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Fighting Pornography = Fighting Objectification of Women

This is the post excerpt.

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In today’s world, where sex has been reduced to a cheap commodity, devoid of all feeling and commitment, it seems like pornography has become a staple in our society. People believe it is okay to satisfy their sexual urges at the expense of all the damage this industry causes. Pornography dehumanizes and degrades the “actors,” especially women, and has long lasting effects on a human being’s ability to create strong, lasting relationships.

Among the many negative consequences of this industry, the most significant is the very prevalent problem of sex trafficking. By watching pornography and increasing the demand for it, it exacerbates the issue. One can never be sure if the actors are there by choice or if they are victims of sexual exploitation. There are numerous cases and stories of people, especially women, who lured by the possibility of a better life are taken advantage of and forced into sexual labor. In most cases the victims are even drugged and malnourished to keep them weak making them incapable of fighting back or escaping the world they were tricked into.

In addition to directly fueling the sex trafficking industry, pornography is extremely detrimental to women’s fight for empowerment. It is degrading to women, and often encourages the submissive role for females in sex. As a result, it promotes the objectification of women and the idea that the woman is an just an object of pleasure. Women exist for the sole purpose of satisfying a man’s sexual urges, reducing her to nothing but her body and stripping her of her identity and dignity. Often times pornography is violent towards women and encourages an unhealthy attitude towards sex and sexual assault.

When people watch pornography and demand this sort of entertainment they are reinforcing this vicious cycle where our society thinks it’s okay to use people as objects instead of giving them the love and dignity they deserve. 

For those who may argue that some actors want to do this, you must realize that consent does not translate to lack of dehumanization. Normalizing porn does not equal human dignity. This isn’t a question about respect for sex workers, they are human beings and they deserve it, but the pornography industry completely aims at destroying a human being’s ability to achieve perfect love for oneself and others. How could it not if the idea is to satisfy ones sexual needs and urges at the expense of another? Sex becomes a commodity, a transaction, not something intimate, special, and loving as it is meant to be. It is a misuse of sex that leads to inappropriate sexual behaviors and attitudes. It fosters objectification and disrespect for human life, and women are especially prone to this objectification which is detrimental to the fight for female empowerment.Men’s brain will be conditioned to look at women as objects, less than human. We want to be treated with respect and looked at for more than our bodies. If we allow men to look at us as sex objects, we cannot achieve equality. We will always be second class citizens, and we deserve much more.

 

Closet Sexist

I am at a crossroad. I feel like if I wasn’t a woman, falling in love would be easier.

For some reason, I can’t fall in love. Not in this world.

I can’t bring myself to trust even perfectly good men because I know they all have a past and perhaps, a hidden present.

I have this constant fear of finding out that the man I’m with is a closet sexist. He may not embody the stereotypical 1950s sexist man who works all day and expects me to depend on him for everything; who at best expects me to bear and raise his children alone while managing to clean his house and cook him dinner, and who at worst may have an affair or two with a stripper at the club I don’t even know he frequents. And yet, in spite of all the progress, I still can’t trust that he has completely shaken off the sexism of his forefathers. Even though I’m happy about the fact that most men today would never do those horrible things to me or have that mentality to look down on me, I’m still not satisfied with what I’m getting from the modern man. The modern man watches porn whenever he feels like it, goes to strip clubs, talks about girls like they’re objects, and sleeps with as many of them as possible until he is ready to ‘settle down.’ What a concept…as if such drastic changes could occur without consequences. Can women simply forget about a man’s shady past and forgive all those past sins that clearly shout out ‘SEXIST’? I guess we all have to.

I know there are good men out there, I don’t deny their existence, but I do believe that the negative influence of the entertainment industry and the constant exposure to systemized sexism in our society makes it increasingly more difficult to raise men who are capable of understanding the value and dignity of a woman as a human being equal to himself. It is not always the parents’ fault or the lack of morality in the family, often it comes down to what young boys and men are exposed to through friend groups and the media, which very often include messages of misogyny and male superiority. Women tend to be portrayed and spoken of in terms that encourage female submission and objectification which feeds the cycle of abuse and aggression towards women, conditioning men to believe it is normal to view women as inferior to themselves.

Though every woman in the world hopes to find that one loving and caring man who has eyes for only her, it seems almost impossible to believe in the prospect of that happening. The world we live in today, with its constant bombardment of female objectification, gets to people. As a man, I’m sure I would also think I have the right to do whatever I want with a woman and treat her body as my playground if I was exposed to the trash we see every day in the media. And as a woman, even when I have found this perfect boyfriend material, I’m still disgusted by him thinking about all the things he has been exposed to, even if I am well aware that some of those experiences didn’t necessarily occur by choice. And it keeps me from loving him…why?

He has fallen victim to society’s evil plan to completely normalize the objectification of women. He doesn’t even notice it anymore in the movies, and he doesn’t speak up when his friends say ‘she has nice tits’ referring to the waitress at the restaurant, nor does he think his boss’s sexually loaded joke is inappropriate. Though he would never dare tell you what he talked about with his friends or admit that the movie he watched had a raunchy scene showcasing 100% female nudity because it would upset you, he engages in those activities nonetheless. He doesn’t care, or even believe that there is anything wrong with it. He just keeps it a secret because he doesn’t want to argue with you. Then, he sends you articles about recent successes deriving from the sexual harassment fights going on in Hollywood to prove what a feminist he is! Yet he still thinks it’s okay for those actresses to bare it all on screen so his pervert side can get a little extra thrill, and he hates when you make a big fuss about such scenes when you’re watching something together. He doesn’t understand how demeaning it is to you. He still secretly thinks it’s outrageous that so many men are paying the consequences for ‘simply groping’ someone, ‘it’s not like he raped her.’ He still thinks it’s okay to ‘insult’ a man by calling him a little girl. He is a closet sexist.

