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Commodification of Women
II. Feminism as Cultural History
Concern for Rights and Freedom
Intellectual Reasoning and Stages of Feminist Movement
Patriarchal Attitude and Females as a Commodity
Third World Feminism and Chinese Society
III. Female as a Sexual Object: A Feminist Study of The Good Earth
Females as a Male Working Machine
Domestic Entities of Females
Females as Commodities
Females as a Sex Object
Females as Submissive and Subservient to Males
O-lan as a Mere Sex Object
Female’s identity can be defined on two different bases. One is the female sex and the next is female gender. Sex is determined biologically but gender is a psychological concept which refers to culturally acquired sexual identity. Female sex is being the sex that bears young ones or produces eggs, and has internal reproductive organ whereas female gender refers to the socially constructed roles behaviors, activities and attribute that a given society constructed and considers appropriate for women, which is known as feminine.
Female is said to be weaker physically in comparison to men but the strength of female cannot be measured or calculated only in physical terms. Woman can do any kind of work besides physical work. Female has much strength than a male has, to fight against the worst condition or days. A male gives up very soon but a female does not. Female has much strength but her weakness is her emotion. This emotion has been sowed in women by this patriarchal society. Her identity is bound and defined by this society, culture and the patriarchy. She grows in such environment that she becomes weak just because of her upbringing. Woman is weak on emotional nerve but male think her to be emotional fool. Actually, she is not a fool but it’s so because she is a being constructed by this society, which taught her that emotional is woman. These culture and society made her weak but besides these things, she is not so weak. She has the potential to change her weakness into her strength as well. So, both sexes are equal by birth but this culture, society and patriarchy makes her or him, strong or weak.
Karl Marx has best talked about the commodity in Das Kapital. Under “The Fetishism of the Commodity and the Secret Thereof” he uses the example of a piece of wood altered into a table, stating that “as soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent” (46), that is the moment the wooden table is tagged with a price, with monetary value placed on for purchasing purposes, it becomes a property that can be exchanged/traded. This property otherwise known as a commodity has “properties…capable of satisfying human wants” (46). Seemingly straightforward but complicated by variables such as “labour” and “value” etc making it difficult to categorize ‘things’ into commodity and non-commodity or reaching any concise definition. Marx acknowledges this and thus calls commodity “a mysterious thing.” The concept of a commodity and the word itself changes meaning when dealt with in various capital industries which engage in trade. For the purpose of exploration, the meaning of commodity shall be narrowed down to “an economic good, which is subject ready to exchange or exploitation within a market” (46). In the similar ways females are used.
Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person merely as an instrument of sexual pleasure, making them a “sex object”. Objectification more broadly means treating a person as a commodity or an object, without regard to their personality or dignity. Objectification is most commonly examined at the level of a society, but can also refer to the behavior of individuals. Some say that the objectification of women involves the act of disregarding the personal and intellectual abilities and capabilities of a female; and reducing a woman's worth or role in society to that of an instrument for the sexual pleasure that she can produce in the mind of another. Although opinions differ as to which situations are objectionable, other see objectification of women taking place in the sexually oriented depictions of women in advertising and media, women being portrayed as weak or submissive through pornography, images in more mainstream media such as advertising and art, stripping and prostitution, men brazenly evaluating or judging women sexually or aesthetically in public spaces and events, such as beauty contests, and the presumed need for cosmetic surgery, particularly breast enlargement and labiaplasty.
Though notable exceptions exist, historically women have been valued mainly for their physical attributes. Some feminists and psychologists argue that such objectification can lead to negative psychological effects including depression and hopelessness, and can give women negative self-images because of the belief that their intelligence and competence are currently not being, nor will ever be, acknowledged by society. Some have argued that the feminist movement itself has contributed to the problem of the sexual objectification of women by pushing for an end to the so-called oppressive patriarchal marriage and promoting "free" love (i.e. women choosing to have non-reproductive sex outside of marriage and for their own pleasure). Such promotion has increased the average number of lifetime sexual partners for men, which in turn has caused some men to devalue sex, which in turn has caused men who objectify women to devalue women. The precise degree to how objectification has affected women and society in general is a topic of academic debate. Such claims include: girls' understanding of the importance of appearance in society may contribute to feelings of fear, shame, and disgust that some experience during the transition from girlhood to womanhood because they sense that they are becoming more visible to society as sexual objects; and that young women are especially susceptible to objectification, as they are often taught that power, respect, and wealth can be derived from one's outward appearance.
