What I’m Saying Is, The Search For Equality Is Pretty Messy

Tumblr is basically a sentient computer network that is trying to communicate with us via pop culture memes. At least, that’s what I once assumed, though as a person with a Tumblr, I am increasingly assured that real human beings are behind it.

These days, when you go onto Tumblr — or, as I like to think of it, fall headlong into the bottomless pit of semi-amusement that Tumblr represents — you will indeed see a great deal of pop culture memery, and as of late it is not unreasonable to expect to see a great deal of Thor and Loki pop culture memery in particular. People love Thor. People really love Loki — and they also love his proxy in this human realm, Tom Hiddleston, aka, “Hiddles.”

You might further see the occasional objectification of Thor or Loki. They are topless and sexy and they will be shown for their toplessness or sexiness.

Which, you know, hey: these are sexy gentlemen. If I looked like either of them, I’d be running around shirtless non-stop. I’d be at the bus stop, the grocery store, the drunk tank — just, boom, long hair, no shirt, some oil on my hairless chest, I’d just be –

Shit, I’d just be working it.

Still, you might be the type to think — or even to say, on social media — “Hey, jeez, men aren’t supposed to objectify women, but women can apparently objectify men? We will be chastised for our gaze, but they will not be chastised for theirs?”

And then someone might comment on that particular nugget of social media and add, “Right, and they can ‘ship together two dudes into a gay relationship but if I ‘ship together two ladies into a lesbian relationship, I’m a sexist asshat.”

Thus begins a discussion that essentially looks at the search for equality and suggests that equal is not really equal, whereas one group can get away with a special kind of sexism or racism while simultaneously shouting down the sexism or racism of others. And eventually this all leads to the classic example of, how can black people use the N-word but white people can’t. Or a further devolution might ask why women get feminism but men can’t get dude-ism (see Joss Whedon’s recent misguided repudiation of the word “feminist” for a softball shit-the-bed version of this). Or, even creepier, African-Americans get “black power” but white people can’t have “white power.” And on and on; there exist justifications all the way down.

Abstractly, intellectually, some of this would seem to make sense. Oh, well, sure, if we’re all equal, then we should all be equal in the same way. No double standards here, no sir, no ma’am, that would only undo the very search for equality in the first place.

But like I said earlier, equal isn’t really equal.

Legally, we’re all equal, you know, more or less. We can all vote. We can all drive. On paper, we’re all allowed the same pursuit of life, liberty, happiness, cable TV, iPhones, Tumblr, shirtless Thor-and-Loki. But culturally, endemically, we’re not really equal. White people — in particular, white dudes, and even more particular, heteronormative white dudes with some cash in the ol’ bank accounts — get a gold-standard version of equality. Like, were I to use an airplane metaphor, we’re all allowed to fly and go to the same place, but the heteronormative white dudes get more legroom, free and better drinks, hot towels, all that happy shit.

Or, to go back to that cable TV half-a-joke I just made, okay, sure, we’re all allowed to buy cable TV, but these white dudes are the ones who can afford it (they make more money than women and minorities). And they’re the ones who run the cable companies. And who direct and write most of the shows and star in most of the shows and — well, you get the picture, right?

I mean, hey. Thor and Loki? Both heteronormative white dudes in mythology, in the stories, and reportedly as actors. Thor 2: The Dark World is a film written by a white dude. Directed by a white dude. The poster is a lotta white dudes. The black dude on the poster is ill-seen. The lead actress, Natalie Portman, appears classically demure — a damsel in distress pressing herself against the white dude’s chest as if for protection. (The other woman on the poster appears slightly more bad-ass, though is not shown being bad-ass so much as she’s shown concealed behind the might of Thor.) We can have Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man. But we can’t have a Black Cat film. Or a Wonder Woman movie. You know?

This isn’t meant to be an indictment against any of these films — I’ve not yet seen Thor 2 – but this rambly jumble of thoughts is there to remind you that what we have here is a very strong legacy forged in favor of the heteronormative white dude (heretofore referred to as HWD).

It’s easy to say, “Yes, it’s wrong for men to objectify women and so it must also be wrong for women to objectify men!” — but here, you may find more value in shoving words like “right” and “wrong” off the table and instead replacing them with a different term:


As in, what is the result?

The result of men objectifying women is stacking more weight on an already imbalanced scale. It’s contributing, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, toward that legacy I’m talking about. A legacy of unequal pay, a legacy of cultural separation, a legacy of rape culture and other forms of victimization. It adds to that legacy while robbing something from a whole group of people.

The result of women objectifying men is — what? Again, not asking about right or wrong but — what happens? I’m still Mister Lucky over here. You objectify me and I still won the HWD lottery. I’m still likelier to get paid more, to get the jobs, to get the kudos, to get to be a hero Daddy, to get to be the rule-setter. I’m still going to have a better shot at being a CEO. Or a politician. Or, or, or.

I point all this out not as a finger-waggling tongue-clucking judge and jury against the HWD. I point this all out as an HWD who has in the past wondered some of this stuff and had go ahead and open his eyes and see that, yes, there’s more going on here than maybe I imagined. It’s hard to see the forest because of all these white dude trees, you know? We like to think it’s keen to aspire to a color-blind world but the result of that is usually that white people are just blind to people of color. Whedon wants us to put the word “feminism” away, but all that would really result in is putting away feminists and, by proxy, those who are female.

So, when it comes to things like men’s rights or presumed double-standards or why we can’t join in on the cultural appropriation of bigoted words — maybe we need to think about the consequence of all this instead of whether something seems right or seems wrong.

More to the point –

Maybe we just need to suck it up and be allies for others instead of allies for ourselves.

Postscript to all this: I’ve been sitting on this for a couple days because I’m always nervous — worried not that I’m going to offend somebody, which is par for the course around here, but because this is sensitive stuff and I’m a certified HWD who has all kinds of secret little prejudices and unrecognized bullshit I’m probably not even aware of. I don’t want to try to play the hero and drum my chest and say, “Now that a white guy has brought this up, we can canonize it.” This is all very easy for me to say, and I’m going to get stuff wrong from time to time because of all this baggage and privilege and the sweet leg-room and free drinks and hot towels. Let me know if you think I’m off here — and, obviously, please play together politely in the comments because otherwise I’ll dump you in the spam oubliette where your shrieks will find no ears.

Second Postscript: I won’t link to the original discussion that led me to write this post, in part because I don’t want to send more signal into noise, and further, it’s already gone, poof, someone took it down. It was a trail I’d followed reading stuff about the Joss Whedon “genderist” speech — and his speech is probably a whole other post for a whole other day.


