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 The personal is political

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Join date : 2009-05-16

PostSubject: The personal is political   Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:17 pm

In traditional patriarchy, woman serves the man. She bends to his wishes. He dominates. There is a sexual double standard. Equally dangerous and often alongside is hatred toward she which he dominates. Her body, her female sexuality, is disconnected from her person-hood. She is not seen in a complete human manner, as the male is. Instead she is a conglomeration of breasts, ass, genitals, mouth. Says feminist Andrea Dworkin, “It is the best system of colonization on earth: she takes on the burden, the responsibility, of her own submission, her own objectification”.1

Dworkin addresses this disconnect in Leo Tolstoy's short story, The Kreutzer Sonata. A man murders his wife, and then justifies his actions to a stranger on the train. He speaks of his repulsion for his wife, his right to use her body for sex and his long-standing torment by “woman, not any particular woman but woman as a sweet something, woman, any woman – woman in her nakedness”.2

The man muses later that “the slavery of woman consists in precisely this, that men desire to take advantage of her as an instrument of enjoyment, and consider it right to do they emancipate women, they give her all rights the same as to men, but they still continue to look on her as an instrument of enjoyment, and so they educate her with this end in view, both in childhood and by public opinion. But all the time she is just the same dissolute slave as before, and her husband is just the same kind of dissolute slave owner.”

“They emancipate women in the colleges and in the law courts, but they look on her still as an object of enjoyment. Train her as she is trained among us, to regard herself in this light, and she will always remain a lower creature”.3

The killer speaks about the power game played between the genders: virginity is the ideal for a woman. When she falls from that place, she becomes a sexual object. She has a sort of power over men through her sexuality. Men want sex. She holds the keys. As the man explains, “on the one hand woman is reduced to the lowest stage of humiliation; while on the other, she is queen...(thus woman says to man) 'Ah, you want us to be merely the objects of sensuality; very well, we as objects of sensual pleasure will make you our slaves”.4 This dynamic fuels the killer's rage toward women in general, his wife in particular.

This is traditional patriarchy, this conglomeration of sexualized body parts. This is also modern advertising. Equality between genders is not in the dynamic. The man both loves and hates the woman who controls him through her body. He sees her as a body to control, to fuck, to obtain and have power over. She has power to lure and seduce through her body. But in the end, she is seen only as this body...used and then discarded.5

Tolstoy's story is only one example of power play that happens in the game of objectification. In this game, women play hard and often hard to get, but in the end, lose. As one sociologist commented, “there stretches a fascination with woman-as-thing, who mimics a commodity...the figure of the whore remained an allegory for the transformation of objects, the world of things, while the flaneur embodied the transformation of perception characteristic of modern subjectivity”.6 The woman becomes a thing to possess, to buy, to control. She as a woman might choose her job freely (or not), but the industry itself is based on satisfying male needs, and what I will call here, the male gaze. The man is the subject, the woman the object.

This focus on female beauty propagates female weakness. The triviality of image becomes central and subsequently serves also to isolate and pit women against one another. The incessant quest for beauty, Rita Freedman writes, "alienates women from their own bodies, breeding insecurity and self-rejection."7


Five trends in advertising reflect this situation: bondage, rape, sluts, girl-on-girl, cum shots (or the crude image of women covered by male orgasm). Advertisers use images that focus on male pleasure. And usually it is a one-sided affair. The woman gives, the man receives.9


Women's bodies continue on in this patriarchal spotlight of the male gaze in the media. Fashion and media, writer Karen Lehrman muses, just exploit "male desires, and perhaps more important, women's competitive drive to satisfy male desires."11 Now as before, women's bodies are observed and evaluated. Like well-paid courtesans, the most beautiful are rewarded with money and fame. These bodies set impossible standards for what the rest of us must look like or replace.


Gender studies professor Hugo Schwyzer expands on this idea: “This fashion industry, in so many ways, is directly linked to women's oppression. From the exploitation of Third World women in sweatshops, to the extreme self-denying behavior it encourages in its models, to the negative messages it sends to young women about their bodies, the makers and marketers of women's clothing profit from suffering”.13

Many agree that prostitution epitomizes the turning of women into object and commodity: use of a woman's body in exchange for money. The beauty industry uses female models in the same way. And like a slobbering monster with its insatiable hunger, its jaw always drools for more women to consume – the innocent young virgin or her mother, hardened by years of chemical peels and dashed hopes in a bottle of product.

1. Dworkin, 1988, 142.
2. Tolstoy, 2004, 159.
3. Tolstoy, 182.
4. Tolstoy, 168.
5. Dworkin, 139-140.
6. Day, 2007, 124.
7. Freedman, 1986, 96.
9. Leo,, 2008.
11. Lehrman, 72, 1997.
13. Schwyzer,, 2009.
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MK Knudsen

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PostSubject: Re: The personal is political   Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:37 pm

..............both intrigued and amazed reading your exploration & critique of women and the marketing thereof (Objectification) A voice to be viewed amidst the sea of glossy advertising from Post-It's to BMW's. I applaud the comparison between models & those employed in sweatshops...............what have we learned?
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PostSubject: Re: The personal is political   Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:28 pm

Until women are included in the creative process in advertising, we will continue to see these types of communications. Women in advertising tend to work as project managers, and the men create the ideas for ads. It is very difficult to fight a roomful of men who think it is funny to stick a post-it (how humiliating) on the forehead of a women - and I am surprised that women who see the ads to not protest LOUDLY! Oh, yeah... if they protest, we call them silly cows (even the women - we can be so cruel to each other in order to score man-points). Obviously women are not seen as consumers of anything but cosmetics and clothing... and in our world, it's all about who consumes what...

The focus on female beauty focuses on pre-pubesence. No body hair, no facial hair, no pussy smells, no sweat under the arms. No real desire, and no passion.
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PostSubject: Re: The personal is political   Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:15 pm

I think that one insightful way of looking at the exploration of women in the advertising world is through Jungian psychology.
Take for instance the BMW advertisement. In the collective book “Man and His Symbols”, M. L. von Franz mentions how often men tend to project their “anima” on their cars: the “feminization” of this object, and the care and attention that they can devote to it.
Although I am not a psychologist, I think that it is very important to realize that as long we are not aware of some elements of our psyche, e.g. men of their “anima” and women of their “animus”; we “project” them, i.e. we search for them outside ourselves. Consequently, we “objectify” people and “personify” things.
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PostSubject: Shooting in Pennsylvania   Sun Aug 16, 2009 1:44 pm

On August 3, Recently a man went into a gym in Philadelphia, PA, USA and opened fire on women in an aerobics class. He killed 4 women and then himself. His journals were found and read. In them, he spoke about not being able to connect to women, not being able to be in relation with them and his great desire to do so. He also wrote about seeing the women at the gym as looking "good enough to eat".
On one hand, this could be seen as an extreme case of social maladaption. On the other hand, it also seems a good example of a culture of objectification: a woman - in this case - being seen as greatly desired, but also as a thing admired from a distance. It's a very sad story, yes, but also one result, I think of the US culture of exploitation and image.
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