Somehow, I can’t see myself staying madly in love with a man like that. So I guess there’s my answer to why I cannot fall in love. So far all I’ve known have been closet sexists, and I’m not willing to settle for that. Cheers to hoping 2018 brings on the good men. I know they’re out there, but where?

 

 

More than Bodies

For a long time now, I’ve been struggling to cope with the negative effects Hollywood and the entertainment industry has had on my identity as a woman and my ability to create relationships with men, both platonically and romantically. I despise the way Hollywood thrives on portraying women as the weaker sex whenever we’re not watching post-apocalyptic or sci-fi films; and yet, the men who run the industry insist on making us believe their lies about how they actually love women and are simply exalting them and praising their beauty. The problem is, that to them, that means including a nude woman on screen every chance they get! They neglect the fact that a woman’s beauty goes beyond her physical appearance, and that normalizing female nudity is in no way an exaltation of it anyways. It’s a manipulation of it.

This portrayal of women proves that these men actually hate women and feel an obvious sense of superiority and authority over a woman. A woman is nothing more than another possession with which a man can do as he pleases. That is the real message these ‘powerful’ men are throwing out into the world, and it is scary to see how quickly this message of hate and dominion has spread. It makes women wonder, how many men around me have fallen victim to this way of thinking?

The disease is everywhere, and it has reached the point where it is hard for me to trust men and their ability to see women as fellow human beings, with dignity and value. Through this overexposure to female nudity, men are conditioned to see women as objects and to demand more nudity and sex in film. They are socialized to believe that it is justified to have certain urges and to satisfy them at the expense of a woman’s dignity, leading to a deficit of intimacy and self-respect for both. On the other hand, women suffer the effects that come with seeing their fellow women treated as second class citizens, leading to feelings of rage and helplessness. In extreme cases even leading to the development of an inferiority complex and hatred towards men. Through no fault of our own, the gap between the sexes is growing larger rather than disappearing as it should be in today’s day and age. We end up with a world where loving relationships cannot flourish because there is a lack of respect and trust from both sides. Our abilities to connect mentally, emotionally, and psychologically are being destroyed by this atrocious trend in the entertainment industry. When half the population is abused and objectified, how can we expect to build trusting relationships with one another, working towards a more equal world for men and women?

Seeing how demeaning and widespread this evil trend of normalizing the demand for female nudity is, I had hoped that there would be at least a few women’s empowerment groups that were dedicated to standing up against this atrocity, but I’m discouraged, unable to find any. Can it be possible that NO ONE else in this world sees this for what it is? A threat to the very fabric of human society and community? Maybe there are groups that speak up against this, but they’re just very hard to find? Either way, the fact that a presence against this is not rampantly visible is absolutely horrifying.

It’s upsetting to see that the only women who make it in Hollywood seem to have no respect for themselves or their fellow women. Of course, not all of them sell their bodies out there, but how has none of them spoken out about this issue? The #metoo campaign has had tremendous success in exposing the sexual assault and misconduct that goes on behind cameras in the entertainment industry, but how has no one also spoken out about the sexual abuse that goes on in front of the camera? Making women strip down and showcase their naked bodies for every stupid little film out there is sexual abuse. Except this time, it’s abusive to all women, even those who aren’t even on set. It’s abusive to the female audience who feels exposed and uncomfortable when they have to sit through it, who have to question the morality of the men of the world, even the ones in their lives because they know that due to male-kind’s popular demand, this sort of thing is acceptable nowadays. It is not right.

Where are the men who claim to have been brought up better? Who say they respect women and understand consent? How come men continue to demand this sort of demeaning entertainment? Why is it necessary for the entertainment industry to satisfy men’s urges, and neglect the other half of the population sitting in that movie theatre? It is time to speak out against this blatant form of abuse. Women are sick and tired of it.

If money is what you’re after, then think again about your ‘sex sells’ and male domination mentality. We just saw that the highest grossing superhero movie in history came out this year, and it wasn’t about a badass man in a cape or a man sleeping around with as many hookers as he can find… And you want to know why? Because it appeals to women. So if you want to make money, don’t neglect and abuse half of the population, and don’t forget that not a single movie that has been in the first several places of highest grossing films in the United States has included explicit female nudity since 1997.[i]

It’s time to speak. Women and men around the globe, unite.

[i] The Hangover and Sex and the City are excluded due to the fact both also include explicit male nudity.

The 1997 title is Titanic, but we all know that scene is irrelevant AND completely unnecessary to what should have been a retelling of a noble story. Further, no other films in the first places had nudity.

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=1999&view=releasedate&view2=domestic&sort=gross&order=DESC&&p=.htm

Respect Yourself

Women are just as guilty in the objectification of women as men are, and realizing this is the first step towards doing something to alleviate this problem. It’s easy to blame men for the position we find ourselves in today, but the truth is, when women allow their bodies to be displayed like pieces of meat for sale, they are making it difficult to be respected. How can women demand respect for their bodies if they don’t respect them themselves?

All too often I leave the movie theaters enraged because without doubt I will have seen at least one scene where a woman is sexualized and objectified for absolutely no reason. Often times including tasteless and unnecessary nudity, sending a clear message of male supremacy and female submission. People are completely desensitized to these negative messages, accepting it as the norm for our ‘modern’ society. If modernity requires pushing women down into submissive roles as objects, take me back to the Stone Age. Beyond the fact that most men actually enjoy and demand this sort of degrading entertainment, it is shocking to me that female entertainers don’t see anything wrong with what they’re allowing to happen. They too are completely desensitized to the effects of objectifying women. I cringe at the thought of these women in the entertainment industry being the role models of our young women, when they are literally selling their bodies. Young girls grow up looking at these explicit images causing them to feel exposed and humiliated seeing that their bodies can be treated with such disrespect.

