The un­easy com­part­men­tal­iza­tion of the male gaze


EasyCard Cor­po­ra­tion stepped on a land­mine Wed­nes­day when it was re­vealed that Ja­panese adult film ac­tress Yui Hatano would be ap­pear­ing on its pay­ment cards as a lim­ited edi­tion set. As per usual, main­stream Tai­wanese media have drawn the bat­tle lines as a war over public de­cency. While sup­port­ers of the cor­po­ra­tion say that Hatano’s im­age rep­re­sents noth­ing in­de­cent or sug­ges­tive, an equally vo­cal camp ac­cused the cor­po­ra­tion of push­ing the bound­aries of mar­ket­ing too far.

The re­cent knee-jerk re­ac­tion from parts of so­ci­ety to con­demn Easycard’s de­ci­sion to fea­ture Hatano re­flects an un­easy re­la­tion­ship be­tween the preva­lent ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women on the one hand and the re­sul­tant sex­u­al­iza­tion on the other. What voices of con­dem­na­tion have fo­cused on is Hatano’s role as a pro­fes­sional adult en­ter­tainer, say­ing scant about why the line has been drawn there. In fact, EasyCard’s de­nial of in­de­cency be­lies some­thing more re­pug­nant, that the ma­jor­ity of Tai­wanese so­ci­ety is so far un­will­ing to face up to: if to­day Hatano’s im­age was re­placed by an un­known woman with the same phys­i­cal fea­tures, would the en­su­ing con­dem­na­tion be just as vo­cif­er­ous?

Sex Sells

As an is­land densely em­bed­ded within global mar­kets and mar­ket­ing prac­tices, Tai­wanese so­ci­ety is sub­jected daily to advertising that ob­jec­ti­fies and in­creas­ingly sex­u­al­izes women (and in­creas­ingly men). The nexus of prod­uct an­nounce­ments with scant­ily clad women is om­nipresent whether in elec­tronic trade shows, new au­to­mo­bile roll­outs and now Easycard re­leases.

Dur­ing a media event to pro­mote Taipei City’s host­ing of the 2017 Univer­si­ade, mu­nic­i­pal or­ga­niz­ers demon­strated clearly the di­vi­sion of la­bor be­tween the sexes as male SBL bas­ket­ball stars were on hand to pro­vide en­cour­age­ment to ath­letes. A cor­re­spond­ing group of fe­male ath­letes was not present. In­stead, fe­male cheer­lead­ers from an “all star squad” of dif­fer­ent base­ball teams danced as dozens of fanboys took photos in a state of fran­tic ec­stasy. This was viewed as busi­ness as usual.

The Costs of Ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion

When so­ci­ety con­dones the bla­tant ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women in advertising, it be­comes com­plicit in a move in which women be­come the sum of their body parts that are high­lighted and cropped to raise com­mer­cial yields. Sci­en­tific stud­ies have shown that both men and women are primed cog­ni­tively to per­ceive women dif­fer­ently than men. While both men and women use global cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing to view men more fully, both sexes are more prone to fo­cus on spe­cific body parts of women rather than view­ing them as a whole.

The re­sults of ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion not only re­move agency, but as the Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can writes, it cre­ates the per­cep­tion of women be­ing “dif­fer­ent kinds of hu­mans — ones that are ca­pa­ble of feel­ing but not think­ing.” When these prac­tices of fetishiza­tion be­come un­ques­tioned norms, the re­sult­ing neg­a­tive psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact cre­ates an even greater bar­rier from within, one which sup­presses women through shame and in­fe­ri­or­ity and ef­fec­tively dis­cour­ages their mean­ing­ful par­tic­i­pa­tion in so­ci­ety.

Iden­ti­fy­ing the mech­a­nisms that in­form ba­sic per­cep­tions can help us over­turn the deep seated norms that un­der­lie the latest EasyCard brouhaha. Only then can we speak gen­uinely and com­pas­sion­ately about public de­cency.


A river­side em­bank­ment was washed away af­ter heavy rains hit parts of Greater Taipei, yesterday. The 10-me­ter long by 3-me­ter wide sec­tion of the em­bank­ment was lo­cated in New Taipei’s Xin­dian Dis­trict on An­tai Road, Al­ley 7. An aban­doned dor­mi­tory of the Cen­tral En­grav­ing and Print­ing Plant is shown nearby.

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