“Objectification of Women”
Phyllis B. Frank

Pictures Never Lie ? Think about the hundreds or thousands pictures of Women that we see, every month and year, in magazines, on TV, in the movies, in advertising. How do these pictures compare with what we see when we look at the real women around us, every day?

In a country where coverage of women’s lives and achievements is hardly equal to that of men’s, where pictures of women scientists, writers, and thinkers rarely appear in the popular press, we are awash in photographs of anonymous young women, selected and pictured to sell products, attract attention, and please male viewers.

Magazines like Playboy claim to be “celebrating women’s beauty.” But Playboy doesn’t run pictures of… Women… Of female human beings of all ages and sizes, of the women who make up more than half of our population. What Playboy does in fact is to “celebrate” one minutely small portion of the female gender. They are usually “models:” young, VERY PRETTY women of a physical type chosen to appeal to male eyes.

But even these “highly selected and carefully chosen” young women are not presented as full and multi-dimensional people; instead, they are often posed and dressed so as to de-emphasize individuality. The effect visually reduces a woman to a body, or in some instances, to parts of her body, as if she is not a real, whole person.

The term that most often describes this phenomenon is: objectification.

A definition of Objectification might be: “portrayals of women in ways and contexts which suggest that women are objects to be looked at, ogled, even touched, or used, anonymous things or commodities perhaps to be purchased, perhaps taken – and once tired of, even discarded, often to be replaced by a newer, younger edition; certainly not treated as full human beings with equal rights and needs.

Objectification of women is obviously common in mainstream media We see it in advertising, in pin-ups, calendars, “girlie pictures;” in Hollywood movies, in magazines, we see it everywhere.

We believe that massive objectification of women may contribute to a “climate” in which violence and exploitation of women are both tolerated and tacitly encouraged. Once you have learned to see a class of human beings as objects, or in ways that effectively reduce them to objects, it becomes much easier to use them as one would an object, with as little, or less, regard.

Women grow up in a world

  • Where objectified images of women’s bodies are everywhere – on TV, newsstands, in advertisements, movies, calendars.
  • Where many women start to feel old and unattractive even in their 20’s.
  • Where women aren’t taken seriously.
  • Where even the youngest and most beautiful women often worry constantly, and cannot match in real life their photographed, objectified image.
  • Where half-naked female bodies are displayed on walls, in public like objects, exposed female bodies used as markers of male territory, male turf… Immediate signals of discomfort, and of menace, for women.

In short, the direct negative effects on women, as we are exposed to it daily are: negative self-images, shame about ourselves, diminished feelings of dignity, autonomy, privacy, and SAFETY.