Quick! Who is Nikki Haley?
No clue? Okay. How about Lene Vestergaard Hau?
Still no? Well, then who is Marta Vieira Da Silva?
Drew a blank, right? That’s okay–you’re not alone. Probably very few people would know who any of these women are.
So let’s try a different set of names.
Who is Angelina Jolie?
Who is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley?
Who is Jennifer Lopez?
My guess is that you drew a blank on the first three women. They are as follows:
- Nikki Haley: the current, and first woman, Governor of South Carolina
- Lene Hau: a current woman physicist who was able to slow light…then stop it altogether
- Marta Vieira Da Silva: one of the greatest soccer players of all time…and she happens to be a woman.
The second three were probably easier–I’m sure you knew at least two of these women:
- Angelina Jolie: actress, “sexiest woman in the world” in 2005
- Rosie Huntington-Whiteley: Victoria’s Secret Supermodel and actress, “sexiest woman in the world” in 2011
- Jennifer Lopez: singer, another “sexiest woman in the world” in 2011
Sure, I can see why you might say I’m a bit of a cheat. I named three of the most famous women in the entertainment field. Who wouldn’t know their names? But ask yourself this: why is it that they are so famous? What makes these three stand out? Aside from some films and music, what are these three–Angelina, Rosie, and JLo–known for?
They’re known, they’re incredibly famous, for their looks. Each one has won the title “Sexiest woman in the world” from various publications. It’s not all about their accomplishments. It’s about their bodies.
That’s what objectification is all about.
So what can we do about it? How do we change things so that “sexy” and “hot” are no longer the most desirable traits women can have, and instead move to “smart” and “capable”?
It has to start now, and it has to start with each one of us. We have to be the ones to guide our kids–yes, both girls and boys–into a new understanding of how to relate to, and think about, girls and women. We want girls to stop buying into the body trap, to stop thinking it’s all about their looks, and to stop handing their power and their self-confidence over to those who would exploit them.
We also need to help other women, and men, understand that judging someone on their appearance, on their body, is wrong. Reducing a person to a face or a body turns them into an object, a piece of meat for the consumption of a select group of people who lack basic respect for the dignity and personhood of women.
So how do we do it?
There are a number of things we can each do within our own families, schools, and communities to build up the self-respect and power of our girls and, by extension, our women.
The first and most easy is to start having #TheConversation with our girls and boys, which I discussed in the Monday Challenge. Start talking about the roles girls play, and how they are treated by boys and each other. Talk about the sex-centric ads in the magazines, and discuss how women are portrayed in the media. Talk about body image, and really listen to the girls (and the boys, too) in your life as they tell you what it’s like for them out there now.
If you have been following the Twitter feed for #TheConversation, spearheaded by Ashley Judd, you probably know where to start; if not, take a look there. It is enlightening.
The second thing to do is to watch the video, below, from “Miss Representation“. From the Miss Representation “About Us” page:
The film Miss Representation exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality. It’s time to break that cycle of mistruths.
In response we created MissRepresentation.org, a call-to-action campaign that seeks to empower women and girls to challenge limiting media labels in order to realize their potential.
We are uniting individuals around a common, meaningful goal to spark millions of small actions that ultimately lead to a cross-generational movement to eradicate gender stereotypes and create lasting cultural and sociological change.
The trailer for the film is below, and it is an eye-opener. Give it the 2 minutes and 48 seconds it will take for you to watch the clip. Then explore the website. You can even find a screening of the full film near you.
It’s time we change the mindset; don’t we want our girls to be strong, smart, capable, and self-assured? Don’t we want our boys to be kind, compassionate men who don’t look at women and judge them solely by their looks?
We can change societal expectations–but it takes each of us to stand up and make that happen.
Enjoy the video. Share it with your kids, your friends, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren, your school. You won’t be sorry you did!