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Creating Change Tangent 2: Objectification

2010.March.19

[Fourth in the Creating Change series]

Beyond Our Eyes, Beyond Our Mouths

There’s an infinitely long list of things humanity is as yet incapable of comprehending. Some would begin this list with theology (though it never stops people from trying) or cosmology (or cosmologists–who the fuck came up with that superstring nonsense anyway?), but I think there are even more immediate examples of our fragile understanding–like the sheer volume of cues we draw from our senses, process, and incorporate into decision-making without really “thinking” about them.

Take, for example, the complicated relationship between what we see and whom we desire. In our highly sexualized society, every visual cue carries with it a thousand (or a million, or a billion… you’re welcome to count, but I’m not waiting) connotations of geometry, biology, reproduction, morality, entertainment, ecstasy, history, politics, heartbreak, cosmetology, and Friday-night planning. And even the most complex of minds can usually pare it all down enough to rate someone–based purely on visual cues–as a “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”.

I suspect that the visual component of attraction is something we will not be able to overcome so long as we are corporeal beings with visual perception (that’s a long fucking time). To eradicate objectification is a different scope than to reduce or redefine it, and I believe the latter to be much more achievable and desirable. If we cannot completely eradicate female body objectification, then we must counter its prevalence with offsetting objectification of male and gender-nonconforming (GNC) bodies.

My instinct as an activist says that GNC/T/IS/GF/GQ/gender-etc. bodies should not be objectified so soon or so thoroughly as cismale bodies; these persons are significantly more vulnerable politically and most likely to be minstrel-ized by objectifiers (e.g., mainstream entertainment). But then my heart says if someone is an exhibitionist (and most-but-not-all of the GNC people I’ve met are), let them be themselves; and my desire is clear that if a GNC person takes off zir shirt, I damn sure won’t be telling the person to put it back on!

Most importantly, since I don’t identify as any of these myself, I should STFU and let that community’s members decide these things for themselves. This is the difference between developing one’s awareness of societal inequalities and developing solutions for them. I should, in good conscience, be aware of heteronormative discrimination and how it affects real, living people. But I have no business telling the people affected by it how to deal with it. If there is a way in which I can play a role, I should be asked rather than trying to assume The White Hetero’s Burden. I must treat the issue like a friend who wants to cry on my shoulder: until I know for certain that ze wants my help and I can give it, the best thing I can do is pay attention and listen in solidarity.

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One comment

  1. The reason most men stumble on answering the apprehensive question of, “What do you love about me,” is due to a lack of internal understanding. I know for myself, that the greatest mystery I have faced in life is self-understanding. We have a convoluted consciousness that is tightly integrated to an even more convoluted system of involuntary processes. I think that being progressive in the immediate “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” judgment simply just yields substantially more “maybes.”



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