Male Objectification Does Not Compare
Nov 14, 2016
Once a year, People magazine releases its Sexiest Man Alive issue, in which they bestow the designation upon one of Hollywood’s most conventionally attractive men. The partnership between People and the Sexiest Man is mutually beneficial, as the magazine generates a substantial amount of buzz, as does the Sexiest Man, who also tends to coincidentally have a movie or album out around the time of his win. Meanwhile, a cursory glance at any newsstand at any given time reveals a vast array of magazines adorned with images of scantily-clad — if clad at all — women with tantalizing headlines that promise even more inside. Often, the women on these magazines like Playboy or GQ are nameless models, faces and bodies without an identity. In both of these scenarios, a person is being objectified. To reduce any person to essentially their physical appearance alone is wrong. That said, the latter situation is far more damaging and insidious than the former.
So widespread is the dominance of men that society begins to tune it out. To see female talk show hosts jokingly admire and praise a man’s body is inherently operating on a certain level of irony. Audiences laugh at this simply because the standard is being subverted, and it is so startling that it’s funny. Hop on to any subway train and chances are some of the ads will be for plastic surgeons, punctuated with suggestive photos of women along with sharp language designed to make them feel inferior. For women, there is simply no escape from the knowledge that our bodies are constantly being scrutinized. There is no equivalent of this for men.
To compare the objectification of women to the objectification of men is to create a false binary. Men make up 96 percent of CEOs in the Fortune 500. White women make 75 cents on every dollar men make. The United States Senate is currently 80 percent male. Just last week, America elected a president who shames women for gaining weight and brags about grabbing them by their genitals, as if they are objects for him to claim. When a grotesquely bigoted and unqualified man is better trusted with power than a woman with a myriad of qualifications and decades of experience, it is clear that society is not operating on level ground.
Decrying the objectification of male bodies is like claiming that All Lives Matter: it is stating a generalization that is technically true while neglecting to recognize the nuance, history and differences involved. When a man is objectified, he is objectified as part of a one time event. When a woman is objectified, she is objectified by society.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, November 14th print edition. Email Annie Cohen at [email protected]