There’s More Than One Way to Objectify a Woman

While I was looking for podcasts to listen to at work, I came across The Catholic Underground. The word “Underground” gave me hope

The best women have to offer?

The best women have to offer?

for something subversive, a hope which remained sadly unfulfilled. Instead, I got the same old party lines rife with contradictions. (You can listen to the whole show here, but I can’t say I recommend it unless you have 75 minutes to kill and want to do so listening to three guys shoot the breeze and occasionally mention something relevant to Catholicism.)

One of the news items discussed is the Gates’ Foundation’s new technology that puts birth control on a microchip. The article I just linked is the one referenced in the show, and a link to it appears on the show’s page, but one of the hosts made sure to include the disclaimer that the website supports birth control “for all of the usual, silly, illogical reasons” that they’ve gone into before.

When it comes to Catholicism, there’s not much that raises my ire more than three men sitting around calling birth control “illogical” and “silly.” I could fill a whole post with a rant about that (I sort of already did here and here), but that’s not what I’m here to write about. Not exactly.

Later in the show, the hosts discussed brain research showing that when men view images of tools and images of scantily clad women, the same brain area lights up: the area associated with using objects to attain goals. (When men viewed images of attractive but fully clothed women, the brain response was more complex, involving more systems). The hosts used this as an opportunity to bemoan the habit of seeing women as “objects” rather than as full people. I concur that this is unfortunate, even sinful, and that spiritual people especially should avoid cultivating this habit.

Of course, we know why it’s wrong to objectify someone: it reduces a whole person to one aspect of her being.

Official Church teaching will fight me to the death over this one (no explaining necessary, I’m familiar with the Theology of the Body), but I believe that the Church’s teaching on contraception objectifies women, in that it reduces them, if not to mere womb-bearing creatures, then to children who possess a vast and dangerous power (the ability to create life!) that they don’t know how to use (or refuse) properly.

When I see billboards of scantily clad women selling everything from beer to watches, I feel angry and a little sick inside.

When I hear men (who, in case you’ve missed anything, will NEVER face the reality of becoming pregnant) rail against contraception, I feel angry and trapped. Literally trapped. Trapped in this body, trapped in this institution, stripped of freedom, stripped of dignity.

Because I understand my own body (including the mechanics of Natural Family Planning), I understand how various types of birth control work (which ones are OK with me and which ones aren’t), I understand the role sex plays in my relationship with my husband, I understand the importance of couples making decisions about sex and families together, and I feel so capable and competent to make decisions about this aspect of my life that I really want everyone to just stand aside and let me do it, thank you very much.

Natural Family Planning and the Theology of the Body are supposed to urge couples to see each other as “whole people,” but instead it runs the risk of making your spouse just look like a pregnancy risk. It reduces sex to babies, and by reducing sex, it reduces women (men, too, which is also a whole ‘nother post). Seeing women as all-loving, all-nurturing beings traps us just as much as seeing us as mere objects of sexual gratification. It sounds nicer, and flies better on family friendly TV, but it’s still dehumanizing.

Which the Church might have figured out by now if it let women do the talking once in a while.

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One thought on “There’s More Than One Way to Objectify a Woman

  1. Pingback: There’s More Than One Way to Objectify a Woman | Lacey's Late-night Editing

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