So I said this at work this morning and was kind of surprised by the reaction. “Oh so the feminist movement of the 70’s was worth nothing then.”
Objectification is not a social ill in and of itself, as with most things, it depends on how you do it. I don’t think screaming out “nice tits” at a woman on the street is ever appropriate. I also don’t think many people want to be objectified all the time, as a woman facing a constant barrage of objectification that is so in your face is incredibly wearying. I don’t believe that the answer to this is to simply say that objectification is evil in and of itself and we should never ever do it.
Objectification becomes bad when constantly in every day life you are not seen as a person, just the sum of your parts, something (not even someone) to use. Objectification is bad when it is something others impose on me, when it interferes with how people see me in a professional setting, or any other setting where I should not be seen as an object. First and foremost I am a human being.
Objectification does not have to be something vulgar, or rude, or disgusting, although there have been many times where I have been objectified and it has been such. I objectify people as well as being objectified myself. When I choose to be objectified in someways it is taking the power back from people who have objectified me when I did not choose it. I remember that all people are human beings and that objectifying someone is not necessarily a compliment. If you can remember that all people are human beings first, even when you objectify them, I think you go a long way to destroying the negativity of objectification.
Furthermore When we say that all objectification is bad we also say that those who choose to make their living by being objectified or who choose to be objectified at any time are bad. This often turns into the idea that they deserve anything bad that happens to them because they should not have chosen to be objectified like that in the first place. This feeds into rape culture.
So yes I believe that objectification is OK sometimes. Choosing to be seen as an object purposefully rather than having it happen outside of my control has been something that has been quite liberating to me and it has been my feminism that has allowed me to critically view how I see objectification. To question my feminist identity like that over something I have thought deeply about rather than to challenge my view on a discursive level is not helpful.
It is obviously in a function of my privilege that I can mostly choose when I want to be objectified, but I believe my experience is a valid one and is not unique.