In John Berger’s book entitled, The Ways of Seeing, he expresses his view about gender roles in society. He articulates the idea that men act and women appear. He says that men first survey a woman and what a man sees often determines how the woman will be treated. Berger later says that a woman’s actions also determine how others will treat her. Although I agree with Berger’s assertions that men often judge women based on what they observe, I believe that both men and women contribute to the objectification of women and I believe that not all men are the brave, confident individuals Berger portrays them to be.
More often than not, the first thing a man observes about a woman is her appearance. At a young age, kids are always taught not to judge a book by its cover. Even though this cliché is repeated time and time again, men seem to have an innate urge to judge a woman based on her appearance. A few weeks ago two guys sitting at a lunch table next to mine were “rating” various girls on a scale of 1-10. Their “rates” were based purely on physical appearance and had nothing to do with who the girls were or what their personalities were like. Sitting at the same table as them was a girl who was listening to the entire conversation. After a few minutes she was clearly aggravated and voiced her frustration. She said that taking a woman and reducing her to nothing more of an object of review was ridiculous and insulting. Upon hearing this, the two boys justified their actions by saying “well all guys do it so it’s okay.” Not only is this a classic bandwagon logical fallacy but it also shows how this mentality is so deeply ingrained in society. Just because “everyone does it,” doesn’t mean that it is right and should be repeated.
Both men and women contribute to and perpetuate the objectification of women. Men objectify women by looking at them and seeing them as sex objects. Women objectify themselves by succumbing to social pressures. Berger says that the success of a woman’s life is dependent on how she appears to others and more specifically, men. Therefore, a woman's sense of herself is supplanted by the feeling of “being appreciated as herself by another.” Berger argues that a woman’s view of herself is less important that how another person views her. This mentality leads to a lack of self-confidence and insecurities. When a woman accepts what men may think of her, she allows herself to become objectified. When a woman is objectified she can more easily be compared to other “objects” (e.g. the “rates”). Both men and women help to perpetuate objectification, which can often hurt a woman’s self image. Women are continuously seen as sex objects and objectified day after day but still should be seen as a symbol of purity.
Berger’s insinuation that all men are strong, dominating, and extremely confident individuals is a very far-fetched idea. Everyone has insecurities and there is no avoiding it. Berger asserts that while men act without a thought of what others might think of them, women are always thinking about who will judge them. As a man, I find this utterly ridiculous. I constantly find myself trying to figure out how other people may be judging me. I often worry that things I say or do might offend someone or hurt their feelings. As a man, I am self-conscious and have insecurities just like everyone else. There is no biological trait that gives men more self-confidence than women. As humans, both male and female, everyone has at least one thing they don’t feel confident about.
Men and women both face many gender stereotypes. Some are more harmful than others, but they are stereotypes nonetheless. The way in which men and women view themselves and others is critical in solving this problem. Humans by nature are insecure so individuals should never be singled out something they are not confident about. If society wishes to end the objectification of women as a whole, both men and women need to make changes.