  • “Result” is a good answer, I also think of it as “laughing up” versus “laughing down.” In all the examples cited (women objectifying men, black people reclaiming the N-Word, etc.) the question I ask myself is “In which direction does the power flow?” Despite panic-laden mouth-frothers claiming otherwise, you accurately point out that heteronormative white males are still “on top” socially. Pay disparity, prison population disparity, conviction rates, pornography, etc. all clearly demonstrate that when the HWM makes fun of other groups (in our culture), they are laughing *down* at them. When these groups mock the HWM, they are “laughing up.” As you so eloquently put it, the *results* change. More importantly, laughing up serves as a social leveling system to promote growth and allow for a lower power disparity. Laughing down serves to reinforce the social structure and prevent mobility. Just my two cents, YMMV

  • Eh, I don’t think two wrongs make a right. Yeah, it sucks all around, I understand. But I don’t think that if something isn’t ok, that it’s okay for other people to do it. It’s self-perpetuating suckage.

    I’ve been a goofy little geek my whole life. A girl geek. Yeah, that went over *real* well in public school. But I don’t think it’s okay for me to go around being a complete jerk to non-geeks. Or telling younger girls they aren’t “real geeks” because it’s cool now and I don’t think they are geeky enough. Who does that help?

    But then, people do whatever they want. I just have opinions. Life’s too short for all this.

  • Could the Golden Rule just be the simplest answer? I’ve tried it out and it works most of the time. I don’t know what feminism is but I believe all people should be happy. I have no lofty philosophy or explanation to justify it but my gut and heart are in agreement – don’t be a douche to people. Everyone deserves a shot.

    There exist people who believe the opposite, none of which I call friends.

  • There is such a thing as reverse sexism. Which is a completely ridiculous turn of phrase, because sexism is sexism, and the reverse of sexism is… non-sexism?

    Everyone is guilty of it, objectifying persons of their sexual interest. I’m guilty of it, you’re guilty of it, Tom at the bakery is guilty of it, the dudes at the bar or the golf course or the ladies at the gay-friendly club or the smoking section on break at their jobs… We’re all guilty of it.

    I remember clearly watching an episode of the View (I wasn’t really watching it, but it was on in the background, just the channel the TV happened to fall on that day) and it was just after Man of Steel came out. And the women hosting, (who I know would be up in arms about if, say, Man of Steel had been Woman of Steel, featuring Power Girl in her cleavaged glory, with that snazzy boob-window in her costume) were cackling like hens over Henry Cavill. Just going on and on about how the S stood for “Sexy” and those *abs* and how they’d drag him home and …

    You know, I realized that day that if it had been a bunch of guys cackling about how they’d like to drag a female superhero home, remarking on her chest size and ass and how they’d like to bend her over… Yeeeeah. Those hypothetical men would have had holy unmerciful hell unleashed on them. A media shitstorm the likes of which they had never personally experienced.

    And that’s hypocrisy.

    As a woman, I personally don’t mind being occasionally objectified. Key word: *occasionally*. Just like I know some guys really like it when a girl (or a guy) admires their ass or their abs or their biceps without much, if any, regard for their personality, smarts or skill set. It is a component of our sex drives. The problem raises its ugly head when a person becomes regarded as nothing more than their physical appearance.

    Men seem to get it much rougher, the backlash, than women, because as women, we’re oppressed and a minority and such. But you don’t get a pass on being racist if you’ve been the target of racism. You don’t get a pass on being a bully if you’ve been bullied yourself. You don’t get a pass on making body-shaming jokes and comments if you’ve been thus shamed in your pass. And you shouldn’t get a pass on being a sexist, objectifying asshat if you’ve been the target of a sexist, objectifying asshat.

    Hypocrisy abounds. You might be a heteronormative white dude with cash, Chuck, but apparently, the world is hell-bent turning you guys into the new oppressed minority. Because it’s always your fault, and never theirs. Ours. Whatever.

    No one should be nervous to speak their mind. I don’t believe in HWD guilt, or that you shouldn’t have the ability to express an opinion simply because you belong to a class of individuals that have been historically privileged. And neither should you.

    My 2c.

    • “You know, I realized that day that if it had been a bunch of guys cackling about how they’d like to drag a female superhero home, remarking on her chest size and ass and how they’d like to bend her over… Yeeeeah. Those hypothetical men would have had holy unmerciful hell unleashed on them. A media shitstorm the likes of which they had never personally experienced.

      And that’s hypocrisy.”

      I mean, I get it, were pigs. But double standards exist in both directions…

    • I hear you, and I agree that there is a wrongness in the objectification of the human body, male or female.

      However… I appreciate what Chuck is saying about the ‘result’.

      I’m female. If I were alone in a public space and found myself barraged by cat-calls and taunts, men saying things like, “…drag you home, bend you over,” I would run like hell to the nearest occupied whatever, get inside and call 9-11. I’d probably cry. I’d think about it for months after. I wouldn’t walk that street, possibly ever again, but absolutely never alone.

      If the same thing happened to my husband – switch the male cat-callers with female – he’d have a funny story to tell me when he got home.

      The result is very different.

  • I totally agree with you (especially about Tumblr being sentient), but I have one clarification — Loki might be perceived as heteronormative, but due to his status as a shapeshifter he’s quite often in female form, and Marvel have confirmed the comic version as both bisexual and genderqueer (the latter of which was very subtly shown through the costume design in Thor 2, but only someone paying as much attention to that as me would notice), so he’s still a white usually-a-dude, but doesn’t quite fit the heteronormative label. :)

    • Even in mythology, Loki is a shapeshifter and once seduced a cow, or some such weirdness. I knew that eight years ago when I named my dog Loki. He’s secure enough in his canine masculinity not to worry about his namesake’s proclivity towards weird shit. ;)

      • It was a horse (but he was a mare at the time which … helps? Is that the word?). There was a reason, although I’m pretty sure most people would’ve found some OTHER way of getting the stallion out of the way.

          • And here it is on the fabulous Myths Retold site: http://bettermyths.com/the-greeks-do-not-have-a-monopoly-on-bestiality/

            Where they also have myth retellings with titles like “Loki takes it just a little too far”, “Freyr Cocks It All Up”, “What the fuck Loki”, “The Norse Can Never Have Enough Booze” and “Loki is still a dick, but also covered in poison”.

            And in other categories, things like “Everyone in Ireland is a Dick”, “Poseidon is a Prankster of Dubious Hilarity” and “Coyote Needs Some Goddamn Ritalin”. Best mythology site ever.

