Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, in the time before I knew my husband and my children were just a twinkle in my eye, I dated a guy.
Let’s call him Mike.
Mike was a decent guy and we dated for quite a while. One thing about him, though, whenever Mike got together with his buddies for a fun night out they went to a little strip club they called “the Vu.”
“It’s just a fun place to go, and it’s kind of cool because we can get in even though we’re only 18,” he’d tell me. “Don’t worry, it’s harmless – it doesn’t make me feel any differently about you!”
The funny thing, in retrospect, is his “harmless” guy activity made me feel differently about myself. It made me feel like I had to be sexier, and thinner. (A reason why I flirted with an eating disorder through most of my college experience.)
I felt “less than.”
Knowing he could compare me to women who made a living based upon their pelvic thrust negatively changed the way I interacted with him. It planted a seed in my brain that in order to be loved, I needed to be an object my significant other could hold up as a trophy: the perfect package. Smart, sexy, strong!
Except, no human being should be stuffed and mounted on a wall in a trophy room.
It took me literally years to meet a guy who did not objectify women as normal part of everyday living, who didn’t lose track of his conversation with me to gawk at another woman walking by our table, idolize the boobalicious cheerleaders during football games, or think Hooters is a great place to go because it has great chicken wings.
After checking his pulse, questioning his integrity and whether he was actually telling me the truth, I realized this guy valued my character more than my long legs. He wanted to know my heart more than whether I could turn him on with a glance.
So I married him!
And he loved me out of my belief I deserved to be objectified into a certainty I offer the world more than a pretty package. His acceptance and faithfulness grew me into a more beautiful, sexy, woman than anything I ever gained in competition with a projected, false image of femininity.
Why do I care enough to tell you this story?
Mostly because of Facebook. I’ve been reading status after status of women talking about Magic Mike. Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum, male strippers, romance… women are hyperventilating all over social media about this movie.
My heart sinks.
You see, I’m trying to raise my daughters in a world where they will be valued for more than their physical appearance. I actively speak out against the sexism I’ve seen in the workplace, against gender-confining relationship expectations.
I’ve lived through the destruction of objectification. I’ve realized it’s a razor that cuts both ways… deeply. I have seen a better way with my own eyes, lived the reality of genuine admiration and its fulfillment.
I count on all women to stand together so the world as we know it will become a place where people are judged by a plethora of qualities, instead of the over riding judging factor being what type of plumbing they sport under their shorts.
But women aren’t with me on this issue. I’ve seen it with every drool over this movie critics say is far darker than anyone expects.
So I ask my sisters… Objectification feels pretty lousy when the spotlight is on our thunder thighs or flappy breasts… why is it ok to turn that unfair criticism on men?
What if your drool and unrealistic expectations are hurting the heart of the man you love – but your belly-sportin’ dude will never say it out loud? What if your son is listening to the females around him talk about sexuality and decides he’s destined to be “less than” unless he takes those steroids or acquires a six-pack?
One commenter on an article I read wrote: “I love that women have been getting objectified since the dawn of time and women enjoying ONE MOVIE that treats men like sex objects makes you declare them hypocrites. Grow a pair and let it go.”
Hear, hear! This gal has a point! Women have been objectified since the dawn of time…
But does that make turnabout fair play?
That’s not what I teach my children. If someone spits on them I don’t teach them to spit back.
What’s wrong with treating people with respect and dignity? Who is hurt by refusing to inflict the same kind of pain women have felt for eons on men?
Who really wins when we level the playing field by lowering the bar?
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