Sexualisation and Women

Women long to break free. They’d love to wear whatever they want to, and break away from whatever societal code that restricts them to skirts or to saris or any other form of clothing that keeps them all covered up. But is the bikini, really as liberalising as they think.

Body Image

An article on BBC caught my eye recently.

Half of the women questioned said there was “lots they would change” about their bodies – and more than 10% “hated” what they looked like.

When one takes a look at Fashion TV today, one is bound to see runways full of ultra-thin pre-pubescent models flaunting the latest impossible-to-wear fashions along with their ever so ‘sexy’ bones. Honestly, whenever i look at them I have an urge to sit them down and give them a good Sri Lankan rice and curry. But having these models in such glamorous shows, with the world’s most famous designers does have an impact on how people begin to view beauty. Such an impact was recognised in fact, and at one point culminated in a ban on overly thin runway models in Madrid last year.

Taking America as an example, most women would love to be models. But consider that the average American woman is about 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds while the average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds. Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women. The only thing this is good for is the dieting industry, which is approximately a 40 billion dollar business. They get ‘fat’ by telling you that you will become ‘thin’. In 2003, Teen magazine reported that 35 per cent of girls 6 to 12 years old have been on at least one diet, and that 50 to 70 per cent of normal weight girls believe they are overweight. Whatever happened to being happy with what you are. I struggle to comprehend how a 6 year old girl would want to diet. To me, the equation is simple. 6 year old = ice cream.

Sexualisation

The blame for this immense shift in the value system for beauty lies largely with the media and entertainment industry. Anyone who reads comics or manga could tell you how the female figure is exaggerated to the most unreal proportions. Video games have female characters with bodies that defy physics (and i am not referring to their super powers either). Women’s bodies are used to sell anything from cars, to car washing liquids, from men’s razors to men’s briefs. Advertising campaigns use women mercilessly. The end result is at times more derogative than attractive. Take a look at these offensive adds for instance. Media has been so consistent with regards to the sexualisation of women that women themselves have started believing these thin (pun intended) concepts of beauty.

Britney Spears, dressed as a raunchy school girl singing out, ‘Hit me Baby One More Time’, Christina Aguilera went from being a ‘Genie in a Bottle’ to bing just plain ‘Dirty’, and Paris Hilton, need i even talk about her! Going commando had a completely different meaning when i was younger, mostly involving guns and camouflage. All of this spells big trouble for parents with teenage girls.

“We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.” said Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, chair of the group and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

What ever happened to healthy pursuits, like playing ‘pittu’ with the boys under the tamarind tree at school? Now it is Myspace and American Idol. Whatever happened to gorging on raw mango and salt, and the occasional ice cream? Now that extra pound has become scarier than a mid-term exam.

The teenage world revolves around sex. And to be on the top, you have to ooze the most sexuality. Beauty is who you are, not what you look like. What does it matter if you have a chest that would make Lara Croft jealous, but have the conversation skill of a chipmunk? Does it make a difference if you can turn all the boy’s heads, but not shift a single heart? Beauty may be only skin deep, but boy have people become thick skinned. It takes media awareness, and individual strength to bring back true beauty. I loved Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. I doubt any other program had as wide a reach as Dove had.

I tell you all ( women i mean), stop struggling to fit yourself into that narrow concept of beauty (which was probably created by a man anyway), just keep yourself healthy, love yourself and be confident that you are beautiful no matter what anyone tells you.

15 comments
  1. Suchetha said:

    I hate to tell you this, but it was WOMEN who caused this. Women were not sexualised to such an extent before the days of womens’ lib. In fact, if you look at books of manners from the Olde Dayes, then you saw that men actually stood up when a woman came into the room. Foul language used in front of a woman could and in many cases would result in you being asked to “settle it outside.” But when women wanted and got “equality” the necessity for men to be protective of women disappeared. If you want to be “equal” then you have to be able to look after yourself.

    So how does this lead to the sexualisation of women? Simple, when men started to not care about women in a general sense, then women started to want to make us care about them in a specific sense. The better looking you are, the more chance that you are sexually available, the better treatment you get. Guys will automatically be willing to help the better looking woman, even if she is perfectly able to help herself.

    Women screamed, shouted, ranted and raved about not wanting to be the weaker sex, but in their ‘weakness’ they had great power. Now, thanks to womens’ lib, you’ve lost a lot of that power.

    Good luck.

