I'm currently writing an article on the sexualization of women in Western society. My research has led me to the (oddly, not so obvious) conclusion that the societal objectification of women and the sexual objectification of women are two threads in the same strand. That strand leads back to the three major pre-orthodox Western religions -- Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Bear with me.
Societal objectification means turning a woman into a thing. Sexual objectification, or sexualization, means turning a woman into a sexual thing. In both cases, the ‘thing' is defined as one dimensional, and incapable of independent thought, autonomous decision making and/or self-sufficiency.
Now, at 4am this morning it suddenly occurred to me that sexual objectification is an artifact of post-modern societal objectification, differentiated from strict societal objectification. There are two ‘things'. In addition, sexual objectification is informed by the repressed sexuality that drives so much of the sexual obsession and sexual deviation found in post-modern culture.
Societal objectification, on the other hand, is a consequence of the need for pre-orthodox monotheism (that'd be what led to orthodox Christianity, orthodox Islam and orthodox Judaism) to both demonize and marginalize women to solidify the theistic vision of the cultural patriarchy.
Now, that's a lot of fancy words to say basically this; the Boys Club got together and said, "Let's eliminate the competition (read: polytheistic Goddess worship) by convincing everyone that women are evil and useless. That's the societal objectification.
The post-modern version of this imperative is "Women are evil, useless and good for only one thing"...because you can't go burning a woman at the stake any more, and Wicca are cool.
So, here's my developing idea: If one makes an effort to suspend the sexual component and any ethnic or religious prejudices - it is fair to suggest that the Soccer Mom who goes grocery shopping in a tennis skirt with a bare midriff, the Islamic woman who wears a burqa (complete head-to-toe covering, only the eyes showing) while in public, and the Hassidic or orthodox Jewish woman who wears a wig (to cover her hair) while also covering her elbows and knees, are all at the sufferance of the same societal objectification and variations of the same societal object - they are all the same ‘thing'.
It is also fair to suggest that, while the latter two are not being sexualized because their societal objectification is driven by the pre-orthodox model (kill the Goddess), the Soccer Mom's societal objectification carries the additional sexualization component driven by the post-modern model (create an impossible ideal).
This leads me to the working title of the article, "The Death of the Goddess and the Birth of the Ideal Woman"...it's supposed to be ironic.
The core of this notion derives from the APA's 2007 Task Force study on the Sexualization of Girls, along with a goodly dose of cultivation theory, objectification theory and sexualization theory.
The Task Force Report is a very good read, as research reports go, and I promise you that when you are done you will never look at media or the consideration of women and girls as portrayed in society in the same way again.
Finally, I was always taught that one speaks of neither religion, nor politics in polite company. I've done both, so, if you plan to comment on this post, play nice.
© 2008 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved
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