It’s okay to objectify men I guess
A toxic message with toxic consequences
I came across an article online posted on Elite Daily. Author Alexia LaFata apparently thinks it is “completely okay to objectify men” because men are always the oppressors and women are always the oppressed. LaFata emphasizes on the existence of “the male gaze,” which is the idea that women are portrayed as sexual objects to satisfy a straight, male audience. Notice how I made the previous words bold and italicized, because LaFata just loves to stress on straightness and maleness.
LaFata justifies male objectification because it does not have any real, serious consequences on the men being objectified compared to women who get objectified. She says the following:
Well, until you straight, white men live in a world in which your objectification leads to excessive victim-blaming, unwelcome catcalling, mortifyingly high rates of sexual assault and rape and having your value in society based exclusively on what you look like, I will continue to exercise my God-given right to objectify you.
Sounds a little condescending if you ask me.
There is so much wrong with LaFata’s way of thinking that it is hard to even fathom what I am reading. Her reasoning is very circular. It is almost as if she is saying that we objectify people to stop people from objectifying other people because objectifying people is bad. In what world does it make sense to objectify people to stop objectifying people? What do you really gain from all this?
For someone who claims to be passionate about feminism, she is doing a terrible job. I thought feminism was about helping and uniting men and women, but obviously she does not give a damn about help or unity. Dehumanizing men, who are supposed to be our allies, is not helping any of us. It only creates more tension and further division. There are already so many things that divide humanity in stark ways. Creating a gender divide is the last thing we need right now.
Another problem with her reasoning is her assumption that only women experience victim-blaming, sexual assault, harassment, and having their worth based on appearance. Newsflash, buddy. Men experience these things too. Every single soul born into this world will face the disgusting realities that come along with it. Our own individual experiences in life are very unique. We all face the good, the bad, and the ugly in so many different ways.
Since LaFata is concerned about victim-blaming and sexual assault, let us talk about them. Women get blamed for their rape because they were wearing “provocative” clothing. They get told they were “asking for it” because apparently, clothing is the new way of expressing consent I guess? It is horrible that women have to go through that. It is horrible that the worth of a woman lessens after rape, since her rape may bring dishonour and shame in many cultures.
I absolutely agree that victim-blaming is toxic, but is LaFata really doing any justice when she degrades men the way she does? If we are to impose the narrative that all men are oppressors, we end up deliberately ignoring male victims. Men get raped too, sweetie. When men get raped, especially by women, they are told they are lucky and should have liked it. They are even told they are weak because they “allowed” it to happen. Suddenly, they are less of a man.
Judging by LaFata’s attitude towards men, especially straight white men, it sounds like she is saying that men deserve to be objectified and mistreated as punishment for the systematic oppression endured by women for centuries. Hypocritical. Telling a man he deserves to be objectified and mistreated because his ancestors did that to women is technically victim-blaming. You are telling him he is the bad person despite the fact that you are the one objectifying and mistreating him.
LaFata also mentions how a woman’s value is entirely based on her appearance. Last time I checked, we all get judged for our appearances. This issue is not exclusive to women. I agree that the worth of a woman should not be based on how she looks or dresses. I believe people should be judged on their character, not on the way they look. But one needs to realize that men constantly get judged, maybe not the same way as women but they still do. In fact, LaFata is judging men so harshly throughout her entire article that her point just gets lost.
What do men get judged for one may ask. Are we really going to forget the expectations we impose on men and boys? As someone who spends ungodly amounts of hours on the internet, I noticed that it is apparently normal to poke fun at guys who are not 6ft or taller because being shorter than that is unattractive or not “boyfriend material”. It is normal to make fun of men and boys for having small penises. I also noticed it is normal to base a man’s worth on how much money he makes, the kind of job he has, the way he looks, how tall he is, how “manly” he looks and acts, etc. The point I am trying to make is we all get judged, and the kind of toxic expectations that exist in our current societies hurt all of us.
“The Male Gaze”
LaFata explains that the male gaze is a concept, of which it is the idea that the media (TV shows, movies, ads, etc) is designed to cater to a straight, male audience by depicting women as sexual objects for the audience’s satisfaction. Here is what she has to say about the male gaze.
It creates a culture in which men are always assumed to be the consumer of media. It creates a culture in which men do the looking and women are looked at, in which men are the subjects and women are the objects.
Since men are literally in control of the majority of media behind the scenes, the concept makes a lot of sense.
I will not deny that there are certain ways women get portrayed that may send questionable messages, but LaFata assumes only straight white men can enjoy what the media has to offer. She also assumes the media only sexualizes women, as there are also many instances of men being sexualized. And yes, the way men get sexualized in the media can also send very questionable messages to the audience. Of course, LaFata thinks differently.
Men don't operate this way. Men don't live to satisfy a so-called female gaze.
On a societal level, a man's worth is defined by way, way more than just his hotness and fuckability, so when we objectify a man, we do nothing more than just make an innocent comment on those two things.
That is not really true to say the least. You can watch the following YouTube video to get a sense of what I am talking about. Yes, it is long but it is very eye-opening.
