Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gender Inequality - Oversexualization of the Female Body

Although Western culture may like to think that gender equality is gained by right to vote, the oversexualization of women’s bodies in the media prevents equality of the sexes in our misogynistic society. As John Berger said, “men act and women appear.” In analyzing the abundant objectification of women’s bodies in our pop culture, this statement speaks volumes to the gender inequality in America. The oversexualized female body in advertisements causes a woman to turn herself into an a “sight,” which in turn strips her of her humanity.

The sexualized female body can be seen anywhere from album covers to billboards to bus stops. Due to the plethora of these types of images, from a young age both males and females are taught to scale a woman’s worth down to her physical size, shape, and attractiveness. Berger states that men look at women, and in turn women watch themselves being looked at. Similar to the James Bond gaze that sexualizes a woman’s body on screen through the eyes of a heterosexual male, the portrayal of women’s bodies in advertisements focuses on long legs, curvy hips, a slim waist, and perfect breasts.  When a society becomes so obsessed with the oversexualization of the female body as promoted by these ads, a woman is forced to “appear” instead of “act.” The man in turn is encouraged to "act," as it is his role to observe these objectified female bodies all around him. As the term coined by Berger, a woman must “appear” to fit societal norms, yet men can simply "act" as themselves. Until the oversexualized female body is no longer used to market products, gender equality cannot yet exist. The objectification of the female body through advertisements perpetuates gender inequality, and teaches woman and girls to value appearance over intellect.

We are so habituated to seeing only the female body objectified, that it is shocking when the a man's body is portrayed in the same way. How many times have you seen a woman in an advertisement wearing a bikini holding a product unrelated to swimwear and haven’t thought twice about it? Imagine seeing a billboard with a man posed provocatively wearing a speedo promoting an unrelated product such as cleaning supplies or a cereal brand? Sounds a bit unfamiliar, right? Recent feminist campaigns have created “role reversal” ads to counteract the sexist stereotypes of females in advertisements. The results were shocking - many of the “role reversed” male ads seem extremely awkward, even uncomfortable to look at. In our culture we were so used to seeing only the female body portrayed as a sex object. When these gender roles are reversed, it seems unnatural to us which can be accounted to Berger’s theory that women “appear” and men “act.”

Due to the prevalence of objectified women's bodies in the media, girls are taught to view themselves as objects since an extremely young age. Simultaneously, boys grow up unconsciously learning that girls exist to be looked at and admired. The media lacks positive female inspiration unrelated to physical appearance, and that may be detrimental to future generations. As long as these gender reversed ads appear as absurd, females will continue to "appear" while males are permitted to "act." Until the oversexualized and objectified female body ceases to be an obsession in pop culture, we cannot claim gender equality.


  1. Great post, Emma! I agree with your claim that women and women's bodies are overly sexualized in the media. It is interesting that no one questions a provocative ad featuring a woman, when, if the roles were reversed, people would take notice and scrutinize the exact same advertisement.

  2. I really like how you show the roles reversed, because it really captures the idea that women are just seen for their bodies, and this never happens to men. I agree that complete gender equality cannot be achieved unless the female body stops being over sexualized.

  3. You have a really a really strong thesis about how gender equality can only be achieved when the hyper-sexuality and objectification of women ceases to play a role in American culture. Your use of role reversal pictures also really helped to further your argument.

  4. I think this is a really good point, and the images that you used in conjunction with the post really helped to support your argument. Another example of sexualization of women in ads is Black Widow in the posters for one of the Avenger's movies. All the male characters are doing normal superhero poses, and Black Widow (the only woman) is facing away from the camera and looking over her shoulder while wearing a really tight supersuit thing.

  5. As a woman in my late 20's I'm disgusted with the way men objectify women. I don't appreciate how men look at my body parts when I'm grocery shopping or doing anything in general. I'm not flattered, as a man told me I suppose to feel, but I'm disgusted and very uncomfortable!! I'm so sad when I see how young girls are involuntarily exposed to and their minds are flooded with these types of over-sexualized images from such young ages. They grow up thinking that body image is more important then intellect, so they dress and act accordingly. They don't have enough role models to show them their worth. I'm deeply saddened by where our society is going!