For this project I have decided to address the issue of the superfluous sexualisation of women. Women are constantly depicted in popular culture as sexual objects, and this has influenced the way that we as a society – as creators, viewers and consumers of popular culture – see women. Women everywhere are perceived as vessels for the relief of sexual desire, whether or not they have sought to be sexualised in this way.
It is my point of view that a woman should be allowed to express her sexuality. If she wishes to model lingerie, wear tight clothing in order to show off her figure, or pose nude, she should be allowed to. It is her choice how she displays her body. It is when her body is displayed in a sexualised manner without her consent that a problem arises. If the way a woman dresses is perceived as sexually provocative despite the woman wanting to remain desexualised, there is a problem.
The problem is that we (society) have begun to see “sexiness” where there is none.
At the heart of this problem is the media. The cosmetics, fashion, and porn industries are constantly circulating imagery depicting “ideal women”. These women have been surgically altered and/or digitally edited to create and promote a “perfect” body image – which is, in reality, unattainable -in order to sell us products. This mass advertising has desensitised us; we are no longer surprised to see, scattered throughout our everyday lives, billboards and posters that feature enlarged pictures of the female anatomy, reinforcing the body image that every women should aim to have. This has caused us to develop the notion that women exist simply for decoration; that a woman is simply “parts” made for exhibition, rather than a whole being. When we see a woman as “parts” instead of an entire individual, it is much easier to objectify her.
When a woman is objectified, she loses ownership of her body. Objectification makes possible the attempt to trivialise and justify sexual assault; one cannot sexually assault an object, or something we only see as “parts”, because sexual assault is something exacted upon another individual. This mindset is evident in the common treatment of women that one would observe in any ordinary situation; walking through an urban neighbourhood, for example. Making sleazy comments, casually groping a woman, leering, wolf-whistles, and catcalls, are all actions directed at women that are overlooked and considered to be a ‘normal’ way of life. What’s worse is that this demeaning treatment has no age constraint; women of all ages, as well as adolescent girls, are targeted.
The sexualisation of adolescents is an ever-increasing problem. Child modelling – which places underage girls in skimpy underwear and suggestive poses – is fast becoming more acceptable (popular, even), as are similar representations of young girls in popular culture. This kind of media portrayal pressures girls into thinking they should be more like women and less like children while still at a very young age, which makes them believe it is okay for them to be sexualised in the same way that women are.
So why does this unwanted sexualisation of females continue? Is it because women in general are afraid to protest the social norms that tell them they need public validation to have any worth? Is it because sexualisation has become such a normal thing to do that it’s no longer seen as a problem? I hope to create an item of visual activism that not only contains the answer to this question, but provides a stepping stone towards finding the solution to the problems which arise when we leave such a question unanswered.