Melody Antel is a communications intern for the Anti-Violence Alliance.
The objectification of women has a significant impact on interpersonal violence against women.
Interpersonal violence includes domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking. Viewing women as objects and expecting them to submit to gender norms increases the chances of violence against women.
Calling out objectifications is one way that we can help decrease violence. Objectification can happen in the workplace, in schools, on the streets and in the media. It breaks down a women’s worth and takes away our power. We need to make sure our community is not a safe space for objectification, racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism.
Objectification in the workplace also contributes to women being treated poorly and seen as unequal. Sexual comments and inappropriate touching are both ways to put down women and keep the glass ceiling over us, especially in competitive fields. The same goes for objectification in the classroom and on the streets. Catcalling and sexual jokes are both ways that women are objectified in these spaces.
Dress codes are another way that girls in the classroom are sexualized. The idea behind the dress code is that it will prevent boys from being distracted, and they imply that young women’s bodies are sex objects that need to be covered. Dress codes are harmful to young women and are a form of objectification. The sexualization of women in the workplace and schools is a way to keep women from learning and power.
Once I was aware of the extent of objectification, I saw it everywhere I looked. One study I’ve done was on the objectification seen in the television show “America’s Next Top Model.” The models are seen as sex objects used to sell products. They are judged for their physique and sex appeal. We see this type of objectification in marketing.
The selling of beautification products is also harmful to women. They encourage one to change their face or body to be accepted by men and society. We are more than our physical appearance, we are more than an object for the male gaze.
As we realize the expectations society places on us, we begin to self-objectify as well. We see ourselves as an object of pleasure or use. I often submit to self-objectification when I compare myself to others on social media. It’s important to not compare yourself to others and support all women, as well as yourself.
We should not be reduced to what we look like. Women’s bodies are beautiful, but so are our minds. It’s also interesting how we are frequently sexualized, while our sexuality is considered taboo. A woman who is open about her sexuality is “too much,” but a woman who is closed about it is “not enough.” We need a society that empowers women and doesn’t objectify them. In order to have a society like that, everyone has to do their part in creating a safe space for women to thrive.
These harmful portrayals of women allows society to normalize violence against women. Society tends to view sexual assault as extremely harmful, but it normalizes objectification by not seeing it in the same light. Catcalling, inappropriate touching, groping, sending unsolicited nudes, body-shaming, rape jokes and sexual coercion are all examples of sexual violence that society doesn’t see as harmful.
In order to prevent the more recognized forms of sexual violence, we need to topple its foundation. Stopping the objectification of women can help prevent further crimes against women.
As a community, we must acknowledge the different experiences that each person endures. The female experience of sexual violence keeps us from success, and objectification is one root of sexual violence. If you see or hear someone objectifying another person, let them know that what they are doing is harmful, or have someone else say something to them. It’s possible they won’t change their ways, but they need to know that our community is not a safe space for objectification.