            But back on the topic of the actual post, thank you for addressing one of those topics that people so often fail to get. I’m reminded a bit of a cartoon I once saw comparing two different visions of “equality”. In both of them, three kids of different heights were trying to see over a fence – one was big enough to easily see over it, one could almost see over it, and one was way too small. In one panel, each child was given a box of them same height to stand on, so that the big kid was even higher up than he’d started out being, the middle one could now see over the fence, and the little one still couldn’t see at all. In the second, the big kid had no box, the middle kid had one, and the little kid had the two stacked on top of each other, so that they could all see over the fence.

            I thought that was a nice illustration of the problem with trying to apply the concept of “equality” in a once-size-fits-all way when you aren’t starting with a level playing field… Maybe the difference is one of equality as a means versus equality as an end…

  • Thanks for being the Voice of Reason yet again, Chuck. I like your Results Scale much better than any like-for-like right/wrong equation the Dude-imists (is that a word?) come up with. As a non-dude myself, I would ask them: “Can I have equal pay and feel safe walking down a street on my own if I promise to never look at another Chippendale again? ‘Cause I could totally do that if I had to, y’know…”

  • November 11, 2013 at 1:20 PM // Reply

    Excellent post, Chuck. I think you get to the heart of the issue pretty well. I won’t say i don’t sometimes wonder these things myself. I belong to a discussion forum where, mixed in with talk about the best backpacking gear, we have a thread about kilts. In particular, pictures of men in kilts (though women are allowed, there’s just nothing very different about a woman in a kilt). And the question has come up about why we “girls” get this but we object if the guys put up one about women hiking in bikinis or something. But take a look at it. The power thing is clear. Women in bikinis are not just about sexuality, but about sexual vulnerability. The men in kilts are something else, though it still makes me squirm a bit to objectify them that way, whatever way it is.

    Same thing elsewhere, in a way. We live in a school district where there are about the same number of white and black kids (both very small minorities). But the experience of my white boys is very different from that of my best friend’s black kids, because, hey–look who’s running the district! Look who’s running the rest of the freaking country! My guys might be a minority in this corner of the world, but they’re still HWD’s, as Chuck has it. Still members of the broader power class where they won’t get given the hairy eyeball in a store just for being a black teen.

    All of which is to say–I think you’re on to something, Chuck.

  • Yeah, just piping in for a moment to get all Norse-mythology Pedant on ya: There are many stories were Loki shapeshifts into a female form to seduce (because TRICKERY), and even one where Thor dresses up as a woman in order to marry a giant who had stolen his hammer.

  • Let’s say you create a network of cultures which devalues and subjugates women, people of color, minority religions, the differently-abled, the ill, and people whose gender identity or sexuality falls outside the heteronormative & psychosexual binary. You write these values into your most sacred works, etch their form into the institutional foundations of your societies.

    Then, after a few thousand years, things begin to change. With wind and time and the blood of countless champions, most of whom never touched a weapon, the words begin to fade. The columns of the temples crack.

    Would anyone walking into this world, the forces of disparity and subjugation still grasping for power and relevance, truly think to argue that equality is achieved? That equality is even achievable through simply treating people in some superficially similar manner?

    I’ve always like this cartoon, the source of which I’m not sure:


  • Objectification is bad.

    Objectification by someone who happens to be on the smaller side of an arbitrary division of humanity might be less bad, but that does not make it good.

    I reject the idea that culture, law, or anything else (yoghurt say) is improved by people doing what they complain about others doing.

    Of course, reality is more complex than philosophy, which is why I also reject the idea that anyone else has to agree with my ethics.

  • I might be approaching this from a different angle – I’d say hormone-induced rage but I’m a woman of a certain age and well past that particular infliction, tyvm.

    I spend a lot of time on Pinterest and am seeing more and more images of, for lack of better terms, beefcake, pin-up males in various degrees of undress. As a militant feminist, this kind of shit done with women used to piss me off to a fare thee well. I was born in the mid ’50s and grew up with images of scantily clad women everywhere I looked – books, magazines, TV advertisements. Women and girls have felt the need to conform to a certain standard of beauty because they realized that what they were seeing was what men wanted women to look like. Those who decided the effort was worth it spent untold boatloads of money and time on clothing, makeup, surgery, hair.

    Now it will be interesting to see if, given time, men buy into the same insecurities about themselves as they’re also bombarded with images that don’t exactly fit their physical profile. Do they have six-pack abs? Are they handsome? Is their hair something women will find attractive? Are they fashionably dressed or at least in a state of sexy semi-nakedness? Are they strong and protective, but willing to go shopping and help clean the house? These are the images a lot of women are posting, so obviously this is what women find attractive.

    Since I don’t see the problem of some men objectifying women going away any time soon, I think at least exposing them to the same standard of impossible-to-attain physical perfection is fair.

    • Men absolutely fall to the same insecurities. That’s not new, I don’t think — but I’m pretty perpetually locked tight in anxiety over body image. I don’t look like, you know, some handsome shirtless Thor and gosh, I’d sure like to, and why can’t I so I’ll exercise really hard and then that’ll fail to produce the magical results and so instead I’ll eat as much ice cream as my stupid body can contain.

      I don’t say that as a joke, I mean, you know, this is real stuff.

      So, you’re right, this is a real thing — and, I also think that this doesn’t get as much attention as maybe women do for their body issues.

      That said, I also think it’s important to see that Men Objectifying Women not only leads to body image problems, but also to rape culture and all the other inequalities. When it goes the other way, the larger result isn’t found for men — we don’t get raped, we get paid more, etc. etc.

      This stuff is important to address all around and ideally we’d all commit to practices and kindnesses that don’t compel us toward unhealthy self-image issues — but it’s a good example of, I think, how equal isn’t always equal even here.

      — c.

      • “When it goes the other way, the larger result isn’t found for men — we don’t get raped, we get paid more, etc. etc.”

        I’d be careful here, Chuck. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but “men don’t get raped” is categorically false. I know that’s not the conversation we’re trying to have, and rape is absolutely a bigger issue for women, but to claim it’s not also an issue for men is equally wrong. The stats that I pulled from the UK showed 69 000 women raped over a three year period and 9 000 men — and that’s with men being more likely to underreport. In the U.S. it’s one out of every ten rape victims is male (according to RAINN).

        Again, I know it’s not exactly the conversation we’re having, and I agree with pretty much everything you (and Kameron) wrote, but I felt inclined to offer my 2c, if for no other reason than to shed some light on a potential blind spot.

        All of the things you’ve mentioned are problems — equal pay, rape culture, etc. — but I think we have to be careful not to overlook the issues of the HNWM while we deal with those. There are issues where the HNWM is on the short end of the stick. They’re rare, I agree, but they’re present. So what’s the balance? We all only have so much focus, what do we focus on? If I only have $10 a month, do I donate it to the women’s shelter or the support group for dad’s who lost custody of their children despite being good fathers strictly because they’re male? Where do I volunteer my time?

