I have been objectified. It’s one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced and now I wonder: how can women put up with this?
It all started as a little personal project I decided to undertake for my own pleasure first. I take black and white pictures of the same thing on various backgrounds representing various everyday tasks such as shopping, DIY, gardening, teaching, cooking, baking…
The process is quite a long one because I want all the pictures to be framed the same way but as I am using my phone from above, I have no preview of what I am photographing until I see it so I tend to take up to 20 pictures every time. I then compare it with the original one before I edit it to black and white.
After about a dozen of them, I decided to share them on social media at a rate of once/week so I have time to work on new ideas and keep the flow running steadily. However, now, I don’t want to anymore, because the first reactions I received were men admitting getting off on the pictures and asking for more…now! Two of them were actually begging. I removed the comments and block them but the damage was done.
There is no nudity involved whatsoever. I would understand their reactions, had I started posting pictures the likes of Kyle Krieger’s but the most you can see of me is a bit of my ankles. The rest is the main subject, not sexual, on backgrounds that, as I said, are nothing but common: a watering can and a shovel, some fruits and groceries next to a shopping bag…For me, it is some kind of art on which I spend a lot of time. I guess the point of art is to trigger feelings and emotions but never, even for a second have I thought it could be seen as remotely arousing or sexual.
I know we live in a society that sexualises everything. A woman cannot breastfeed anymore without half the people out there being outraged as this “disgusting display of open porn”. Still I don’t understand how women manage to carry on when they are subjected to this on a daily basis.
So I asked my mother, who I know is the subject of everyday objectification by men just because of her looks, and she said the ‘Monica moment’ in Friends is normal for women. The moment where she is asked to make a meal as part of an interview to work as a chef. The owner is a downright pervert who finds women working with dirty hands and food arousing and has no boundaries when it comes to turning Monica into an object for his own pleasure.
She told me everything you do, are, say, the way you behave will be subject of sexual objectification by someone somewhere…Suddenly, I can’t shift that vision of Richard in Ally McBeal who finds the flesh under women’s neck or arms arousing. I found it cringe-worthy at the best of time. Now I understand the intended comical effects and sociological reflection, the fact that it says more about him and society than it does about women but the cringe lingers.
Akin to Monica and Richard’s objects of desire, you are just being you with no ulterior motives. You are living your life as you do and suddenly it hits you in the face: that guy who stares at you, the one who makes constant comments, the ones who go as far as to try and touch you as if you were nothing but the button to their hormone switch.
Now that it happened to me, not only do I feel violated and discouraged to post more material, which I enjoy making, but I can’t help but thinking that maybe my being overweight or speaking with an accent or even the clothes and perfumes I wear are as many hormone switches to some people out there. They are not all perverts for they obviously know how to keep it for themselves but my view of the world has changed and my question stood: How do women cope?
My mother just replied: You just live your life. Yes, you know it’s there, everyday, lurking behind you. So you try to understand, you rationalise it, you find it disgusting anyway so you fake it until you are with your peers and can finally let out all your anger and disgust because what alse can you do? Never go out anymore? Hide yourself? Useless! Some men find inaccessible women to be a sexual fantasy anyway… (The growing trend of “Arabic women in burqa having sex” on the Internet proves her point.)
The fact is: there will always be someone who finds something sexual: high heels, pearl necklaces, pregnancy…; suits, beards, glasses, nerds…That’s not the problem, desire is a natural urge. The issue is perversion: the lacking of that social skill that makes you fathom where the boundaries are between your urges and how they should manifest in everyday life. In that case, the fact that you don’t have to openly express every single one of them every single time.
What I have come to learn with this very innocent series of pictures is that when it comes to open and proud objectification, there is no winner, just people who think it’s their right to act up on their urges. I also learn to once again rely on women to find a way out of and find the strength to carry on so I will post more pictures and carry on blocking the ones who can keep their boners out of their trousers because at the end, it’s about me, not them.