I am in a stigma and discrimination class this semester at Columbia University. In our class, one of the students discussed how women are objectified in America by men and subsequently stigmatized in society. Since the majority of my class is female, there was a lot of thoughts on the topic.
Most of the focus of the class was on how men are the source of objectification. Since we live in the remnants of a patriarchal society, it is natural to associate these attitudes towards women on the unequal power structure of which men continue to dominate. Personally, I agree that men are a major source of objectification for women. However, I also believe that women are a source of objectification as well.
Consider the magazine sections of a bookstore (I have always though that these sections are great measurements of society as a whole). What are the magazines under "Women's Interests"? Wedding magazines, diet magazines, fashion magazines, and celerity news (Perhaps this last magazine would be placed in periodicals). True, we find porn magazines under "Men's Interests", but this does not conflict with what I am trying to prove. Not only do men objectify women, but women objectify themselves and each other.
Think about fashion. Most girls choose their dress and shoes not only based on their expectations that men will objectify them on the streets, but based more on the fact that they expect to be judged by other women at the party.
When discussing this with some friends, someone remarked that this is not a girl's choice to have to wear heels, makeup and straighten hair, etc., but rather that society imposes this on them. Their argument was that women feel forced to comply to the mechanisms that objectify them, and it is hard to break out of it. On its face, I think this argument is correct. There are social pressures that force women to behave in certain ways, just as there are social pressures that make people do all sorts of things. However, her argument fails to address the source of such pressure. My argument isn't that since women objectify themselves they can easily break the chain of objectification, but rather that this very real, strong force originates and is propelled from men, as well as from women in society.
The questions that remain are: Which source of objectification of women is stronger? And how do we go about changing this social pressure in society?