me?’, and for the two or three minutes that I walked past the building site I would receive multiple cat-calls and whistles. Once or twice I had (or heard about) conversations with men regarding this Jo’burg phenonemon and this question would be asked: ‘Don’t you find it flattering?’

Um, no.

Here’s why: firstly, those men didn’t know me: not my likes and dislikes, or thoughts on politics, or preferred way of taking tea, or even my name; secondly, I know I’m not that attractive, particularly since I was usually dressed in baggy jeans and an equally baggy hoody (not exactly form-fitting and stylish). It turns out that to these men the fact that I was a women and I was breathing was quite enough for them to want to have sex with me, and weirdly enough I don’t feel in the least bit flattered by that.

The Jo’burg comments did bother me. I could never really work out why, but it was unpleasant and made the prospect of every single journey to work quite exhausting; and it turns out that feeling hasn’t disappeared. Last night when that young man yelled at me I was so irritated. I’m sure it was nothing more than a stupid Freshers’ week-related dare (though I really hoped that the taxi driver might give him a swift punch in the jaw for his trouble) but it’s just more of the same – he didn’t care which woman he propositioned; any would do. It wasn’t about me, I was just a convenient nearby object.

Ultimately the problem is deeper and more widespread than just the objectification of women. Rather it’s the fact that we (male and female) are all terminally self-obsessed, we think that the world revolves around us and everyone is just incidental to our own little story.  To that young man in the taxi I was just an object for his own amusement, and I object to being an object, but how often am I guilty of the same?

[Although not profanity-laced verbal drive-bys. I am glad to say I’ve never indulged in that kind of objectification.]

In then end I really don’t know what to do about manky propositions from strangers, but I suppose I can pray that God would change my own heart to be a little less self-involved and objectifying, and a little more humble and serving.

In summary: praying to be more like Jesus.

 

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This entry was published on September 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm. It’s filed under Feminine Fridays and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “On Feminine Fridays: Objecting to objectification.

  1. Karen Berthine on said:

    I enjoyed this post. I used to be a college prof and taught several classes in women’s studies. Besides the commodification and objectification of women, this also captures the social status/power of men compared to women. Of course, a standard defensive response is the increasing number of women in powerful positions in business etc. but that power does not transfer outside their business. They lose it the minute they step outside and walk down the street. Great post.

  2. ellidhcook on said:

    Thanks for your comment Karen. That’s a helpful thought.

  3. Pingback: On Feminine Fridays: A Matter of the Heart « surrounded by clouds

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