        In a weird way, women simultaneously receive more help than men while being oppressed by them. HNWM have all of the advantages… until they don’t. More likely to commit suicide, less likely to be treated for mental health, more likely to lose big in divorce (at least in Canada)…

        It seems to me that there’s limited help for “weak” men and limited opportunities for “strong” women. Do I help break the glass ceiling or build the safety net?

        Something has to be sacrificed, and I’m more than fine with sacrificing my hot towels and first class plane tickets, but the question becomes — who do I sacrifice them for? I guess I’m worried about the people who fall between the cracks. Just as an example, and this is strictly anecdotal, but when I went door to door for charity it was SUBSTANTIALLY more difficult to get a boy sponsored than a girl. The awareness was already there for how bad it was for girls in third world countries, but the awareness wasn’t there for boys. I’m not sure if this is across the board or just the people I encountered over my 8 month period.

        Unfortunately I don’t have any answers, only questions. I also don’t have a conclusion, so…


        • I don’t think feminist are against dealing with the male rape issue. Most of the groups I’ve stopped by on have rape period on their agenda.

          Actual figures from RAINN:
          1 in 6 women
          1 in 33 men
          have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (both numbers are unacceptable in a civilized society)

          If we started teaching Crystal Clear Consent to everyone some of these numbers would go down http://pharyngula.wikia.com/wiki/Crystal_Clear_Consent

          I do agree that there are many issues that need to be fixed in the family court issue but it shouldn’t be an us vs them issue. The system needs to be fixed. Biases that place kids back in abusive homes because it’s better to be with “biological parent” ; better joint custody models; looking at real situations and what’s best for the kids which requires major reeducation of judges in the family court system is needed.

        • Well, and moreover, men are raped by men in 98% of cases, so it’s pretty hard to claim that results from much of anything women are doing. That being said, I do think the underreporting of male rape IS a result of sexism, and the shame attached to anything perceived as “female” (i.e., sexual vulnerability) so I agree there needs to be more discussion and openness around male rape. Particularly in the military, where it is a significant problem.

  • Chiming in in support of katie and Maggie C, here. I spent most of my life as a feminist, and still emphatically believe women should have equal access to things like good jobs, good pay, personal safety, respect, and protection under the law like any other citizen.

    Now I’m not an American, and I won’t make any statements about the progress of gender equality in the US because I don’t know a damn thing about it. I will say that in my own country (Canada) there have been some disturbing developments in how HWDs are treated by the law. They are, for example, more likely to lose custody battles even if they are paragons of good parenting. They tend to get the short end of the stick in divorce settlements.They are unlikely to be hired for certain kinds of jobs.

    I’m not okay with that. Wanting women to be treated decently (which I still desire) doesn’t mean wanting a bunch of actually quite decent and progressive dudes my own age to be punished for the sins of their repressive douche-y Grandpappies.

    So I guess I’m advocating caution. I don’t know how injurious women are being to men by admiring some shirtless actors – though we would squawk, wouldn’t we, if HWDs make too much of a noise about enjoying Natalie Portman?- but what concerns me is that this attitude of “It’s okay to bash men because they’re on top” will lead to more substantial and harmful discrimination. In my opinion, that’s just not on. Ladies, we want to be equal citizens, not bullies.

    • Yeah, I think you said this better than I did. It’s whole new generations of people…!

      And I guess I’m a glass half-full kind of person — I’d rather help people up, not push others down.

  • As a strident feminist I think you’re totally right, it is messy. I love the concept of looking at power flows, it is very helpful to me when I’m trying to figure out if I’m being a jerk. As a cis, white, female, my personal approach has evolved to the place where I find the best strategy to listen to what those with less social power say about their experiences. And I trust that they know more about it than me since I can’t really experience what it’s like to be, say, a transgender person.

    It gets even more messy when talking about things like sex and objectification. I wrote my thesis on women who are sex workers and realized very quickly that my academic feminist idea that objectification always equals bad was vastly over simplified.

  • Punching up or down is still punching. Why do it? I think we gain power by acting powerfully, not by expecting someone to hand it to us, or letting someone tell us that it’s okay to act that way if the population we are “punching” can take the hit.

    The outcome is still a world where someone is being treated with less respect.

  • Forgot to say: thanks for the post, Chuck. I think it’s really important that issues like this get dragged into the daylight once in a while so they can be discussed.

    Also, Jen D-F makes a very useful point (as you did in your blog): this is as messy as hell, and over-simplification is easy. (I’m guilty.)

  • November 11, 2013 at 2:27 PM // Reply

    Maybe, returning to Chuck’s point about results, one difference I trip over between women talking about how they’d like to drag Thor back to their cave, etc., and men saying the same thing about a scantily clad woman, is that women very seldom actually do that to men. It’s HARD to drag some guy twice your size and with muscles on his muscles off and do what you want to him against his will. It is unfortunately quite easy to do that to scrawny women in high heels.

    • Right.

      And, while women can talk about ogling men and being very physically-focused, at the end of the day — and this is totally circumstantial, all artisanal data! — women still accept men for the way they look, but men tend to buy in more completely to looks over other aspects of a mate.

  • Speaking as a former young guy, who developed an eating disorder (which required years of hard work fixing) in response to the “six pack abs” = desirablity mindset, I’d like to say that yes, young men are already buying into that insecurity marketing bullshit (and when you consider the old Charles Atlas ads, and all the spam/snakeoil about penis extenders which have been around for as long as I can remember – they’ve been buying into it for decades already).

  • Ok, little note here, as women are conflating “objectify” with “find attractive” just as much as men are in this conversations.

    Madeline Ashby pointed out to me when I tweeted something along these lines – that objectifying men was something that happened outside of a history of active sexism and oppression, and so meant something very different in our ongoing narrative – that when we say “objectify” we don’t mean “show a person in a sexy way.” What objectify means is that we present someone as not a person, but an object whose sole purpose for existence is to gratify a desire held by another. Objectifying is about turning people into things, and doing so within a larger cultural narrative that also perpetuates and supports this idea. Finding a person attractive isn’t objectifying them, necessarily. The troublesome part is when they become an NPC fantasy with no agency of their own in a society that encourages and supports that view.

    This is entertainingly illustrated in the “Should I buy a girl a banjo” thread on metafilter, actually. http://ask.metafilter.com/140517/Is-it-a-grand-gesture-to-anonymously-give-a-woman-I-think-is-beautiful-a-banjo Notice there’s no thought of the woman’s internal life, what she wants, what she’s interested in; his action is purely predicated on this fantasy image he has of this woman playing a banjo. Yeah, we all have fantasies, but most of us are clear that it’s a fantasy, and real people act like real people. My favorite comment in response to him is the one from somebody who says something to the effect of, “This might sound crazy. But imagine this woman as a real human acting in a real human way when she opens up this package and finds a random banjo in there. How would a *human* react?”

