This is a rambling and unedited attempt to understand why there is so much tolerance, in all Patriarchal societies, to Objectification of women.
Many believe, and see it as obvious, that since women (unlike everybody else?) have bodies they
should expect to be discussed, commented upon, condemned, stalked, hated, adored, sexually assaulted, respected, objectified etc.
Specially if the parts of the body being discussed have been sexualised – like legs, lips, eyes, breasts, ankles, back, belly, neck, midriff, shoulders, thighs, knees, toes, ears, mouth; because, why else were these body parts created if not for men – to view, approve, own, disown, love, hate, honor, decide whether they are obscene or graceful, whether they look more attractive (to men) covered or uncovered, and how much covered or revealed?
This belief that women (or their bodies) exist to serve some purpose in men’s lives is reinforced when we hear numerous statements, like those that imply that our Skewed Gender Ratio is a problem – not because it indicates something seriously and evilly wrong with the society, but because it means there aren’t enough women for men to marry.
So, it’s obvious that when Deepika Padukone pointed out, “Yes, I’m a woman, I have breasts and a cleavage.”, many of us can’t quite understand what she means.
Because, the point for many is just that. She should not forget that she is a woman, and has breasts and a cleavage. She is supposed to keep them covered or lose all right to dignity or privacy (for want of better word).
Here’s a TOI comment that explains the attitude better:
“If a person is not ashamed to remove his/her clothes for whatever reasons there may be, then why make a big fuss about people peeking into the pics looking for something ‘more’. Lets not let ourselves down to a level where public scrutiny might shame us”
It’s not just breasts. Women are viewed as a collection of body parts and the parts have been transformed into objects that serve to attract, delight or disgust men. What other purpose do women’s bodies serve? Women (i.e. their bodies) it seems were created for men.
Try viewing legs (women’s legs) as means for moving from one place to another – it would be considered a radical and impractical idea by many – because non-radical or default or the ‘normal’ remains how they appear to the male eye. Like – whether or not they are modestly covered, how good or bad they look, what colour, shape, texture, size, covering appeals to men.
Deepika Padukone SHOWS off again !!
‘… when her dress went too far and a part of her unmentionable were visible for a second ..although it isn’t a blooper but we definitely caught something peeping out of her dress.’
How do women’s body parts become ‘unmentionables’?
‘Some 150 years back the women in kerala launched a feminist revolt for the right to cover their breast, women in kerala were not allowed to cover their breast; mostly this rule was applicable to lower caste women, when someone from higher caste would come she should show her breast to cover ones breast was considered a sign of immodesty. Brahmin women can cover their breast while venturing out but at home they had to be topless, shatriya women cant cover breast infront of brahmins and lower cast women couldnt cover breast infront of anyone. The cloth worn on lower part couldnt be lower than the knee.’ [Click to read more]
There are contradicting ways in which women’s bodies are objectified.
One is seemingly respectful, protective and caring, another is gallant, chivalrous and seemingly liberal, and yet another one is openly misogynistic. All involve sexualising of women’s body into parts and seeing women as objects created for men’s convenience.
1. One view claims to honor, worship, find graceful, love, adore ‘the beautiful women who give men life’ and who sacrifice their happiness and self interest for men.
They believe crimes against women would end if all men viewed all women as their mothers and sisters and if all women lived and dressed in ways that didn’t draw any attention to them (basically if women were not seen).
They don’t talk about incest or child abuse or other crimes against women and children inside their homes.
They might believe that West is the cause of all crimes against women in India. They believe sexual assaults happen because men are weak and fail to control their ‘natural’ urges and that such men should be castrated or hanged or stoned and spat upon. And they might believe that women are too good to have such ‘manly needs and urges’.
They might also believe that lesser evils in man can be reformed by the love of a good woman.
They, like others misogynists, insist that women’s bodies were created for men, the Uterus to provide male heirs (though beautiful daughters are needed too, or else there would be no one to provide loving care, tie a rakhi, wear pretty bichias and bangles, provide opportunities for kanya-daan, save the rituals, customs and culture etc. So, yes, they admit, daughters have their uses too. These are the people who would appeal to parents to have daughters but may believe that divorce and love marriages are social evils.
