When I hear feminists talk about the objectification of women, what comes to my mind are the images in the magazines, movies, adverts and the Internet, of women in tiny outfits for the pleasure of men. However sexual objectification, although a problem worth recognition, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Objectification: we can define this word as seeing and or treating a person, usually a woman as an object. Cambridge Dictionary goes further to define this as treating people like tools or toys, as if they had no feelings, opinions, or rights of their own.
“In everyday conversation, male pronouns dominate our speech and ideas. Every dog we see is a ‘he’, humans thought of as simply ‘mankind’. There are exceptions, though. Boats, cars, bikes and ships always seem to be ‘she’, but this is hardly exciting once we realise that they are all objects, and possessions of (usually) men, at that.”- Huffing Post
Society continues to reduce the value of a woman. This highlighted further when you are a woman born in a developing country. In some societies we see the possession of more than one wife as a sign of wealth, this can be equated to having more than one car parked in the garage.
One time I had the privilege of sitting and listening to a group of guys in their thirties giving each other advice on how to find the perfect wife. After several ideas being thrown around, one married guy finally spoke up
Pempho: Don’t listen to these guys, I am married. Do you know what you need to do to find that perfect girl?
Pempho: Date more than one woman at the same time aise! You test things out where the grass is greener you migrate there.
This was a new thing for me to hear, I honestly thought I had heard it all. An array of thoughts went bouncing into my head as I thought of what kind of man is capable of this, stringing two unknowing women along for his amusement and judgement.
Then I realised he is not to blame; he has grown up in an environment where women were nothing more toys. I realised this is probably a man who was raised to believe that men are exempted from all moral misconduct. His confidence in his statement confirmed that he was justified.
Out of curiosity I asked Pempho if this would also apply to me, if say I wanted to find the perfect husband.
Paul: Ah iweyo uzangodikila mamuna azakupeze, koma mmene umapangila makani udzadikila nthawi yayitali. [No, you just need to wait for the right man to find you. But the way you are so adamant you will have a long wait.]
One time I had a similar conversation with my male colleagues, we were debating on why cheating has become a norm among men.
“Men are men you just need to accept that at some point we all cheat. Iweyo uzingodziwa kuphika ndikukhonza pakhomo, ukavitika ndi kumulonda londa mamuna sudzakwatila ndithu”… [all you need to be concerned about is cooking and cleaning, if you keep trying to keep tabs on your man you will never get married.]
The statement “Men are men” is thrown around a lot, even by women. If your husband cheats on you, “he is just being a man, forgive him, as long as at the end of the day he is yours. Just make sure you create a good enough environment for him at home so he doesn’t stray. Maybe try nagging less”
I am appalled by the way we have imprinted this uniform image in our heads about how women should be. Objectification scares me, with the current mind sets most have it’s no surprise HIV/AIDS spread so prevalently, I have heard one too many stories about women who died because their husbands brought home HIV. It’s this type of justified thinking that has claimed the lives of many innocent women and continues to do so.
Objectification is used to dehumanize people; the same way it is used in wars to make it easier to kill it can be placed in our households. The more we dehumanize people the easier it is for us to oppose them, here the “objectifier” has the potential to treat you unfairly or in most common African households violently. Even in situations where a man has been violent towards a woman we hear such statements as “Oh, he must have been provoked to have done that,” “He was a nice man who just snapped,” “He must have been confused by her signals”.
One of the worst fears I have is that I will have my daughters grow up brainwashed to believe their worth is determined by a man’s view of them. They say “today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.” I do not want my children to grow up in a world where beauty and adequacy has such a shallow definition.
I have grown up hearing statements of disapproval come in the form of “ndesimukakwanitsa kubanjatu” (you will not survive when you are married) “nde amuna anu mukawasunga bwanji” (how will you keep your husband). I am lucky that I know I am more. I know I am not just “somebody’s wife, somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, or somebody’s sister,” I am a woman and I am “somebody” with more to offer the world than what is external.
“We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved…The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. “- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“People who have no respect for the life around them earn no respect themselves. If you devalue people, there is not much value to your own character, despite how many good deeds you’ve done.”- anonymous