Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Objectification of both genders versus the objectification of just women - more or less progressive?

Is the entertainment industry the only place where it's OK to objectify men and women?

The argument that, if Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large objectify women, this is okay would be that those in the industry put themselves out there for judgment - their entire lives are defined by the opinions of other people. Those opinions may center on their appearance, but actors are also admired for their talent, wit, personality, and poise. Actors (both male and female) are hired for many reasons and attractiveness is amongst these reasons.

This is, of course, something that would not stand in pretty much any other profession. But at the same time, I wonder, is the entertainment industry's objectification of both women AND men something that makes it more or less progressive than other industries?

Men, sit down and shut up because this is for the women. Honestly, when was the last time any man felt like they were being judged by their appearance for a job interview? I don't want to hear men complaining about being objectified or judged by their appearance because, believe me, women have it worse. Luckily, at the tender age of twenty, I haven't experienced a job interview where I've been judged based on my appearance, probably because my jobs have been mostly minimum wage based professions (i.e. cashier, hostess, tour guide). But that doesn't mean I haven't felt the brunt of judgment about my appearance.

Let me break it down for you. I've had big boobs since I was 12 years old and I'm a natural blonde. I'm also 5'3. How many people do you think look at me and take me seriously, especially since I have a goofy, outgoing personality and a liking for feminine clothing? Men, how many of you have felt the judging eyes because you're short or fat? I apologize to anybody who is a minority because I know that race is another huge judgment point for people.

But women have been objectified for ages. What's the image that comes to mind when you think stripper? It's always going to be a girl, a skimpily dressed young woman. Porn stars, sex tapes, anything raunchy, you're probably going to be thinking about girls.

Celebrities and others within the entertainment industry who aren't necessarily defined as celebrities, on the other hand, are judged for their appearance no matter which gender. It's easy to make the argument that judging someone based on their appearance is wrong no matter what and I don't disagree. On the other hand, it's foolish for anyone to go into the entertainment industry thinking that their appearance won't be a part of their image. Whether it's the typical actor, that wants to be recognized for his or her work within their films or television series or other projects, or the more celebrity-based actor whose personal life is the center of attention, it's all about the appearance. In the former case, how well does the appearance of the actor fit the role? That's why actors get a lot of cred when they shake things up majorly for a role, say, gain or lose a lot of weight or drastically change their appearance so as to be unrecognizable. In the latter case, it's still about appearance, but about the actual, natural appearance outside of the movies and videos. Either way, actors are putting out their entire selves to be judged, and that includes their appearance.

So is it really unfair to then go ahead and deem someone attractive or unattractive? More often, people deem those in the entertainment industry attractive. Nobody really writes posts or articles about how unattractive someone is, and I doubt you'll find any genuine, credible source talking about the attractiveness/unattractiveness of celebrities or actors in the first place, save if it's about a role transformation.

I understand the harm of basing opinions of someone solely on their appearance, I really do. Nobody wants to be seen as just a pretty face - actors want to be taken seriously as actors and though appearance is a part of that, it's the praise for the talent that matters more than the praise for the appearance. My counter-argument, however, is that there is a line between playful "s/he's so hot" and derogatory comments like "s/he's just a pretty face." Is it really so wrong to drool over a Google image search of certain actors, so long as they're acknowledged as something more?

Well, I'll bring it back to me because I'm a selfish ho and I know myself pretty well and can't speak for everyone else. I love getting compliments on my appearance. I love getting comments on my talent as a filmmaker/musician/good person more, but I would never begrudge someone for thinking me attractive, so long as they know there's more to me than that.

Back on the sexism track, sometimes it's tough for me to think that people actually do see more to me than blonde hair and a big rack. I don't know, but, men, do you have the same problem? Do you feel as if women look at you and they only see what you look like and could never see you as something more than a man?

Historically speaking, though I know men also face objectification, men have always been more than just their appearance though. Men have always held jobs or positions or some role in the public world. Women, on the other hands, have been defined for centuries based on our womanhood and nothing else, because we didn't work, we didn't hold positions - all we were good for was being a woman (which entails: looking pretty, having kids, being present, etc.).

Do I feel for actors who are judged entirely on their appearance, regardless of their gender? Yes, I do. However, I feel a lot more for the women, to this day, who suffer from their gender in the workplace. Nobody would dare to call a man who worked as an office manager "just a secretary" but they would dare to call my mother that because she's a woman - she, as a woman, is a secretary and any other title is a joke, whereas it would be an insult for a man to ignore his actual title. God, what is this, Mad Men?

It may not be entirely right to judge actors based on their appearances, but it is part of their job. It is in no way, shape, or form part of an office worker's job to be judged on their appearance (well, maybe outside of their outfit; I'd judge a dude who wore a scuba suit to work, because that's just inappropriate - there is a certain dress code to working in the professional world). And though this may sound cruel, at least the entertainment industry is a bit more fair, ogling both men and women as attractive. Women definitely have a tougher time and are more scrutinized, but at least it's a bit more fair than the rest of the world.

Just keep on the right side of the line and don't cross over to pure appearance judgment and I don't see what's so wrong about appreciating beauty. It's not everything, it shouldn't be everything, but an appreciation is acceptable. I appreciate Alexander Skarsgard, for instance, both as a very attractive man and as a fantastic actor in his current role as Eric Northman in True Blood. He embodies the wit, slyness, and power of Eric very well. But, at the same time, I very much like the way he looks. Am I wrong?

I'm sure some might think so, but whatever.

(Inspired in part by a conversation had with a chap in the comments section of this post.)


  1. I don't think you're wrong. Drawing upon experiences as a male model I think that women are better at objectifying men than vice versa, meaning that they still see the person in addition to the desired looks. I've been working in a model agency with mostly female staff for a while now, and everyone from the manager, to the photographer and to the image editor (she's the one refreshing and photoshopping the images) are very appreciative. They may tell you that you'd look even better with more clearly defined abs or something like that, but it's always positive compared to the experiences compared to my female colleagues in other companies who have - more than once - got some pretty mean comments from male staff.

    Also, every improvement is cherished, my manager would say something like "Wow, keep on doing that gym routine" during my first period on my way to getting a ripped body. I think that mindset is pretty hard to find in a regular model agency with mostly male staff, but it made all the difference in the world as a young and probably a bit insecure model on a diet and excursive program.

    1. That's an interesting perspective I didn't consider much when I was writing this, actually - the difference between positive and negative commentary on appearance.

      I think I tried to get into it a little bit talking about the strength of someone's appearance in order to convey something (whether as an actor playing a different-appearing person or anyone portraying themselves), but the modeling world has got to be very different, I imagine, being a world where your appearance IS very much who you are. Obviously, there's more, but in the professional context of your and your colleagues position, appearance is paramount. I'm happy to hear, though, that your experience was supportive - which makes sense from a Decent Human Being standpoint. I can't imagine working somewhere where you are constantly making and remaking your appearance and just hoping it's right. It's good to be appreciated for the work that's put in to your work, which in this case is maintaining a certain appearance.

      Anyway, I really appreciate you reading and leaving your comment behind; this is definitely a perspective I don't get to hear about very often (and I imagine a lot of people don't). So thank you!