    Sometimes we need to remind people that women are… people. And the fact that we have to do that is kinda scary. I can’t think of any time I’ve felt the need to remind somebody that a man had his own wants, desires, goals, and dreams after they say he’s got a nice set of abs. Most importantly of all, even when that is said, it’s not said within the context of a society that reinforces this idea of treating men like objects. Women and men alike are encouraged to remember that men are people – often people with great amounts of physical and social power. If we forget that, it’s rather difficult to succeed in life. Whereas a guy can go his whole life thinking women are nothing more than a pair of breasts and still succeed. In fact, he’s often encouraged by media to do so.

    Women are also much more likely to be represented as faceless body parts – an ass, a pair of breasts – which makes it explicit that they are objects of sexual gratification and not people. It’s that sort of objectification of people – turning them into body parts, or animals – that has made it possible for us to enslave and abuse particular populations for thousands of years. We do the same sort of thing with populations we’re actively fighting, too – we show them as animals or “other.” They aren’t Japanese people, they’re “japs.” They aren’t Arab people, they’re “ragheads.” They aren’t women, they’re “bitches.”

    So, when using the term “objectify” as a synonym for “half-clothed person presented as such” remember that the meaning is actually far more insidious than that, and to objectify a man – to present him as purely an object meant to fulfill a desire – is actually much more difficult when you put that image into the context of men’s power in this society.

    Which is all a long, windy way of agreeing with Chuck that the image of a naked man created by a woman, when seen in the context of men’s power, has a very different meaning than the image of a naked woman created by a man. Lots of folks miss that, I think, because they view images as singular, and fail to see that every image, every story, every portrayal, will be viewed within the context and history of every other image and story and cultural expectation we’ve been exposed to since birth.

  • Appreciation for the “beautiful” in human form has been around a very long time, ancient sculptures of both men and women, for instance, but there’s a difference when we design those images to incite sexual desire. When I look at Michelangelo’s David, I feel invited to admire the perfection of form and its embodiment of perfection of will, but I don’t think I am being manipulated to lust, per se. But there obviously are other depictions of the human form intended to incite sexual desire — as the desire in and of itself is gratifying. Nowadays we are bombarded with those images. But the HOW of that is quite often different between men and women. Jim C. Hines, of course, demonstrates that brilliantly (and hilariously). The kick-ass female heroines on book covers and posters are posed in ways that we automatically perceive as ridiculous when performed by a man because they undermine how we recognize male authority.

    I guess I’m considering how this also impacts the issue of equality in this discussion. Does the depiction of the man trivialize him in a host of ways? Is he made to look ridiculous or just buff? What in how he is displayed makes the man an object of female desire? What makes the woman an object of male desire? How does the manipulation of those images play into larger stereotypes?

    And I am really pondering your point about the relevance of result in this discussion. Thanks for that.

  • Great comment, Kameron!

    There’s another element I’d like to add. The whole, “well these women do x thing, why don’t you complain about them?” is really bad because at its core, it means we would have to stop all women from doing anything similar in order to get society to stop doing it towards women. People are people and we’re not going to get everyone on board with things. That’s why the result that Chuck talks about is so vitally important. A person doing this is a someone doing something harmful. We have tons of other examples of men not being objectified that the result isn’t that important. On the other hand, we have tons of examples of women being objectified and far less counter-examples, so much so that many people argue that it’s just normal. A person objectifying a woman is reinforcing this trend and it is harmful. We shouldn’t have to fix all the problems men face in order to fix the problems that women face, particularly when the playing field is so tilted in the favor of men.

  • Ditto everything Kameron says.

    What I am about to say is incredibly biased (because I despise consequentialist ethics), but is not intended as an attack.

    We’re talking about two different things here, though they are connected through the concept of the male gaze. When you see a 20-something actress using a hands-bra in an advertisement, she’s being portrayed as a male fantasy. When you see Thor all beef-caked up, you are ALSO seeing a male fantasy! The first is about sex (as in, here is something straight men will want to have sex with) and the second is about sex and power (as in, here is something straight men want to be). As Kameron points out, it’s nigh impossible for straight men to objectify Chris Hemsworth, since they’re not viewing him as an object, they’re viewing him as an ideal. Maaaaybe some straight women and some gay men are objectifying him, but that’s still a lot harder because they have to be seeing him just as a muscled penis-delivery system, and not as Chris Hemsworth. Meanwhile you can swap Jennifer Lawrence for Jessica Alba for Natalie Portman for Zoe Saldana for Kerry Washington for Blake Lively on that same nude poster and the overwhelming majority of the straight male viewing audience will have no change in their reaction.

    Result is kind of a sucky metric for these sorts of problems. Results are hard to determine a priori. While we all like to think we can zoom out to the 10,000 foot zoom on our society and see the one true path, in practice we all have enormous blind spots that make identifying the greater good pretty damn hard.

    As an ardent non-consequentialist I would propose two alternative metrics to define our values: intent and consent.

  • This isn’t totally related, but it’s kind of related, and I’ve never known how to articulate it properly and so I’m not very good at “debating” it, but, I think men in comics are almost as exploited as women in comics.
    Obviously, not nearly as much. I mean, men don’t usually have thongs on or whatever (or Power Girl’s “Boob Window”) but they still have extremely tight costumes / uniforms and are often shirtless, and are physically “perfect”. Same goes for the movies…both Thor flicks have a shirtless Thor scene. Wolverine was shirtless a lot, etc.
    So, um, yeah…dammit, like I said…I never know how to articulate this properly…
    Peace & Goats

  • As always, two cents worth here.

    I agree with Chuck’s reasoning. The objectification of women when compared to the objectification of men produce two different results within our society–mainly, that one group has vastly more social, economic, and political control than the other. In a sense, male objectification has less impact on the social perceptions of men on a daily basis than women.

    This thinking makes sense…in the short term.

    What I mean by that is this: the reason (again, my own observations and opinions) why there is so much in the way of gender politics from groups of all ethnicities and stripes, the reason why objectification is such a huge issue in places like Tumblr, and (perhaps?) the reason why Joss Whedon wants to move beyond the use of the word ‘feminism’, is because people are starting to look beyond the equality movement. These groups–and heterosexual white men are finding themselves lumped in as interested parties– are not looking the future as ‘winning equality’, but ‘balancing equality’. They are looking beyond the need for a movement for women, for people of colour, for gays, trans*, genderqueer and intersex people.