From an early age, women’s relationships with men are tainted by this overexposure to female nudity and almost complete lack of male nudity in the media. It makes the power struggle real, creating an obvious divide between the sexes: women are not considered equals to men if they are regarded as little more than objects of pleasure. Living in this kind of environment makes it hard to trust that the men in your life haven’t already seen hundreds of naked women and probably didn’t mind it, making you feel cheated and exposed. In fact, it is almost impossible that they haven’t because it is literally in their faces all the time. In your mind you can’t help but feel a little disgusted. Even if you have all the proof in the world that they are good people, those questions still gnaw at you…does he agree with that sort of thing? Is he okay with how bad the film and advertising industries have become in terms of sexualizing women? Does he believe that a woman’s body should be exposed whenever and wherever to appease the lust of men? Does he like watching that? Does he compare me to what he’s seen? Am I just another object to him?

How can we expect healthy relationships to arise when the external world is doing all this to our minds? Dividing us and making us question our partner’s capabilities for intimacy?

I get so angry when I read interviews by actresses who have decided to take roles that include nudity. They always claim that they do it because it is ‘essential’ to the storyline. Nudity is very, very rarely essential to move a story along! Leave something to the imagination for crying out loud…that is part of the allure. There is no reason why actresses have to stoop down so low when their male counterparts rarely ever have to. Respect yourself. If you can’t do it for your own sake, at least do it for your fellow women who are cringing in the audience, clutching their own bodies in fear of also being exposed. Stop reinforcing all the negative and dangerous psychological effects of objectification in women, it is a hindrance to our self esteem and our identities.

Why “Free the Nipple” is an enemy to Women’s equality

When I first read about the Free the Nipple Movement I was completely in shock that women had actually started this movement under the pretense of fighting for women’s equality. It simply made no sense to me that doing something that most definitely would encourage female objectification and degradation could be in our best interest. However, I had to give it a chance, and so I read up on it, its founders, and the ideas behind the movement. To understand its widespread appeal, I had conversations with many of my female friends, many of whom actually did believe in it. We challenged each other on the effectiveness of the campaign and what this movement could bring to the table on the topic of fighting for gender equality. On the one hand those who supported the movement argued that this was a way for women to gain control over their bodies again, to decide what they could or could not do with it. They believed this gave women agency over who they were and took it away from men.

The problem I see with this idea is that as a woman, by choosing to expose your body to the public you are really losing control over it because you are literally giving it away by choice.  You are making it accessible to everyone instead of standing up to the world to tell it that it can no longer use the female body for anything it pleases. The entertainment industry has an obsession with the naked female body and it is constantly sending the message that anyone but the woman has agency over her body. They condition society to believe that women are nothing but objects and this movement is really only feeding this trend of glorifying the female nude in a negative way. It is saying to women that they should just give away their bodies like the entertainment industry has been pushing for all these years! It is continuing the cycle of normalizing female nudity, but instead of only having the male population on board, this time they are trying to reel in the female half with false pretenses.

The number of women who have fallen for this are numerous. The reason they believe this campaign is doing something positive for them is because they think it will help make breasts less sexual somehow and ergo women less likely to be sexualized. They believe that they can achieve this by normalizing the appearance of female breasts in daily life. The fact is, that no matter how much exposure men have to breasts, they cannot be desensitized to them. There will always be an association in their brains to sexualizing a woman when they see her exposed. So it seems obvious that this free the nipple movement is counterproductive because its just giving men more agency over a woman’s body by making it acceptable for it to be available at all times and in all places. There should have been clues when men whipped out their phones to snap pictures of the topless women making a stand for their right to be shirtless. Don’t be fooled, they weren’t taking pictures to tweet them #GenderEquality.

This campaign was hoping to make a stance for equality, but I’m not certain it had any positive results. It seems curious that women would want to expose themselves in the first place, and it is shocking that they would not see the consequences of such a stance. Men and women are biologically different, sorry ladies, but it does not make either party inferior! A shirtless man has a very different effect than a shirtless woman and why challenging that is even an issue of importance for equality is confounding. There are hundreds of other things women could be standing up for when it comes to achieving gender equality, and not to upset these women, but you will not accomplish eliminating the male gaze by giving them more to look at.

To Stand Against the Entertainment Industry is to stand for Women’s Equality

The only objective of the entertainment industry these days seems to be to normalize the appearance of naked women. It strives to continue reinforcing the belief that women are, and will always be, second class citizens that must succumb to the lust of men. The blatant discrepancy between the ratio of male to female nudity in the media is abhorrent, and it’s effect on our society is catastrophic. By reinforcing inequality between the sexes in the media, it continues to condition men to regard women as objects and to justify male lust and power over women. It sends a message stating that men have the upper hand when it comes to owning and utilizing a woman’s body for his own personal gain and satisfaction. In addition, it affects women by conditioning them to believe in their status as second class citizens and psychologically attacking their sense of self worth, essentially reducing them to an object of male gratification. It is detrimental in the creation of heathy, respectful, and trusting relationships between men and women.

