Lets be honest, the constant barrage of female sexuality in media today is absolutely insane. Try going a single day without having a beautiful, photoshopped image of a woman shoved in your face. Music videos, fragrances, fashion, fitness, even food advertising. It's fucking everywhere. Its unrelenting. Its no surprise that women are sick to death of it.
The feminist movement truly does have a point with this one. Being exposed unrealistic female beauty standards so relentlessly on a day to day basis is not healthy. And its not fair. Why does our world look like this?
Any feminist will look at this and shout "Sexist!" And they're absolutely right. But if this is ever going to stop, people need to understand something very important.
SEXISM IS NOT THE CAUSE OF FEMALE OBJECTIFICATION.
Sounds like complete nonsense right? If this isn't because of sexism then why the hell are there semi-naked women in almost every mainstream music video? Why are retail shelves full of sexualised, photoshopped women staring into the camera. And what about pornography for god sake? Here is an entire industry based on objectifying women.
Well, the reason isn't sexism.
The reason is money. Or more specifically the free market.
THE CAUSE OF FEMALE OBJECTION IS THE FREE MARKET.
The feminist movement has their guns pointed in the wrong direction. They're firing blindly into a cloud of "Sexism" with only hazy targets to shoot at. Why is it, even with the feminist movement in full swing and the western world firmly on the side of equality for all, that almost no progress has been made to reduce female objectification in the media. While the world shouts "Sexist!", those magazine covers don't change.
That's because our world is controlled by money, not people. And lets face it. Sex sells.
And media producers know this. Even the female ones. In a free market, businesses will use whatever means available to them to make a profit. And using sex appeal to sell your products is still on the table. Its effective and it produces profit. Advertisers see year after year that using sex appeal is an effective method of producing a profit. So why WOULDN'Tthey use sex appeal to sell their products?
And everything is a product. That music video full of half-naked girls pouting at the camera produces profit through advertising deals and product sales. That fragrance ad with the classy woman showing off her lifestyle does an excellent job of selling the product. The food ad with the girl in red lipstick eating the hotdog also increases product sales. The magazine cover with the airbrushed woman helps to sell millions of copies.
Next time you consider blaming sexist men for all of this, remind yourself that there are plenty of woman in high up positions in media companies producing this shit too.
So why is sex so reliable at producing a profit? First of all, it does an excellent job of getting our attention. Especially male attention. The male brain has evolved through millions of years of evolution to take notice of signs of female sexual initiation.
That billboard with the sexy open-mouthed woman holding a hotdog to her face? Yeah, just try NOT to paying attention to it.
The synapses in your brain will start firing whether you like it or not. This is an ancient section of the male brain, far deeper than conscious thought. The most recent part of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex, doesn't stand a chance of consciously ignoring images like these. The reptilian part of the brain is simply far stronger and will pay attention.
The biggest problem for advertisers today in such a saturated market is simply getting their product noticed. And now here you have a method that literally forces every male that sees the advert to pay attention. The advert doesn't have to be clever, or creative. The female sex signalling will grab male audience attention no matter what. And the more attention the advert receives, the more people will buy the product. And we're talking about millions of dollars to be made.
So clearly female sex appeal works wonders on getting men to buy a product. But how does it work on women?
Its a well-known technique advertises call association. Its simple enough. Use a beautiful woman to demonstrate or showcase the product and the female audience will associate the product with the beautiful woman. A woman's need to be sexually appealing is another deep, reptilian area of the brain out of reach of conscious thought. The subconscious brain will look for every method of becoming sexually attractive so as to pass on the woman's genes. Even the brain of a smart, experienced woman with a PHD in physics will still subconsciously associate the product with the beautiful woman next to it.
It doesn't necessarily mean that this woman will go out and buy the fragrance. But enough women will.
The executives of the fragrance company as well as the advertising agency make massive profits. Other companies see their success and replicate the method.
