After recovering from my last sickle-cell crisis, as usual I decided to do four things I have never done before. The lovely MrsMary suggested that I visit the local neighborhood breast-au-rant. If a rule that when hot wings aren’t served by a voluptuous woman clad in the lascivious wears au jour, don’t taste the same. Talking about my inevitable date at The Tilted Kilt, brought many questions to mind. Here are two
- What exactly is objectification ?
- Do women who willingly work in hooters feel objectified ?
Beginning at the End
With a trusty high-school friend joining me, and my lady’s blessing my investigation began at around 4pm on a Saturday. As we entered the restaurant I wasn’t greets with the images of bacchanalian ecstasy I expected to see. There was 2 families there, a date, and some guys at the bar. They had many High-Def, Big screen TV’s. The food was quite good and affordable. Most importantly they pour a good Guinness, just the right bit of head and the dome topped. They had some great soccer matches on HDTV. I didn’t get a single erection. (I wore tight dockers and no underwear so that my classmate looking at my crotch could verify.) I really liked the soccer match and the beer. The waitress was nice and very amicable at no point did I see her as an object. She was just a waitress.
In a previous post I discussed that objectification means treating a person as a thing, without regard to their dignity. With this said there are many different settings where objectification exists beyond just the sexual objectification of women. A person is objectified if they are treated:
- as a tool for another’s purposes (instrumentality)
- as if lacking in agency or self-determination (denial of autonomy, inertness);
- as if owned by another (ownership);
- as if interchangeable (fungibility);
- as if permissible to damage or destroy (violability);
- as if there is no need for concern for their feelings and experiences (denial of subjectivity)
To look at these instances that define objectification, I can see how class and historical socio-economic policies can influence objectification. In our society immigrants are objectified, racial and religious minorities are objectified. You cannot exploit without objectifying. Capitalism runs on oppression and objectification.
I believe that certain forms of objectification have become socially acceptable, like the objectification of minorities and immigrants (not to mention the neocolonial and imperialistic foreign policy, and the innocent victims of drones strikes). The objectification of American Worker that is also acceptable.
Thinking About Sexual Objectification
Since my visit to the tilted kilt I have taken the time to read up on both objectification and feminism. I would like to share with you some points I have been ruminating over.
I was very much influenced by Angela Davis’ work specifically her focus on the intersection of race, class and gender. I was referred to the book by Gayatri Spivak called: Can The Subaltern Speak? Ms Spivak says that Western academic discourse is used as a means to support Western Economic Interest. I really agreed with point deeply as we found a whole body of literature created to justify the slavery which was an economic system. Ms Spivak wonders how can the third world subject without cooperation with the colonial objectives present. The same I believe applies for studies on women.
If you do not see the immediate connection between the work of Ms Spivak you only have to think to Femen protesting naked outside of mosques saying that head scarves and traditional Muslim garb objectifies women, and dehumanizes women much to the surprise of many Muslim women.
The more I read about objectification the more differing opinions I find about what it actually is. I thought that before I shared with you my concluding thoughts I would list five opinions feminist themselves have had about objectification.
The Problem with Objectification
While the concept of sexual objectification is important within feminist theory, ideas vary widely on what constitutes sexual objectification and what are the ethical implications of such objectification.
- Some feminists find the concept of physical attractiveness itself to be problematic
- Some radical feminists are opposed to any evaluation of another person’s sexual attractiveness based on physical characteristics.
- Some go so far as to condemn as wrongfully objectifying any sexual fantasy that involves visualization of a woman.
- One feminist said that “Turning people into sex objects is one of the specialties of our species.” In her view, objectification is closely tied to (and may even be identical with) the highest human faculties toward conceptualization and aesthetics.
- An Individualist feminist says, given that ‘objectification’ of women means to make women into sexual objects; it is meaningless because, ‘sexual objects’, taken literally, means nothing because inanimate objects do not have sexuality. She continues that women are their bodies as well as their minds and souls, and so focusing on a single aspect should not be “degrading”