The curse of ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion

Daily Trust - - OPINION - Oluwadara Aleg­bel­eye, Ibadan

There is a tena­cious de­bate in fem­i­nism and academia about sex­ual ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion. Sex­ual ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion is an in­cred­i­bly touchy and multi-lay­ered is­sue which has been as­so­ci­ated with var­i­ous so­ci­etal anom­alies and psy­cho­log­i­cal de­fects in women in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, low self­worth, neg­a­tive self-image, a gen­eral sense of hope­less­ness, etcetera.

I would like to make it abun­dantly clear that I firmly be­lieve that there is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion what­so­ever for any form of as­sault, ha­rass­ment, vi­o­lence or abuse per­pe­trated against women. I would also like to un­equiv­o­cally state that, I be­lieve that there is a need for men to take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity when it per­tains to any breech of women’s le­gal, civil and do­mes­tic rights. Hav­ing stated these, in­deed, a woman has le­gal rights to dress as she pleases and it is true that the way a woman dresses should not au­to­mat­i­cally box her into a stereo­type. In our so­ci­ety, there are var­i­ous classes of women with dif­fer­ing tastes and val­ues, who act and ex­press them­selves in dif­fer­ent man­ner. An at­tempt to pre-sup­pose that all women are the same is fool­hardy, disin­gen­u­ous and mis­lead­ing. Some women are con­ser­va­tive, have im­pec­ca­ble mo­ral stan­dards, are highly prin­ci­pled and de­cent while some oth­ers lack a ba­sic sense of de­cency and are prone to ex­hibit lewd be­hav­iour. There are fe­males who do not find sex­ual ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of­fen­sive; some in fact dress las­civ­i­ously as an ex­pres­sion of em­pow­er­ment, while some oth­ers rel­ish be­ing the ob­ject of at­ten­tion and or de­sire. I have heard women say ‘I like to dress sexy’ and ‘I re­ally do not care what the lyrics of the “jam” are, I just want to move my body and have a good time’. In a democ­racy, this is per­fectly within lim­its, af­ter all, it is a free so­ci­ety and ev­ery­one has rights. How­ever, women who freely ex­press their sex­u­al­ity through the clothes they wear, mu­sic they lis­ten to, the way they dance and gen­eral con­duct, should not protest and com­plain they are be­ing ob­jec­ti­fied. There is an im­per­a­tive need for fem­i­nists and non-fem­i­nists alike to ac­knowl­edge the dou­ble stan­dard that is in play when women send out con­fus­ing sig­nals.

Women must come to terms with the re­al­ity that it is highly un­rea­son­able to put sen­sual parts of your body on dis­play, dance to songs re­plete with sex­ual in­nu­en­dos and then protest that you are be­ing ob­jec­ti­fied. Ex­cept you en­joy be­ing sex­u­ally ob­jec­ti­fied, you should not be obliv­i­ous to how your ac­tions, com­port­ment, style and car­riage can con­trib­ute to your own ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion.

More­over, there is over­whelm­ing em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing that phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance is an im­por­tant in­dex peo­ple use to cre­ate an im­pres­sion about our iden­tity and per­son­al­ity. Ours is a typ­i­cally pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety with all kinds of per­va­sive cul­tures in­grained into our sys­tem and there is no as­sur­ance and cer­tainly no ex­per­i­men­tal ev­i­dence assert­ing that when women con­duct them­selves in pro­pri­ety, there will be an end to sex­ual ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion. Also, the true con­stituents of sex­ual ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion and the mo­ral and eth­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions thereof re­main quite con­tro­ver­sial and am­bigu­ous but in spite of these stark re­al­i­ties, I would like to en­cour­age women to make de­lib­er­ate ef­forts to be true to them­selves in their pur­suit for eq­uity and re­spect in the so­ci­ety.

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