The notion that women and their bodies are systemically viewed as mere objects or commodities to be looked at, judged, and indeed sold and exchanged is a fundamental aspect of feminist theory; similarly, the idea that women are persistently objects of the “male gaze” and often internalize this as a means of self-surveillance and scrutiny is central to feminist thought Likewise, upon my introduction to feminist discourse in the introductory women’s and gender studies course, I found this issue exceptionally interesting and pertinent. That is, I had often felt that my perceived worth and character were reduced to my appearance and that I was often concerned with how I appeared to others, while suppressing my own feelings and awareness. For me, the concept of the “male gaze” and female objectification was almost monumental in scope, as the theory rationalized feelings that even I had difficulty identifying and managing.
This week’s reading was further illuminating, as the authors discussed means and implications of female objectification that I had not considered, yet surely experienced myself. When reflecting on the gendering of body comportment and movement, for example, Young asserts that women’s embodiment is often “self-referred,” in that women view themselves as the object of movement rather than the source of that movement. I myself experience this corporeal objectification, as I often feel unsure of my ability to wholly manipulate and control my body. Similarly, in her article, Lee continuously suggests that women’s experience’s with menstruation and puberty involves feelings of objectification, as the subjects of her study often alluded to experiencing alienation from their bodies after the onset of menstruation, referring to their periods as something happening to them, rather than an extension of their bodily functions. Also, respondents implied that their experiences with puberty and menarche were often marked by feelings of being looked at in a more sexualized, objectified manner.
I was impressed—although, dejectedly so—by how pervasive objectification of the female body is and in how many different ways women internalize this objectification. I realize that objectification is not limited to the representations of women in media or women’s compulsion to lose weight, but indeed in the ways women—including myself—live through our bodies. Furthermore, I found Young’s assessment of the implications of this lived objectification discouraging, albeit compelling. Relying on the impressions of Merleau-Ponty, Young suggests that because women exist effectively—or perceive their existence—as mere objects in the world, they deny their subjectivity and are incapable of obtaining full transcendence. I feel that it is principally important to realize one’s full potential and “engage in the world’s possibilities,” and, accordingly, view this idea of women’s suspended, ambiguous transcendence wholly disheartening and even dangerous.