Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Objectify Women ... and Men ... and Myself!

Moon Marie and Valya - Jack in the Box Wrapper and Bag - 022613 - SideB

People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn't see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.  ~ Marilyn Monroe

Moon Marie - 022613 - SideB

Amen, Marilyn - tell em!!   I grew up surrounded by an ultra conservative/religious Mennonite (think one step this side of Amish) extended family.  I was fortunate to be the granddaughter of the black sheep who fell far from the tree, married a Navy man, and embraced a life outside the herd.  I vividly remember my mother greeting any judgement and concern for our lifestyle with a simple line: "To the pure, all things are pure."   I suspect now that it may have been more tongue-in-cheek than I grasped, but it surely empowered me to realize that everyone sees things through their own mental shadows of guilt, shame, confusion, and pain.  Religion may be the most entrenched mechanism of shaming when it comes to sexuality, but it's certainly not alone.

So what does this have to do with objectifying women?   Seems to me that to some people, women are already objects, regardless of their depiction in art or the media.   How I portray them won't matter.  Conversely, to the pure all things are pure.  If you are well-adjusted and respectful of others, you may view a photo of a woman as a symbol or an ideal, but you will not confuse that with believing her to be merely an object for your pleasure.   The image may be an object for your amusement, the model is not.   Nor will you take that objectification in two dimensions as permission to treat three dimensional actual people as objects.   
Valya - 022613 - SideB

Objectification isn't unique to women in erotic art.   Yet when was the last time you heard someone bemoaning the objectification of our sports superstars?  "Oh poor, poor Kobe Bryant!  He's a real person, with real feelings and everyone just sees him as long legs and biceps!"  or  "Usain Bolt is more than just powerful thighs you know ... you're such a pig to obsess over physical prowess instead of the content of his character!"  Puh-leeeeeez!   

Anyone in the public eye has been objectified - most of us by our own design.   There's a huge difference between the totality of me as a person and the brand I have scultped as a public figure.   It's slightly unsettling when people think they KNOW me because they're a fan of my photos.   Same goes for people in music, acting, athletics.   But celebrity culture comes part and parcel with allowing the public to consume you.  To be an object of attention, of desire, of adoration requires one to be objectified into bite-sized morsels for public consumption.    

Even as private individuals, we are all objectified every day.  Every person will view you through their own filters, so often there is little resemblence between the person you are and the object you become in their eyes.   The good, the bad, the superficial, the insightful ... perhaps there is still truth to be found in objectification through art.  The danger lies in believing those truths to be specific instead of general, complete instead of partial.   And perhaps the truth we find is about the viewer and the artist, not  the subject.   


  1. As a self proclaimed objectifier of women, I have a few concerns about the unintended consequences of all of this. As Peter Wong of "Cracked" wrote in an article titled, "5 Ways Modern Men are Trained to Hate Women" -
    "From birth we're taught that we're owed a beautiful girl... So it's very frustrating, and I mean frustrating to the point of violence, when we don't get what we're owed. A contract has been broken.."

    Either intentionally or not, are we putting unrealistic, unwanted, and unfair roles onto women (or any objectifiedgroup) that do meet the objectified standard and also on those that do not (either by choice or chance)?

    Thoughts?? - SideB


  2. When we have a strong reaction to someone or something, I believe that we're seeing a reflection of traits that we also possess but have been unwilling to admit or accept as a part of ourselves. Some people spend so much time denying that they have a dark side, and then end up projecting the same qualities onto others. On the other hand, I believe we are attracted to certain people because we see our strengths (or what we perceive as our strengths) in them, only more so.

    I think the same applies to the idea of objectifying women and men in art. It's the viewer's internal views that will determine whether they see beauty or objectification. The model allows us to see that they are willing to be posed in the direction the photographer has requested, nothing more. The artist can certainly help direct the story, but in the end, everyone will view the work through their own reflections in it.

    Just my two cents during breakfast.

  3. Wise words, V ... I often feel that my work is like a Rorschach test ... people will see what they see whether it is there or not. This is one reason I prefer not to explain my thoughts, motivations, symbols to the viewer ... my intent is often irrelevant to their experience of the piece. Sometimes, their interpretation opens my eyes to a new perspective and fuels new explorations and creativity! ~Miz B


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