Saturday, October 27, 2012

Objectification and Masculinity (and Batman!)

What I would consider my single biggest issue with feminist theory is that much of it stems from a profoundly naive understanding of how males actually behave and socialize with each other.  I hear so many feminist say that they want to be "treated like a man" and, well... if a woman wants to be treated like a man, I have no problem with that. But, few feminists actually have any idea it actually means to be treated like a man in reality, and instead have this idealized fantasy of what they think it might be like that ranges from willfully ignorant to laughably sexist.

So, today I'm going to talk about objectification (a topic I'll likely come back to MANY times on this blog).

To put it simply, "objectification" is when a person is treated or represented as an object instead of as a person, or when an abstract idea is treated as a physical object. This manifests in a lot of interesting ways that I'm not going to go into today, but it's at the core of most feminist theory that most of our societal issues with gender come about when males think of and treat women as object.

I don't think that's strictly "wrong", but I do have a problem with treating this as if "objectification" is something that is only done by males to females. It really ignores many ways that objectification can manifest and effect males. And, oddly enough, I think Batman man is an all too perfect example of this.

I'm just going to come right out with this... Batman is about a male who discards his own personal identity and dehumanizes himself so he can become the physical objectification of an abstract idea in a disturbingly literal way.

Let's let this sink in for a moment.

The message here is that Bruce's personal identity, his personal relationships, his own failings and accomplishments, and everything that makes him "Bruce"... are all weaknesses, and that he can only become strong (and fulfill his role as a male) when others see him as nothing more than a objectified symbol.

The term most commonly used for this is "heroification". The idea of ignoring someone's personal traits and flaws and viewing them only as a hero, or as representing something. And, well... heroification is objectification. Heros aren't persons. Legends aren't persons. Symbols aren't persons. They're objectifications of abstract ideas.

Now, I pick on Batman because it's so obvious what's going on... but think of how common these themes come up in media directed at males (and media in general). That being a mere person is weakness, but being a object is strength. That being respected and being objectified is synonymous. That the ideals one "represents" is more important than who they are as a person. Our culture glorifies not only male objectification, but males objectifying themselves. And it's so commonplace we don't even recognize it as objectification. Objectification isn't simply "normalized" for males... it's the ideal for males.

And, women... you're kind'a part of the problem here too. That whole "knight in shining armor" cliche that I see in just about every romantic comedy or "princess" story where the male's only role is to be this absolutely perfect hero and whisk the female off from her problems (or the Bridget Jone's Diary/ Twilight stories where you have 2 perfect hero's who's only purpose is to fight for the female)... yea, that's the exact same sort of objectification, which in turn teaches females to reinforce and encourage male self-objectification.

And, yea, this is incredibly harmful. Not in the same way sexual objectification is females, but none the less. This sort of heroic objectification is why males feel they need to go off to war, why males form organized gangs, why males have insane work schedules, why males exploit the powers they have... because they can't be just a person, they need to be a symbol! They need to fulfill the role that society expects of them, their own individuality be damned.

Now, I want to make it absolutely clear that I'm not trying to trivialize sexual objectification. Heroic objectification and sexual objectification are very much so just different symptoms of the same root problem. And, it's only upon recognizing all the symptoms that we can actually begin to address it.

No comments:

Post a Comment