Navigating the Difference Between the Appreciation of Beauty and Sexual Objectification

For the second week in a row, the CFW post is coming to you from Everyday Feminism.  This is, in part, because I have a backlog of work over there that is now slowly getting published.  It’s hard for me to find time to write more than one piece a week, so on the weeks that there is a piece over there, I usually just let that act as my post for both sites.

I’ve written about this topic a few times before, but I brought some new insights to my EF piece.  Hope you enjoy!

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Everyday FeminismAs I come to the end of my first Minnesota winter, I have never been more excited for spring.

Temperatures above 32 degrees!  Sunshine on my skin!  Long walks with my partner and the puppy!  Even just writing this makes me freak out a little in anticipation.

Which is why I was really surprised to see a woman express on Facebook how much she was dreading Spring.

“If it weren’t for the incredible weather, Spring would be intolerable.”

Comments immediately exploded with, “WHAT!?”  “Spring is the best time of year!!”  “Seriously?  Why would you ever say that!?”

She went on to explain, “Don’t get me wrong.  I want to love Spring, but the moment I step out in anything less than a full-length down coat, the street harassment-o-meter goes wild!  I can’t take it!”

I immediately felt incredible shame.  After all, when I am completely honest with myself, I know that I contribute to the kind of masculinity that causes her to dread Spring.

It’s not that I overtly participate in street harassment.  Quite the opposite, really.  Usually I try pretty hard to follow the lead of these guys.

But when I am completely honest with myself, I recognize that far too often, when I meet a woman, my eyes go down.

Every single woman knows exactly what I am talking about, as they experience it on the daily from pretty much every straight man (and even some not-so-sraight men).

And just about every straight man knows exactly what I’m talking about — because we’ve done it.

More Than Just Attraction

When I try to talk to other men (and some women) about this, I often get, “What’s the problem?  It’s completely natural to look at another person’s body with attraction.”

And they’re right.  I don’t mean to communicate that we should experience shame for feeling lust or for checking someone out.

And I suppose if my eyes wandering down existed in isolation, one could argue that it is simply a natural part of attraction.

We want to appreciate beauty, and part of that is taking in the physical beauty of the people around us.

But our actions never exist in isolation.

My wandering eyes exist as part of a daily onslaught women face where their bodies are treated as public property – leered at, jeered at, and objectified in every major media outlet and in the eyes of most men.

Objectified.  Though the word is used on the regular, it is powerful.

Read the rest of the piece at Everyday Feminism.

Weight Hate: Envisioning a More Inclusive Standard of Beauty

When my friend Nikkie suggested that I write my next blog on a form of bigotry that is not often discussed, I was a little unsure of how to approach this topic.  I still am.  I have been sitting at the computer for a few hours trying to figure out how to write this particular blog entry.  I realize that my own prejudice is likely to weigh heavily in my writing seeing as it is a topic of such discomfort for me.  When Nikkie brought it up, though, I immediately thought of one of my recent presentations of “The Wall” from a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership seminar this summer.

After I presented, a young woman came up to me and told me that she loved the presentation but that she thought it was lacking in one important way.  I had left out an incredibly common form of bigotry that needs to be addressed: “weight hate” or prejudice and bigotry based on someone being overweight.  Her comment struck me because she is right in that issues of “weight hate” are not ones I often consider in my anti-oppression work.

For me, my own prejudice and bigotry enters the picture so easily.  I carry my own baggage.  I remember being pretty young and having my friend Kyle constantly comment on the fact that my mom was fat.  I carried a lot of shame in that . . . though I do want to throw a quick shout-out to my mom who, through healthy diet and exercise, has managed to lose 90 lbs in the last few years.  Due to my own baggage, though, it is so common for me to simply think, “If you’re overweight, it is a choice that you have made to live an unhealthy lifestyle.”  After all, we live in a country where 25% of folks are considered “obese.”

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