While the concept of sexual objectification is important within feminist theory, ideas vary widely on what constitutes sexual objectification and what are the ethical implications of such objectification. Some feminists such as Naomi Wolf find the concept of physical attractiveness itself to be problematic, with some radical feminists being opposed to any evaluation of another person's sexual attractiveness based on physical characteristics. John Stoltenberg goes so far as to condemn as wrongfully objectifying any sexual fantasy that involves visualization of a woman.
Radical feminists view objectification as playing a central role in reducing women to what they refer to as the sex class. While some feminists view mass media in societies that they argue are patriarchal to be objectifying, they often focus on pornography as playing an egregious role in habituating men to objectify women. Other feminists, particularly those identified with sex-positive feminism, take a different view of sexual objectification and see it as a problem when it is not counterbalanced by women's sense of their own sexual subjectivity.
Sexual objectification has been studied based on the proposition that girls and women develop their primary view of their physical selves from observing others. These observations can take place in the media or through personal experience. Through a blend of expected and actual exposure, women are socialized to objectify their own physical characteristics from a third person perception, which is identified as self-objectification. Women and girls develop an expected physical appearance for themselves, based on observations of others; and are aware that others are likely to observe as well. The sexual objectification and self objectification of women is believed to influence social gender roles and inequalities between the sexes.
Many women are sexually objectified and treated as an object to be valued for its use by others and some commodify by using woman as per their desire or as a puppet. Sexual objectification occurs when a woman’s body or body parts are singled out and separated from her as a person and she is viewed primarily as a physical object of male sexual desire. Women can be objectified in five different ways: (1) interchangeability; (2) reduction to appearance; (3) being an instrument for someone else’s purpose; (4) inertness or passivity; & (5) capacity to being violated or lacking bodily integrity. The society uses all of these techniques to steal the identity or worth of women, and reduce them to the levels of femininity.
Television shows and movies often box women into a role or purpose that is useful to the males in the show, or in some way useful to the viewer. Music videos and song lyrics can also be extremely objectifying of women, especially as sexual objects. Nowadays, it can be difficult to find an advertisement involving a woman that is not offensive in some way. Whether the advertisement is for men, women, or both, if a women is used to manipulate the audience, she is more often than not, objectified. Sometimes her body is replacing an object or an object is replacing her; other times she is merely reduced to the worth of her appearance; in others she may be an instrument being used by someone else (often a man); she may be a lifeless specimen of passivity; or it could be that she is being taken advantage of or is missing physical respect for herself or from others.
The objectification of women is profitable and entertaining. As many say, “sex sells,” but so does violence, power, and dominance. These advertising methods manipulate an audience to buy the product or follow the movement. On the other hand, the box of femininity is being sold. Young girls and boys are growing up in this society with these images brainwashing them to feel inadequate if they do not fit into these boxes of passivity or dominance. Not only women are affected by these advertisements, and this is merely a slice of media. It’s just a slice among a whole system of manipulation and brainwashing. .This society involves in decreasing women to be of no more worth than an object, an object that must be beautiful, flawless, skinny, curvy, and lifeless. An object that is available to others to use to their liking, especially sexually. An object that best remains passive, or be violated regardless. An object that has no personality, no value and no passion or dream.
Sexual objectification of females is likely to contribute to mental health problems that disproportionately affect women (i.e., eating disorders, depression, and sexual dysfunction) via two main paths. The first path is direct and overt and involves sexual objectification experiences. The second path is indirect and subtle and involves women’s internalization of sexual objectification experiences or self-objectification. Self-objectification can increase in situations which heighten the awareness of an individual’s physical appearance. Here, the presence of a third person observer is enhanced. Therefore, when individuals know others are looking at them, or will be looking at them, they are more likely to care about their physical appearance. Examples of the enhanced presence of an observer include the presence of an audience, camera, or other known observer. Primarily, objectification describes how women and girls are influenced as a result of expected social and gender roles. Research indicates not all women are influenced equally, due to the anatomical, hormonal, and genetic differences of the female body; however, women’s bodies are often objectified and evaluated more frequently. Females learn that their physical appearance is important to themselves and society. As a result, females consider their physical appearance often, expecting that others will also.
It is asserted that women to varying degrees internalize this outsider view and begin to self-objectify by treating themselves as an object to be looked at and evaluated on the basis of appearance. Self-objectification manifests in a greater emphasis placed on one’s appearance attributes (rather than competence-based attributes) and in how frequently a woman watches her appearance and experiences her body according to how it looks. Objectification also posits a mediation model that may explain how self-objectification leads to women’s mental health risks via negative psychological outcomes. More specifically, self objectification can increase women’s anxiety about physical appearance (i.e., fear about when and how one’s body will be looked at and evaluated); reduce opportunities for peak motivational states or flow; diminish awareness of internal bodily sensations (e.g., hunger, sexual arousal, stomach contractions); increase women’s opportunities for body shame (i.e., the emotion that results from measuring oneself against a cultural standard and coming up short); and increase women’s anxiety about their physical safety (e.g., fears about being raped), which in turn can lead to disordered eating, depression, and sexual dysfunction.
