Internalized objectification, self-objectification, female self-objectification … call it what you will. It’s seeing ourselves as sex objects for male sexual pleasure, and we need to talk about it NOW.
While the sexual objectification of women is well-understood by most, female self-objectification is an entirely different concept that remains largely unknown. The theory underpinning female self-objectification is that being regularly exposed to objectifying experiences socially conditions girls and women to engage in female self-objectification. This means that women accept being viewed as sex objects worth the value of their combined body parts, and they internalize this depersonalization.
When we, as women, start internalizing and accepting the beliefs which our society projects upon us, self-objectification ensues.
Female self-objectification is a direct consequence of societal sexual objectification of women. Perceiving ourselves as sexual objects leads us to develop self-consciousness, or the habitual monitoring of how our body appears outwardly. Internalizing our society’s sexual objectification practices and engaging in habitual body monitoring creates a disturbance in our consciousness. This pervades our emotional, attentional and motivational states.
In her 2013 TED Talk exploring the harmful impact of sexual objectification, Caroline Heldman noted that the average woman engages in habitual body monitoring every 30 seconds. According to Heldman, the more we as women internalize sexual objectification by viewing ourselves as sex objects, the higher our rates of the following are:
- Body imagine issues and eating disorders
- Depressed cognitive functioning (Habitual body monitoring takes away time from cognitive functioning.)
- Sexual dysfunction (We impede our own sexual pleasure and enjoyment by engaging in “spectatoring” during sexual activity)
- Decreases our self-esteem
- Decreases our academic grades
- Decreases our political efficacy (the belief that we have a voice in politics)
- Decreases our ability to build rapport and make connections with other women as we engage in female competition
Female self-objectification is the result of women internalizing societal sexual objectification. Our society has conditioned girls and women to see themselves through the eyes of men as sex objects or body parts for male sexual pleasure. Self-objectification leads women to engage in self-surveillance which causes significant psychological affects and potential mental health risks.
We’ve created a female population that is practically incapable of self-love and self-acceptance. While this continues, the world will never fully benefit from the full and amazing insights and perceptions of women. It’s time to put a stop to this harmful culture, once and for all. It’s time to let women shine.