For years and years, the public has been bombarded with ridiculous films where there is always an out of place and completely unnecessary scene of boobs. Does it add to the story in any way? Of course not…Does it add any value to the motion picture? Certainly not…not unless you’re a hormonal, pervert who can’t keep it in his pants. So what is the purpose of this madness? SEX SELLS!! That is the idea they have been hammering into our heads since the beginning of the entertainment industry! I don’t know about you, but I feel insulted by this assumption. They are reducing us to a bunch of brainless, sex addicts. And the worst part is, they are successfully converting us into that. By normalizing the appearance of nudity and sex in the media, they are feeding the vicious cycle of “sex sells” and increasing the demand for it. The problem is that they do it at the expense of women. Of course, that comes as no surprise seeing that most of the industry is led by men, and well…men shall be men. “Testosterone overload…must succumb…to…my…manly…desires…woman…equals…sex.” At least that’s the message I’m getting from the load of crap that has been coming out of studios for a long time now! And how are women supposed to feel about this when that’s all their exposed to? No wonder so many women today think it’s impossible to find a good man. Hmmm? Do we see a pattern yet? I for one harbor huge feelings of resentment when I see a movie with my boyfriend that suddenly pops out boobs for no reason. I feel exposed and belittled frankly, and I’m upset that I live in a man’s world where my boyfriend gets all that ‘pleasure’ at the expense of some other woman and I’m left here feeling like a piece a crap on the curb. Roll credits…where’s my dong? Why doesn’t my boyfriend get to feel exposed and belittled? This isn’t just unfair for actresses….it’s downright psychologically tormenting for the women in the audience. It’s not that I want to see the ‘dong,’ but the point is that gender inequality is a huge issue in the entertainment industry and its effects extend far beyond the limits of a Hollywood set.

If only the women of Hollywood, the big names, would stand up for themselves and their fellow actresses, against the idea that their bodies can be reduced to a man’s toy, they would be doing ALL women a huge favor. Think about it ladies, without you, those producers and directors can’t do anything. The power is in your hands. Use it.

If this disgusting trend continues, we are allowing the message that men have no reason to respect women to be spread across the globe loud and clear. That essentially, they have the right to a woman’s body.

I have heard often that to stop men from abusing women, it comes down to instilling in young boys ideas about respect and boundaries, including teaching them from a young age that they have no right touching a woman’s body without her consent. However, the truth of the matter is that when external influences, such as the media, are saying and portraying another thing, those teachings won’t last. If every last corner of the internet shows a man that he has the power to reduce a woman to nothing but her body, that is what he will begin to practice. Honestly, he doesn’t even need to jump through hurdles to see that, it’s in their face all the time, from the gross Carl’s Jr. ads with women in bikinis convincing you to eat more burgers to disgusting cultural trends such as Game of Thrones that think it’s funny to normalize pornography on TV and belittle women. Staunch defenders of the show will say to me, ‘But it’s so good! I watch it for other things!” Well my friend, read the book because no show that is worth a human being’s time will ever send a message that a woman is nothing but a sex object and that a man has the power to dominate her.

The effects of this abominable trend in the entertainment industry are pretty straightforward on men, but on women, they have deeper psychological effects. From a young age, girls are exposed to a world where they will grow up to be the object of a man’s lust. Constantly blasted by negative and degrading messages against women that make them feel inferior and straight up afraid. They grow up with images of women being sexualized, and over time and through constant exposure to them, begin to tie their self worth to how men desire them. There is an unhealthy obsession with the female body that is equally unfavorable to both women and men.

Since the dawn of women’s rights movements there has been a push towards uplifting women and instilling in them a sense of worth that is tied to their own capabilities and passions. Women have moved out of the shadows of men and have changed the way they look at themselves. They know they are capable of greatness. The challenge now lies in changing how men look at women, beyond the obvious things such as equality under the law. Today most men in western societies will agree that women are in fact their equals, but I don’t buy it. Perhaps they do believe us women deserve equal pay (which we still don’t have!) and are equally mentally capable to men, but they still innately believe it is okay to use a woman’s body for their own pleasure. A belief made obvious by how the demand for the exploitation of women in the media continues to grow unencumbered. Though women may be in the mindset that they are worth it, that they are equal to men, eventually they will grow tired of fighting the objectification and degradation from half of the population and nothing will get better. The solution then, is to make men understand the enormous damage they cause by demanding this sexist entertainment; and if they can’t see the big picture, maybe they can begin to understand it through the experiences of the women in their lives. Hopefully, they can rise up to the occasion and join the fight for women and frankly, gain their own dignity back. It must be demeaning to be considered a slave to your ‘urges.’ Men and women need to fight together, and unfortunately because of the way history has unfolded, men hold most of the power and that desperately needs to change. To keep half of the world’s population subdued in positions of second class citizens can yield no good to anyone, so why continue the cycle?

The time has come to rise against today’s biggest enemy of gender equality: the entertainment industry. It is fostering an environment of division, spreading a message of degradation, and conditioning us to believe that it is acceptable to treat women as subhumans. Those actresses do not deserve to be treated like objects, and we, the women in the audience, do not deserve the feelings of distrust, anxiety, rage, and demoralization that come from watching our humanity obliterated on screen. We don’t deserve it, and we are sick and tired of it.

 

 

Un-Silenced

I hear a faint yelling in the background as beads of sweat roll down my forehead. My desire to win makes it difficult to make out what the coach is saying. I assume it has something to do with the fact that we are down by one point with only five seconds left on the clock. My heart is racing as I watch my teammate position herself in front of the free throw line; she has one shot left. I pray for her to make it so we can secure redemption in overtime. We can’t lose the championship game. That has never happened before; our school is the very best at every sport with a female category. We deserve it, we practice harder, we are dedicated, I tell myself. I don’t realize that there is more to it than hard work.

As the wealthiest school in the country, we live in a bubble of illusions, where we are told that girls and boys matter equally. The truth is, that it’s not true, and the older you get, the more you realize that not even money can make it true anymore. We are just lucky our parents support us to pursue sports and that we have the resources to do so at a young age. I don’t realize that in Nicaragua it is difficult to get girls to go to school, to play sports, that it is difficult for them to find the support they need to do the things they love, that if their schools have any resources, they will not get to them first. Up until this moment I haven’t experienced it myself. It is only a matter of time.