Take the women's magazine cover, for example. Now magazines evolve in exactly the same way that a species of animal does. Over the years thousands of attempts to start a successful magazine have been made. The magazine with a front cover that sells the most copies lives on and the others die out. The ones that are still around are the ones with a front cover that is most successful at selling the magazine. As it turns out, the most effective way of selling a woman's magazine is put an image of the most attractive woman possible looking directly into the camera lens (And into the eyes of the consumer). Any womans magazine that chooses not to use this technique on their front cover gets destroyed by their competitors. The magazine company either adopts the technique themselves or dies out.
Each magazine cover shows an image of a photo- shopped woman because it's the only way to compete with other magazines.
And this is why there is female objectification everywhere you look. Not because of sexism. But because it produces huge profits.
AND SEX WILL ALWAYS SELL. ITS A CHEAT CODE TO OUR BRAINS THAT WILL ALWAYS WORK.
This insane barrage of unrealistic female beauty is having a devastating effect on women's brains.
In 2014, 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 and over showed symptoms of anxiety or depression - a 1.5% increase from 2013. This percentage was higher among females (22.5%) than males (16.8%).3
That's almost a QUARTER of the female population of the UK.
Sure, there are many important factors that cause depression. But exposure to unrealistic female beauty standards contributes to a huge degree.
The human brain is constantly Social Pinging. What this means is that the brain is always comparing itself to other people. The brain developed this mechanism so that humans could have an a sense of their social standing in the tribe. Unfortunately, the deep, reptilian part of the brain cannot tell the difference between an image of a beautiful woman and the real thing. With the constant barrage of unrealistically beautiful women, the brain will conduct "Social Pinging" on these images just like a real person. With constant messages sent to the brains of the female audience of impossibly beautiful women, the brain decides that they must have a low social status in their tribe. It produces an unrealistic drop in self-esteem for the woman. A constant drop in self-esteem eventually leads to depression.
The executives at advertising companies arn't setting out to intentionally make people depressed, it's just that they don't care if they do or not. They care about profit and profit alone.
Even girls as young as 8 years old feel the effects of unrealistic beauty standards in media. About 80 percent of girls in the 9-10 year old age group say that they have dieted in an attempt to lose weight. This is not normal.
Anybody with a conscious wants to avoid 9 year old girls suffering from eating disorders. So what can we do to prevent this?
Regulate advertising standards across the board to limit the use of female sex-appeal to sell products. While regulation costs government money, there's a high chance that the money spent on regulating the advertising industry would be made back ten-fold on the reduced incidences of depression (And it's related illnesses i.e Obesity). If regulation is put in place, marketers will be forced to find more creative methods of selling their products rather than using their go-to cheatcode of using sex appeal. Bad for business, good for everybody else.
2. Public pressure.
Putting public pressure on the companies for female objectification. The most commonly used and yet the least effective method. While it may occasionally work, the public as a whole are sick to death of shaming tactics. Shaming companies turns the issue into a feminist women vs men argument. Not helpful. Also, companies will only stop using female objectification in their media if it hurts their profit margins. Shaming products doesn't stop them from selling. Simply screaming "Sexist!" is not going to work.
3.. Media Literacy.
Educate the public in media literacy so that they understand the techniques advertisers are using on them. People need to fully understand how sex-appeal creates profits. An understanding in the techniques that media producers use will make consumers less easily persuaded by said techniques. And this means a drop in sales for businesses. Subsequently the constant media stream of female objectification fade away and the media producers will find other methods to make their profits. Preferably one that doesn't involve lowering the self-esteem of half the population.
If female objectification in media is a monster; public pressure is like backing it into a corner and regulation is like putting it into a cage. While educating the public in media literacy is like chopping off it's head altogether.
Using sex appeal to make profits should be seen as obvious, sad, LAME. It should lower the popularity of a brand because of how uncool and obvious it is to use sex appeal to sell their product.
But until it stops making money, female objectification in media is here to stay.