When posters promote sexual objectification
I feel awkward. Everywhere I go, I see posters advertising events like Dr. Judy’s Tantric Sex Workshop and Anal Pleasure 101, and I, with my sheltered life, can’t help but blush. Red face notwithstanding, I am fully aware that students will enjoy these events, and they have every right to do so. What bothers me, though, is the way that the posters that have been blue taped to every wall on campus portray women.
The only advertisements with real people on them show skinny women bent in some sexy position with their bedroom eyes assaulting passersby, which makes me feel like even here at our very accepting school we are perpetuating the cycle of the objectification of women and telling a lie about beauty.
The look is thin. Everyone knows that. My friend and I were discussing the other day how chain stores like Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch have shrunk the size of their women’s clothing (she had to go up two sizes to fit in their clothes). Couple that with the skin-tightness of everything, and we find our nation’s girls trying to get thinner and thinner to fit the standards of the magazines they read and the television shows they watch. Preteen girls have begun to develop eating disorders as early as age 5 or 6. It’s easy for us to see that, shake our heads in derision, and say what a shame it is.
And it’s easy for us to call shenanigans and sexism when we see Beyoncé and Lady Gaga writhing in their music videos (“Video Phone,” anyone?), and talk about the degradation of society, and put the Federal Communications Commission on speed dial. I mean, even Miley is showing a little skin nowadays. They have every right to do whatever they want with their bodies, don’t get me wrong, but they are promulgating a super-sexualized body image for impressionable younger (and even older) females that has been around for centuries. You are breasts. You are hips. You are uterus. Throw in a little prophecy, and you are the makings of a Virgilian epic.
We have had a culture of misogyny and objectification of women created for us. We all know that.
What I can’t seem to wrap my mind around, though, is the thought that even here at Wash. U., where we find ourselves so educated, we fall into those same constructs. It’s more than just the posters, but they are a prime example. We try so hard to be politically correct here, and we read our Foucault and our Times, but then we slap these half-naked girls on our posters, falling right back into the cultural norms. If men and women were equally represented, I would understand, but that isn’t the case. Sport is still being made of her quality as a sexual object.
And might I add that the women presented on these posters are skinny white women? We’ve become so inextricably tied into this view (although it may be implicit) that the ideal woman is white, thin, curvy in all the right places and sprawled half-naked on the hood of a Ford truck, even here at our school.
Why do we continue to enforce these beliefs and values of beauty where we can actually influence beauty’s perception? When we fall back on the default of the super-sexualized woman (even when it’s something as small as a poster) we only augment years of the subservience of women and insult who they are as people. Check out the Tantric Sex Workshop, yeah, but remember that you and/or the women in your life are more than that.
Gabe is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.