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SELF OBJECTIFICATION : Bodies as ornaments and not instruments.

Evaluating our bodies often leads to the need to keep surveilling on our own bodies i.e self objectification. Self objectification refers to the feeling of  being treated or viewed as a “body” instead of a being. This often leads to an increase in dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s body and can have many damaging effects. The objectification theory states that we often begin to internalise the views of society and observers. The moment you start seeing a woman as a depersonalised object for your gratification, you’ve reduced her to her body parts. That’s precisely when admiration ends and objectification begins. As a result of this, we begin to envision ourselves as beings who’s functions are separate from their being. This perspective on self often results in many negative effects including; body monitoring, and an increase in shame and a decrease in self-esteem.

Effects of Self Objectification

Body Dissatisfaction

Scholars argue that there are two main types of body dissatisfaction. A disturbance in the perception creates a situation where a person holds a distorted view of their body shape and size. While a disturbance in the attitude effects a person’s happiness with their appearance of their body or their frustration with its functions.  Bessenoff (2006) defines body dissatisfaction as the negative evaluation of one’s body. Also the tendency to compare one’s body to other people or images. Willinge et al. (2006) states that the idea of body dissatisfaction is becoming more of a societal norm. They estimate that two thirds of young women are faced with issues of body dissatisfaction and negative body image. Women of all ages suffer with body shame and negative feelings which results in body dissatisfaction.

Cory and Burns (2007) comment that body dissatisfaction in women often arises from images continuously displayed in the media. As a result women begin to internalise these views. They begin to view their own body as a thing rather than a being. This leads to an increase in body dissatisfaction.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are one of the worst effects that today’s society of body objectification has created. Robles(2011)defines anorexia nervosa as a self-imposed starvation. The victim becomes obsessed with the concept of becoming thin and losing weight. Bulimia  nervosa on the other hand is characterised by a series of sessions of binge eatin,. This is usually followed by a drastic method such as vomiting or the use of diuretics to get rid of the food. Cory and Burns (2007) state that anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are biopsychology disorders. These diseases result in the  victim developing a distorted view of both their self image and self perception.

Women account for almost 90% of victims of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Researchers claim that this illness typically begin during early adolescences and early adulthood. This is a period in a women’s life when she is most susceptible to the pressures from the media and other forces to be thin. Many women fail to meet this desired image and as a result develop such eating disorders. I was a victim of bulimia nervosa. Had an unhealthy relationship with food. I could not keep any food  down because of the poor perception of my body image . 

Negative Effects

We live in a society where the objectification of women has become embedded in the societal norm. There is always potential that women will adopt this reasoning and feel pressure regarding their physical appearance. This pressure in society often encourages women to change their physical appearance. Scholars state that these actions often create heightened self consciousness and as a result a decrease in self-esteem. Darwin (1872, 1965) claims that this decrease in self-esteem often promotes other negative feelings including; depression and anxiety. Women begin to evaluate themselves based on what they believe others are thinking. They begin to think that they are not good enough. They often become unsure of how they are perceived by others. This can lead to increasing feelings of anxiety or shame. 

Beauty and Success

Research states that how a women’s body appears to others can directly influence or determine her life experiences. Attractiveness and beauty are often vital not only for women in their personal life. This is also true in relation to their economic status. This creates  pressure for women to strive towards the perfect body as they feel that it will help to bring them success. In the report carried out by Etcoff et al. (2004) 45% of women surveyed agreed that women who are beautiful have more opportunities and a greater chance of success.

Gordon (2008) suggests that the overall global message for women is one of beauty and thinness. Women need to strive towards this in order to attain their goals. Female adolescents are mostly influenced by this idea of thinness. They often “use their mirror as an indispensable measure of their worth as a human being”. And as a result of this view young women become preoccupied and obsessed with their weight and body.  However, research shows this evaluation of self-worth can be dangerous to many women. Women who tend to measure their self-worth and evaluate themselves in regards to thinness, were more likely to suffer. They suffer with issues like; stress, anger, decrease in academic grades and often eating disorders. 

Conclusion

In today’s world, we have put so much of the focus on constantly being aware of our body and how to perfect it or what it’s doing. If we believe our body is an ornament that exists for the sole purpose of being there to be looked at and admired by others, nothing in our life will be fulfilling or joyous to ourselves.If we realize our bodies are an instrument for living a life though, a whole new world opens up. This is the path to achieving self acceptance, a positive body image and self-worth no matter what our bodies look like. It’s also the only path to real health and true self-care.

