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SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN
Examples of sexual objectification of women are littered throughout the media. Many believe that as a society we no longer objectify women because we don’t see blatant examples littered throughout advertising and media. Although it is good that we have grown more aware of the issue as a society, there are still plenty of more subtle ways in which we still objectify women, and it begins when females are little girls. This is even more concerning when you have a young daughter. It’s essential that you stay aware and empower your daughter to avoid falling victim in this trap.
I want to talk to you about being a parent. More specifically, being the parent of a young girl.
I have a two-year-old daughter, and she is gorgeous. I know she is–she knows she is. Everywhere we go, strangers make comments on how beautiful she is, and how we should seriously consider professional modeling. Although I wish I could say I appreciate the sentiment, I really don’t.
It terrifies me.
It is a constant reminder of the state of our society, a society where girls and women are sexual objects for boys and men to do with as they wish.
SEXUALIZATION OF WOMEN IS INGRAINED IN US
Men are dominant; women are submissive. Men can age, women should remain young and beautiful forever. Men are the voice that drives the advertisement, and women are the goods on display. Halloween costumes for women cannot be appropriately represented without the use of the word sexy, whereas men get to play the hero.
Don’t believe this is actually a problem? The experts at the APA state that the evidence of sexual objectification abounds everywhere–it’s ingrained in us as a society (Carr, Moffitt, & Szymanski 2011).
Now don’t misunderstand—I am not a prude, a grown woman should be allowed to dress in a way that makes her feel empowered.It shouldn’t matter what this looks like (even though it unfortunately does).
But does this mean my two-year-old needs makeup, heels and a tiara? Hell no. She would be on the floor crying in seconds because she tripped and broke a toe or something. She doesn’t care about what she’s wearing, and she’d probably run around covered in maple syrup and dog hair if we allowed it.
People are going to be judging your little girl. For the rest of her life. Give her some time just to enjoy exploring the world before she has to face this for herself.
SOCIETY’S CONTRIBUTION TO SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION
We also need to recognize how we as a society contribute to the problem.
I want you to think about some of the “sexy” costumes that are available for women. Sexy schoolgirl for example. I mean, it seems innocent enough…but schoolgirls are generally innocent because well, they’re children. When you think about it, the connotation is kind of disturbing.
I saw some very realistic Harley Quinn costumes a couple of years ago.
They were cute.
I would have worn one.
The problem was, they were for a toddler. There are a few issues with this.
First, it is unlikely that your toddler even knows or cares who Harley Quinn is. Second, Halloween should be a chance for your child to be a character they enjoy (once they are old enough to understand).When they are still too young to understand, it’s appropriate to either dress them in something adorable or something geeky.
Harley Quinn is sexy.
Ladies dress like her because they like the character or costume, and they should be empowered to wear it if they want to. A two-year-old does not feel empowered when she is scantily clad–she’s probably just cold because she’s trick-or-treating at the end of October.
Look at car or food commercials on the TV. I don’t know how someone manages to look sexy while eating a juicy burger, as I am messier than a toddler.
This is another perfect example of female objectification. We are taking an object (a hamburger), and we are having a beautiful woman eat it sexually. We don’t know her name, but we see the way her eyes roll back in her head when she’s taking an unusually good bite. Her only purpose is our viewing pleasure.
The funny thing is, some businesses have begun to challenge this very principle in the name of humor. Carl’s Jr filmed a commercial with a man eating a burger in a lusty manner–which was somewhat uncomfortable to watch.
Our perception is skewed by the influence of the media. Skinny bodies, long hair, and big-breasts are the standard. Anything less makes you less.
The problem is, most females don’t fit in this category.
YOUR DAUGHTER, THE TEENAGER
Assuming your daughter maintains a heterosexual predisposition, she may start enjoying time spent with boys in addition to her girlfriends. If you have ever been around a group of teenagers, you know they are a heaping pile of hot mess.
Your teenage girl is likely so concerned about what boys think that a single insensitive word from a boy can mean a night spent crying, and a definite dip in her self-esteem. She may be called dramatic for having emotions, a slut for hanging out with boys, and a bitch for standing up for herself.
Life as a teenage girl is not easy.
The lives of teenage boys can be rough too, but at least boys aren’t so commonly objectified. They instead grow up believing that they are stronger, smarter, and better than women.
Funny, considering life as a teenager is awkward and uncomfortable, no matter what parts you have.
Friends, this issue is so important.
We need to change the way our girls see themselves. They deserve to know how wonderful and capable they are on their own.
