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The Mass Media

Objectification: It works both ways

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Though inarguably less prevalent, men feel objectified too.

Though not to be put on the same stage as rape, molestation, domestic violence or other momentous unfortunate happenings in a woman’s life, unwelcome sexual addresses and advances from men are also among the nonsense that women suffer.  

While not every woman can say that she’s been through any of the terrible experiences previously mentioned, almost every woman, regardless of origin, has dealt with unwarranted sexual attention from men; not once or three times, but repeatedly. And each time it happened, every woman would agree to having felt objectified, uncomfortable, vulnerable, and angry. As a member of the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Women’s Center, this is something we confide in and try to console each other about when at the Center.

Yet, while I was in the Center one day, I witnessed an interaction among two Center members: a female and a male. Having concluded their conversation, the two members moved in to hug each other good-bye. During this, the female proceeded to feel up or caress the male’s biceps, chest and abdominal. She made a comment of approval and stepped away. 

After responding with a mocking comment about being objectified in the Women’s Center, the male, too, retreated. Maybe he had indeed meant for his comment to stay in the sarcastic envelope that he had delivered it in. Still, his mention of the location that he was in bespoke of an irony that I could not ignore.  

The incident had taken place in the Women’s Center where no experience is marginalized and inter-member respect is key. And as was previously laid out, we women are not comfortable if treated in the manner that my fellow female had treated her male counterpart. So had the female member operated with some sort of double standard?

I went around the school and recounted the scenario to various people.  At first, I reversed the roles and put the female at the receiving end of the sexual touching.  At one time, a female interviewee interrupted me to express how incredulous but typical it was for a male student to treat a female student in such an intrusive and objectifying manner!

Then I revealed that the female member had actually been the one “intruding” and “objectifying” the male member.  The interviewee’s incredulity subsided. From our nation’s constitution to corporate media, male-on-female objectification is an issue that many of us are aware of.  Also, thanks to years of scholarship and personal experience, we recognize it more readily.

But what about female-on-male objection? Have we women become too engrossed in the task of exclaiming objectification and sexual harassment that we’ve failed to realize that the echo from our outcry reverberates back to us as well? The reaction of the female interviewee certainly proves this.  We women are quick to point the accusatory sexual harassment finger at men but we ignore the three fingers pointing back at us for every time we treat men in the same manner.  

Perhaps this is taking it too far, but why treat men in a way that we know, when roles are reversed, makes us feel uncomfortable or demeaned?  

Maybe we think that when we do it to men, it’s harmless.  That we’re simply “complimenting” them or “validating their self-image” as two of my friends put it.  The male students I asked thought so. To paraphrase one of them, “when a woman moves from noticing how nice is your shirt to how good you look, that is a huge boost to any man’s ego.  Also, she’s giving you attention, which is something men don’t get very often.” It also has to do with the fact that usually, a man doesn’t have to worry about a woman “sexually terrorizing” him if he ignores her advances.

Unlike men, women aren’t naturally predatory. Unless, the woman in question is a female teacher “complimenting” her younger male student or a female boss doing that to her male employee.  Then the male would have to fear being “sexually harassed,” because this is a set up that society has taught him to recognize as threatening. Perhaps, because he isn’t in the dominant role, the female teacher and female boss are. That reasoning alone betrays various issues in our society.

As a woman, the idea of treating my fellow man in a way that I would not be comfortable with bothers me. Not exactly Russian roulette, but we’re playing a dangerous game here.

Guys shouldn’t be so dismissive of sexual comments and advances from females, even if they feel like they’re in control of the situation.  Continuing to do so is like a white man thinking that he can only be in the KKK and never in the burning house.

So, was the female member objectifying her male friend back at the Women’s Center?  Yes! If you disagree, come by the Center. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
 

 
 

The Women’s Center is located on the 3rd floor of the Campus Center