In a world driven by Social Media the lines between Empowerment and Objectification can be blurred and it can be difficult to identify which is which and what behaviours you are actually engaging in? The Blossom Guide endeavours to support young women to understand the differences between Empowerment and Objectification so they can make informed choices. So, what are the differences and how do you know if you are in fact objectifying yourself?
Back in the day, when I was a teenager (I cringe as I say that) it was perhaps easier to see what Objectification was? I saw it as the models laying it all bare in lad’s magazines like Zoo, Ralph and FHM or Christina Aguilera shaking it in her ‘Dirty’ music video it was clear what behaviours or attitudes were pushing the envelope to gain attention, success or affirmation from an audience. In a nutshell Objectification can be defined as
· Treating people as an object or thing
· Treating people as if they have no thoughts, ideas or opinions of their own
· Judging someone on how they look
This may sound quiet dramatic but let me explain
Do you judge people on purely how they look?
Do you judge yourself on purely how you look?
Lets simply start here, this can be objectification as we are not viewing ourselves or others as a whole person rather as our outer shell, what we look like and what ‘we appear to be’. When we are scrolling through Instagram and looking at famous models or influencer’s we are seeing picture perfect images rather than individuals’ goals, inner most thoughts, personalities and quirks. In turn this can make us want to present picture-perfect versions of ourselves with no real depth or layers. This is one part of Objectification so what is Empowerment? Empowerment can be defined as
· To have power and authority over ourselves
· To enable or permit ourselves to do what we want
· To work towards reaching our goals
· Believing in ourselves
This is the complete opposite to Objectification and if we are to compare it with our Social Media example above being Empowered would be posting an image no matter what you look like and posting just because you want to or you like the image. But why would I post an ugly picture of myself you ask? How could that be Empowerment? Empowerment is looking good and feeling good, at least that’s what we have been told.
Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajowski pioneer this version of Empowerment, they post uber sexy shots, naked selfies and teeny tiny bikinis all under the banner of Empowerment. They have millions of followers, brand endorsements and opportunities you could only dream of, so if I were coming of age in this social media landscape, I too would take on this version of Empowerment. Not only do they post ‘bangin’ images they have the language and messages to go with it, Em Rata is an intellectual chic and underneath that topless shot you will usually find some clever feminist rhetoric. Below is a statement from Kim
“I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I hope that through this platform I have been given I can encourage some empowerment for girls and women all over the world”
Sounds great doesn’t it, sounds like a train you would want to be on?
This is where the lines are blurred socially Kim is seen as a ‘sex symbol’ and when she went to the White House last year to meet with the President about law reform most of the world laughed at her, because we objectify her and don’t expect her to be in that political arena. Most of her images are about beauty, fashion and body image so when we hear her speak of something different it doesn’t really make sense to us. So, while Empowerment is a personal choice, and feeling hot can be great, making it our utmost and lifelong goal can have detrimental effects.
Another example is actress Megan Fox, and uber babe who starred in the Transformer and Ninja Turtle Movies, Megan is that classic action gal think comic book icon, dark brunette hair, crystal blue eyes and cut off shorts on a motor bike, yet I was intrigued to read an article where Megan described herself as a nerd, an intellectual and if she had her way she would be reading news for Vice an alternative news site, she described however that because she had been classed as an action babe she found it difficult to land quirky and independent roles she truly desired, she had been pigeon holed.
Now, just because you post sexy shots doesn’t mean you should be pigeon holed but if that’s all you focus on and all you post this is in fact objectification and you do run the risk of people treating you as an object, judging you on purely how you look and perhaps treating you as if you have no thoughts or opinions of your own. We are multi faceted human beings with many sides, that we CAN share with the world we don’t want to limit ourselves by only focusing on one being the outside, essentially our looks. So, lets conclude with how do you know if you are objectifying yourself and what can you do about it?
How do you know if you are objectifying yourself?
· Do you primarily focus on what you look like?
· Do you post images online to get positive attention from others?
· Do you change your appearance to impress others?
· Do you repress yourself and what you truly believe to appear a certain way?
· Do you judge yourself based on how you think other people may be viewing you?
How to stop self-objectifying?
· Do not focus on solely what you look like
Take pride in your appearance but try not to solely focus on what you look like. Some days, you may feel great your skin is glowing, tummy feels flat enjoy this but do not make it the centre of the universe or who you are. Some days you may not be feeling good, blemishes and bad hair, who cares you can enjoy yourself this day too.
· Try to stop judging others purely on what they look like
I am guilty of this! Try to not judge others purely on how they look either, like your class mate who always looks perfect or Aussie models Elyse Knowles and Steph Claire Smith who seem to appear as perfect off camera as they do in front of it. Remember they are just people too and have their off days, its only a perception they are promoting. Plus, if it gets too much take yourself offline for a while!
· Focus on your goals
This may sound silly, but you’re not going to remember how hot you were in Year 10 when you are on your death bed. Focus on your goals what do you really want from this life? To be happy, creative, to achieve in certain areas such as sport of politics. If we focus on our goals it is harder to objectify ourselves or others as we are viewing the whole person.
· Focus on who you are as a person
Something I never focused on as a young woman was who I really was? At the core? As a person? It is so important and something you can do straight away. Who are you? What makes you tick? Some examples may be
· I am kind
· I am caring
· I have a great sense of humour
· I feel strongly about animal welfare
· I value my family
· I am passionate
Etc, etc, the list can go on, please give yourself the time and space to think about this one.
· Take care off yourself
When I talk about not objectifying ourselves, I am by no means telling you not to care how you look, what I am suggesting is caring for yourself deeply within which will then inevitably shine on the outside. You would have seen people who just look so darn happy their eyes beam, that’s what I am talking about. So, take care of yourself
· Wash your face properly
· Move your body
· Spend time with positive people
· Do something you love every day
· Eat well
The road to true empowerment is not something that happens overnight, I am still working on it! Rather the more we try to limit objectifying ourselves the more we move in the right direction. I truly hope this article has been of assistance to you or opened your eyes to topics you may have never thoughts of before. Please follow The Blossom Guide as I will be sharing much more useful content this year.
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Founder: The Blossom Guide: A young woman’s guide to empowerment