    If the core belief of these movements is that we are all humans, regardless of appearance or belief or the company we keep, then there may be a time in the future when that vision is fulfilled. And when it is, all parties involved (and yes, that will include heterosexual white men) will be interested in ensuring that past abuses or injustices are not applied to anyone…equally, because by then, it is quote possible that no social group will be able to withstand objectification of any kind. This includes the oppressors and the oppressed. As long as current inequalities are levelled or contained, future social groups may find this necessary to maintain the balance of equality.

    Gandi put it better than I can: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

    Now don’t get me wrong. The ‘short term’ might be years, decades, even centuries. We’re nowhere near to applying this, if indeed it’s a sound argument. But it’s something to keep in mind. Something to consider.

    Anyhow, there lies my two cents worth.

  • Bravo, David Coventry! Wish I had said it.

    I understand the idea of de-criminalizing words, but the time has not come. Enough wounds have not be licked, enough egos have not risen above the real or imagined slights of society. While myself and many I know could care less if we ever heard the word “feminist” again, a hefty percentage of the population have not lived past the need for it.

    Do i make as much as my male counterparts? No, but that is by my choice and my conscience. Not society keeping me in a second-place spot.

    In the early ’70’s my father outraged one of my brother’s outspoken feminist friends. He didn’t open the door to the restaurant for her. He said if she wanted equality, she needed to open it for him half the time. While i know this also begs a discussion of or and exemption for manners, I thought he had a great point. (I was seven.) It influenced me in how I treat men and ask that I be treated.

    One nitpick. I also wonder if it isn’t a little denigrating not to capitalize Feminist when discussing anything about the movement for “equality” begun in the ’60’s (’50’s?). There are places where that word may not necessarily indicate that relation. Just thinking…

  • Thanks Chuck. I was pretty upset with the speech Joss gave. Another white well to do male telling women what we should be doing did not give me the warm fuzzies. I love a lot of his works but he makes it hard to support him at times. I’d love for us to be at a place where we didn’t need words like racism and feminism. Where we were all truly equal. But until then I’ll continue to call myself a feminist. Someone who wants equal pay, who wants to know if I’m raped the predator will be put on trial not me, one where my needs are equally represented by elected officials, where I control my body when it comes to healthcare decisions, one who is listened to and doesn’t need a man to repeat what I said for it to have credibility. I don’t feel like I’m asking for anything special, over and above what white cis men already have. Nor do I want them to be dragged down to our level.

  • I’m just going to soak in the intelligence of this post for a bit. I know enough about allegedly HWDs to generally be the one putting out the fires a lot of -ists would like to set on said menz, BUT–I also appreciate that you’re acknowledging that built-in inequality. And it is built in. So I’m going to cut my post short and just say THANK YOU. THANK YOU for getting it. And also, I’m now following you on Tumblr.

  • November 11, 2013 at 6:02 PM // Reply

    I have to side with Joss Whedon. Mainly because I’m a 39-year old woman who has seen the word feminist turn into an ugly swearword, something you accuse a woman of and that makes it okay to spit on her.

    You might use the term “feminist” at University, or in a big city amongst your clique of intellectuals where everybody claims to be a feminist, but go to a smaller town and see if the word feminist doesn’t give them the right to bully a young woman to the point where she never wants to hear the word again. Welcome to reality. The word “feminist” inspires hate these days, not just from men, but from women too(yeah, figure that one out!). And in my experience it’s gotten way worse. The internet/media-explosion amplified men’s hate for feminists and women, and you got beaten down by every sexist who ever learned to type, and boy, did he have comrades. Now we see them everywhere, and you have to go blind, or you’ll go insane. And that goes for most sexism in society. I know, my workplace is male-dominated, and I would get fired or hated to point where I had to quit if I told every idiot off. And “decent” men, terrified of not being liked by other men(big deal apparently!), keeps quiet. Just like they do online. I guess they’re busy worrying about getting objectified and feeling insecure about their abs to care about rape-jokes.

    The feminist movement is something the “intellectual” society is all facted up about, but ask a young woman about the history of feminism. Most likely that young woman is busy with the constant struggle of living in the HWD-world without getting too depressed, without getting spit in her hair, trying to find happiness where she can, even if that means a fandom with a shirtless Thor. At least that’s a place where no one will spit behind her back, or give her the head to toe-look, or whatever the contempt-sign of the day is. Because we know of the hate that comes from trying to change things, and the equally destructive silence. Feminism for most of us these days is just a little boring article in some magazine for women that people flip by to get to the dieting tips and how to get the longer lashes. Not even women care anymore. We feel lonely. And it feels hopeless. That’s reality. And not just mine.

    The result I see concerning that much debated word is a lot of women who would normally call themselves feminists just won’t. I know I won’t, even if men’s treatment of women in the media and in the world makes me furious. The word carries an awful stigma these days. It’s been warped, hated, rolled in the mud, shamed by extremists, misunderstood by idiots, and exhausted by stupid people who reacts to every fucking little detail like a pack of monkeys out to shred an intruder. I’d say the word has a branding problem, yeah. Words change with history. It doesn’t mean “a brave woman who got us day care” anymore. Not in the real world. For me Whedon’s take on the word feminist made sense in a lot of ways, but I guess everything can be deliberately misunderstood and warped by haters. He doesn’t hate or want to be rid of women. Hell, he has shown more variety of women on screen than most dicks in Hollywood. But, yeah, hate-bomb Joss Whedon for disliking a word, do that. Why not? Now that all the misogynists are out of the way… Wait? What? They’re not?

    And by the way, this whole discussion is just words and hypocrisy. I do agree with the result of objectifying men. It doesn’t change a damn thing, because nothing ever will change, no matter how many fandoms there are worshipping Colin Firth. Men are very content in this world, and their power-strategy in making us feel like crap works. Yes, some may pretend to worry about sexism, but the truth is that after this people will go back to watching their porn, wanting to look like Scarlett Johanssen, objectifying, wanting bigger dicks or boobs, joking about strippers and whores… It’s all preaching to a choir, before both the preacher and the choir slips back to their old ways, feeling good about themselves because they thought about it for a week.

  • Love this post! Your mind pieces are very inspiring, Sir.

    I think this is a very practical approach to such an entrenched social issue. It focuses on what might be accomplished through actions as opposed to attitudes–cause and effect. The attitudes of “Right” and “Wrong” at least in my experience tend to do one of two things:

    1. blur an issue into a quagmire of gray, since they’re really just subjective terms anyway, or
    2. force the issue into an equally ineffective dichotomy of black and white.

