The sexual objectification of women in American culture is a major problem, though it seems to be something we are unwilling to talk about openly or rationally. Apparently, there is just too much to be gained, financially and personally (at least for men), for the real lives of women in our society to be given any sort of dignity. The female figure is the primary advertising tool for any company who wants to easily make their brand seem sexy. It is so commonplace today that there are relatively few who promote their products and services with true integrity.
Although the business world is a prime candidate for criticism in this regard, it is not the only realm in which the feminine is disregarded, used, abused, and taken advantage of. Certainly, women in our country still do not enjoy equal opportunities to perform in leadership roles, especially in politics and religion. The “traditional” view of roles conferring power and authority is that they should be primarily held by men, especially wealthy, aged white men. And this obsession with power that women are often excluded from is most likely connected to other egomaniacal behavior, such as womanizing tendencies and habitually objectifying women.
It’s hard to say what percentage of men in leadership roles of various types are addicted to their power and to sexual preoccupations, but among the religious it has been found that “63% of pastors surveyed confirm that they are struggling with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion including, but not limited to, the use of pornography, compulsive masturbation, or other secret sexual activity,” according to Expastors.com. This is a shocking revelation, though it is probably the norm for society as a whole, as the average use of pornography is right around 70% for the general population. Not all who view porn are struggling with an addiction to it, but those are some pretty high figures, especially for men who hold a position in society in which they are generally expected to strive for purity.
Most obviously, it is the production of pornography that showcases the primary example of female objectification in our culture. More often than not, women in these films are portrayed as weak, submissive, and subservient toward men. And it is this imagery that serves as the backdrop for teenage fantasies, which will inevitably evolve into unhealthy obsessions involving unrealistic sexual expectations, abusive, controlling mindsets toward women, possible psychosomatic sexual addictions, and this is often the starting point of the devaluation of the feminine spirit.
In spite of all this, women have made, and continue to make many great strides toward equality in our society, particularly since the initiation of the suffrage movement, and later, feminism. However, some would argue that the subsequent rise of feminism has mostly lead to more division and much female self-objectification, due to a sort of role-reversal where women may choose to enhance their sex appeal for the sake of empowerment, but only end up objectifying themselves. While some women may feel empowered by dressing in revealing clothing or even doing something like dancing a strip tease, this kind of behavior often involves self conscious feelings that can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Many young girls and women become so concerned about their body image, that it can lead to issues such as anorexia, bulimia, and various sexual disorders as well. So, it seems that either way, in a primarily patriarchal society such as ours, women are likely to lose out either way.
In another article previously published on Hybrid.Life, I wrote about gender equality in society and mythology throughout history. In it, I describe how many prehistorical societies tended to be more egalitarian and some believe they may have even been matriarchal or matrilineal. That isn’t to say that power structures were a reversal of what they are in patriarchal societies, but male and female roles were simply more equal. Women commonly served as leaders alongside their male counterparts, rather than being subservient to them or seeking to overpower them, as some modern feminists try to do. These types of societies are truly equal, and still exist today among indigenous groups that have not been “Westernized.” Men and women are able to work together within their gender roles without one overtaking the other in primacy or by dominance.
Perhaps this is a way of life that would serve us well to return to, in order to alleviate the pain of the objectification of either sex and all the mental issues caused by self-objectification, poor body image, and other related disorders. Clearly, our culture is still too male-dominated and could certainly use some nurturing, feminine qualities to help balance out all the male-oriented hypersexualization. We don’t need an aggressive feminization of our culture to merely subvert the status quo and dominate it with femininity. What we need is a true equality between sexes that allows for both male and female expressions of sexuality that are not objectified to simply be used by one or the other.