The Sexy Lie

Caroline Heldman talks about the effect of sexual objectification of women in the media, most especially in advertising, on the way women see themselves. In her talk, she talks about what sexual objectification is, why it’s not empowering and what we can do to combat it.

When Heldman says that she’d like to see a world where instead of spending an hour grooming in the morning, girls are spending that time making a difference in the world, I can see how it might send the message that any form of grooming is playing to sexual objectification. I’m not totally sure if that’s body-positive or closer to body-shaming. A friend of mine said to me recently that considering the world we live in, she doesn’t begrudge women spending a lot of time on things like hair, makeup and clothes if that’s their best option for coping with the expectations on them. I wonder, based on how body-positive the rest of her message seems to be, if Heldman was simply suggesting that we could get there, to that place where these expectations aren’t on women anymore at all. And if they weren’t, would women totally cease to do these things that make us pretty? Perhaps the real question I’m getting at is: if they didn’t cease to groom in these ways, would that be an inherently negative thing?

How do you feel that sexualization fits (or doesn’t) into your own positive body image? Do you think it’s possible to groom ourselves in these manners in a way that is truly body-positive, completely independently of the messages we’re sent through the media that outline what women are expected to do?

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About Lia

Lia is a fat-positive social justice activist who's got a particular penchant for tough gender issues. She's a passionate vegan cook, dabbling crafter and avid gardener, and spends as much time as she can with good people in cafés, talking body and gender politics.

3 comments on “The Sexy Lie

  1. The grooming question is something I’ve personally thought about frequently. I do like to think that a person can make use of the activity for a number of non-objectifying reasons. An example: I infrequently wear make-up. When an occasion seems important enough to merit lipstick in my eyes, the message I aim to send is not that I want people to think of my lips as sex objects, but that I have done something out-of-the-ordinary to my face to recognize (and exhibit) the significance of the event/location/etc. I’m showing other people that I care. The sensory pleasure of some grooming rituals might also allow a person to – as a subject, not an object- enjoy these activities (shaving legs because a fresh shaved skin feels nice as you slide between your bed sheets, or wearing a piece of sexualized clothing because you enjoy it as a piece of art, and thus want it near you).
    However, I’m not sure that these reasons can be separated from media-dictated expectations for women, or, if so, are separated enough to qualify as more than something to help you sleep at night.

  2. I can see how things that prove enjoyable for the person doing them (that is, shaving to feel silky in your sheets, for instance) could be empowering and super body-positive. But like you, I’m not sure where the line is between what we really wish to do outside of all the images we see and what we do to “sleep at night,” as you put it.

    Thanks for your thoughtful input, Emily!

  3. Pingback: The road less traveled: looking at men’s body image | Body Image Positive

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