Monday, November 5, 2012

Objectification: The Sum of My Parts

Objectification of women (and men, but for the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on women.) can be subtle or blatant. We often excuse or dismiss it. On the flip side, we sometimes grow overly indignant about it and create a situation where we can't deal with its effects because we get too caught up fighting about the nuances of what is and what isn't objectification. I recently became embroiled in such a discussion when the other party in the conversation took great offense when I pointed out how his behavior fit the definition of objectification. After a few moments looking at the definition of objectification he agreed that the behavior in question fit the definition of objectification but still took great offense at the very idea that he would objectify women.

Let's be clear about this. Everyone objectifies other people at some point in time. We're human. It happens. The problem is when objectification is a way of life because it allows us to put one group of people, in this case women, in a lower societal position.

There is no way around it. No matter what you tell  yourself, the moment you think a woman's body is more important than her mind, her heart,and her soul, you objectify her. The moment you see only the parts of a woman's body used for sexual pleasure, you objectify her. The moment you think a woman is incapable of making her own decisions and being her own person because she is a woman, you objectify her. The moment you attack a woman's right to have sole domain over her body, heart, mind, and soul, you objectify her. The moment all a woman is to you is a way to get turned on and consequently to achieve sexual satisfaction, you objectify her. The moment all a woman is to you is a breeder, you objectify her. The moment you decide a woman doesn't have the right or responsibility to make decisions for herself, you objectify her. The moment you want a woman to smile and look pretty but keep her mouth shut, you objectify her. The moment you treat a woman like a possession, prized or otherwise, you objectify her.

As soon as you objectify a woman, why would you treat her like a human being?

Women have had to fight for every right we have, and that's just plain wrong.

We excuse men for objectifying women with the tired excuse that that's just the way men are. Well, men, sorry, you're no longer getting off the hook that easy. Grow up. Men make the choice whether or not to objectify women. If that's your choice, own it, but be ready to suffer the consequences.

The real problem with objectification of women is that it allows society to treat women as less than human. If women are merely objects, there's no reason to value their work, their opinions, or their contributions. If women are merely objects, they can be possessed like any object. If women are merely objects, they cease to have have any rights. If women are merely objects, men can do with them and to them as they please. If women are merely objects, they cannot be victims or survivors. If women are merely objects, there is no reason to show them even a modicum of respect.

When we allow women to be objectified, we forget what it took to get the rights we have and the responsibility we have to protect those rights. Women were once considered the property of their fathers and their  husbands, and in some places in the world still are. Women were considered less intelligent than men for far too long. Women have been repeatedly relegated to roles of providing men's entertainment over the centuries. Women have been deemed only capable of pushing out babies and cleaning house far too often in past. Women have been kept to subservient roles and given salaries to keep them dependent on men for far too long. These restrictions on and attitudes toward women allowed men to create the rules that kept women objectified.

We like to think objectification has ended, but it hasn't. Will it ever? We can hope. The best we can do try to help people understand the negative effects of objectification and see how they can treat women as equals and why they must.

I've been giving this a lot of thought since my conversation, and that thought resulted in the following poem.


The Sum of My Parts

I am more than
The sum of my parts
You might see my smile
You might stare at my cleavage
You might notice the curve of my waist
You might admire my ass
You might let your gaze linger on my tight calves
You might long to touch the softness of my inner thighs
You might imagine the kiss of my lips
You might dream about my tongue’s ability to please
You might fantasize about the heaven between my legs
You might look at me
And only see
The sum of my parts
You might desire to devour me
You might want to dominate me
You might even wish to pleasure me
But
If you can’t see the beauty of my soul
If you can’t see the brilliance of my mind
If you can’t see the generosity of my heart
If you can’t see my thoughts as equal to yours
If you can’t see my emotions as important
If you can’t see I’m as much a person as you
If you can’t appreciate me for whom I am
Once you get past
The sum of my parts
If you can’t understand
Why knowing me
Is a privilege
If you can’t see
I am so much more than
The sum of my parts
If you can’t embrace
All I offer
You don’t deserve
To enjoy
The sum of my parts
I decide
Whether you treat me with
The respect, appreciation, and consideration
I deserve
If you don’t
You’ll be left to fantasize about
The sum of my parts
And
You’ll never have the honor
Of knowing me
Mind, heart, soul, and body
And knowing me is an honor
I promise you
I’m worth so much more than
The sum of my parts
Do you think you deserve
To know all of me?
Then prove it

Women, it is up to us to stand up and say "I refuse to be anyone's object. I am a human being. I am capable of achieving anything I want to achieve. If you don't like it, that's your problem."

2 comments:

  1. True, too too true. As a man I see and hear it being done every day. Not that there isn't another side to this, at least in America, but for the most part you are absolutely correct. I found this blog by Googleing "I am more than the sum of my parts". The other side of your rant is that when women gain in some way, usually but not always monetarily, they often lean into it not away from it. Watch "Real Housewives of Blah Blah Blah" if you want to see the other side. The only way out of the place women are in is for women to take back ALL their power and refuse to buy into the entire program including the monetary one. You can't, to coin a phrase, have it both ways. And honestly I think we are moving in that direction just not at speed. Hang in there because when all the dust settles you are still in the right by being wronged.

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    Replies
    1. Bill,

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the feedback.

      My point is that women need to take control and stop allowing men to objectify them but also to stop objectifying themselves by accepting the role as "less than" and making excuses for the men who do so.
      Men choose their behavior, and so do women.
      I purposely don't watch shows such as "Real Housewives..." for precisely that reason. Well, that, and I just don't find that kind of show entertaining...
      Part of taking back the power to not be objectified is to recognize it and shed light on it...
      Again, thank you for commenting! Your attitude is encouraging... :-)

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