||Is a woman
a piece of meat?!
Students found this image in a magazine and brought it into class!
is sexual objectification?
Judith Posner in Atkinson Review of Canadian Studies 1, Spring
1984 gives the following definition of objectification:
|Objectification is the "object-like character of an image that
connotes passivity, vulnerability, property, and, in its most extreme
John Berger's analysis of the difference between nakedness and the nude
in Ways of Seeing can help us understand how women's sexuality
In the European artistic tradition, nakedness becomes a symbol of women's
submission (52). Berger uses Kenneth Clark's work The Nude to explain
that a painting of a nude is conventionalized; it is "a way of seeing
which the painting achieves" (53).
Study Berger's analysis of the nude as a tradition in European
art on pages 52 - 64.
Write paraphrases of the following quotes from Berger's Ways
|To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by
others and yet not recognized for oneself. A naked body has to be
seen as an object in order to become a nude. (54)
|Today the attitudes and values which informed that tradition [of
the European nude] are expressed through other more widely diffused
media -- advertising, journalism, television. But the essential
way of seeing women, the essential use to which their images are
put, has not changed. Women are depicted in a quite different way
from men -- not because the feminine is different from the masculine
-- but because the 'ideal' spectator is always assumed to be male
and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him. (63-4)
Complete these activities and answer these questions.
- Why does Berger say that a painting of a nude "turns desire into
fantasy?" (60) Why does it portray the woman "as a thing or
an abstraction?" (62)
- Find ads that seem to objectify women. Explain how the women
are made to appear passive and vulnerable. What are they doing? How
are they posed?
to this clip from Ani Difranco's "Not A
Pretty Girl." If you have access to the whole song and the
CD of the same name, listen to that too. How does Ani's work oppose
the sex object stereotype.
- Find ads where women appear with men but seem to be their property.
How are they positioned relative to the men? Who is more active in the
ad? Where are the people looking? What are they doing? Who is in the
- Find ads that treat men as sex objects. Compare images of women
and men and consider whether there are any differences in the nature
of the objectification.
- What is the difference between an object and a person? How do the
women in ads appear "unreal," not like real human beings?
||6. Often, objectification of
people makes violence against them seem more legitimate. How does
the sexual objectification of women in the media contribute to
rape and battery of women? Click on the picture to see
a larger image
- Whose interests are served by women's being treated as sex
to analyze a famous photograph by artist Ruth Orkin, American Girl
In Italy." (1951)
back to Understanding stereotypes: media