Have you ever felt a lingering insecurity after being catcalled or criticized about your looks?
If so, you’ve got plenty of company. According to this study, the impacts of objectification on women’s self-image can be lasting. Perhaps the researchers’ conclusions won’t surprise many readers here – they found that women often:
…come to internalize the observer’s perspective and begin chronically to monitor their bodies and their appearance, which can lead to a host of long-term negative consequences, such as depression and eating disorders.
So, after being objectified, the damage can continue if we apply to ourselves the beauty standards that others have used to judge us. Particularly after someone uses our looks in an attempt to shame us, women often self-objectify – seeing our bodies as objects that exist for the pleasure of others – for some time afterwards.
Yet, even if we can resist the urge to only see our figures and features through the eyes of people who measure our looks within our ear-shot, how can deal with the constant exposure to other women’s bodies being judged, critiqued, and belittled? And how do we protect our daughters and sons from internalizing the messages implicit in so much of the media that surrounds us – that women’s bodies exist only to be either appreciated or demeaned by those who view them?
These are the thoughts that went through my head after reading my co-blogger’s take-down of Battle of the Bods, a disgustingly misogynistic Fox ‘reality’ show where women try to guess how a panel of men will rate their faces and figures against those of other contestants. Warning, the video is queasiness-inducing, so I don’t recommend viewing it immediately after eating:
Even though I was consciously thinking of the problems with how women are portrayed in the above clip, I was appalled to find that I immediately turned a critical eye on my own figure after watching it.
As Professor, What If… asserts, “Beautifying and appreciating others beauty should be a fun, pleasureful practice – much like sex. It should not be a stick to beat ourselves or others with.” But, in societies where women “are prompted to police themselves and others,” how do we avoid becoming what Womanist Musings refers to as colluders -“women that work on behalf of patriarchy, undermining the success of women”?
So tonight I’m curious about how you’ve protected yourselves from internalizing the ridiculous beauty standards that we’re all encouraged to swallow, and how you’ve shielded your kids or yourself from the destructive messages about how women should be seen. I’m hoping to learn a thing or two from those who are successfully navigating these tricky waters.
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