Is Self Objectification On Instagram A Form Of Self Harm?

ob·jec·ti·fy

əbˈjektəˌfī/

verb

  1. 1.

    degrade to the status of a mere object.

    "a deeply sexist attitude that objectifies women"

...

OBJECTIFICATION: Treating a person as an object or thing, rather than someone with emotion.

A person, a subject, is a living, breathing human. An object is not. An object has no rights, needs or emotions. This in turn has a subconscious affect. We can treat objects badly, because they don't have emotions. If a person is seen as an object, it is easy to treat with disrespect.

We often look at objectification from a male perspective. This was first noted in the 70's when someone stated that the media would depict women through mens eyes. The male gaze. Either men behind the camera, or men were the "assumed" audience or women were used to further mens stories. The implication of this meant a woman had no voice. With no voice, they had no story, which often led to no respect. 

Objectification is also often a symptom of rape culture in the broad sense of the subject. In societies that devalue women's rights and femininity there is often a strong correlation with the objectifying women and normalising of sexual violence. Which is why there is such a negative connotation when we discuss self objectification. Making the assumption that women who "self" objectify are bringing to them selves, violence or disrespect.

BUT... I am a true believer that OBJECTIFICATION IS SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE DOES TO YOU. You cannot make someone objectify you. As the protest went,

"Don't teach your girls not to wear short skirts, teach your sons not to rape people"

A woman named Wendy Mc Elroy states that'objectification' of women is about making women into objects. But that is meaningless because inanimate objects do not have sexuality. Humans "do." We are our bodies, as well as our minds and souls.  

I listened to a pod cast the other day that prompted this post. "Is #fitsporation giving you an eating disorder?" It was by "Shredded By Science" (You can listen here) These guys are one of my go to's, for a lot of my fitness info and opinions. I like the people they have on, I share their ethos in coaching and they know their shit. So I listened with an open mind as it is a subject that interests me a lot.  

The evidence two researchers found whilst trawling through pictures that were hashtagged with #fitsporation, was interesting. A mahoosive percentage of the images found under the hashtag were, what they would define as "sexy" That fitness was being shown as very provocative and sensual, mostly from women.

Fitness had somehow evolved into sexiness. 

I wondered how we got from fit to sexy over the years. Had fit always been perceived as sexy, were sexy people always seen as fit? (I think not) But...

  1. fit·ness

    ˈfitnəs/

    noun

    1. the condition of being physically fit and healthy.

      synonyms:good health, strength, robustness, vigor, athleticism, toughness, physical fitness, muscularity; More

      • the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.

        synonyms:suitability, capability, competence, ability, aptitude; More

If I take this back, to a time way way way back, like cave man times, you needed to be fit and muscular so that you could A) Go hunt and lift things or B) be fit for carrying a child & get through child birth. If I stay here in cave man days, we know that our bodies were supposedly solely designed to procreate & that "sex for pleasure," is a far newer experience.

The correlation I can make is that if you, as a man had a strong, muscular, fit looking body to go hunt, a woman may find that she may want to procreate with a provider and if you had a body that looked able to carry a child, a man may be more inclined to want to procreate with you. 

To be sexy...

sex·y

ˈseksē/

adjective

  1. sexually attractive or exciting. (WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?)

    synonyms:sexually attractive, seductive, desirable, alluring, toothsome, sensual, sultry, slinkyprovocative, tempting, tantalizing;More

    • sexually aroused.

      "neither of them was feeling sexy" (ITS A FEELING)

From this we can conclude that being sexy is about being appeal by definition. Sexy also translates to a feeling. Do we feel sexy when we feel appealing? And is what we choose to be appealing, only appealing because we have been force fed certain images by the media and society alike. In today's society, what we find appealing changes often and is helped along by social media, influencers and the likes of people we see heavily in the media.

The podcast also discussed in their research, that this has a close link to women objectifying themselves because we have now begun over relating our worth to our appearance.

The issue with being objectified by society again and again is that women can be led to associate our worth to our body's appearance and it's sexual functions. If we weren't being force fed a social constructional idea of what "sexy is"... appealing, pleasing to the eye, desirable before, we now have it at the slight swipe of a phone screen in teeny squares, when we wake up, when we go to the loo, when we sit on the tube, in the bath (I am not the only one that risks it lol) before we go to sleep. 