While ridding the world of objectification won’t be an easy task, you can start with a bit of introspection. The next time you find yourself confused between whether you’re objectifying or admiring, ask yourself: “Do I see this person as a way of sexual/self gratification or do I appreciate them beyond my own personal pleasure?”

 

 

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22 thoughts on “SELF OBJECTIFICATION : Bodies as ornaments and not instruments.

  1. ‘We live in a society where the objectification of women has become embedded in the societal norm” I was writing something about this recently. It is such a shame where society headed. We need more love is this world, love in our hearts and to live from our souls, not from the standpoint of some ego driven mindset. If we love ourselves and care for ourselves mind, body, spirit and soul, it will show on the outside. It will radiate to the world. I’m hoping this mindset changes. It’s ok to be and to show who we really are. It’s never ok for someone to make fun of another human being, no matter what. It’s never ok to put someone above or below another just because of their looks.

  2. What an important topic for today’s women, young and old. I’ve long stopped watching television episodes that focus on women’s looks or read magazines for that reason.
    I’ve caught myself criticizing my looks for not looking as chic or as “perfectly put together” as other women. Then I tell myself STOP!
    I’ve worried about my granddaughter, hearing her say how fat she was (she was 6 years old and barely weigh 40 lbs). We spent a lot of time taking about what was really important in life.
    Your post is ever so important today. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh my goodness. It’s that bad. When I look at the young girls today, I worry as well Claudette. I hope our stories will be able to make a difference in their lives before it’s too late.

  3. This is a powerful piece, thanks Leila for your writings. There is a disconnect in society between viewing women as beings vs objects. Like Claudette, I stopped reading certain magazines that focus on how a woman looks or acts a long time ago. I am thankful for an undergraduate class in college that taught me to critically view the messages media puts out. Perhaps more young girls need to be taught that message. I continue to focus on the within knowing our external being is temporary.

  4. Your words need to echo throughout the world Leila. Media in all forms has done irreparable damage, and all done with the purpose of controlling the masses. It is a sad state of affairs when we are hypnotized by this programming. I hope the generations after us will turn the tides.

    1. Thank you Debra! We hope the generation after will sever this tie with unhealthy programming. Am working on a campaign for schools. My own little contribution to foster this.

  5. At my age it’s less worry about what my body looks like and more focus on getting it to work when it breaks down! Seriously, being able to go for a walk and enjoy the beauty of the season is more important to me than how I look.

    1. Unfortunately because of this Barb many of our generation and those after us don’t live to see your age. They fall victims of the terrible effects of this self objectification.

  6. I remember answering your question back on Facebook about our bodies, Leila, and stating that I accept my body as the vehicle of my Soul for this life.

    I guess my career diplomat father’s career has influenced my view of the world and having lived in more than 13 countries, my ideas of our bodies is different because in some cultures, the hips are important while in others it’s the lips, hair, neck etc.

    I don’t endorse Size 0 and firmly believe we as women have to take ownership of our bodies and allow our personalities to do the talking. Real men always appreciate a woman with personality. 🙂

  7. My body is my home. For many years I believed what others told me was beautiful and okay, because I was totally outside the norm. Until the day I realized that the only thing that was supporting me was my body. I now help clients free themselves from low body-esteem and the emotional baggage that weighs them down.
    Wonderful article and thanks for shining a light on this hot topic.

    1. Wonderful realisation Trilby. Am getting there and I want to use my story and my journey to inspire young people.

  8. Thank you for your thoughts on this important topic. In the U.S. the experience is endemic. I believe that there isn’t a single person who hasn’t been affected by being objectified, or hasn’t objectified others at some point in their life. I recall some pretty risqué conversation that I have overheard regarding both men and women. At 69 years old, I am mostly invisible – not a bad thing. I certainly can live with it, but I have concerns for younger people who have this as an experience that they must name and choose their response, rather than internalizing and silencing their voices.

  9. Hi Leila! I love this post. You discussed this raw topic so beautifully… embodiment to me is beings of mind, body, spirit and emotion integrating. We are beings, beautiful beings. Once we believe that, we can be.

    1. We are beautiful beings indeed Krystal. When we dissociate our bodies from the rest of our being, there is bound to be a problem.

  10. This is a powerful blog and very important issue Leila. I love what you wrote, “If we realize our bodies are an instrument for living a life though, a whole new world opens up. This is the path to achieving self acceptance, a positive body image and self-worth no matter what our bodies look like. It’s also the only path to real health and true self-care.” Thank you for your wisdom and insights!

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