The last few second of the game happen in a blur, my teammate takes her shot, and before I know it, the ball bounces off the rim straight into my hands; I don’t even have the chance to actively seek the rebound. Without thinking I just aim at the basket, swish! right as the buzzer goes off. This must be the most cliché moment of my life, I’m thinking. In all the commotion of my teammates jumping around me ecstatically and our coach running over to celebrate with us, the one thing that I can’t shake off is the look on the face of one of the girls on the other team; she looks at me in disappointment. I have just taken away her well-deserved victory.

 

I wish I had known then, how important that was to her. How much more it meant to her than it did to me.

 

Following my championship win, I am sure I will continue to play basketball in middle school, but to my dismay there is no girls basketball team, and no one seems to care about that. I often sit at the bleachers after school watching bitterly as the boys’ team runs up and down the court, warming up for practice. As if that isn’t enough to bother me about my status as a second-class citizen, middle school begins to open my eyes to other disappointing truths. Suddenly I become more aware of my own presence, no matter how hard I try to dismiss the staring eyes or how much I look down at my feet while passing by groups of men anywhere I go, I can’t help but clench my fists when I hear the “psst psst chelita!” I wonder why they even bother, it’s not like I will ever answer.

 

Now I know that that’s what they wanted, they were exerting their power over me, proving that they controlled me. I can’t even be the master of my own reactions because they know they intimidate me, I am afraid.

 

As I grow older, my cousins and I come up with ‘clever’ solutions to try to avoid that ‘psst psst,’ anything from wearing my uncle’s oversized T-shirts so we can pretend we only have one arm to drawing unibrows on our faces so we can simply walk down the street to the gas station and buy a soda on a hot day. None of these solutions ever make us feel powerful or in control of the situation, they are just ways we think we can hide our vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities that shouldn’t even be considered as such. Why do boys get to walk around tall, looking everyone in the eye confidently, and I have to slouch and keep my eyes low in fear of making eye contact with a man? I ask myself in anger. I hate the reality I live in. “Why do I have to be afraid, and you don’t?” I demand of every male in my life. I can’t help but wonder why I am stuck growing up in this backwards, poor country full of macho men. To think that I had once happily danced along to that song, “Macho man,” when I was six in the first grade amuses me. Even the things I once liked become tainted when I begin to think of their hidden meanings, from remembering how difficult it was to play tag or climb the monkey bars when I was seven because girls had to wear a skirt as part of the uniform, to listening to songs like ‘Tocarte Toa’ with its explicit sexualization of women that I had been too young to understand. Still I comfort myself in the belief that if I leave Nicaragua, I can one day feel like I am not a second-class citizen anymore.

———————————

I become accustomed to the idea of not playing basketball ever again after trying unsuccessfully to encourage all my friends to join the team. Girls that age tend feel insecure about themselves, especially when playing sports, and it doesn’t help that even our PE teacher from Denmark, a place which in my mind I’d built up to be a perfectly advanced society where men and women are equal, keeps implying that none of the girls are good at physical activities. He always makes it so that all the boys are picked first before any girls when picking teams, and he never lets any of us pitch or goalie despite wanting to do so. So at times, I don’t mind not playing or being on a basketball team, that means I don’t have to deal with those uncomfortable things in a setting that has remained in my mind a perfect and sacred place. It isn’t until halfway through the seventh grade that the new middle school basketball coach (a teammates’ mother) was able to round up enough of us to get us to start practicing. Eventually, by the end of eighth grade I am showing a lot of potential. I start playing for my high school varsity basketball team the summer before freshmen year. I go to Honduras to represent Nicaragua in the AASCA (Association of American Schools of Central America) tournament. I think, finally, being a girl doesn’t have to feel so bad. I can have the same opportunities as any boy. I am excited to play, to cheer on our male teammates in the name of Nicaragua. People pack the gymnasium for their first game, I am glad I get to cheer them on because after all, we are in this together right? The time comes for us girls to play, I am excited for the energy our fans will bring to the game based on the turnout for the men’s game, but the crowds dwindle out. Not even the men stay to cheer us on. I dismiss it, thinking, they must be tired after their game, they’ll be here for the next one. They never are. As long as there is a men’s basketball game going on at the same time, you can count on our bleachers being empty. No one wants to watch a girl play. She isn’t worth it. In the end, we do better than the male division in our country, but that doesn’t matter, why should it?

I realize that even unintentionally, girls are made to feel worthless in many things. For a while I am sheltered from it at university. Men no longer look at me with lust like they do in Nicaragua where I remember many times going out to run an errand only after making myself look as unattractive as possible to avoid the stares and the catcalls. Nothing ever works. Moving to a ‘developed’ country I think will put an end to those fears of being regarded as a second-class citizen, as an object. I don’t realize that just because the more blatant day-to-day forms of sexism are not present here, does not mean that it doesn’t exist. In some ways, it seems to be manifested even worse. Compared to the feelings that sometimes consume me now, I would give anything to go back to being catcalled and stared at. That only affected me for a minute, it made me angry, but it disn’t break me. I still knew I was worth something, and I still allowed myself to believe that somewhere else, things were different. Now that I’ve experienced life in that somewhere else, I realize it is an illusion, an elaborate lie I told myself as a young girl to make me think I mattered. Now, the things I experience make me sick, they weaken me enough so that I don’t feel angry anymore. I feel miserable. I feel broken.

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“You can’t let it get to you because if you do, it will drive you crazy,” he said.