BUT... firstly, it is OUR choice who we follow and what images we see, and secondly, the internet is at least filled with real people, sharing their version of their body? Right? Surely that is a leap and bound away from a man in a suit sitting behind his desk deciding that "sex sells" and this is what that is. We are now deciding? Or are we?

By posting "sexy" "provocative" half dressed, images, the worry is that women think of ourselves as passive objects, just bodies to look at, or be used, rather than a person of worth accumulated by other factors other than how we look, we become disconnected to our bodies. We cannot see our bodies for what they can do and accomplish, but merely just for how they look.

There was also a study done in 1977 that relates sexual objectification to eating disorders, anxiety and depression. The study was done by Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) It stated that when a woman's body is singled out from her as a person and primarily for male "use," women are more likely to develop mental issues. Indirectly women internalise this view of ourselves and begin to self objectify by treating ourselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated on our appearance, we begin to place ourselves against appearance attributes rather than competence attributes, and we begin to watch our appearance and experience our body according to how it looks rather than what it can do. This falls in line with what they were saying on the podcast, when we do this, we begin to miss signs from the bodies natural cues like hunger, sexual arousal and stomach contractions, effectively becoming numb to the natural "feelings" we should naturally feel.

I resonate and see the foundation in this discovery. I have found measuring my worth on my appearance, my desirability, my body, and it has taken a long time, but what I have found has helped me get past that, is that since being on my journey of "fitness" and embracing the idea of MY bikini body being displayed for lots to see and "posing" as such, I have found a new connection to my body I didn't quite have before. Its a bit like seeing myself through someone else's lens, and whilst I see there can be a disconnect, I found that my own perception of my body can be warped. Allowing myself to see my body "objectively" (from someone elses point of view) has enabled me to connect with it more.

We have sexuality. We are not just objects that sex happens to. Humans, male and female, are sexual. It is a feeling, an essence, that originated from the 1925 definition of "sexy" which was to be "engrossed in sex." But who told us what that feeling "looked" like. I am guessing the way in which we got "the sex" has something to do with how we encompass that in a visual form. To get the sex, we must be appealing to the person we are trying to get the sex from? 

But its 2017. I am 32, And I find myself needing to appeal to men less and less, I'm not trying to get sex, approval or love from anyone and what I seek is my appeal to myself. I want to find myself attractive, beautiful, sexy. As well as strong, intellectual, intelligent, kind, empathetic. It's as if society has decided that we are void of being those qualities if we want the other ones too. As if the two cannot coexist. Of course i admit, I had spent years longing for "A sexy body" more than I wanted world peace. A shame, but true. And whilst I see the connection between the media (social and otherwise) I see that this starts somewhere far more closer to home than the magazines we read or the Instagram feeds we follow.

The idea is not to stop being sexual or being seen as sexual for that matter, but somehow re-framing man/societys ideas that being seen as sexual does not have to be passive, 1 dimensional or FOR THEM! It doesn't mean we are stripped of personality or dignity, it doesn't mean that we are not strong willed or tenacious or hard working. Women can be all of the above. They can all run along side each other and create a 3D, well rounded woman, interesting woman. An intellegent woman can take her clothes off, embrace her body, feel strong and vulnerable and also empowered. When we are intelligent, we prove it, when we have an opinion we speak it, when we are funny, we tell jokes, when we feel vulnerable, we show fear. Then why not, as sexual beings we be open about our sexuality?

The problem arises when society then gets boxed into the idea of what being sexual/sexy is? If we decide that sexy is "girl in bikini with her bum on show with in proportion features & an appeasing look to the general public" then that is what it is. But some people see a piece of art and decide it is one thing, and another will see it as something else entirely. That is the beauty of perception, free will and the difference in human instinct. If man wants to see me as merely an object, he can, because I know the truth. I know I am more than my bottom or my size or my shape.  I am more than my poses on Instagram. I am more than just this body.

If I know that truth, isn't that then MY truth, and is that not the truth that matters?

but I haven't always felt that way...

On one hand we are told what is appealing in mass, by the media, and when we don't fit in with these ideals, we feel we don't belong. we feel ostracised, on the outskirts looking in at what society and the media tell us is beautiful. This was me at 14 realizing I didn't look like Britney Spears. 

The other issue is that we are continuously trying to be appealing, so we fit in? By doing so, are we trying to be appealing to others? To fill in the gaps of their story rather than tell our own? The more we do this, the more we see ourselves as pawns in someone else game. 

