How many women that you know have never been catcalled? Exactly! Almost all women have been through it at least once in their life. This may sound exaggerated but trust me, it is not. Along with the countless wolf-whistles and stares from people. Do women really ask for this? No matter if the women wear something sexy, tight, short, or baggy clothes, people would still take a chance to objectify them in any way possible. How is that possible?
Women have always been viewed as objects only for the pleasure and advantage of men for years. Women are objectified when they are portrayed or regarded as things rather than persons. When women get objectified, some people may say women should consider it as a compliment. However, there is a distinction to be made between admiring a person’s beauty and objectifying them.
What is Objectification and What Does it Have to Do with Women?
Objectification is treating someone as a thing making them feel like nothing more than just an object of sexual desire. It is a form of dehumanization. Since objectification is a psychological process, the only one who could really tell if they are objectifying or admiring someone is the person who is doing it. But how do they really know the difference?
While admiration is all about acknowledging someone’s appearance as an aspect of who they are and still viewing them as a person, objectification is different. We all have admired someone before on some level where we automatically observe and praise their appearance. Different from objectification, this is entirely natural and acceptable. There is nothing to hide in between the praise.
Women have always been the focus of sexual objectification. Ironically, they are being objectified not just by men, but also by women sometimes. According to a study, the brain of some people analyses images of women differently from men’s which contributes to the sexual objectification of women. Up to this day, women are more likely to be viewed as a part rather than as a whole.
The Impact of Sexual Objectification of Women on Mental Health
From being stared at, catcalled, wolf-whistles to being objectified publicly, it comes to the point where some women viewed this as a normal thing to experience. They are being objectified for literally breathing. Can you imagine how ridiculous is that? We can see people objectifying women from everywhere. No matter whether it is from our own society or it is depicted in the mass media.
When women experienced any incidents of sexual objectification, most of them will start to question themselves and their physical appearance. “Did I wear something revealing?” “What should I do to stop them?” “How should I hide my body?” These are some of the questions that will be running in their heads. When a woman posts herself on any social media platform as an act of self-confidence and body positivity, she will be perceived as “selling” her body when her real intention is just to admire herself.
In most cases, when women are sexually objectified, they will analyze their physical appearance more often than before, which can bring a negative influence on their mental health and this can be harmful to women. Research shows that sexual objectification of women has been connected to depression, anxiety, low self-confidence, eating disorders, and post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). It leads to constant self-analyzing and thus, creates self-consciousness in women. It also obstructs the formation of a healthy sexual orientation.
The Influence of Media
In the technological era, mass media has become a significant source of information and knowledge. In relation to human social life, the image of women that is built in the media is adjusted to the needs of business and industry players behind the scenes. Often women are used as objects to achieve industry goals, for example, a high rating. Women are made as objects in various ways.
The mainstream media has traditionally portrayed women’s physical appearance and body image in a misleading and unrealistic light. Today, we can see unrealistically and hypersexualized flawless shapes of women on television, billboards, magazines, and social media. The media is able to generate a large number of audiences or consumers and is able to equate the opinions and beliefs of its users.
The number of depictions of women in the mass media has more or less influenced what society thinks of women. Culture in society then reaches the media and all the flow of content in it, and vice versa, the depiction from the media that reaches society always places the female body as one of the things that can be caught by the eye and then used as an object.
The identities of women and men are also often distinguished in their appearance in the media. Seen the difference in the display of the image of men and women by the media. Men usually act as subjects, who have control and desire for women, while women act as objects, especially objects of male fantasy, who show their body parts so that men get satisfaction. This situation is depicted in many advertisements, films, and even social media platforms.
The mass media are able to influence public opinion and are able to make a consensus in the eyes of the public regarding a certain matter. The common view in the eyes of the public regarding the right of men to make women sexual objects can appear to be true because it is justified by the media.
How Can We Solve This Problem?
If we asked people from the society about their opinion on the objectification of women, most of them would blame it back on the women and how women dress. But in fact, how women dress and portray themselves does not give anyone the permission and right to objectify them. No matter what a woman is wearing, she deserves to be respected.
Even if they are wearing baggy clothes, they would still be objectified. We can see the example from a global celebrity, Billie Eilish, who is well-known for wearing baggy clothes. She revealed the reason behind her appearance is to avoid being sexualized by the public. Do women have to go to this extent to avoid being objectified?
The question women have always waited for is the answer; “When will sexual objectification stop?”
Of course, it may be hard but it is not impossible to end this perception. To solve this problem, it all has to start within our own society. The patriarchal conceptions of society play a vital role in sexual objectification. In order to put this problem to an end, we must change society’s underlying perceptions.
Women are more than just sexual objects. They are human beings with feelings. No matter how she dresses and portrays herself, it is not a green light for people to sexualize them. Maybe if everyone thinks the same way, then this sexual objectification of women can stop.