What is the limit on complimenting a woman for her physical appearance before it becomes objectification?

While on the bus home, I overheard a man talking to the driver, “Oh, I love women. I started working for this woman, who has a fabulous a**. Red hot a**…..” and he went on talking more about her physical appearance, which I must say, I am very glad that I didn’t understand. Although in the beginning of the conversation, my expression started with a smile… very soon, it didn’t feel right. So how did a statement that could have been a legit appreciation turn into pure sexual objectification?

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This conversation made me think. About my own experiences as well as the ones I read in newspapers or saw on TV. Obviously, this is no new topic for any of us. We see it, experience it and some of us are contributing to it, every single day.

It’s not easy being a woman these days, whether women/men think that you are physically attractive or not. While you may rather be known for your knowledge, power, your artistic skills or for your personality, the society just can’t help but stare at you as a sexual object at some point. Wait a minute, we do the same with men too, but as we all know, women are subjected to this at a higher rate. I am sure most of the actors are appreciated more for their “hot bodies” or “muscles”, than for their performances. So, pretty much whatever category you belong to, there is always sexual objectification.

Of course, we all want to appreciate beauty, it is a very natural part of the attraction and yes, it includes the physical beauty associated with people around you. But it seems that there is a certain limit to this appreciation before you convert the other person into an object available for mere sexual pleasure. The commonality of how often these comments turn into us subjectively judging others based on their physical appearance doesn’t make it seem right. So, where is the line that’s dividing these two categories?

Honestly, I have no idea. It is a very complicated and strong topic to really understand.

Sometimes, it seems that it depends on the relationship with the person who is commenting. For example, if your husband or boyfriend calls you “a hot piece of a**”, you will certainly take it as a compliment but if a stranger says the same thing, it might sound different. Doesn’t it?

When it comes to the workplace, being “hot” can be a two-sided mirror. If it is considered an asset, you might receive better evaluations, your co-workers might love to hang out with you because you are physically attractive but if it is considered more as a liability, then you are probably encountering decreased professional appreciation. Be it positive or negative, one’s professional ability should never be related to their level of physical attractiveness.

In the year 2013, then president Mr. Obama was subjected to criticism when he called an attorney general as “the best looking attorney general in the country”. A lot of people condemned his statement by saying that it was not in the context of the topic, in spite of him appreciating her for her “brilliant”, “tough” and “dedicated” working nature. Although the attorney didn’t consider it as an offense but rather took it as a compliment, the outrage from extremist groups seemed primarily based on the context it was used. Of course, this was no Trump’s sexist comment, and Mr. Obama, being the amazing man that he always is, apologized for his statement, and everyone accepted it and he is still our most favorite president, isn’t he?

Ok, back to our topic. -_-

Another line I think should also be drawn based on how the statement “impacts” a person. If you watched “13 reasons why”, you probably remember a scene where a group of high school boys rates their class girls based on their “Best and Worst” physical characteristics. The female protagonist, Hannah, was ranked for “best a**”. The girl considers it as an offensive sexual insult but the guys try to find their way out by saying that it was a harmless comment/compliment. However, in this case, the girl gets affected by it and this objectification becomes one of the 13 reasons for her to kill herself.

Since there are multiple ways for a compliment to actually make you feel worse or turn into a slap on your face, I think it is important that everyone thinks about it. The choice is ours, whether to choose to let our sexist, misogynistic social situations continue to hurt others or to not become a slave of our subconscious forces and respect the other person.

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What do you think about sexual objectification? Comment below and share what you think is a line that separates a compliment from a sexual objectification.

If interested, this post (Seeing a Woman: A conversation between a father and son) explains how one should react to sexual objectification. From a father’s perspective. Do give it a read 🙂

 

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