Women are not sex objects. Their role in a quality story is not to fulfill a male fantasy or act as eye candy.
Sex sells. This is no secret. When creating a marketing scheme for a product or outline for a commercial, advertisers must look at their demographic and combine it with what research shows will capture that demographics’ attention. Axe product commercials show women fawning over a man because he is wearing their products. It doesn’t matter how they feel or if they even want the man, the aroma he gives off automatically makes him desirable—if you believe the commercials.
Even products for women objectify their customer base. Victoria’s Secret commercials show their models prancing around looking like sex goddess. Viewing this does not make me want to buy their products nor does it empower me. Gatorade is more affective at empowering women by showing a healthy mix of female athletes along with male athletes.
Over the past several days, various blogs and websites have been discussing women in Star Wars and Black Widow in The Avengers. As with most conversations about women and gender, the issue of the over sexualization of women appears.
Just as children are told from a very young age, what matters is on the inside of a person. I believe that the majority does not want to read a Star Wars novel with a flighty, driven by carnal desires, flimsy woman who bows to every whim of the man she’s with because she is so overcome with lust over his manliness that she can’t see straight. Paragraphs and sentences speaking of how tight and low-cut her shirt is, how large her breasts are or how hot and bothered her mere appearance makes the men in the room isn’t the storytelling we want in our fandom.
In The Avengers, Black Widow fights in a slinky black dress at the beginning. Later on, she wears a catsuit, just like Agent Maria Hill. Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers wear normal clothes at some point and their costumes are not sexualized. Scarlett Johansson’s tight catsuit doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. It puts her character in a box that no matter how great she is, she can’t break free from if she’s treated this way.
The issue is beyond Star Wars and The Avengers. It encompasses our everyday lives. Sexual messages and behaviors are showing up younger and younger. Take a walk through the girls’ department at any clothing store. You will see shirts with cutouts in all the wrong places, low-cut necklines, short skirts and other inappropriate attire. The shoe department is just as bad. You can find heels higher than two inches made for seven-year-olds. No such problems exist in the boys’ department.
Sex finds its way into children’s shows through references and dialogue. The child may not understand it at first, but she will catch on eventually. All it takes is one child to ask another at school what it meant. The real meaning of the joke or comment will be known in minutes. Re-watching the shows we used to love as children review so much that we missed.
From a young age, women are told that we must be desirable to men. “Don’t get dirty. The boys won’t like you.” We are constantly assaulted with images of the ideal woman, of the way we should act to gain the approval of a man. We’re told to “man up” or “grow a pair” when something seems tough. These types of comments teach young girls and boys that men are, by default, tougher, stronger and superior to women and that the only way a women can compete is to act as a man.
The Hunger Games books and the movie smashed through the bestseller lists and box office. It is concrete, undisputable proof that a good quality female lead can sell. Katniss wasn’t a sex symbol. In close ups, viewers can see her facial imperfections. Capitol’s ways of transforming the tributes is seen as bizarre and unnatural. People didn’t feel for Katniss because of her appearance. It was her characterization and her story that drove her into our hearts.
Sex is a fact of life. It’s not offensive if one character considers another attractive. It’s becomes offensive when the woman’s only purpose to the story is to be a sex object. An object is not a person; it is an item. Calling someone a sex object removes her humanity.
The constant claims that women are only sex objects hurt everyone. The issue is in the hands of consumers. Stop responding favorably to sexualization. Companies respond to losses of profit. The reason so many gossip magazine exist is that they sell well. The more issues that sell, the more appealing the publication is to advertisers, thus more money the publishing company makes. If the market for gossip magazines fell, less would hit newsstands. It’s the same with sexualization. By not protesting it, it will never stop.