(By the way, this post refers to something in the realm of politics, but no part of it is meant to endorse ANY candidate. It’s about our culture and not about how you should vote.)
Words matter. Their definition matters just as much. Our understanding of a word’s definition makes a big difference when it comes to communicating.
Take the word ‘duck’ for example. It has more than one meaning and this ambiguity can at times hinder clear communication. When I say duck, I could be referring to the animal or the physical action.
If someone was swinging a hammer at your face, I assume you would like to have clarity on which definition I am referencing.
The multiple definitions of the words in our language can make it hard to understand each other. This is not the only thing which gets in the way of communication though. Sometimes, we get in our own way because the definition of words becomes lost on us.
I remember a time in my life where I wasn’t sure about the definition of the word ‘ambiguous’. I now find this pretty comical. There’s also some confusion, which I still experience, on why I never looked up the word in the dictionary.
Either way, our culture has a similar struggle with the word ‘objectification’. For some reason, we seem to have forgotten it’s definition or don’t feel an urgency to gain a clear understanding of it. I say seem because I don’t know the hearts of minds of everyone in our culture.
My perception of our culture’s understanding of the word starts with how often we talk about objectification.
It’s common for people to discuss how men objectify women. That said, it’s possible I hear it more often than others because I am a recovering porn addict who struggles with a dating idol. I write about both of those issues so the idea of objectification tends to come up in my conversations.
At the same time, it is not news to people that men objectify women. The phrase does not bring shock or surprise to people’s face when I confess to them how I have done it and still do it at times. What did bring shock and surprise was the revelation that Donald Trump TREATED women like objects.
This is not the exact same thing as thinking of a woman as an object. Besides accidents, I’ve never touched a woman without her permission. While thinking about women that way and treating them that way are different, both are wrong.
As a culture, we have become numb to the first and show great horror at the second. I don’t write this in order to point fingers either. I write this to explain how this approach will not work in dealing with the problem.
Take for example, the problem of children who assume crayons are the same as food and therefore want to eat them. It would be confusing to not correct this assumption and at the same time tell them not to eat it. Our silence in the face of objectification bears a great similarity.
A study at Princeton showed scientific evidence of how a woman in a bikini causes men to see them as objects. At the same time, CNN (and all the other news outlets) used the picture of a woman in a bikini in the article. This kind of resembles writing a news article about a picture which turns half of the population into zombies and including the picture.
If a child were to hold up a red crayon and say out loud ‘strawberry’, we’d correct them. I assume we’d make a point of saying ‘That’s not food, it doesn’t go in your mouth.’ If we didn’t say anything and the child then started to chew on the crayon, we would bear a little of the responsibility.
The same is true with our culture. I am not saying you bear some of the responsibility for what Donald Trump did. I am saying culture is made up of people and you know quite a few of them.
I assume you have more than a few people in your circle of influence. Have you ever made a point of talking about your tendency to objectify or that it’s wrong? Have you ever discussed how you fight against the tendency to objectify women or other people in general?
Human nature is fallen, sinful, and gets worse unless we fight against it. At some point, things will get bad enough for you to cry out ’THIS IS WRONG.” Those around you will ask questions which sound like ‘Why is it wrong? What do you mean by wrong?’.
I understand why Trump’s actions and words were wrong. Someone whose conscience has been drowned in objectification and pornography might not. I know this because I remember how bent some of my moral stances became when I was submerged in my porn addiction.
If we don’t speak up, the conscience of those around us will continue to drown.
TV shows already use nudity and sex, a woman’s body, to attract attention. Joss Whedon, a guy who I respect, said he’d film Mark Ruffalo in an inappropriate manner if you voted for Hillary Clinton. As a culture, we are comfortable with the idea of thinking of people’s bodies as objects meant for the purpose of enjoyment.
It’s already acceptable to think of a person’s body as something meant for our personal satisfaction. If we don’t speak up, more and more people will turn those thoughts into actions. The war against objectification is not won in the outcry against those who commit the worst offenses.
It’s won in our hearts and minds. The person who touches a woman without permission probably objectified women in their minds a thousand times before the act. There is a good chance they talked about them as objects in front of others many times.
Don’t we bear some of the responsibility if we never correct them? Shouldn’t we clarify their definition of a person? Haven’t we reached the point of tragedy if people aren’t sure about the difference between person and object?
Now do you see what I mean when I say words matter?
If you’re interested, I’ve written a few posts in the past which fall in the same ballpark of thought. Here’s an article on women, here’s one on Playboy’s move away from nudity in their magazines, and here’s a post about the controversy over 50 Shades of Grey.
Image Copyright: Public Domainby