“I feel it happening…” I whisper through tears.

 

I don’t know why that scene in that movie upset me so much; I’ve seen millions just like it. Naked women dancing around like it’s nothing to please the sleezeballs we call friends, boyfriends, family. Maybe that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was sick of Hollywood and their sexism. I want to burn them, every movie director, producer, actor…even the stupid women that allow themselves to be used like objects. Don’t they know they make it worse for all of us, struggling to hold on to our humanity, hoping with every fiber of our being that not every man thinks of us that way? As a thing? A sex object?  It’s just hard to know what men really think of us in this world we live in, constantly bombarding us with messages of objectification and degradation of women, in songs, in movies, in the media…it’s as if every advancement we made in the last century didn’t even happen. Are there any good men out there? Why do they treat us this way? When they say they care, do they really? They are completely unfazed, oblivious.

I feel empty. What is happening to me? I can’t look my boyfriend in the eyes. I know that if I do, there is no way I can swallow the bump in my throat. I can’t stand the feeling of vulnerability. It is the one thing I am most afraid of. Failure, getting hurt, dying…none of this scares me like showing weakness. The truth is, I’m mostly afraid of it because I feel the need to prove myself as a woman. It’s a constant competition to prove that I am worth it, that I am strong.  But what made me this way? I grew up in a loving family, sheltered from any sort of pain, being told I am important, that I matter, yet these feelings of unworthiness consume me, feeding a fire inside of me that I cannot control. It devours me.

 

I hate being a woman.

 

I try to convince myself it’s not true though.  That the things that make me feel this way shouldn’t bother me because we’ve come a long way. That if I had been born 100 years ago I would be married against my will by now with two or more children, and if I had been born 50 years ago I would have never had the chance to attend a prestigious university. “Be grateful for what you have,” “Things aren’t so bad” they say … “You have to pick and choose your battles” “Life is unfair” “Inequality is a reality we just have to deal with.”

 

Well I don’t agree.

 

And what bothers me the most is that even some of the women I speak to seem not to care. Why? How come I often go to bed in tears after an upsetting scene in a film that my boyfriend reacted cluelessly to? Then he raises his voice at me and says ‘it’s impossible to watch a movie with you.’ He doesn’t understand that what bothers me is something deeper. He doesn’t understand that in that I see my past and my future. Am I just a thing to him? To every man? How can I trust any of them?

Men. They don’t know, living their lies in their willful oblivion. They don’t experience that sense of worthlessness that comes from being pushed down by the pervasive forces of sexism in everyday life. And the fact is, the women in their lives are so used to being in an environment where their gender forces them to be on guard all the time, forces them to stay aware, even subconsciously of their surroundings so much so that they have normalized it and don’t tell them. Men don’t know what it means to have to de-escalate and shrug things off because a sense of vulnerability tells them that they are the weaker sex and should feel threatened. They are not sexualized before they have a chance to understand what it means. Our reality is not the same.

My boyfriend often reminisces about his first year of college, calling it the best year of his life. To me, that is when I have my first wake up call.

It is a Saturday evening. There is no one around; either because they have all gone to the party or it is late enough that everyone is asleep. I am talking to a friend. Someone comes up behind me and before I know it I feel a hand up my skirt. I look back; it is some college kid I’ve never seen before. I am alarmed. I look at him in disbelief unable to utter a single word. He is drunk. He laughs and says he is sorry and introduces himself. I don’t know what it is, but I laugh too and introduce myself. I can’t find the words to defend myself. Three years later he becomes the student association president. He gets whatever he wants because he is a man and he thinks he deserves everything. No one stands in his way. Do they know what he is capable of?

Years later, I’ve almost entirely forgotten about that experience until I relive it. It is another typical late night returning home from the usual bar. My friend is with me on the bus. It’s crowded. I can’t get a seat at the top of the red double decker. It’s ok though; it will only be a 20-minute ride to my neighborhood.  I am standing close to the door, and I feel someone pushing against my back. I try to move away to give them space. It feels uncomfortable. He keeps pressing against me. Thankfully my stop is soon and my friend gets off the bus with me. I tell him what happened, I have tears in my eyes. He says, ‘I’m sorry. It’s over now.’ That’s all. He doesn’t understand. We walk the rest of the way to my flat, he speaks of other things, but I am clearly still distressed. I guess he just doesn’t know how to comfort me. How can he when he doesn’t know what that feels like and never will? I look at him and see the man in the bus in him; it’s too late now though. I give in. What for though? He never says he cares, and though I know he doesn’t, I delude myself into thinking he does. I want to believe they’re not all bad.

———————————

It’s easy to be blinded from reality when you are taught to expect the best from people. I often miss the days when I believed it, but I know that if I still did, I would not be thirsty for change. I would not be desperately finding ways to make things better for me and my fellow women, attending marches for women’s rights, helping organizations that foster female empowerment and education, talking incessantly to my male friends and boyfriend about these issues, though I can’t help but feel they don’t care when I do. I tell myself that I didn’t fight before because I wasn’t exposed to the worst aspects of our sexist society, I convince myself that I didn’t know.

But the truth is I did. I have known all along. Even when I tell myself I am sheltered in college because I have the same opportunities as the men in my class and most of them speak of equality and respect, I know it isn’t true. The times drunken college boys come onto me at parties or try to take me back to their room, thinking that just because they have needs they can do whatever they want with me. Just because they are stronger, they can take advantage of me. I am a thing to them. I used to deny this truth, dismissing it as drunken behavior. Thankfully I never let my guard down, I never allow myself to drink as much as I want to because I know I am not safe. But what if I do? What if I act how I truly want to? Why do I still have to be afraid at age 20 in this modern society?