    Btw, I’m not upset about womens’ lib at all. I LIKE watching women walk around in short skirts. I LOVE the idea that if I’m on a bus, I don’t have to give up my seat to a woman. I especially love sexually liberated women who are willing to use me and abuse me.

  2. janusis said:

    Alrighty… That was enlightening.

  3. Suchetha said:

    or possibly not.

    i should really take my dried frog pills BEFORE i reply to posts

  4. janusis said:

    Lol.. Bingo. I hope no women have come after you.. With sharpened hair ornaments..

  5. I don’t think it’s women’s fault at all. I think all that women wanted was equality in the job market. Equal opportunity for advancement in the work place with equal pay.

    I think what has caused the objectification and sexualisation of women (and children), more than anything else, is the media.

    The whole notion that “sex sells” has gone completely out of control. I recently saw an ad in Guitar Player Magazine by AXL Guitars that portrays a scantily clad woman bound in ropes tied to a guitar and a male guitarist with the caption, “Another toy for your collection”.

    What is appalling to me is:
    #1 that anyone would think of such an ad
    #2 that Guitar Player Magazine would run the ad
    #3 that the woman in the ad allowed herself to be used like this

    Women and children are being objectified and sexualised and it’s not a healthy situation at all.

    Men are believing it’s ok to treat women with such lack of respect and women are believing it’s ok to be an “object”. As a matter of fact, they’re striving for it. It scares me. The more you allow yourself to become an “object” the less you’re seen as a person.

    Men really need to grow up and women really need to get some self respect. We’re so much more than our exterior! And we deserve so much better than being portrayed as a “toy” in an ad.

  6. Claire said:

    Heya,

    I really enjoyed reading your article as I’m considering doing my university degree on something related to this issue.

    Have you read ‘female chauvinist pigs’ by Ariel Levy? Its excellent and I think you would get a lot from it -its relevant to this but also illustrates how women have contributed to the current situation.

    However, no, this is not the fault of feminism or at least not the form of feminism I subscribe to. I would say women need to realise that their sexualisation is not empowering, as they are encouraged to believe – they need to wake up and see it is oppressing them. We cannot be considered equal to men when we are all competing to perform for their attention and when women’s sexuality takes on a one dimensional form to which we fail failures if we do not fit the mould.

    Also men need to recognise how their behaviour contribues to the oppression of women – i think men who buy lads mags are complicit in the oppression of women. If you respect women, don’t buy into these cultural ideals which is degrading and results in insecurity for so many.

    Good article – especially liked the comment about beauty being only skin deep but boy are we thick skinned! so true. xx

  7. janusis said:

    Well put Claire..
    That book you mentioned sounds interesting. Reminds me of a term I coined in high school in response to the term MCP: FCS – Female Chauvinist Sows..

  8. steff said:

    I hate to inform you of this but the people in charge of those dove real women ads were also in charge of some of the most sexualised lynx deodorant ads

    • bb said:

      interesting…

  9. suranga said:

    send films and snaps in my email.

  10. Joe said:

    Hi all, very interesting article and a fascinating subject matter. I have been looking at the subject of sexualisation of women for the last while, especially in the media. This was brought on by my use of pornography and how it was starting to affect my relationships as it was making me desensitised to affection for women and seeing them as objects sexually…this disgusted me but i soon found out that its very common. Below is a link to an interview with Gail Dines who has written a book on the issue:

    I also feel there is more to this also as she righlty states the way pornography is seeping into pop culture, you just have to look at the music video channels on Tv to see what she means. We also have to look at how this has come about from a biological development also i.e males want to have sex with multiple partners, females seek a loyal mate (over simplified but you get what i mean). I have been reading Steven Pinkers ‘How the mind Works’ he describes as what we find attractive visually is from a health/fertile perspective has evolved in us. Men throughout the years do not necassarily find thin women atttractive but it seems to be the hip-waist ratio of 0.70 we like and this holds up . “But weight may be the least important part of beauty. Singh found that very fat and very thin women are judged less attractive (and in fact they are less fertile), but there is a range of weights considered attractive, and shape (waist-to-hip ratio) is more important than size. The hoopla about thiness applies more to women who pose for other women than women who pose for men. Twiggy and Kate Moss are fashion models, not pinups; Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were pinups not fashion models”
    The media especially advertising is driven by the market and sex defintely sells, it seems to be like the make up industry show them the pretty picture of the model to build insacurity and then show the product so they will buy it. I know i have rambled on a bit , what do others think?

  11. bb said:

    interesting.

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