Okay, so imagine you’re looking at a picture of a woman in her underwear. Now, of course, the first thing that comes into your head is: “Is this woman being sexually objectified?” Because, obviously, if she is you’re going to stop looking at her immediately. (Right?) But if, instead, the woman in the photo is being sexually empowered, then it’s your duty (as a good feminist, or feminist ally) to keep looking. Even if she’s ugly and you’re busy. But, how can you tell the difference between sexual empowerment and sexual objectification? Well, just ask your friends at Everyday Feminism!
Apparently feminism has become so confusing that even feminists don’t know what’s feminist anymore. But Everyday feminists apparently do — and they’ve provided us with a handy cheat sheet so we don’t accidentally objectify someone who was trying to be empowered, or empower someone who was trying to be objectified.
The way to tell the difference, according to Everyday Feminism, is to figure out who has the power. “If the person being ‘looked at,’ or sexualized, has the power in the situation, then they are sexually empowered.” Here’s an example: “if someone puts on ‘sexy’ clothing and goes out in public or takes a selfie and shares it, they have the power because they chose themselves to put on those clothes.”
Oh, okay, I get it. So, if a woman chooses to put on “sexy” clothes and go out in public then all the catcalls and inappropriate comments and unwanted marriage proposals are empowering because she chose to put on those clothes. Oh, and also if she takes a “sexy” selfie and posts it on Instagram, all the comments about how she’s a “slut” and a “whore” and should “put her clothes on” are also empowering because she chose to share that photo. (I’m learning so much!)
But wait! Apparently beauty standards “compel” some people to wear sexy clothing “because they believe that they won’t be beautiful” otherwise. And there are even some people who feel they must not wear sexy clothing “because they are shamed if they do.”
So even if you think you put on those clothes of your own free will, it’s possible that society was actually hiding in your closet handing you things to put on (which is creepy) and that’s why you dressed all sexy (or not sexy). Which means that even though you thought you were empowered, it turns out you’re actually being objectified. And if you choose not to dress in the way you wanted to dress because society tells you that society was telling you it was wrong, then you’re empowered because you’re doing what someone else told you not to do about what someone else told you to do. (This makes total sense. I’m such a good feminist!)
But what about people who don’t dress “sexy”? Don’t worry, they can be objectified too. “Even a person who is ‘modestly’ dressed can objectified if the ‘looking’ person makes a non-sexual situation sexual without the ‘looked at’ person’s consent.” Oh good, for a minute there I thought “modestly dressed” people were being excluded from objectification and was worried because I know exclusion is wrong and we shouldn’t do it. Phew! Glad that even people who don’t want to be objectified still can be.
Now we get into the very important area of fictional characters and whether or not they are able to “give consent” to being looked at sexually. Apparently the answer to this is “no” because they are fictional and fictional people aren’t real and only real people can give consent. But I guess they can still have their feelings hurt if we look at them sexually and, since they’re not real and can’t give consent, we shouldn’t objectify them even though they’re not actually real and don’t have feelings which makes them a lot like… well… objects. Let’s move on.
We also need to consider “sex workers” who may actually be very empowered because sex work is “so lucrative.” So having sex with someone you don’t actually want to have sex with becomes empowering if you get money for it. Got that guys? If you’re trying to get a girl to have sex with you and she says no, don’t tell her she’s beautiful or sexy or anything like that. No. That would be objectifying. Try offering her some money to have sex with you instead. Now that’s empowerment.
Wow, feminism is confusing. Good thing we have Everyday Feminism to tell us whether or not we’re being objectified. Because, remember, it’s all about who has the power. So just listen to the feminists. They’ll tell you exactly how to behave, and how to act, and how to dress, and you’ll be so empowered! Hooray!