After college, I start my new job. I tell myself, I deserve this job, I worked hard and I got here through my own merits. Though I know it’s true, I still feel the need to prove myself, to work harder than my male co-workers. I burn with bitterness when I see the new guy who started the same day as I cracking jokes with my boss who sits next to me and rarely says a word to me. This boy didn’t even go to college; he is barely 19 working as an IT assistant, chasing girls around the office. And yet he is the well-liked one, and here I am, working diligently until 9-10 every day, finishing every assignment on time, and even coming in early almost every day unable to make a dent in the system. I smile, pay attention, exchange pleasantries, and even joke around to be likeable. I often wonder what people think of me, of what I wear, of the fact that most of my friends are men…it isn’t my fault few women become architects, I assure myself. I dread being branded as an office whore though I know I will never do something to merit that title. Irrational fears that come when I look at myself in the mirror, is this too short? Is this too much make up? I often look through the office directory and can’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness when I see that there are only 2 female principals at the firm. Though I know I make as much money as other men at my level, I have a hard time grappling with the fact that the glass ceiling still exists. I ponder the idea of marrying rich. Maybe it will be an easy way out to not deal with this shit. I’ll pick the lesser of two evils. Maybe I can stand to be a trophy wife, at least then I’ll have money. Maybe I can start my own relief campaign with it, help other women make it when I couldn’t…

I look at my relationships with my boyfriends and I realize that I have never fully trusted any of them. Not because they did anything to make me feel that way or because I have had bad examples in my life. The problem is that I convince myself that the times have changed too much, that the values I grew up with no longer exist. The middle ground was never found. Either we are stuck in the past where women’s voices are not heard, and women are not more than property, or we are in the future, where they are objects not to be owned, but simply to be used and discarded. How can I trust someone who has grown up in a valueless world I ask myself constantly? I struggle with what I have become, senselessly insecure, a devout believer in the existence of an undefeatable androcentric empire. I am a product of a man’s world. Everything around me seems to shout out that there is no purpose to the fight. Some days I wake up invigorated, ready to challenge the current state of the world. Others, I wake up devoid of purpose, feeling stripped of an identity, soulless, convinced of the fact that I am not a person. I am just an object.

I am afraid of the future, of what could happen if we continue to accept every form of sexism, from decriminalizing wife beating to that ad in the subway with a girl advertising a burger in a bikini. Why is that even necessary? We subconsciously teach men that it is okay to sexualize a woman, to degrade her, to see her as nothing more than a beautiful object to handle, and we teach women that their worth is tied to the way a man lusts for her. Men don’t always understand, they have no idea the everyday struggle every woman goes through. They don’t consider that that girl they are catcalling down the street, or grabbing on the bus, or coming onto too strongly at the club is their mother, their sister, their daughter. I wonder if they even care? I remember the time my boyfriend and his friend were making fun of his sister, telling her she wasted her time on her degree because she wasn’t making as much money as they were having not gone to college, but only getting lucky by falling into the IT world. Perhaps they meant it just as a joke in response to her saying she wished she could travel more, but it wasn’t a joke to me, and I don’t think it was to her either. They were implying that as men they had ‘made it,’ they don’t realize that if either she or I had tried to go the unconventional route, it wouldn’t have worked. The reality is that women don’t get lucky. Men do. That struck me harshly, and I told my boyfriend about it, but I don’t he cared.

Sometimes it feels like men just don’t want to listen. Or if they do hear you out, they put on their sad faces only for an instant to listen to you speak about why that comment he made about his sister upset you, or why that man who said something to you about your look at work today made you feel inferior, but then they unmute the TV and it’s forgotten. It’s futile to bring it up again, it’ll be the same, or worse…will he leave me for not being able to let go of these petty little things? Am I crazy for making a fuss? The spiral of self-doubt begins. Rebecca Solnit says in her book, Men Explains Things to Me, that it is the overconfidence and cluelessness of men that causes them to have this need to explain things to women and diminish them, that this presumption “crushes young women into silence by indicating […] that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.” As women we are taught to question our voices, our ideas, our truths, even our own value when men dismiss them. He may forget what I said, but I will never forget that he did.

We believe that just because now there are laws against rape, and that women can own property or divorce that we have somehow progressed, but the reality is that we haven’t. Not when the men in our lives continue to make us feel inferior… like we don’t matter, like things. Often men have the ability to make us feel like we don’t matter to them, like we can be discarded. Why do they do that? I want to believe they don’t really feel that way, but they truly do though, if not, why would they treat us like that? It took me leaving to get my boyfriend to admit he cared about me. Almost a full year of hanging out, and he never said he cared. Why did I stick around I wonder, I still doubt my decision to stay honestly. I just can’t imagine it being any different with another man. They take what they want and that’s that, will I ever feel like I am more than a thing to someone? Every time a man treats a woman like a subhuman, he creates this black hole of trust. Simple misogyny like this is making it impossible to trust anyone nowadays; we alienate each other, feeding this vicious cycle of abuse, physical and emotional. Is there a way to stop it? We need to believe there is.

The fight continues. It is up to all of us alike to fight against this pervasive sexism that seeps in our society, in our workplace, in our home. Most importantly, men need to listen in order to understand the truth; they need to put themselves in our shoes in order to comprehend the dichotomy of our realities. They can’t just take what they want. Men have as much of a responsibility as women to change the future and strive for equality, but it is all too easy for those in positions of power to forget those they push down in order to become taller. The issue is that for centuries, women have been conditioned to believe they don’t deserve any better. How can someone like this help herself, I wonder. Men need to do something too. Just like people in power are supposed to do something for those who don’t have any, to empower them, to strive for equality, so does the same have to happen with the war on gender inequality. The problem is that those in power always fear losing it. That needs to change. There is no loss of power when you empower others to help you do what’s right. That is what we, as human beings do not seem to understand, no one gains anything from diminishing others. Inequality is not something anyone should be willing to settle for, and “things are better than they were” is no excuse to.

