Not to brag, but I own a lot of objects. At this moment, my apartment floor is covered with them. I have feelings about these objects. My Papa Smurf plush action figure is special to me because my dad bought him before I was born. My copy of Shakespeare’s works (Riverside, duh) reminds me of a time in life when I exclusively pursued art. My yoga mat makes me feel guilty for never doing yoga. If something happened to those things, I would be the person most immediately affected.
This week, President Obama, a hero for his work on healthcare and women’s rights, released an anti-rape PSA which puts the onus on men to not sexually assault rather than on women not be sexually assaulted. Great. But the PSA missteps in falling back on the old trope, “You shouldn’t rape someone because that woman could be someone’s mother/daughter/sister/cousin/barista/dream-girl-next-door.”
Until society stops seeing women only as supporting players, characters who exist through the lives of the men who love them, women will always be victims. Who fucking cares if a woman is someone’s daughter? Women are raped because we’re seen as objects that someone has a right to take. We can’t not be raped because we’re objects that just happen to belong to someone else. We shouldn’t be raped because it’s wrong to rape, because raping a person is a terrible thing to do to that person.
This same week, someone I only know professionally couldn’t stop talking about this “hot girl who used to be his subordinate” he was going to lunch with. This man is married and ostensibly not interested in cheating on his wife. It wasn’t about going on a date with a hot girl, a situation where physical attractiveness is relevant. It was about reducing a human being with feelings and intelligence and a career to a status symbol. He diminished a woman to an expensive bottle of wine; a way to impress other people in public. It also implied that no way in hell would this guy be interested dining with a woman who’d been his subordinate if she wasn’t hot, which is the same shit women in the workplace have dealt with since we dared to enter it. After all, if a toy isn’t shiny, who would ever want to play with it?
I keep researching other relevant current events to try and find a way to tie this post together, but there are too few and too many all at once: How when a female celebrity is photographed in yoga pants, the media depicts her as “flaunting her body”. Websites dedicated to “hot” up-skirt shots taken unbeknownst to the skirt owner. Half of Howard Stern’s show. Joe Francis.
When you rob a woman of her individuality as an autonomous human, it diminishes that woman and is hurtful to human rights, no matter what your intentions.