I was reading yesterday about the objectification of women, with a focus on self-objectification. Wikipedia has an interesting overview; one of the things it points out is that some feminists see self-objectification as empowerment, not as demeaning.
I confess that I am hardly qualified to speak on behalf of all women on this subject. But it doesn’t take an expert in women’s studies to see that women are objectified in myriad ways around the world. I don’t need to elaborate on that point.
I’m more interested today in self-objectification, and what it means to me and, perhaps, what I see in some other women. I confess that I do try to make myself as attractive as possible before I venture out into the world every day — from the eye shadow, mascara, foundation and lip colouring I apply to my face to the clothes I choose to wear, it’s all about looking as good as possible. I want men (and women) to think I’m sexy. So, yes, I guess I am self-objectifying, even if I am dressed conservatively and not wearing fishnets, stilettos and a mini-skirt.
Do I feel empowered when men show — either through subtle signals or outright flirting — that they desire me? Yes, I do feel empowered. Though, it is much different than being used unwillingly as a sex object: I would fight that tooth and nail. But, am I a bit of a tease? Sigh . . . Yes. But as the annual Slutwalks held around the world demonstrate, it doesn’t matter how women dress — there is never, ever cause for rape or other forms of sexual abuse.
The cosmetics and fashion industries thrive on women like me who want to look good. Women of all ages, I want to stress. Recently, I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office and there was an elderly woman, say in her 80s, holding a small mirror before her face while she applied lipstick. I thought, ‘it doesn’t matter how old we are — we still want to have sex appeal.’
Of course, not all of us are exhibitionists to the point of wanting to be magazine centerfolds. But I would if I could. I confess that there is an exhibitionist in me, though it is largely suppressed. But why do some of us want to stand out and bare it all and others are content to keep their sex appeal at more conservative levels? Again, I can’t speak for all women. I’m not even sure I can speak for myself, except that I think it has something to do with my upbringing in various foster homes, of feeling unloved back then, and always yearning for love and attention. Much like Marilyn Monroe, who was also raised in foster homes. I dunno. It’s just a theory.
How does all this relate to my newfound interest in nudism/naturism? I had wondered in a previous post if there was a link between exhibitionism (I didn’t use the word ‘self-objectification’ then) and nudism? Now, with some experience, I can say no, nudism is really not about exhibitionism — or self-objectification — for me. In fact, I am thinking that naturism might free me from the need — and it is a need — to self-objectify. I dunno . . . we’ll see.
But I am convinced that textiles and makeup are an integral part of self-objectification. Take the picture of me below, clicked about 6 years ago with a webcam: heels, knee socks, thong and bra, in a bedroom setting. Pretty suggestive, yes? If I took another picture with the same pose without the heels and textiles, you have a flat-footed naked person standing with her side to you. Not so suggestive anymore, I think. The clothes, however scant, make the difference. Yet the person is the same . . .
Much for me to think about in all of this. But I gotta go now . . . time to put on my makeup and head out to work.