Sexual Objectification Culture in America
“If your hair isn't beautiful, the rest hardly matters” (Pantene Advertisement). In today’s society, it has been proven that males have privilege over women. Society’s role in the sexual objectification of women, especially the media and advertising has shown a constant increase. Sexual Objectification is when a person is visualized as an object of desire instead of a human being with qualities and values. If the sexual objectification of women was only causing an offense to women, it would not be such a serious and controversial issue. The sexual objectification of women has proven to have very negative effects on not only grown-up women but also in young girls. As Swift and Gould analyze, the biggest contributors to the sexual objectification of women are advertising, the media, and men. Wesleyan University researchers found that 51.8 percent of advertisements that featured women portrayed them as sex objects (Swift and Gould).
Many years ago, sexual objectification did not play the role it does today. The idealistic woman of skinny body and pretty hair was unexisting. Other ideas of beauty were portrayed, these, however, did not have such negative repercussions on women. “The fact is that the advent of systematic concern about dieting was an important change in middle-class life, particularly for women but across the gender divide as well” (Stearns 3). Stearns discusses the notable changes that occurred in American middle-class society. Bushak on the other hand, describes the older ideals of beauty, “Up until the 20th century, curvy, voluptuous women were considered ideally beautiful in the U.S. and Europe. Thus, the term “rubenesque” was used to describe a woman of ideal beauty” (Bushak). She reflects on how the modern standards of beauty are the opposite of what they were in the 20th century. Nevertheless, women were still affected by sexual objectification. During the 1950’s and 60’s, in cases of rape, it was assumed that a woman was lying when she denied that she wanted sexual intercourse (Fox 19). This is significant because, as women were not so often pressured to look a certain way, they were seen as morally invaluable.
Sexual Objectification is so common in present time that people do not recognize when they sexually objectify women. Instances have occurred where men with intentions of flirting with women, have sexually objectified them or made them feel inferior. “When a man tells me to smile, I feel like I’ve been contracted to provide aesthetic entertainment for him — a contract I never signed.” (Capogna) This exemplifies the situations that commonly occur when women are sexually objectified by a person who does not really intend to. Women have also shown unintentional sexual self-objectification. Self-objectification can be seen when a woman is very much concerned about her appearance and her behavior.
Today’s society has adapted to Beauty Standards. These standards are not official, however, the media and advertising have showcased women with very similar aesthetics and characteristics throughout the years. The women showcased are not only physically attractive, but their bodies and faces are very often photoshopped in order to meet the unrealistic standards. This is a very contentious topic due to the fact that many young girls aspire and live up to these standards that are not real. Beauty Standards are negatively affecting many women and teenagers’ psyches. It is scientifically proven that women’s anxiety levels increase after exposure to idealistic body images (Berberick).
Withal, male domination has evolved. Men claim that women are equal to them ever since the women’s rights movement, but the truth is that they are not. This leads to the question: Why do patriarchy, misogyny, and sexual objectification still exist in modern day? Throughout the years, women have been prejudiced by sexual objectification from the media, advertising, and men. In today’s society, women are less self-confident, anxious and even depressed. However, most men and the media fail to acknowledge this social issue.
In American history, the ideal body image of women evolved. In the 1800’s, the ideal American woman was ‘rubenesque.’ Women have always been distinguished as weaker than men. At the beginning of the 1900’s, and late 1800’s, ideal women were referred as ‘Gibson Girls.’ A ‘Gibson Girl’ was fragile and dainty. She would ideally have a small waist, rounded shoulders, and soft necks. By the 1920’s, women were able to do almost as many things as men due to suffrage rights. Hence, they were not perceived as fragile that much. Retouching and stylizing girls on advertisements became a trend in the 1940’s and has prevailed ever since. During these years, up until the 1960’s skinny, but curvy women were known as the most beautiful. Marilyn Monroe was an example of the ideal women in those ages (“History Of Body Image In America: How The ‘Ideal’ Female And Male Body Has Changed Over Time”). The fact is that in today’s society there is still an ideal image of beauty. The worst aspect though is that this “ideal” woman is not real. Real images of women are digitally modified to create unrealistic versions of women. Women are comparing themselves and trying to reach impossible standards (Siebel).
It is hard to admit, and the majority of women have not acknowledged this, but the media and its advertising are one of women’s biggest enemies. The media has grown to be one of the world’s biggest tools for communication, and it can be used for both good and bad. The amount of years in existence that the media has, is equal to the damage it has caused to both men and women’s psyche. From very young ages, boys and girls are induced to the culture and ideas of the media. American culture unconsciously deprives both girls and boys of choosing their experiences. Girls are given Barbie dolls and baby dolls, as well as kitchen tools, and ballet shoes. While boys are given action games, cars, Rubix cubes, and superheroes. Girls learn at a pretty young age, that the most important thing is their appearance to the world (Kilbourne). The media is the single most powerful source of information in the 21st Century. To understand what’s going on in society, the media has to be understood (Katz). The media and its content seem to be shaping society.