    And while we do tend to have impulses (damn that biology) that lead us to objectify others in our minds, I think it’s naive to assume that just because something is “natural” and therefore “inevitable” that we should ignore its damaging effects as a cultural norm because “eh, humans will be human.” If a natural impulse happens in our mind, that’s our personal business. When it reflects and perpetuates the current power structure, it’s all of ours, and it might be helpful to take a closer look at what it accomplishes in the world we live in…or, yeah, like any other potentially harmful albeit natural impulse (murder? :D) we could just shrug it off because “eh, humans will be human.”

  • I think, and I’m saying this as a man, another reason the criticism of “Well if we can’t objectify, why can they?” is bullshit is because I’ve never seen any serious feminist arguments against things like erotic fanart, or pairings of female characters. Some people want to imagine… I dunno, Sarah Walker, from “Chuck” (having read the rest of the comment thread, and seeing the word Chuck so many times, that’s kinda where my mind is) naked. Okay. Fine. That’s their fantasy life, and maybe they want to share their work with each other.

    The show itself, however, objectifies the living hell out of the character, and the actress by extension. I’ve never seen much feminist objection to what dirty stuff independent artists and authors put out there. Maybe I just haven’t noticed, but I see way more objection to how the mass media portrays women. Because they’re the ones with the biggest reach and power, and they’re overwhelmingly cisgendered straight white dudes. They’re the ones perpetuating the culture of objectification, and they get most of the heat for it. Complaining that women are allowed to objectify and men aren’t is a made up complaint to take a potshot at feminism.

    • “Complaining that women are allowed to objectify and men aren’t is a made up complaint to take a potshot at feminism.”

      Respectfully, I disagree. Women castigating men for treating women like sex objects, then turning around and coozing over men in exactly the same way are hypocrites. True equality means women should be treated as men are treated for the same behaviours, not demand that societal mores apply differently because of gender and orientation.

      • That’s perfectly fair. I’m not saying that no women have ever done this. But I don’t think women are feminism. I only follow a couple feminist blogs and the like, and I’m not that active on Tumblr, but I have never seen any serious feminist movement against sexual fanart, fan pairings (even lesbian crack pairings) or the like. I’ve seen some feminists who actually support it. Some feminists don’t like it, sure; there’s no feminist hivemind. But, for the most part, as a movement, I’ve seen feminism go after mass media’s objectification of women, but small time internet stuff. It makes sense too. Most harm comes from mass media, the people who make magazines and movies and television, telling women what they should be like and telling men what they should like in women (and that they should like women).

        The internet is mostly people who are exploring their sexuality through art and writing. Most feminists I hear from don’t have a problem with that, even if it’s not particularly good art or writing. Everyone has a fantasy life, and most of the feminists I hear from are very understanding of that, as long as you treat the actual women with respect and dignity.

        There’s a world of difference between saying that an individual is being a hypocrite, and citing the entire movement for hypocrisy.

  • I had a moment of intensely satisfying schadenfreude earlier this year when Jon Hamm flipped out over the discovery his penis had a fan club on tumblr. It was probably the first time in his life that he had to face real and true body objectification. He suddenly had to answer a lot of media questions about his dick, and he didn’t like that one bit.

    Thank you for posting this difficult topic. As women become more powerful in the US, sexual objectification is definitely something they (we) are going to have to be more aware of.

  • I’m 56. Twenty-five years ago, I commented to some friends that feminism was becoming the new F-word. I’m still proud to consider myself feminist, though, regardless of how it’s been distorted over the years. And thanks for the post, Chuck. It was spot-on.

  • I think somewhere along the lines people have gotten the terms “objectification” and “looking at people with hot bodies cause they’re hot” all jumbled up. I stick by my belief that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with commenting on how sexy someone looks, no matter what gender they are. It’s when those people are treated as literal objects that are good for little more than sex (a position that isn’t really that common among men, as far as I know) that it becomes a real problem.

    With that being said, I’m also of the belief that men and women are most certainly not “objectified” in the same way, especially not in the example of Loki that you talked about. To put it bluntly: Hiddles is not “hot.” He’s not horrendously ugly, but he’s not exactly an Adonis, either. What all those fangirls are gushing about isn’t necessarily his looks, but more along the lines of “he’s so damaged and vulnerable, but he’s also strong and badass, so he could protect me, but I’d be the one who could save his poor widdle wounded soouuuulllll!”

    • I like your point about objectification. But, in fairness to Hiddleston, I think he’s pretty hot. I am a straight guy, so I may have different standards, but I always thought he was just pretty good looking. Not, you know, Zachary Quinto good looking, but that’s a pretty high standard…

  • Of course, this assumes that all the beefcake is being posted by straight women, and all the cheesecake by straight dudes. I get a lot of memes from my gay nerd friends of all genders … it’s a LOT more complicated than that, lol.

  • Thanks for posting this! I’ve been worrying about something similar myself (also brought on by a Tumblr discussion. We Tumblrites can be hella defensive!) Since miserable treatment of certain groups is status quo, maybe people trying to improve the situation should label anything even RESEMBLING that treatment Not Okay, at least in the short term.

  • One of the few good things I got out of the Anita Starkisian (is that how you spell it?) videos is the point she makes about objectifying women vs. objectifying men. Basically it is your results section, but she words it closer to “the problem with objectifying women is that it reinforces culturally accepted norms and stereotypes while objectifying men does not.” Basically, men are already well defined across a number of ways. It is ok for Walter White to be hubris incarnate and still be appreciated for his other qualities because we accept male characters can be multi-faceted. Do it with a female character and everyone is all death threats and dislike the character.

    That said, I think people are always going to like ogling the super sexy people of their sex of choice. I frankly love the fact that both Thor movies have been perfectly comfortable going “and here is some sexy man meat eye candy for the ladies, and all others who might be interested.” I like that it makes some male acquaintances of mine uncomfortable and that that has been used to show them the problem with objectification in general. Fact is, my girlfriend/fiancee/partner (she’s so real…and hot…I promise ;) will pretty much go to see any Chris Hemsworth movie because she really likes the eye candy. I’m just glad that mainstream movies are starting to throw it out there.

    Now…if we could just get a Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel movie made for a solo act female super hero movie that wasn’t just made as a quick cash grab (looking at you Elektra and Catwoman.)

  • Huh. I think this article just made the objectification thing click for me.

    Objectification isn’t a bad thing, in itself. Human beings are sexually driven, and seeing other human beings as sexual objects is fairly natural and expected. Holding up an image of a person as attractive is healthy.

    In moderation.

    And that’s the sticking point. Because of the inherent inequality in media due to rampant “male gaze”, we’ve already objectified women WAY past the point of moderation. Any objectification at this point is just adding fuel to a radically out of control fire.

