NOMAS Position Statement on “Objectification of Women”


• Pictures Never Lie!? Think about the hundreds or thousands images of Women that we see, every month and year, in magazines, on TV, in the movies, on the internet, in advertising, in social media…, How do these images 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 meager at best, where pictures of women scientists, writers, and thinkers rarely appear in the popular press, we are awash in photographs, images, and videos of anonymous young women, selected and pictured to sell products, attract attention, and please male viewers.

• Magazines like Playboy or Cosmopolitan, or any media, for that matter, claim to be “celebrating women’s beauty.” But these media don’t run images of… Women… Of female human beings of all ages and sizes, of the women who make up more than half of our population. What They do in fact is to “celebrate” one minutely small portion of the mostly white female gender. They are usually white “models:” young, VERY PRETTY women of a physical type chosen to appeal to male eyes (White patriarchal male esthetic).

• But even these “highly selected and carefully chosen” young white 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 has most often seemed to describe 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, on the internet, 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.

* The feminist movement has been addressing this issue at least since the original Miss America protest, in 1968, where a hand-out described the generic beauty contest as: “the mindless-boob-girlie symbol,” with contestants paraded and judged like cattle at a county fair, competing for male approval, enslaved by ludicrous beauty standards…”