So far, we have described multiple ways that being female in a culture that objectifies the female body may impact women’s subjective experiences in negative ways. Recognizing that these negative experiences can accumulate and compound points to a possible contribution to a subset of women’s mental health risks. In this section it is explored that three particular psychological disorders are experienced predominantly by females: unipolar depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders.
There are two main routes through which sexual objectification might contribute to poor mental health outcomes for women, one more direct and extreme. The first follows from the experiences describes the potential for objectification fosters habitual body monitoring, leaving women with surpluses of same and anxiety, a shortage of peak motivational states, and scant awareness of internal bodily states. It is argued that the accumulation of such experiences could, for some women, contribute to psychological disorders. The second route is more direct and extreme, although it is just beginning to capture substantial interest: actual sexual victimization, whether through rape, incest, battering, or even sexual harassment. With these forms of victimization, a woman’s body is literally treated as a mere instrument or thing by her perpetrator. Although our primary interest is in the first route—the mental health risks that may accumulate simply from being female in a culture that objectifies the female body.
Objectification may be useful in helping to explain how gendered experiences contribute to women’s substance use or abuse and for understanding the co-occurrence of substance abuse with both unipolar depression and disordered eating. Drawing from objectification postulate that sexual objectification may be a risk factor for substance use or abuse in women via exposure to sexually objectifying society; the internalization of society’s norms and cultural standards that link a woman’s thinness, beauty, and sexiness with substance use; and interpersonal experiences of sexual objectification. It may cause both direct and indirect consequences of objectification to women. Indirect consequences include self consciousness in terms that a woman is consistently checking or rearranging her clothes or appearance to ensure that she is presentable. This self-consciousness may also result in a lack of motivation because it distracts from what would be the motivating focus.
More direct consequences are related to sexual victimization. Rape and sexual harassment are examples of this. Sexual harassment is one of the challenges faced by women in workplace. This may constitute sexual jokes or comments, most of which are degrading. Research indicates that objectification theory is valuable to understanding how repeated visual images in the media are socialized and translated into mental health problems, including psychological consequences on the individual and societal level. These include increased self-consciousness, increased body anxiety, heightened mental health threats (depression, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and sexual dysfunction), and increased body shame. Therefore, it has been used to explore an array of dependent variables including disordered eating, mental health, depression, motor performance, body image, idealized body type, stereotype formation, sexual perception and sexual typing. Body shame is a byproduct of the concept of an idealized body type adopted by most Western cultures that depicts a thin, model-type figure. Thus, women will engage in actions meant to change their body such as dieting, exercise, eating disorders, cosmetic surgery, etc. Effects of objectification are identified on both the individual and societal levels.
Learned helplessness posits that because human bodies are only alterable to a certain point, people develop a sense of body shame and anxiety from which they create a feeling of helplessness in relation to correcting their physical appearance and helplessness in being able to control the way in which others perceive their appearance. This lack of control often results in depression. In relating to a lack of motivation, objectification theory states that women have less control in relationships and the work environment because they have to depend on the evaluation of another who is typically basing their evaluation on physical appearance. Since the dependence on another's evaluation limits a woman's ability to create her own positive experiences and motivation, it adversely increases her likelihood for depression. Furthermore, sexual victimization may be a cause. Specifically, victimization within the workplace degrades women. Harassment experienced every day wears on a woman, and sometimes results in a state of depression.
Sometimes, either woman internalizes those norms and values or stands against it and revolts. Female mostly choose to be the victim of distress which creates trauma in her. She starts to shout, scream, and fear of many things in their dream or in the deteriorating condition of her health. Female rarely can collect courage to revolt against this merciless society. Women have to suffer a lot if she decides to revolt against this so called civilized society. She is seen as an unrespectful being. The society does not allow her to be free at any time she is always bounded by the norms, rules and the ethics of this patriarchy. When she finally can’t resist any more she revolts and brings the changes. Feminism is one of the example of such revolt which resulted to revolution and then to a theory. Feminism fights for the sake of her independence, rights and freedom.
Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.
