I find it really interesting that my daily read through the blogosphere today brought up two apparently unrelated articles that echo each other. They use different examples and are written in noticeably different styles, but they nonetheless bring up the same issue and even the exact same description of the problem (bolding is mine). Both are worth a look. Enjoy!
Jolene Tan at The F Word (UK) writes:
“Objectification” is not a synonym for “attraction”. It refers to treating someone as an object, less than fully human, a means to an end, rather than as a person. Suggesting that sexually objectifying men might “empower women”, or otherwise further the cause of gender equality, seems to me to (perhaps wilfully) misunderstand objectification.
Following the recent delivery of my first child, I’ve become aware of how children can be objectified even as newborns. You might think all adult interaction with a few-weeks-old infant, completely incapable of language, necessarily involves an interpolation of the adults’ interpretations and motivations, so that it’s hard to speak of levels of respect for the baby as an individual person. But conduct I’ve witnessed has shown me otherwise. We might not be able to obtain verbal confirmation of a baby’s wishes, but there’s a difference between making an educated guess, based on behavioural cues, that zie is seeking cuddling or feeding, and (for example) prodding or tickling hir or subjecting hir to noise because you, the adult, want to see open eyes or a smile. Regarding a baby as a toy for the entertainment of adults: again, objectification.
On Objectification (NSFW)
Most important misunderstanding: objectification is not a synonym for attraction. Let me say that in shouty letters. OBJECTIFICATION IS NOT A SYNONYM FOR ATTRACTION. Feminists (at least, the sort I want to associate with) have nothing against attraction, not even the attraction of men for women. They’re against treating people like objects! A few moment’s reflection can see that those are two fundamentally different things.
For instance, consider a non-sexual example of objectification: the headless fatty phenomenon.
“Headless fatties” are used to illustrate articles about obesity. Instead of presenting fat people as a diverse group with a variety of reasons for being obese and a bunch of interests, personality traits, and desires that are entirely unrelated to their weight, headless fatty pictures erase the humanity of fat people and reduce them to a single thing– their number on a scale.