Women: Eroticized, Idealized & Objectified - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


Women: Eroticized, Idealized & Objectified

How has it changed YOU?


Women: Eroticized, Idealized & ObjectifiedI believe I speak for all women, and very few men, when I say I know what it feels like to self-objectify. But how do I know I’m self-objectifying? Well, I ask myself this: “Do I think that the prettier I look, the more lovable I am?” In other words, have I somehow learned that if I get my hair and makeup just right, and if I hide all of the flaws on my body well enough, and if I am passive and doll-like enough, then he’ll fall for me harder or want me more? Well, time to unlearn.

Remember the lyrics to this classic song? It may sound dated because it’s so straight-forward, and marketing is so much more subtle nowadays, but believe me, we’re still getting the exact same message.

What’s cute about little cutie?
It’s her beauty, not brains

Keep young and beautiful
It’s your duty to be beautiful
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved

Don’t fail to do your stuff
With a little powder and a puff
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved

If you’re wise, exercise all the fat off
Take it off, off of here, off of there
When you’re seen anywhere with your hat off
Wear a Marcel wave in your hair

Take care of all those charms
And you’ll always be in someone’s arms
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved

Women: Eroticized, Idealized & ObjectifiedStanding in front of thousands of university students, Jean Kilbourne eloquently narrated the topic, with the help of advertising images of women that she’s been collecting since the 1970’s. The images often look humorous or creative but, according to Jean, also portray women as sex objects. This isn’t the first time someone has spoken out about the über sexualization and objectification of women in the media. But what’s changed?

Jean explained that the images present the ‘ideal’ image for women, as created by the advertising media. Depicting women as sensual and “perfect”, the images create the subconscious thought that women are judged according to looks alone.  Because the “young, tall, flawless, thin, and hot with big boobs and big butt” ideal is almost always unattainable, real women go through impossible dieting and compulsive cosmetic surgery procedures to become significant in society.

Women: Eroticized, Idealized & ObjectifiedThe increasing sexualization of little girls has also led to the increasing rate of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. And then, there’s the existence of double standards that expect women to be innocent yet seductive, virginal but experienced. These same images that objectify women and eroticize violence, often lead to violence against women and a general lack of respect for the gender.

From all of these über sexualized images of women in the media, Jean pointed out that the purpose of advertisers was actually not to sell sex but to sell consumerism. However, the effect of advertising is so powerful that it’s become a dominant educational force in society. To men, it presented toughness and violence as the ultimate measure of masculinity. To women, it created the idea of being “hot” as the most important measure of success. It’s led many women to equate being sexy with empowerment. To this, Jean argued:

“When the culture only offers girls and women one way to be sexy, it can hardly be considered an authentic choice to choose it.”

Women: Eroticized, Idealized & Objectified

Killing Us Softly (Advertising’s Image of Women) is a 45-minute video lecture presented by feminist Jean Kilbourne. It’s the fourth revision to Jean’s documentary series of the same subject – how women are portrayed in the advertising media.  The latest update includes contemporary images of digitally altered cover models, new fashion trends, and today’s young stars like Miley Cyrus.

In the film, Jean urges people to become aware, to speak up against how women are objectified in the ads not in the name of censorship but in the name of free speech, and to get involved – to change not just the ads, but the attitude towards women. She also cited few developments to this cause, like the banning of very thin models in the high fashion runways.

Women: Eroticized, Idealized & ObjectifiedKilling Us Softly is a must-have for classroom discussions in colleges and high schools, and at women’s conferences and community meetings.

The film also serves as a strong support for the many causes that women’s groups have pushed for. Because it was produced without a big studio paying the bills, Killing Us Softly comes with a hefty price tag ($295.00 for colleges and universities, $150 for high school and community colleges and non-profits), but the funds go back to creating more educational films. This, however, should not hinder you from watching the documentary.

Women: Eroticized, Idealized & ObjectifiedIf you are a student, encourage your school and public library to screen it. If you are a member of civic organizations, tell them to spare a portion of their budget for A/V materials or encourage them to put up a collection jar to raise funds to purchase the video. If you know the town officials, talk to them about purchasing the video for community screenings. And if you are actually wealthy parents who can spend hundreds of dollars on Manolo Blahniks, then grab a copy and let your children watch this film at home and in your family gatherings and reunions.

If you want to raise healthy children who are untethered by body image issues and uninfluenced by violence in the media, this video is the best investment we can think of.

A 5-minute trailer:

For more information about the film and the company, visit their website at www.mediaed.org

Here’s another great, 8-minute video on the topic (you can watch the full 90-minute film here):

…and a 16-minute TED Talk about the topic:

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she spends most of her time traveling around Europe, with pied-a-terre's in Zurich, London, Milan and Lyon, France. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 11 Comments

  1. Definitely! Every woman should understand her worth and that “objectification” is not really needed in order to be known or famous!

  2. Gabby Williams

    Nowadays, it seems that women care less of their true worth. I’m not trying to be “conservative” but I personally think every “model” should set boundaries / limits on what they do.

  3. It is really alarming that children are growing up in a culture where beauty has a "shallow" definition. Media continue to objectify women and we see these everyday — in TVs, magazines, movies, Internet, etc. It is really horrifying that this culture is being accepted and embraced 🙁

    As a mother, I really try to teach my children the value of "respect." I don't want my children to grow dishonoring "beautiful" women around them just because they're not naked or "almost naked" in front of them.

  4. Courtney Watson

    I believe that women who allow themselves to be objectified should be taught the value of self-respect, self-love and self-worth!

  5. Hannah Mayers

    A sad and alarming truth that is ACTUALLY being embraced by almost everybody 🙁 I believe this is where women empowerment is of its utmost importance. If a woman will only know her WORTH and if only she will discover her SKILLS and CAPABILITIES, I’m sure this “women objectification” issues will no longer be in existence.

  6. Courtney Watson

    This is really an alarming issue. Personally, I don’t know who to blame, is it the advertisers who intentionally objectified women to increase sales?

    or is it the women who allow themselves to be objectified just to earn?!

    I believe that self respect is the key to addressing this issue.

  7. This disturbing trend of portraying women as objects upon which to sell a product has to end. Aside from spreading overly idealized visions of femininity that can only be a detriment to women's self-image, a massive problem in itself, it dehumanizes an entire gender by using their bodies as nothing more than selling tools.

  8. It’s sad that the media paints this portrait of the “ideal”woman that doesn’t even exist. We see celebrities on magazine covers, photo shoots, television and etc, who don’t look like that in real life. Everything we see has been enhanced to perfection. I remember the chubbier younger me, wishing and fantasizing that I looked like the girl on the cover, thin and beautiful. Not until I lost 80 pounds I started to notice my beauty. I wish I was able to recognize this when I was younger. It’s hard to feel “comfortable” with your body when everyone expects you to look a certain way. I wish the idea of the “ideal” woman would be eliminated. Everyone is different and beautiful in their own way.

    Then when it comes to the objectification of women… women are always used in an sexualize manner in society. I get it, sex sells but there is more to a woman than her body. There’s is a mind too. But since we are more often speculated on our appearance, it pressurizes us.We have to be “sexy” and “experience” but still “innocent”. Seriously?

  9. Joanne Samonte

    Another awesome article from Urbanette 🙂
    I really hope this article serves as an eye opener not just for the women who allow themselves to be objectified (because it is called by their profession) and for the advertisers who intentionally objectified women for ‘wonderful’ advertisements.

  10. CourtneyKiss

    i totally agree. i try my best not to let my daughter watch too much tv or use the internt. i dont want her to grow up insecure because of all the things that media is displaying,

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