 

We are not objects. We will not be silenced.

Normalizing Female Nudity in the Media is Detrimental to Gender Equality

The U.K. has recently allowed an advert showcasing female nudity to air on daytime television with the supposed intent of raising awareness for breast cancer that seems to be completely missing the point. The advert was created by CoppaFeel! a breast cancer charity aimed at educating young people about the illness. The advert not only fails to convey the organization’s message, but also raises questions about the struggle for equality between the sexes.

In light of the recent viral #MeToo campaign, where women have come together as a community to show support for one another and expose the truths and magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment and assault, this advert seems to be doing the complete opposite. It is encouraging the normalization of female nudity in the media and reinforcing the inequality gap between genders by supporting the male role as the subject and the female role as the object. This particular advert is not promoting or encouraging preventative care in a way that gives human life value or celebrates the strength of survivors and people who may struggle with this illness in the future. It is not promoting a culture of female empowerment, but is in fact doing the opposite by showcasing female nudity when it is unnecessary to do so. It is promoting a culture where even for the sake of health, a woman is supposed to strip down helplessly and expose everything to the world.

Introducing female nudity in ads continues the cycle of an unfair ratio of representation of female to male nudity on television, and though it may claim to be for a good cause, there is no reason to contribute to this disparity. It is important to note that the nudity is completely tangent to the intended message as it usually is when included in film and television, seeking only to sell to the male population. The supposed ‘awareness’ message is drowned out by the nudity, which changes how the audience perceives the ad.

Subconsciously, the male brain takes the opportunity to objectify a woman and see her as less than human when exposed to this sort of stimuli. There is a study done by Princeton University that shows that when men view women in bikinis, the part of their brain associated with handling tools lights up, versus when they look at women fully dressed. When looking at women fully clothed, the part of the brain associated with analyzing another person’s thoughts and feelings lights up. Although the images are shown for a fraction of a second, men remember the scantily dressed women better.[1] You can imagine the effect is magnified when viewing a nude female body. By including an explicit scene in the ad, it is diminishing the message of raising awareness for breast cancer, shifting the focus to the nudity.

In addition, females who struggle every day against the bias of men viewing them as objects of pleasure, feel intimidated and dehumanized by such imagery. Normalizing the use of the nude female figure is a contributing factor to a larger problem in our society – dehumanization.  The woman is reduced to her body through this sort of image, and it makes many women uncomfortable. If the ultimate goal of this advert is to educate people, most likely women, about preventative breast cancer care, it should not make them feel uncomfortable. The question lies in how to best express this message of awareness while at the same time promoting female empowerment and encouraging mental and psychological health in women who are dehumanized by the constant exposure to female nudity in media and film.

When pointing these issues out, the CEO of the organization responded that CoppaFeel! did not feel like the ad was objectifying women because both male and female chests were shown in the ad. This of course begs the question, is that in fact the same? It must be noted that the two are not equal, from the very obvious biological point of view to the effect they have on an audience. Men will associate breasts with the biological act of reproduction, even if it is unintentional. Again, this is how the male brain works, causing them to view women as a ‘tool’ in this case or an object of pleasure.

If there are any doubts left about whether or not this ad is a kick in the groin to women’s struggles towards gender equality, then we should consider the fact that this ad has been deemed inappropriate for children. If this ad is not appropriate for audiences of all ages, then it is not appropriate at all. If they are intending to raise awareness and draw attention to the importance of early prevention in breast cancer, everyone, including children, should have the opportunity to be educated. Selecting an audience for an issue as important as breast cancer is wrong. The fact that it is not allowed during or around children’s television programs tells the audience that the purpose of the ad is something other than what seems to be stated. It is unnecessary to showcase this ad on daytime TV, when anyone could see this. Achieving total control over when children will be watching television is impossible, and it is not correct to expose them to nudity and explicit images at an early age.

In addition to the inappropriateness and vulgarity of this ad, it completely fails to deliver its message. At no point was it made clear what exact steps someone can take towards performing a self check-up. It mostly seems like a homage to ‘boobs,’ but not in the context of cancer awareness. The idea of promoting self-checkups is an important one, but it can be better delivered. The ad could direct viewers to the organization’s webpage for a thorough guide of how to do it rather than just downright showing naked bodies without a real examination process or encouraging a doctor’s visit. By allowing this advert on television, they are continuing the process of normalizing the phenomenon of inequality and higher ratios of female nudity in the media, working against women’s efforts to be viewed on an equal standing to men, rather than as second-class citizens.

It is essential to look at the effects this ad is having on women around the world and their struggle for equality. Perhaps it may seem trivial, to show one female nipple on TV, but it speaks to the greater issue of female degradation and objectification as well as the process towards normalizing the channels that lead to this behavior. The answer does not lie in normalizing the appearance of female nipples in the media and film, no matter the cause. Female nudity should not be acceptable under any circumstance in this context, especially as an advert on daytime TV because it foments the subject/object relationship between the sexes. It increases the inequality gap between genders, where male nudity is completely taboo and female nudity is expected and demanded. It makes women feel like things. Women are not objects, and they should not be made to feel as such, especially not during an ad that deals with an issue as important and serious as breast cancer awareness. It is dehumanizing and disrespectful to women.

 

[1] Cikara M, Said CP, Eberhardt JL, Fiske ST. From subjects to objects: Sexist attitudes and instrumental processing of sexualized women. Paper presented to Society for Personality and Social Psychology; Tampa. 2009.