By Chelsea Nagrey, Malaysia.
“You wanted it,” “you asked for it,” “it’s your fault for wearing clothes like that,” and the cycle of such comments goes on and on and on. The notorious subject never ends – men continue to objectify women and play the ‘dressing’ card after they’ve had their ‘fun’ with them, with us.
Have you ever had anyone tell you to pull down your skirt so that men don’t stare at your ass? Or to pull your shirt up so men can’t take advantage of you? Well it happens to women, every single day. So today we talk about how women are portrayed in society and why they never seem to be able to wear anything they like without being sexualised and victimised by men.
"Women are meant to please."
The University of British Columbia defines sexual objectification as the act of reducing a person into an object to use and consume sexually. Arguments have ensued, more times than one can imagine, where women are viewed as sexual objects and nothing more. Not only are women depersonalized, they are stripped of any chance to be a person – because that’s all women will ever be viewed as, sexual objects.
This has been happening for longer than you can imagine, and it’s all around us. Times have not changed. From using a picture of a woman with a midriff on the cover of a commercial airplane to promoting cologne for men to starring in music videos nude. The list just never seems to end.
From a young age, girls are taught, both consciously and otherwise, to learn how to cook, clean and that their sole purpose on this earth is to bear children. Just the thought of it is revolting but it is the ugly truth. At a young age, girls are groomed to be sexual objects, to rid themselves of any possibility of being a person, of owning a business or of becoming successful in the career world. Perhaps not directly in some countries, no – but it is so in mine, and many others.
And it seems almost like all women are meant to do, is get married because that’s the only ‘job’ that women are good at. However, this again is not something new. It has taken us years – centuries! – to realize just how we are viewed in society. In other words, we are consistently and systematically undervalued and used by men only for pleasure.
Simone De Beauvoir had a take on the embodiment of women. Through her case studies, she argued that a woman’s body is the site of ambiguity, for she can use it as a vehicle for her freedom and feel oppressed by it. This very thought has proven so true in so many cases. She also argued that in fields, women feel happy and free because there are no men there to gaze or mothers to criticize. Based on this, it becomes clear that when a woman is placed in a society full of patriarchal power, men have the power to see as they please, and mothers can only pray that their daughters do not become the next victim of a predator.
The categorization or sexual mark that society has put on women all these years never seems to have an end. In pornography, music videos, swimsuit ads and even video games which are exposed to young boys at a very young age, all have sexual symbolism. Society has built this patriarchal world where its okay for men to use women to promote products or to only use their body for desire and nothing more. In all honesty, some women in the world have already bought into the idea of sexual objectification and do not see how wrong it is.
Hence, we as women have to ask ourselves this: do we enjoy being portrayed in that light? As nothing more than just surfaces to be covered by men? And if so, is it because we’ve been programmed to be that way? Or is it because we don’t have a say in this?
Women are beautiful – of that there can be no doubt. Our bodies are unique and different in various ways. The innuendo surrounding the portrayal of women in today’s light has to change. For we are more than just pretty bodies, and we are more than what the surface of our bodies have to offer.
We each have personalities and hobbies and dreams to achieve in this ever-growing world of possibilities. We must break the chain of it being ‘okay’ for women to be viewed as sexual objects. Nevertheless, that is never going to be the case if we do not address one other thing; the way women dress. Due to the fact that women are sexually objectified, men get the idea that women are constantly around them for sex and that what they are wearing is them asking for it. Well, it is wrong, and here’s why.
As girls we are taught to wear certain clothes, to hide our figure, to cover up as much skin as possible. That’s what our mothers have been trying to do since the beginning. But why?
Because we are afraid of men. Because men do not seem to understand the word no. Because men can’t seem to see past their lust. The recent case of Mollie Tibbets, where she was approached by a man in a Black SUV and killed as she was jogging, has much significance to this. Not so much so to dressing but to toxic masculinity. The result of her saying no was murder.
That is but one incident in the many others that have occurred around the world and are still occurring. Men don’t seem to take the word ‘no’ very lightly, and the way women dress remains objectified in their eyes.
I have had men come up to me and tell me not to waste money on going to school because apparently what I was wearing would be enough for me to get a job and settle down somewhere. I have had boys tell me that if I continued wearing tight dresses like that, they’d love to ‘get with me’. It is ridiculous, stupid and more importantly, insane how some men have this built mentality that what a woman wears is exactly what or who she is and what she wants.
In high school, girls are made to dress in a certain way. They are not allowed to show their shoulders, anything above the knees, not allowed to wear sleeveless clothes because their bra might show and if boys see their bra strap, oh boy, the school will go ballistic with raging hormonal teenagers and boys will have a hard time concentrating in school. Is this not ludicrous? Because this is the world we are living in. Children, teenagers, young adolescents are victims of this toxic mindset.
Women who have tried to beat the system show defeat when they are mothers themselves and make their daughters cover as much as possible because of the known fear that women have of men. As much as we want to beat the system, the minute we say no, we become suspects of their burning rage and anger. There is the slightest chance that they will force themselves on us, that they will rape us, or sexually assault us or murder us. That is the fear that women have of men. We have been so oppressed that we lose hope in expression.
Society has this belief that women dress to impress. Well, society is wrong. Contrary to popular belief, women dress to express themselves. Often enough, when women dress up or do their makeup a little bit more than they usually do, they are faced with this question: ‘who are you getting dolled up for?’ Not only is this a dogmatist thing to say, it is genuinely what people think dressing up is all about. Well, it’s not! Women dress up to feel confident, to feel pretty and to feel good about themselves. Not to please other people. And that, folks, is where sexual objectification plays a role.
When women feel the need to show off their curves or flaunt what they possess, it is not because we want to please other people or ‘ask for it’. However, it is that mentality which is embedded into the heads of many, if not all, men these days. Many people blame it on conservative traditions, that we should dress a certain way. Well, I believe it is a bigoted world we live in and that ‘traditional terms’ are a facade to taint if not cover up the fact that sex is all men ever think about.
Nevertheless, it would be small-minded of me to categorize all men as sexual predators, for not all of them are. It is the way society has wired men and women. The pervasiveness of this mentality is what silences us from questioning the very fabric of society and its beliefs. Is it human nature for women to feel powerless and for men to think through desire? Because that should not be the case, but it is.
Sexual objectification should never tamper with a woman’s form of expression. Desire should never assume ‘hard to get’ as a means for approval. Men should never pursue a woman for what’s beneath her clothing but instead, for her intelligence, personality, and most importantly, the person she is. It is time women broke out of their fear bubble and for men to step back and understand that many women dress for themselves, not others. To break away from objectification, is to pave a path for a new society where sex is not everything and where men and women can stand together as equals, short skirt or not.
I write from the perspective of a teenager in Malaysia – which, of course, may not represent your perspective. Have you had different experiences with dressing and attire? Let us know in the comments, or send us a message with the contact form!
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