Sunday, July 24, 2005

Objectification internalized ... In general I'm very much a feminist. Women should be no less free to vote, work, marry, etc than men are. Further, these freedoms shouldn't be negative liberties: in areas where women continue to face cultural barriers, such as science or politics, we should be actively fostering their involvement. (Likewise, we should also be fostering male involvement in industries such as nursing and child care.)

That said, I still struggle with the notion that the "objectification" of women is somehow the result of a "dominant patriarchy." Men certainly indulge a few too many admiring glances, let alone lurid glares. But to an extraordinary degree women also objectivize themselves. As Mahalanobis notes, look at a rack of recent magazines, and you can no longer hold men alone accountable:
What I always find striking is that men's magazines tend to have covers with pictures of male athletes, or the new Dell servers, or beautiful women, while women's magazines tend to have covers with ... beautiful women. So I don't think it's a male conspiracy. Beauty and money are useful in obtaining the respect and admiration of others, especially the opposite sex (the latter more for men, the former more for women). We do not have as much control over these attributes as we would like, but that's life. I'm not sure the unfairness of life for plain looking women is any worse than for earnest young men who can't dance and drive used Ford Tauruses.
So why do women purchase magazines filled with beautiful women?

The academic answer is that the "patriarchy" has now become so dominant that women themselves have internalized its principle behavior. Perhaps that's true to an extent, but my guess is that the truer answer lies either in evolutionary biology or neuroscience. Call it the "one part culture, two parts wiring" theory: women see a beautiful woman and objectivize her for much the same reason regular guys see an alpha male and cower -- because they're programmed to.


Blogger Elayne said...

Of course patriarchy is so entrenched that it affects both men and women. That's why it's "institutionalized sexism." :)

I still think a lot of this is much, much more nurture than nature.

5:09 PM  

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