What harm from sexual objectication of women?

I have heard so many times over the last decade working on preventing violence against women those who would say there is no harm in something that can be defined as sexual objectification, or at the very least there is no harm meant.

Those who say there is no harm meant, or there is no harm, have simply not thought it through.

And perhaps that is our biggest challenge in confronting attitudes to violence against women; disbelief that it happens, or ignorance as to its occurrence and prevalence.

From this perspective, the role of those of us working in this field is to help spread more widely the messages that violence against women comes in many forms, all of it is preventable, and all of it demands significant and broad-based buy-in from men. If the 60% of men in Australia who give something to their loved ones for Valentines could only ALSO be active in discouraging violence against women, we would have more than a sea-change!

A very large part of our getting the prevention message out there is to help distill the findings from academic work, to help demystify some of the feminist discourse, and simplify the messages for those who cannot access, or understand, the content of the academic world’s thinking on the matter.

Caroline Heldman is my hero for this. She simplifies and demystifies. She explains, clearly and pedagogically, the issues.

And here is her very important commentary on the many ways in which sexual objectification of women is far from harmless.

And intended or not, is devastating to women.

Read on: http://carolineheldman.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/sexual-objectification-part-2-the-harm/?relatedposts_exclude=968


The Sexual Objectification Test

How do you tell if an image is sexually objectifying? Some are very obvious, but in fact there are a number of ways in which images can be, without seeming to be, on casual observation.

And, of course, there are those who don’t look at an image and wonder, or think, about what it says about women, and the impact it has on women an girls.

Well, it is really hard to reach those who simply don’t think. How do you open a discussion with someone about sexual objectification who doesn’t even realise sexism exists?

But for the rest, for those who do wonder, and do give a damn, Caroline Heldman is a fine thinker on the subject and she has penned a test for determining this.

It is eminently sensible, very readable, and very understandable, and poses 7 questions to the observer of an image to gauge whether an image objectifies or not.

If I might quickly paraphrase the main elements of the test below, and then you can read it in more detail on: http://carolineheldman.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/sexual-objectification-part-1-what-is-it/

1) Does the image show only part(s) of a sexualized person’s body?

2) Does the image present a sexualized person as a stand-in for an object?

3) Does the image show a sexualized person as interchangeable?

4) Does the image affirm the idea of violating the bodily integrity of a sexualized person that can’t consent?

5) Does the image suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the person?

6) Does the image show a sexualized person as a commodity (something that can be bought and sold)?

7) Does the image treat a sexualized person’s body as a canvas?

This is rape culture – and look at the damage it does

We live in a world where sexual assault can be dismissed with jokes or excuses, even used in a chatup line or plastered across a T-shirt.



A third of all women and girls in ‘free’ and ‘safe’ countries such as Australia, and right across Europe, will be raped or sexually assaulted.

As I watch my 2-year old daughter sleep peacefully, those numbers feel deeply intolerable, disgusting, and make me angrier than words can convey.

This Valentine’s Day, let’s all take a moment to reflect on what it is about our ideas of manhood that allow this to happen. That we aren’t all sickened by this to the pits of our stomach is sad beyond belief.

Change starts with men getting angrier about this appalling abuse.

Share widely to agree!