They don’t talk about what women in unhappy marriages should do, they believe good women know how to stay happily married and such women would rather die than bring dishonour to family.
This view urges men to ‘respect’ women like their own mothers and sisters, but says nothing about viewing women as humans – capable of feelings, failings or desires.
Those who hold this view won’t allow women to compare themselves to men. They insist that men are weak, spoilt, selfish, aggressive, crude and that’s okay because they are men. But women can’t afford to be like this and they mustn’t attempt that. Because women are special – they are mothers. (Yet they don’t think children should carry their mothers’ names and lineage forward) They believe it’s okay for women to give up their families, names, identities and happiness for men. They are likely to admire women who suffer in silence, sacrifice and serve without complaining. And because all women are goddesses and those who are not are merely misguided, and should be still ‘respected’ and taught about their duty to ‘mankind’.
They don’t see much hope for a woman who is not found beautiful by men, which is why they feel they are being compassionate and reassuring when they insist that ‘all women are beautiful’. Occasionally they can be also be found assuring random women of their attractiveness to men, and then be hurt when women are not appreciative of their generosity.
It simply doesn’t occur to them to see women as people and not as bodies, beautiful or ugly or deserving or not deserving of men’s love. They don’t see that their view too is all about Men, because they believe it is a Man’s World and women can be very satisfied and lead fulfilling life if they made men’s convenience their life purpose.
They might also believe that everybody (not just those who can enforce it) has the right to decide what in women’s bodies is condemnable or controversial, moral or immoral, shameful or shameless, excusable, obscene, vulgar etc.
Women who ignore or disagree with this view are viewed as leading selfish lives devoid of men’s approval or worse, ‘men’s respect’ (though some of us might consider them Empowered). Which is why misogynists view women who do not wear traditional clothing as a threat to Patriarchy.
2. Another is a seemingly Modern Mindset where one hears claims like ‘I love women’.
Why do they love women?
Because women are beautiful. Women are hot. They are perplexed when some women are not delighted (forget grateful, not even glad) to be loved by them. They admire a thing of beauty – and all women are beautiful.
This view does not see women as individuals.
But the world would be so boring (for them) if there were no women in it. They are fine with women ‘flaunting’ their bodies (the default is ‘covered’, if it is not covered, then the body it is attached to, has no rights over it). Beauty is to be beheld. So women should be free to enjoy the appreciation when they go ahead and ‘show off’. (Not covering is automatically ‘showing off’ or even consent)
Those who hold this view have been questioned by women and media for making statements like, “I love women!!” and clearly didn’t get why this was found offensive by some women. It wasn’t even about women. It was about what men loved. What kind of skin colours, hair volume and texture, clothing etc they preferred in women. What makes women attractive (to men). What women should do to win a man’s approval. Isn’t it awesome/fortunate to be born women in a world where men just can’t do without women.
This view does not talk about rights or respect and generally views male attention and approval as empowering for women.
3. A third kind of objectification is the blatant objectification where women and women’s bodies are viewed as man’s properties and dangerous for social harmony and are best kept covered, locked up, denied voices and rights. This view is generally criticised and those who hold it are viewed by all, including the other two above, as misogynists.
But for those who hold this view of women, there is no other way of life.Their honor lies in ensuring their cows, homes, women, crops etc are kept safe from other men. It’s all about men. Men own everything including women and their lives and their bodies.
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Finally here’s a comment that comes close to what Deepikia Padukone probably feels.
I am astonished by TOI tweet. Would you react same if your genitals are being discussed in public.
I wonder if all those who don’t understand, would be fine if the parts of their bodies or lives and choices that are ‘not covered’ were to be viewed as ‘flaunting’ and were open to public scrutiny, leering, commenting and judgment. Though ofcourse their preferences are no reason for Deepika or anybody else to tolerate the same.
What do you think?
Why do societies get away with women being denied the ownership of their own bodies, covered, uncovered, attractive or unappealing (to men)?