This post first appeared in the Verily Magazine blog. I loved the author's, (Janet Sahm) response to the reader's question about women dressing well and the male response, and felt the need to cross-post it here.
“So, men objectify women and the solution is for women to ‘cover up’? This is a problem with how men see women, so why should I, as a woman, have to change *my* behavior when it’s not *my* problem? And then you get to the sticky situation where women who don’t cover up are seen as inviting men to see them as objects…once again, it’s the woman’s fault. Blame the man’s shortcomings on the woman, why don’t you. Where is the male responsibility in all this?”
It’s understandable to be frustrated and feel annoyed with this generalization. The Princeton study, however, was not blaming women but rather sharing an important insight into what happens in the male brain after viewing images of women in bikinis. In a way, our praise of one-piece swimsuits was in recognition and understanding of a reality about human nature. It goes without saying that men and women are physically attracted to one another. But, would anyone doubt that, in general, men tend to be more visually stimulated than women and are susceptible to using and viewing women as objects?
The underlying question may be: Why should we care–even if we are being used? It’s certainly the case that men need to strive to respect women even more and reject treating them as objects. But, are we meeting them halfway in this pursuit, or are we making it easier for them to see us as a means of enjoyment by the way we dress?
Let’s not forget that, as people, we’re all susceptible to using one another forour own gratification. For a man, it may be to solely focus on a woman’s sexual values, leaving the rest of who she is fade into the background. For a woman, it may be to fantasize about a man she’s just met, crafting a romanticized imaginary future that’s sorely in need of a reality check. We’re in this struggle together.
If you come to the conclusion that you don’t want to be used, then there’s something you can do to help. We cannot control men, but we can control our actions.
Without saying a word, what you wear influences how people respond to your beauty. Perhaps it’s not that bikinis reveal too much, but too little.