    Objectifying men, though, is uncommon enough that it’s arguably within the “moderate” range. It does happen. I mean, have you even looked at romance novel covers? None of those men are there for their finer qualities. But it can hardly be said to dominate the image of men, or even of masculinity. And so, when women find something like Thor or Magic Mike to objectify, it’s not enough to be psychologically damaging to anyone involved.

    (I notice that few commenters have seen Thor 2 yet, or there would be many more mentions of the “washing up” scene. Textbook gratuitous objectification.)

  • Sorry if this was already brought up (I haven’t read all the comments), but since you’re a word guy, I thought you may want to know that perhaps when you say heteronormative, that :: clears throat and puts on my best Inigo Montoya voice:: I do not think it means what you think it means. Unless of course you do have a problem with the LGBTQ community, which from your writing, your posts, etc. I do not think is true of you.

  • Thank you for this post (mostly for the Joss Whedon link, seriously I’ve always had a problem with depictions of women and the surprisingly lack of diversity in pretty much every area in his shows). I think that a lot of white, manly, able bodied, ‘healthy’ minded, rich and cisgendered human beings have a problem dealing with the simply fact they are privileged in ways that has nothing to do with their abilities as human beings. It constantly blows my mind that people literally don’t think rape culture isn’t a problem (rape culture being the end result of hyper-objectification of women), or think feminism is a ‘dirty’ word. I’m not an American, like I assume most commentors are, but a First Nation’s of Canada. Throughout our history (Post-Canadian-imperialist-bullshit-that-all-white-Canadians-seem-to-forget) First Nation’s women, and sadly children, were objectified to such a extreme that it was common place for them to be raped in the residential schools and by authority figures (police officers, white people) by the supposedly ‘good’ teachers. That’s literally the endgame for objectification, when people become less than people and be things to have sex with.

    This, in North American culture, has not happened for men. Men do get raped, men sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to gender (though I must state it’s mostly cisgendered, white men people seem to give a fuck about when it comes to these issues, the rest of us, well got’s to deal with the white problems first…yeah I’ quite cynical), though in most cases like abuse or custody cases they aren’t actually attacking the manly institutions as so much as the femininity of their actions. Men aren’t suppose to watch the children, they’re the money makers, raising the children is a women job. Men aren’t suppose to be beated by their wives because women are naturally weaker then men. Men don’t get raped, that’s something that happened to women. Basically men aren’t allowed not to be men and this usually benefits them on pretty much ever level of society. The only way to solve these problems, for both men and women, is to stop attacking women on every level. Femininity has to stop being essentialized and seen as inferior. Focusing on the problem men face when it comes to gender won’t solve the problem, it would simply just give men more privileges without actually solving the underlining problems.

  • Hey, so I am a transgender male, and somehow I’ve been objectified on both ends. Here is the difference though.

    When I was a female, some guys catcalled me and told me that they would want to fuck me. I cussed them out and nearly sent my German Shepherd on them. And yes, they called me a bitch but then I was able to fight back.

    When I became a man, I’m not allowed to. When a bunch of girls start to talk about what they’d want to do to me, all I can do is nod and start walking away. I told them that made me uncomfortable and I was told, I deserve it. If a woman gets crude or handsy, I am supposed to sit back and take it. That’s the difference I think.

    I think it comes back to respect. You do not touch me and make me uncomfortable and I don’t do the same to you. Even if you do make me uncomfortable, I still do not do the same. Because its common courtesy. Two wrongs do not make a right. Yes, women should fight against objectification and I will gladly stand up and fight as well, but I don’t think we should be afraid of calling out men being objectified as well.

    Also, black people using the ‘n’ word is an unfair argument. The use of the word is towards their own people and has a different connotation than it did when white people were using it. (More as a positive or filler word sometimes, such as the word “fuck”.)

    Women objectifying men has the same connotation as men objectifying women. Therefore it cannot equally be compared.

    • Great observation! Thank you for sharing your perspective. I had a teacher who was a transgendered male and one of the classes he taught was Human Sexuality. It was brilliant. He talked about his experiences but not this specific subject.

      I agree with 2 wrongs don’t make a right. We should not allow the bad actions of others to lower our own standards.

  • Kameron: “What objectify means is that we present someone as not a person, but an object whose sole purpose for existence is to gratify a desire held by another.”

    I could not agree more and I think that people often misuse the word “objectify”. One argument I hear a lot is that men are equally objectified in many forms of media. For example, in superhero movies (Thor, Captain America, Superman, Wolverine…you get the idea) the main character almost always appears shirtless for some inexplicable reason. Unnecessary? Probably. Objectifying? Not really. The reason being that within the context of that piece of work it is IMPOSSIBLE to forget they are people. The whole story revolves around them and their decisions, desires, and feelings. Chris Hemsworth could spend the entirety of Thor in his underwear and you are not going to forget he is a person and an at least somewhat complex character. Because it is his story to begin with.

    Many women are not only objectified through nudity, but also through an implicit lack of agency within the context of the story. As in not only are they scantily clad, but also do not have any lines or effect the story in any manner. They are for all intents and purposes disposable. Not people.

    There is also some really interesting theory about the difference between how men and women are presented through camera angles, men get full body shots, and women get body part specific shots.

    I’ll admit that there are some cases where this does not apply. Someone mentioned romance novel covers. That said, the real world effects of media objectification undoubtedly harm real women more than men. Because, as Chuck mentioned, it is really hard to ever forget men are people in our society. I guess this whole comment was a long winded way of saying I agree with him and that also informs our media and should inform our discussion of objectification pertaining to it.

  • Chuck, your words are thoughtful and considered. The truth of the matter is that rights shouldn’t be given by the class that rules. The absolute truth is that it doesn’t (often) happen without the ruling class. So we need more white men fighting the good fight, calling it out.

    As to objectification, from any person, it’s not cool. It’s ok to think someone is attractive, that’s a biological imperative, but if you think that’s all they are you have been failed by those that raised you and the society around you. No one is “entitled” to someone else. We ended slavery (largely). The fight is not over though.

  • Chuck, as a heternormative white bad-ass woman [feminist because well, I’d be stupid if I wasn’t] I applaud your thoughtful and interesting viewpoint. And the fact is that if women objectify men it’s because we want to have sex with them and not rape them or kill them for kicks so where’s the harm as you say? One day I hope women, Africans, Laplanders etc. can have hot towels and appreciate the lovely bodies of men without running scared that it’ll all be taken away from us just because… well, just because. And anyway, I thought men wanted us to want more sex with them instead of our vibrators? Surely!!!! Jill x

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