The Utopian Socialist and French philosopher Charles Fourier is credited with having originated the word “feminism” in 1837. The words “feminism” and “feminist” first appeared in France and the Netherlands in 1872, Great Britain in the 1890s, and the United States in 1910. The Oxford English Dictionary lists 1894 as the year of the first appearance of “feminist” and 1895 for “feminism”. Dictionaries usually define it as the advocacy of women’s rights based on a belief it as the sexes, and in its broadest use the word refers to everyone who is aware of and seeking to end women’s subordination in any way and for any reason. Feminism originates in the perception that there is something wrong with society’s treatment of women (Encyclopedia of Feminism, 1987).
Feminism is a struggle against the hardship and neglect imposed upon women. “Patriarchy continually exerts forces that undermine women’s self-confidence and assertiveness, then points to these qualities as a proof that women are naturally and therefore correctly, self-effacing and submissive” (Tyson, 85). Feminism struggles against this sort of falsity for the establishment of patriarchy regime. And hence, it is not against the males of society but against their monopoly and dictatorship. It proclaims to fight against the established, phallocentric ideologies, patriarchal attitudes, and male interpretations on literature, social science, economics, politics, religion, etc.
Moreover, all the feminist activities including feminist theory and literary criticism consider that their ultimate goal is to change the world by promoting gender equality. Thus, all feminist activities can be seen as a form of activism. The themes explored in feminism include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification, oppression, subjugation, etc.
Feminism, however, is a grass root movement which crosses the boundaries of class and race. As culturally specific, it addresses the idea that certain characteristics or interests are inherently masculine, which are positive and superior and that certain characteristics or interests are inherently feminine, which are negative and inferior. The basis of feminist ideology is that rights, privileges, status and obligations should not be determined by gender.
Feminist theory, which emerged from these feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women’s social roles and lived experience; it has developed theories in a variety of disciplines in order to respond to issues such as the social construction of sex and gender. Some of the earlier forms of feminism have been criticized for taking into account only white, middle-class, educated perspectives. This led to the creation of ethnically specific or multicultural forms of feminism.
Feminist activists campaign for women’s rights – such as in contract law, property, and voting – while also promoting bodily integrity, autonomy, and reproductive rights for women. Feminist campaigns have changed societies, particularly in the West, by achieving women’s suffrage, gender neutrality in English, equal pay for women, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property. Feminists have worked to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. They have also advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women. Feminism is mainly focused on women’s issues, but because feminism seeks gender equality, bell hooks, among other feminists, has argued that men’s liberation is a necessary part of feminism, and that men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles.
Feminist has grown into a complex theoretical stream with numerous diversities depending upon multiple orientations. It encompasses work in a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, economics, women’s studies, literary criticism, art history, psychoanalysis and philosophy. Feminist theory aims to understand gender inequality and focuses on gender politics, power relations, and sexuality. While providing a critique of these social and political relations, much of feminist theory also focuses on the promotion of women’s rights and interests. Themes explored in feminist theory include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy.
In the field of literary criticism, Elaine Showalter describes the development of feminist theory as having three phases. The first she calls “feminist critique”, in which the feminist reader examines the ideologies behind literary phenomena. The second Showalter calls “gynocriticism“, in which the “woman is producer of textual meaning”. The last phase she calls “gender theory”, in which the “ideological inscription and the literary effects of the sex/gender system are explored” (25-36).
This was paralled in the 1970s by French feminists, who developed the concept of écriture féminine (which translates as female or feminine writing). Helene Cixous argues that writing and philosophy are phallocentric and along with other French feminists such as Luce Irigaray emphasise writing from the body as a subversive exercise. The work of the feminist psychoanalyst and philosopher, Julia Kristeva, has influenced feminist theory in general and feminist literary criticism in particular. None of these French feminists align themselves with the feminist movement as it appeared in the Anglophone world.
The history of feminism involves the story of feminist movements and of feminist thinkers. Depending on time, culture and country, feminists around the world have sometimes had different causes and goals. Most western feminist historians assert that all movements that work to obtain women’s rights should be considered feminist movements, even when they did not (or do not) apply the term to themselves. Other historians assert that the term should be limited to the modern feminist movement and its descendants. Those historians use the label “protofeminist“ to describe earlier movements.
The history of the modern western feminist movements is divided into three “waves”. Each is described as dealing with different aspects of the same feminist issues. The first wave refers to the movement of the 19th to early 20th centuries, which dealt mainly with suffrage, working conditions and educational rights for women and girls. The second wave (1960s-1980s) dealt with the inequality of laws, as well as cultural inequalities and the role of women in society. The third wave of feminism (late 1980s-early 2000s (decade)), is seen as both a continuation of the second wave and a response to the perceived failures.
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