So it looks like LaFata’s point is not holding up. If you watched the entire video, you would notice that men are just eye-candy to female audiences. You cannot deny that if a man were to do the same things portrayed in the video to a woman, he would get in trouble. You cannot deny that there is a so-called “female gaze” after all.
For example if you skip to 3:36, notice how young singer Justin Bieber gets grabbed and kissed on the neck by a grown woman in front of everyone. He clearly looked uncomfortable and grossed out. If a grown man were to do this to a young singer like Billie Eilish, that man would lose his job.
Are you really going to tell Justin Bieber that he deserved to be treated this way because he is a straight white male, miss LaFata? After all, you did say it was completely okay to objectify men and you would exercise your “God-given right” to objectify men.
Fast forward to 7:09, Rita Ora rips Zac Efron’s shirt off in front of everyone. If the roles were reversed, people would call him a sexual predator and the act sexual harassment.
My point is if a woman sexualizes a man, no one bats an eye. If a man sexualizes a woman, everybody loses their minds. This is not to say that we should allow men to do these things and get away scot-free. What I intend to say is both men and women should be held accountable for the way they interact with people regardless of their sex. It is completely natural to sexualize people in your thoughts. It only becomes a problem when you act on these thoughts and become very invasive the same way these women were in the video above.
Moving on, LaFata talks about women being seen as objects in the media. Here is one thing I can think of from the top of my head. It is often argued that media such as porn is degrading to women and serves as a platform catering to men’s interests. Of course, the adult entertainment industry is a little shady but let us focus on the simple stuff.
There is this idea about, for instance, lesbian porn being bad for women for the same reason mentioned above: it is there to degrade women and caters to men’s interests. Lesbian porn? That is just a male fetish. Wrong! Pornhub stats report a very different story.
Surprise. Women apparently really love lesbian porn. Are you going to tell these women that they are contributing to the degradation of women now? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, this goes against the whole idea that only men do the looking. Sorry, but women do the looking too.
Let us sum this up real quick. Are women the only ones being sexualized? Absolutely not. The reality is, everyone is sexualizing each other. Are we just going to pretend that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals do not exist? Are we just going to pretend that sexualizing people is something that does not already happen naturally and automatically? You can preach all you want about sexualization being bad, but you cannot stop the inevitable. Humans are sexual. Yes, we have desires and sometimes we only feel sexually towards certain people with no strings attached. That is an undeniable fact. However, this is not an excuse to treat someone like an object or be a total creep about it. We can be sexual and civil. What you, miss LaFata, are doing is the opposite of civil by asserting it is okay to objectify men.
Commenting on a woman’s appearance is always bad
LaFata basically says that commenting on a woman’s appearance is never innocent. She explains:
Women don't live in a world in which a comment on our appearance is just an innocent comment. We live in a world in which a comment on our appearance is systematically engrained into society's attitude towards us.
It's used as a way to measure our value in society, as a means through which our entire identity is defined.
I do not know what world LaFata lives in but this is over exaggerated. In fact, I think this way of thinking is toxic to women and men. Is it really a good idea to tell women to fear comments, even though they could very well be innocent? Is it really a threat to a woman if you call her pretty or beautiful in an innocent, not-so-creepy way? Why is this victim mindset being shoved in our heads as women? It does a great disservice to us. I thought we were supposed to be empowering ourselves and not play victim.
What about men who give simple, innocent comments? Are you going to frame them as potential sexual predators now? Are you really going to assume every man who comments on your appearance is a sexist? That is a little sexist on your part, don’t you think?
Overall it is not a good idea to say all comments on a woman’s appearance is bad, just like it is not a good idea to say all comments on a man’s appearance is good. There is a fine line between innocent commentary and creepy commentary. It is one thing to say “hey, I think you’re pretty/handsome” and another to say “I like your boobs/bulge”. Additionally, whether a comment is innocent or not also depends on the context. For example, I could literally come close to you, be invasive, and still say “hey, I think you’re pretty/handsome”. Teaching everyone, including young girls and boys, the distinction between such comments is a great idea. It will teach them to not fear innocent comments, as well as to learn how to identify harassment or misconduct.
Also, how exactly can a comment really define someone’s entire identity? If someone comments on how sexy I look, does that suddenly make me invaluable? Am I just sexy and nothing else? No. More importantly if that person does not know me in person, what else can the person comment on other than my physical appearance? Realistically, my physical existence is the only observable thing this person can comment on. I cannot expect to be judged on my character if that person does not know me. I will not deny that certain comments I have received made me uncomfortable, but the difference is I do not let it define me as an entire person.
Moving on, LaFata ends her article saying:
That's why objectifying a woman carries a heavier, more noteworthy meaning. When you objectify a woman, you perpetuate the idea that her worth lies exclusively in her appearance. When I objectify a man, it's just... fun.
And that's why it's okay to do it.
I am going to end this by saying that you should not let comments define your worth. Asserting the idea that every comment received is an indicator of someone’s worth is a toxic message. Drilling this idea of being a permanent victim of society, specifically of men, into women’s heads is a toxic message. Encouraging the objectification of men, or literally anybody, is a toxic message. Assuming all men, especially straight white men, are insatiable beings who only care about putting women down is a toxic message. We are one in our humanity; the last thing we need right now is this compiled cesspool of toxic reasoning.