Women, Their Bodies and Sexual Images in Media
I visited a news site to read an article on a business-related topic, and I noticed the ads on the sidebar for other sites and articles kept to a similar theme.
Each of the eight articles was about a female celebrity, and seven of them were click-baiting with sex. The bait was linguistic, in terms like “confession,” “strips,” or “heats up”; or it was full of skin, or both. Whether the contained pictures teased in some of the titles were “shocking” or outright “nude,” the implication was clear. We instinctively know no shocking picture of an attractive female celebrity is going to involve a turtleneck.
And honestly, I think this represents a problem. Not the same issue that Emma Watson is talking about lately, where women feel they can’t be feminine, or sexy, or whatever you’d like to label it, and be in favor of women’s rights. The problem is that right after International Women’s Day, I can still open up a browser and see seven ads in a row focused on the female as an object of the sexual gaze. In the eyes of the internet, Kourtney and Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen, Ariel Winter and others are spectacles because of their bodies.
And yes, these women are famous. Much of famous is about being attractive, so they’re going to get attention for that. But when piece after piece focuses on that attractiveness alone, especially in sexual terms, it’s reductionary. It reduces women to their sex appeal.
That’s not to say that sexualized advertising actually determines women’s real value according to sex appeal. But it does suggest that society, or at least a certain part of society, still sees women this way. At its best, advertising like this is exploitative, using women and images of women commercially. At its worst, it subordinates or eliminates the voice, accomplishments, thoughts, personalities and skills of women in favor of their physical appearance, presenting them as objects for a sexual gaze. Whether the women freely participated by stripping, making sex confessions or sharing nude pictures is irrelevant. The presentation has the same implications; it still only illustrates women as sexual objects.
It’s about time we dropped this kind of tunnel vision and showed women from other angles.