Something I never really wanted to post about, but feel I have to, because I don’t think that young women quite understand the problem.
Yesterday when I logged onto Facebook, I had several pictures of college co-eds in bathing suits, who are friends on Facebook, come up on my feed. In response, I posted the following on Facebook as my status:
“A note to young women on Facebook, from a guy who works with young men struggling with pornography…you might look good in your bathing suit, but if you were able to see yourself through 20 year-old male eyes, which are struggling to see you as a human and not an object, you would never post that pic. Just a thought.”
I’m sure that went over splendidly.
Here, he says, is the science behind the “men view you as an object” thing:
Researchers used brain scans to show that when straight men looked at pictures of women in bikinis, areas of the brain that normally light up in anticipation of using tools, like spanners and screwdrivers, were activated.
Scans of some of the men found that a part of the brain associated with empathy for other people’s emotions and wishes shut down after looking at the pictures.
Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, said the changes in brain activity suggest sexy images can shift the way men perceive women, turning them from people to interact with, to objects to act upon.
Or it just means that a lot of straight dudes (and a lot of ladies, including yours truly) get excited about using power tools, and also get excited about women in bikinis. SHOCKING NEWS, I know.
But look, if dudes see women as not-quite-human, what you wear isn’t going to change that. And if it does change it, then dude has a problem. Why do you want to hang out with a guy who sees you as a “full human being” only so long as you’re wearing a loose floor-length skirt and an oversize turtleneck? At some point, if you become romantically involved with that dude, or if it gets hot out, he’s going to see you sans cover-alls. At some point, you may wear an outfit that he disapproves of, and he is definitely the kind of guy who thinks it’s his role to determine what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to your sartorial choices. It will be very unfortunate when you wear shorts and he takes that as an opportunity to see you as “an object to be used” instead of a person with thoughts and needs.
Also? Objectifying women as a class and throughout advertising, art, film and all visuals and aesthetics — centering the male gaze, making the active “watcher” the man and the being-watched object the woman — is a big problem, and one that feminists are not unfamiliar with. Finding a particular person physically and sexually attractive, though — “objectifying” them insofar as they make your pants feel funny and you’re not necessarily wondering what their favorite hobbies are or what they think about the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations — is normal human behavior. We find other people attractive; sometimes we just like the view (heeeey James Franco). And many of us like to feel attractive, or be perceived as attractive. Many of us just don’t think it’s such a big deal to be in a bathing suit, and if there are 20-year-olds who can’t see a bikini pic on Facebook without eventually falling into a masturbation-induced shame-spiral, they should probably get off the internet because jesus, the internet is basically a tool for immediate delivery of pornography and funny animal videos.
And if there are really that many 20-year-old men who can’t help but see women as the equivalent of screwdrivers and struggle to see them as human beings — and to be clear, I am quite skeptical of the conclusions this author draws from the “science” he cites, but for the purposes of this argument let’s pretend he’s right — that is a big problem in the psychology of those particular 20-year-olds. Perhaps they should address it, rather than insisting that women everywhere adjust to suit their particular needs. I mean, I have a pretty big boner for dudes with beards, talent, women’s studies degrees and cats, but I’m not insisting that Bon Iver never make another record, you know?