After several drunken post-exams conversations, I’ve had numerous women finally pluck up the courage to ask me how can I be a feminist and the college women’s officer when I like to dress in corsets, pencil skirts, tiny dresses and miniskirts. The truth is I simply do not subscribe to the idea that I am somehow objectifying myself for the benefit of men when I decide that I’d rather like to wear a catwoman fancy dress costume over dressing as a parcel at Christmas. The fact that it has been suggested that I am putting myself in the place of a ‘thing’, object or dehumanising myself, is quite frankly insulting as it suggests that I have no will or understanding of the way the world works. I’m an educated woman; I know exactly what I am doing when I go out. I know that man buying me a drink has no interest in my personality, life story or what I’m studying. Yet I don’t have any interest in him either, I’m just out having a good time and getting a free drink. To be honest, what business is it of yours anyway?
Anyone can stand in front of me and tell me that I am degrading myself by wearing risqué clothing but in doing so you are judging me and placing yourself on a pedestal. Both women and men will buy into this sexualised culture, yet many feminists would be quick to consider me as misguided and essentially a victim. In reality, the moment that the label of being ‘objectified’ is presented to a woman by a feminist group, the woman is alienated from feminism and her self-esteem is damaged. Although feminists do not intend to isolate women from their cause, they fall into this trap by readily applying terms such as objectification without considering that the individual woman may her own reasons for dressing or acting the way she does. Furthermore, even if the individual is being exploited sexually for whatever reason, emphasising this serves more damage than good to her self-image. If organisations such as ‘Object’ really want to tackle objectification of women in the media as a whole, why do they not promote alternative career paths to the vast numbers of young girls whose only ambition is to be a famous model? Charging into newsagents, sabotaging magazines and shouting at playboy bunnies allows the media and the rest of the world to undermine feminism as a whole by printing derogatory articles and making the usual ‘hairy feminist’ jokes. As a former photographic model, I still have friends that make their living from being photographed in what most people would consider a sexually provocative manner. Their reaction to ‘Object’ shouting outside the opening night of the new playboy club in London? Many were offended, hurt and disgusted. I saw lots of posts on social networking sites stating that the women in Object were judging them and insulting them. The conclusion to these posts was to dismiss the concept of objectifcation entirely and they joined in with the media attack on feminism.
So if objectification is truly a serious feminist issue, it is time that feminists stopped insulting the women that indulge in this sexualised culture and consider how women can encourage one another to explore the heights of their ability beyond their looks.