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?’
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.