BUT WHY ARE WE TRYING TO APPEAL TO ANYBODY ELSE?

For me, owning my body, being comfortable with it enough to embrace its sexuality and it's femininity; it's curves and edges and presence; has been powerful for me. I feel liberated in being able to share my "perception" of my body, in a story & a way that I find relates to me personally. I feel that taking ownership of our bodies and sharing them, with skin showing, less conservative perhaps, is me saying...

"I'm not doing this because a man asked me to, society needs me to, but because I want to."

Someone asked me the other day, "But why? Why do you want to share your body? with anyone else"

Here is where for me this relates to fitness, which I truly believe is about fr more than getting in the gym and eating certain foods... like sexuality, it is a "feeling"

"Why not show my body?" I responded. It is not something I feel I should need to cover up. Is the issue me showing my body, or is it the posing?" 

I hated my body for so long. The scars of the mental self harm, stay shiney and raised for me to notice from time to time. When I do have moments when those scars do not define me, I find myself embracing it, I find myself wanting to embrace all aspects of "me"

They then questioned me further, "but why share it with 20k people? Why does anyone need to see these images  here on this post?"

IMG_1456.JPG

Growing up, I was adorned with perfume ads selling me (their idea) of a sexy woman. Women who were long and lean and waif like. They showed me skin that did not look like my own, features that I did not recognise, hair styles that I could not replicate They showed me "sexuality" on their terms, the medias terms, without a story, without context, without the knowledge that this was not ALL women. 

They showed us something that we were missing, (because most of the population were missing the smooth, cellulite free, tight, toned, "perfect" body. They sold us something they were convincing us we didn't have. They did not want us to feel whole, in love with who we were, because if we realised that, we did not "need" anything. to make us whole, we wouldn't buy the thing they were selling. It's not perfume they hook us on. The media had us at EGO. Instinctively picking up on our desire to be desired, to be seen in the same way the girl on the advert would be seen. Sex sells, because it is about desire? The issue isn't sex or appeal. It's not "being sexual", it's being force fed the idea of what sexy is by telling us what someone should desire.

A picture of me laughing is sexy, a picture of my butt, can be sexy, a picture of me staring into space fully dressed no skin on show, can be sexy. If we all show all aspects of ourselves and give it context, are we not allowed to show our sexuality, depending on how we define it? 

Because the world is changing. I show my body on Instagram. I am embracing ALL of me. It tells a story, other than the one I was sold aged 14. It shows you my journey. From body dysmorphia to my freedom in my skin. It shows you the ups and downs of finding balance, finding habits, finding love for myself. It shows you the "good" days and the "bad" It asks you to question what you define as beauty. To find your own. And whilst it may look like we are posing to get "attention" or validation or to appeal to the opposite sex, that says more about the audience who decides that than it does about me. I know my story. I know I have a voice. I know I am multifaceted. Able to be sexy, funny, strong, articulate, vulnerable all at the same time. We do not need to prove that to everybody else, but we do have to truly believe it ourselves and stay n touch with this belief. 

The issue of objectification is most definitely not going to be sorted here in this messy, mass of thoughts I have and ideas I am pondering upon after I have read a few pieces off google. Hah. But the only conclusion I feel certain of, is that we as a society need to ask ourselves certain questions.

If we were not made to think of our bodies as objects, would we rely on the need to be desired? And if we did not need to be desired would we still show our bodies in sexual ways? What benefit do we get from being "sexy" Does it validate us? Give us worth? Power? Ownership? Does it lead us to feel better about ourselves? Like ourselves more? I think these are all questions we need to ask. Who is this for and why?

I have a very small male following on Instagram. In fact most men I don't know, who follow me, get blocked (sorry guys) I have about 10% if that, of my following being males. I do not post for them. So do I post for women? Or perhaps myself.

I got bought up in a society that told me having some chub, was not desirable... and finally I decided its not the chub that is the issue. It was the idea I needed to be desirable in the 1st place? Why does being desirable mean feeling more worthy? Who teaches us that being desirable is what we seek?

My first memories of not being desirable was playing kiss chase in the playground, and noone chasing me. Automatically I felt "less than" Even though it was instilled in me to love myself. That I was deserving of love and that I was beautiful. Why did it start to matter that others didn't seem to find me beautiful even though I would look in the mirror, age 10 and tell myself I was pretty? I defined my own beauty back then, not having to match up to anyone else's standards but my own. So why, one day, standing in the playground whilst the boys chased other girls who they had somehow been taught already, were more "desirable" did I feel disconnected. I felt lonely. I felt left out. Don't us humans have a fundamental desire to belong? Somewhere along the line, we decide we need to belong to someone else, when really, we need to belong to ourselves.

