It has been a while since I last posted anything to this blog and I apologize to my audience for being remiss in my duties and obligations to keep my blog flowing. Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of the objectification of women. You might be asking yourself, “Didn’t feminism settle this matter decades earlier?” Many people believe we live in a society where men and women are equals. Sadly, that is not the case. What I am about to explore are the vehicles by which men and societal institutions perpetuate the reality that women are objects.
Objectification of women and women’s inequality are not new concepts. For a historical account that is groundbreaking in its approach read Simone de Beauvoir (1989) The Second Sex in which she claims women oppressed by the society at large and specifically by men throughout the ages. Women throughout the centuries were subservient to men. The feminist movement starting in the late 1840s broke the silence and helped women to achieve the right to vote, gain equality which took longer than most anticipated, and helped to end some of the systems of oppression that devalued women or made the objects for male pleasure.
Please note at the outset that I do not view women as objects. I am writing this post from the perspective of a heterosexual male who was guilty of buying into the societal constructs that see women as objects. I have learned valuable lessons over the last six plus years of college and graduate school education that make me more aware of how I interact and engage women to see them as human beings with dignity and self-worth and not as objects of pleasure.
I believe the feminist movement made great strides in helping womankind advance their cause for equality and justice. However, I believe more work remains unfinished. The problem of the 21st century as I see it is a return to the objectification of the past century only more graphic, overt, and explicitly sexual.
In this social critique I would like to explore music, the language of objectification, and the subtle ways we continue to objectify women and lend support to atrocities that include violence towards women and systemic oppression.
Hip-Hop, Rap, and other modern musical styles are my jam, but I am the first to admit that these music genres objectify women and essentially communicate to men, myself included, that we can have what ever women we choose and do whatever our hearts desire and no one or social institution will stop us. Can you see the danger inherent in this music? Akon’s ” I Wanna Fuck You” featuring Snoop Dog portrays a club scene in which women are shaking their bodies while singers discuss how they’re going to get into the women’s pants at all costs because they’re horny. To quote from the song
Girl I spend money like it don’t mean nothing And besides I got a thing for you. I see you winding and grinding up on that pole. I know you see me lookin’ at you when you already know. I wanna fuck you, you already know. I wanna fuck you, you already know”
I apologize for the vulgarity of the quote but it demonstrates the violence implicit and explicit in this music. You can see throughout the video women are valued in terms of dollars and cents. Those listening to the words and jamming to this music at the club or in the confines of their own bedroom hear the message “Women are objects for your use. Do what ever you like with them.” How would you feel if the person being treated as an object for sexual gratification were your grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, cousin, friend, wife, or coworker? This song implies women only have value because they “provide” for male sexual needs. Songs of this form also fail to see the nurturing side of women.
When we listen to songs that make women into objects we strip women of their humanity and by virtue of this we allow for the possibility of rape and murder. Objects have no feelings. The song is communicating to men and society that women have no feelings and their sole purpose is to provide for men. Sounds like society has not left the middle ages, doesn’t it?
It pangs me to say this but men are not solely to blame for female objectification. Women have also played their part in creating a culture that deprives women of their humanity. Consider Nicki Minaj’s 2011 hit Stupid Hoe which repeatedly calls women a stupid hoe and reinforces the old notion that women are objects in need of dominance by men. Labeling another human being a hoe, slut, pussy or other similar name is another means of depersonalization. We prevent ourselves from seeing the humanity of the person when we use the linguistic construct known as labeling. Labels allow us to distance our self from the individual. By calling someone a “stupid hoe” as Minaj does in her song she is suggesting that person is not part of the human condition. If that is the case, then violence in the form of abuse, assault, sexual harassment, or the like is permissible.
Imagine what these songs are doing to our youth, our society as a whole, and our psyches.
Songs like Stupid Hoe or I Wanna Fuck You play everyday on radio stations across the nation and the globe sending the message it’s ok to treat women disrespectfully. Furthermore, songs of this nature allow us to perpetuate the objectification of women on a global scale. Gender equality will not occur if we continue to allow these songs to permeate our culture.
You have a part to play in this.
You can be an instrument of peace and social transformation or you can be a blind participant in a culture that supports making women into objects. If you choose the first option, you might begin by looking at the music you listen to on a daily basis. What are the messages being broadcast into your consciousness? Does the music you listen to encourage gender equality? Does it caution you to see others as objects? What other negative messages does it give you? Once you have a sense of this you might also examine other areas of your life and culture that perpetuate the systems of oppression and objectification that I have commented on in this blog post. The violence to women DOES NOT HAVE TO CONTINUE! We can end it right here and right now.
If you find this topic stimulating, I will encourage you to explore this topic more by visiting the following websites:
- www.goodmenproject.com (The Good Men Project is a great resource of social commentary and community of other individuals trying to end systems of oppression and objectification)
- http://www.menstoppingviolence.org (Men Stopping Violence is a national training institute that provides organizations, communities, and individuals with the knowledge and tools required to mobilize men to prevent violence against women and girls.)
- http://www.acalltomen.org (A Call to Men is a leading national violence prevention organization providing training and education for men, boys and communities. Our aim is to shift social norms that negatively impact our culture and promote a more healthy and respectful definition of manhood. We believe that preventing domestic and sexual violence is primarily the responsibility of men.)
- http://site.nomas.org (NOMAS or National Organization of Men Against Sexism, is an activist organization of men and women supporting positive changes for men. NOMAS advocates a perspective that is pro-feminist, gay affirmative, anti-racist, dedicated to enhancing men’s lives, and committed to justice on a broad range of social issues including class, age, religion, and physical abilities.)
- http://www.mencanstoprape.org/ (Men Can Stop Rape is an organization whose mission is to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.)
I encourage your feedback, comments, & critiques and I also you encourage to keep the conversation going on and offline. Please feel free to share this article and I hope to continue the conversation with you!
May we continue to be instruments of peace and end violence toward women across the world.
Thanks for reading!