Studies have shown most women (over 90%) don’t like all or parts of their bodies, which creates insecurity and distress. I (Jennifer Hollinshead) am a counsellor and struggle on and off with self-objectification and see so many of my clients, friends and family members struggling.
This article is all about how to change that.
First, What is objectification?
Objectification is the act of treating a human being (often women) as an object, a tool for the objectifier’s purposes, or something to be owned. Here is a more thorough definition of objectification but suffice to say, it’s not helpful for the people being objectified (or the objectifiers).
The majority of objectification happens to women in this society, and just-so-happens to make huge corporations a lot of money. If women weren’t objectified, billions of dollars would be lost. Industries like the media, fashion, cosmetics, fitness, and diet/weight loss all profit from our emotional, physical, mental and financial losses.
What is self-objectification?
When we live in a society that objectifies women, it makes sense that these messages will seep in and we’ll start to objectify ourselves. Self-objectification is when we start to see ourselves from an over-critical external observer’s perspective. What’s worse, the objectifying messages in our society are so pervasive, self-objectification can become an all-encompassing, often debilitating experience. We spend more time worrying about the way our body looks and less time pursuing our passions, engaging in healthy activity and lifestyle, and spending time with loved ones.
Here’s an article that shows women who are more preoccupied with their appearances are less likely to be involved in gender-based social activism (which means that fewer women are fighting to stop objectification and oppression- not a great cycle- maybe even a vicious one).
What We Can do About it: Self-Objectification Resilience
Two amazing, empowering women (who happen to be identical twins) both wrote their PhD dissertations on their theory of Self-Objectification Resilience (SOR): the idea that we can resist and shift our ideas despite being objectified.
Lindsay and Lexie Kite outline four resilient traits that contribute to Self-Objectification Resilience:
- Self-Actualization- the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.
- Self-Compassion- being warm to oneself, recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience, and approaching thoughts and feelings with mindfulness
- Embodied Empowerment- the ability to understand and use your body as something that can move, do, and be outside the confines of being looked at (thinking of your body as a HUMAN BODY, not a bunch of parts that are acceptable or unacceptable).
- Feminist Beliefs- feminist perspectives celebrate diversity among women,
provide ways to interpret the limiting objectification of the female body, unite instead of divide women, and give them strategies for resistance from oppressive ideals
They’ve created a non-profit organization called Beauty Redefined to help women increase SOR and improve their quality of life. Their site has TONS of great (and free!) information. If you find the information helpful, they even have an 8-week online course to increase your SOR and redefine your relationship with your body.
Photo by Vino Li