As an adult I am aware that when I feel sexy (desirable) I may be more inclined to masturbate (YUP I WENT THERE PEOPLE) when I feel sexy I may feel more inclined to be open and forthright, I may be more confident, intimate, outspoken, willing to share and to give myself to another human being, which is bar far not a negative. All scenarios enable me to feel connected. To myself. Or a chosen human being.

The desire to feel connected. Intimate. Isn't that about being at one with someone, mind and soul, to vibrate (OIY OIY) with them on another level other than just the mere "hi how you doings" we often interact on. And if sexiness is about connection, then can it not be about connecting with ourselves? I find posing "sexy" as society decided to call it. A way of standing tall, indignant and a show of confidence. The same way I find being assertive in a conversation empowering, I feel the same with a pose that says "this is me, I am self assured and OK in this body of mine" I enjoy seeing my body in its glory, especially if I have worked hard for certain aspects of it. Of course, we need to find ways of seeing glory from things other than our bodies or how we or others perceive them.

The whole point in life, for me, is about connection. To ourselves, to the earth, and to others. Instinct tells me that laughter, intimacy, peace, all enable those things. I want to be able to feel all three without a society telling me that it will have a negative impact on my mental health or, someone else's for that matter. We show joy by laughing, peace with stillness and desire for my own appeal, to myself 

If we see ourselves as the subject, an active, breathing, human with a personality, rights, needs, wants, desires and not the object, a passive, still, unemotional "thing..." If we see ourselves as our story; not that in which helps tell someone else's? Are we not doing a good job of not objectifying ourselves? Is that not enough? 

If we contextualise ourselves? Give it all meaning. If we ask ourselves questions? If we share the knowledge we learn (sexy poses don't have to be for men, but for ourselves) If we tell our children being sexy is a sensation, a feeling, an essence? If we explain to them that sexy or beauty is defined by ourselves and not a man or a cooperate company trying to sell us perfume? If we explain to our children that our bodies are OK to be seen as sexual if we embody our 3 dimensional selves and do not rely on our bodies to be singled out as separate from our personality or dignity. That dignity doesn't come from shying away from our sexuality, but owning it for ourselves. Respect doesn't come from covering up to teach a society to think differently, it comes from knowing our worth without being desired by someone else? If we teach our children to be connected to themselves first and foremost and to measure themselves against whole-hearted important things like if they are kind, empathetic, generous, open, happy... and that it's not "for" anybody else to make us happy, that we are whole as we are, mind body and soul. Is the change not in the knowledge we can teach and share?

Will a 14 yr old girl see my pictures here, and feel unworthy, unsexy, undesired? What will be the difference in her seeing these pictures and being empowered or enslaved? Will she see it and decide that someone else's comfort in her skin, takes away from her identity with her mind, or soul? Will I be judged for not being "pretty" if society decides I am not. Will a 14 year old girl think I am selling them another object to pit themselves agaisnt? Or will she someone elses point, message and find a way to feel free in her own? Will she learn that sex or sexuality is not a bad thing, but that we must not seek desire or validation from someone else to confirm said sexiness. They should be able to feel sexy, beautiful, because they decide they are, rather than needing someone else to confirm it. I would have not shared these pictures in the past incase someone thought I wasn't pretty enough, sexy enough, intellegent enough, dignified enough. That is why I share, why I write these long arse posts, why I ask questions and why I am trying to embrace my own definition of what I find acceptable. 

I want to teach my children that beauty etc is not one size fits all. Sexy is not 1 dimensional. Sexy is about more than an outside appearance. Posing is just one way of showing the essence of feeling in a particular way, but the person feeling the particular way does not need to look ONE way. Can we end up in a world where women of all shapes and sizes share their bodies, without it being a negative? Can we become so self assured, less comparative, that another female form will not threaten our own worth or dignity and create a disconnect with our own selves and actually help create more of a connection to themselves?

We have the power to change what we think about the ideologies that come with certain thoughts that have been forced upon us by society. If we cannot change a society's way of thinking, we can focus individually, on our own attachments to thoughts. If we start with ourselves, we start with everybody...

As I believe we are all one.

Namaste! ;)