A Little Objectification

I’d like to talk a little bit about objectification, or treating other people as objects. We all do it. Any time you use another human being as a means towards an end, without regard to that person’s overall feelings or position in life, you’re objectifying him or her.

Or, to put it another way, the cashier at the local grocery store? When he or she rings up your purchases, you’re objectifying him or her. Ditto for the barista at your local coffee house. When we see a movie, TV show, or play, we objectify everyone involved in the production as a means to our own enjoyment of whatever it is we’re watching.

Of course, no one objects to this kind of objectification.

Where you really hear complaints about objectification, of course, is in matters sexual. Or, more specifically, when men treat women as sex objects.

Let’s make things perfectly clear. There’s a time and a place for everything. It’s completely appropriate to treat a woman as a sex object during foreplay. When she’s giving the company’s quarterly earnings, it’s not. Anywhere in between is a gray area.

Strippers get paid to be objectified. Just like we pay the cashier at the grocery store, or the barista at the coffee house, or the people involved in the production of the movie, TV show, or play, they get objectified; it’s their job.

Personally, I think that arguments against pornography on these grounds are a little bit specious and not only because it seems as though the only type of objectification anyone seems to have any real problem with, is sexual.

Yes, it’s true that watching pornography is a form of objectification. But it seems to me that the people who argue against pornography don’t have a very high opinion of those who are doing the objectifying. Surely, if I look at a picture of a naked woman and think sexual thoughts, that doesn’t mean that, as a result of that picture, I’ll have sexual thoughts about all women, right?

But there is a much more dangerous form of objectification going on, than just thinking of another person as a vessel for one’s own personal pleasure. Admittedly, it’s sexual in nature. But not inherently pleasurable. It’s the form of objectification that regards women as little more than incubators for children.

In a couple of days, the state of Mississippi will vote on an amendment to the state constitution that defines a person as a fertilized egg. This, then, will effectively treat women who get an abortion, miscarry, take certain contraceptives, and maybe even have a stillborn baby as potential murder suspects. Even in situations where the woman’s life is in danger (such as with an ectopic pregnancy).

When I first heard about this, I vomited slightly in my mouth.

Yes, it’s true that we have evolved in such a way that women become pregnant and bear children. And it’s also true that the loudest arguments against abortion are ones that stem from a patriarchy that is fostered both politically and through certain religions.

There are valid arguments against abortion. That said, there are equally valid arguments for keeping it legal and educating people to the point that they’re not in a position to even consider needing an abortion.

As a form of objectification, prohibiting abortion basically means that we should think of a woman as nothing more than a uterus.

At least the objectification that comes from pornography looks at the entire woman’s body and not just her uterus.