A Moral Solution to the Objectification of Women

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To objectify an individual is to perceive them as an object of means rather than a subject that is an end in itself.

Artwork by Nouf Bandar Elmoisheer (Instagram: @naufba)

When someone asks us: “Who are you?” we answer with our names and qualities. By this, we are acknowledging the fact that we are subjects or in other words individuals. It does not cross our minds to identify ourselves as objects even though this occurs more often than we think, both voluntarily and involuntarily. In the media today, we always see women’s sexual appeal being used as an attracting factor in advertisements on certain beverages or clothing lines that might not even be for a woman, but it attracts.

Sexual attraction is one of the main modes of human objectification, in this case, it’s in the form of objectifying women as sexual objects to create the desire within consumers that will drive them to the product. So it’s using women as a means to an end, with the end as driving desire to the product. In this time and age, the media targets desire rather than intellect, and that is a form of dehumanization which makes it easier to see an individual as an object of desire rather than a whole person of quality or a subject.

When we perceive an individual as an object rather than a subject, we naturally deprive them of their humanness and their human rights, which decreases our empathy towards the objectified person.

The lack of empathy due to dehumanization is seen in the marginalization of certain social groups as well. For example, the terms that are used to name immigrants such as “aliens”, rather than individuals, ingrains the idea of indifference towards them. This indifference plays on our subconscious making it easier to accept the ill-treatment and deportation policies. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in psychology states that language isn’t simply how we voice our thoughts; it shapes our ideas and perceptions of reality[1].

The objectification of women is not a new concept; it’s constantly seen in ancient beliefs towards women when they are depicted as evil or as mere pleasure objects rather than individuals. This made it easier to have harems and concubines without the question of morality, and it enabled the dismissal of female emotion and ambitions. Objectification has an amazing ability to adapt to different time.

Women give in to objectification when they agree to take up roles that celebrate their sex appeal. They may do this in the name of sexual freedom or female empowerment. Women who choose to isolate themselves from society, in the name of modesty, are also sexualizing their existence. In both these situations, women sugarcoat reality (consciously or subconsciously), and fail to see themselves as anything other than sexualized objects rather than dignified subjects.

In his theory of the Categorical Imperative Immanuel Kant, an 18th-century German philosopher and a central figure in modern philosophy, had said that humans as rational beings are ends in themselves and should not be used as means. The Categorical Imperative as explained in the Encyclopedia Britannica is a moral law that is unconditional or absolute for all agents, the validity or claim of which does not depend on any ulterior motive or end.

To tackle objectification, the female herself must become aware of the exploitation she is facing and realize that she is an end in herself and not an object of profit nor sexual arousal by default. The portrayal of female individuals in such a way should be shamed upon for the sake of humanity. Females should be seen as humans instead of sexualized objects, not only by commercial industries and doctrines but also in gaming and animation industries that overly sexualize the female body making it harder to protest that we –as women- are more than sex objects, that we are equal human beings with minds, emotions, goals, and ambition that are not to be dismissed, belittled, or reduced to desire.

[1] http://www.thereviewatnyu.com/all/2017/3/6/the-linguistic-dehumanization-of-the-immigrant-in-america

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