AWARENESS AND EMPOWERMENT
The first step? Be aware. Be aware that we live in a world where man and woman are not yet equal. Be aware that the media and society will try to convince your daughter that she is beneath a man and that at most she is a frivolous accessory. Be aware that the sexual objectification of little girls is a real thing, and it is possible that some asshole will someday touch your daughter in a way that makes her uncomfortable.
Teach her to be angry.
Hear me out.
As women, we are taught to be meek creatures who are kind, soft-spoken, and gentle. You know what happens to girls like this? They are taken advantage of. If your daughter takes this to heart, she won’t believe she deserves respect.
Teach her to feel her feelings with passion, and encourage the healthy expression of emotions. A woman is not bitchy, dramatic, or sensitive for expressing herself. Everyone deserves to feel their emotions.
PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH OTHERS
When she’s little, don’t make her hug someone if she does not want to. It is her body, her choice. Teaching a child how to demand respect for their body begins at this young age.
I get how hard this is.
I have a two-year-old who is very vocal about when and with whom she will allow hugs. She is very passionate about the word no, and it’s always a little awkward when she doesn’t make the socially acceptable choice. Regardless of this, we let her choose.
Remember, tickling and horseplay fall under this as well. Don’t let her grow up thinking she has to submit to uncomfortable situations of forced physical contact.
HOW WE MODEL EXPECTED GENDER ROLES
When she’s little, buy her Hot Wheels and baby dolls to her little heart’s content. I get that doing this intentionally may seem silly, but it isn’t. It is laying the framework for a core belief in gender equality.
Consider this: when your daughter is told she cannot play with boy toys, it implies that boys have something that she doesn’t. Something about being a boy makes you good enough to be able to play with toy cars. Now, when a boy plays with girl toys, they are diminished and disparaged for it as if girl toys are not good enough for boys. See the problem?
Mom (or dad), you are wise and example enduring; on her lips, your name is synonymous with God. Watch your own behavior. Don’t let her catch you standing in front of the mirror, muttering to yourself about your weight. I like to think that most parents try to teach their children that everyone is beautiful in their own way–regardless of their fatness.
Think of how contradictory that looks when she hears you say one thing, but practice another.
SEX AND YOUR DAUGHTER
Talk to her about her sexuality. Look, I am not one of those parents who believe in abstinence sex ed (mostly because research shows that it is ineffective at preventing underage sex). Think about when you were a teenager. Personally, I wasn’t a bad kid, but I certainly did some things that some of you moms may judge me for. Teenagers are known for their defiance, and I am sure every single one of us had a rebellious streak in there somewhere.
My grandmother is an incredibly strong woman. She raised my brother and me while raising her own kid, going to school, and working full time. We had our moments butting heads growing up, but her opinions about sex were not something she tried to shove down my throat.
I just knew that any conversation I wanted to have about it would be safe with her. I knew that I had someone in my corner if I was ever scared or uncomfortable with a situation. She certainly did not want me to have sex, but she understood the importance of keeping the lines of communication open with me.
Rather than forbidding it, she nurtured respect and awareness.
Never forget, sex is natural. I know it is hard to imagine your “little girl” being violated, especially because we see sex as some sort of adult right of passage.
But it’s not.
I did not magically become an adult when I had sex, nor was there a day that I magically became ready to handle the emotional aspects of sex. It’s just not a thing.
However, puberty is a thing, and sexual exploration is never far behind. Normalize this conversation. Teach her about safe sex and how to express her wants and needs. Give her a safe outlet when she feels overwhelmed or pressured.
It’s okay to hope that she’ll wait. Recognize that you can’t control this.
My message is important. Do what you can to empower your daughters to be the strong and confident women they indeed are. Recognize the reality of objectification that is all around you. Be an advocate for your daughter, and teach her that she is in control of her own body.
Don’t forget to give yourself some love too, because your kids are watching and they need the pattern of your example.
Parenthood is hard, and sometimes it seems like those that come before us follow some unsaid code of non-disclosure. There is struggle, but there is also progress and self-actualization.
We are all just trying to do the best that we can, and I think that’s good enough.
Here are a couple of random books that my aunt bought for my girls. They lay some groundwork for empowerment, and we thoroughly enjoyed them.
The links I am posting are affiliate links, which means I will get a small commission if you purchase any of these through the link I provide (at no additional cost to you). You can read more about this in my disclaimer. I own these books and my opinions are my own.
This book is called Feminist Baby. It’s a simple and hilarious little book that is intended to help break down arbitrary social norms for toddlers.
This next book is definitely geared towards kids a bit older, and I imagine my toddler will grow to enjoy it in a few years. It is called She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the WorldThis book tells the story of 13 women who have changed the world in one way or another.
What patterns of sexual objectification do you see? What have you done to protect your daughter or teach your son about objectification? I would love to hear about it in the comment section below.
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SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN