Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Thoughts on MacKinnon
According to MacKinnon “all women live in sexual objectification the way fish live in water” (171), an idea that comes through pretty strong in the aboutface website’s criticism of “the offenders” in the ‘gallery of offenders.’ In fact, for years, I have been taught to hate the media because of the “sexual objectification” of women that is central to most advertisements. Yet, while looking through the gallery, I couldn’t help but feel that some criticisms may be a bit too harsh. There is no doubt that women are sexually objectified and much more prominent in advertisements than men, but when male models are depicted, they too, are sexually objectified. Just as most women are not as thin as most female models, most men are not as perfectly built as most male models. It is the advertisements that depict women as both sexual and childish or women as docile or incurring violence that really upset me. For example, the advertisement that depicts a woman’s legs hanging out of the trunk of a car, I find infuriating. An advertisement where a woman is simply being sexual and is thin, however, has never angered me as much. In that sense, I believe MacKinnon’s placement of all the blame on men goes a bit too far. At the same time I am very intrigued by some of her ideas. For example, the simple statement, “what is sexual is what gives a man erection,” while perhaps an over simplification, did make me wonder about whether men can actually act sexual without making a joke of it. While men’s bodies are often sexualized in advertisements, sexual actions made by men, such as male striptease, often seem to be simply comic attempts at copying what is considered sexual female acts. Her analysis of pornography as something that “shows what men want and gives it to them” also makes me wonder if there is not a type of film that ‘shows what women want and gives it to them.’ What about romance films? Are women not taught to want and believe in unrealistic images of men just as men are taught to want and believe in unrealistic images of women? I am by no means saying that ‘chick flicks’ are as dangerous as pornography. In fact, I fully support her argument that pornography normalizes violence, hate, and oppression against women. It’s just that I believe her arguments would be more valid if she at least acknowledged that sexual inequality is not simply a one sided issue.