Something strange happens when you start working or living in a major city. Something stranger than the fact that you get used to using public transportation that smells like pee, and stranger than the fact that you recognize (by NAME, not just face) the Bible-beater in the fedora who stands outside your train station.
You notice—perhaps for the first time, if you’re me (and/or recently out of the proverbial closet)—just how many girls there are. Tall, skinny girls in funky dresses and heels. Short, curvy girls in tight jeans and colorful tops. Athletic girls in tank tops and shorts. Businesswomen in tailored suits (and sometimes ties). Your jaw gets tired from hanging open in awe of all the ladies casually passing you on the street.
And then, if you’re me (and/or overly self-aware), you feel like a total creep for staring.
I spend a lot of my time doing feminist activism, and even more time thinking about what it even means to do feminist activism. And I feel like on some level my objectification of random women on the street is strangely out of balance with the rest of my life. I spend my time fighting against objectification; I resent when I feel people have objectified me. Yet I spend my time on city streets giving random women the old up-and-down glance. And I won’t kid myself. I’m not exactly walking down the street and staring at these women for their personalities. This is a situation in which I am objectifying, whether I want to admit it or not.
I feel similarly about my reaction to mainstream images of womanhood—scantily clad, unnaturally thin women plastered across billboards, buses, and absolutely any ad on the internet. I mean, hello, have you SEEN American Apparel ads? I appreciate and enjoy these images on a purely visual level, but I feel massively uncomfortable with the fact that I’m buying into the commodification (and commercial alteration) of women’s bodies.
Perhaps my not-so-subtle glance at the cute chick in the bomber jacket who rides my train isn’t as harmful as actually plastering half-naked, digitally altered images of women on the subway walls in order to sell a product. But both are aspects of the objectification of the female body.
Maybe this is an overreaction. But maybe it's some food for thought.