Sexual Objectification of Women in Contemporary Canada

Sexual objectification is commonplace in Canadian society that adversely affects women in numerous and various ways. Researches indicate a high level of sexual objectification in society that claims to treat people equally. The need to understand the various ways in which women face objectification necessitates in-depth research into the issue, with consideration for the different identities that exist in the diverse community. More so, the research includes the impacts that objectification has on women’s self-image and why society needs to eliminate the issue. Media and society damage Canadian women’s and girls’ self-image, necessitating action to eliminate its tenets.

How Sexual Objectification Happens

In Canada, women face objectification in diverse ways. Like in most other places around the world, Canadian women are subject to advert objectification. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation (2013), ads bearing an unrealistic representation of women are common in Canadian televisions. The images bear the message that women bearing the perfect figures are the only persons who are fit for existence, survival, and thriving in the highly sexualized Canadian society. They are based on the belief that sex sells. The perfected images of the women who should be in society is a form of objectification since it presents women as the main means of selling. The producers assume that women are the face of sex and that adverts that do not bear the face are unlikely to succeed in marketing the product.

Worse still, the ads create the impression that only the perfected women are fit for society. In their implied sense, all other women with different figures, shapes, and sizes are unfit and cannot meet societal standards.  This erroneous representation of women also implies that there is a standard for being a Canadian woman. This representation is erroneous in that it depicts a society that has set standards for women to be sexually attractive. It depicts them as objects of sex who have to meet certain beauty standards for them to be considered part of the community in which they exist. The media stipulates that females have to be oriented in certain ways to fit the societal sexual demands, a presumption that is barely true in the slightest sense.

Sexual objectification of Canadian women also occurs in the form of inappropriate comments and contact. According to Sáez et al. (2019), women in Canada are forced to adapt to the constructed norm of listening and reacting accordingly to comments that they are not necessarily comfortable with, especially when made in places that do not rhyme with such happenings. For example, many women are forced to listen to inappropriate comments regarding their sexual appearance at the workplace, where they would expect utter professionalism from their male colleagues. Others suffer a similar fate when undertaking their everyday activities without a will to receive unwarranted messages at certain times and in certain environments. For example, some women have to bear the sounds of unnecessary catcalls when walking on the streets, and others have to bear unwelcome advances, such as groping and requests for sexualized conversations when going about unrelated routines.

In the worst cases, objectification goes to the extent of physical violence. According to Davidson & Gervais (2015), violence against women occurs in both forced sex and physical assault. Some girls are forced to endure the trauma and pain associated with rape, especially in their adolescence and college years. Older women in relationships also face unwelcome sexual advances and intimate partner relationships. It is especially saddening for the women who have experienced the physical assault and rape perpetrated by their intimate partners and those who experience the horrors of being raped before attaining the majority’s age. These and other forms of sexual attacks on women result from the perception that their bodies are locations for sex and that their bodies belong less to them and more to people who need sexual satisfaction.

Self-objectification is also common in Canadian society. According to Bell, Cassarly, & Dunbarf (2018), self-objectification is common on social media platforms. Women seek the public’s attention through self-objectification since it is the only method that they had proven to work for them by gaining more likes. It is especially so on platforms based on visual content as opposed to verbal content, such as Instagram. Women in Canadian society seek more likes through trait self-objectification on such platforms. Young adults consistently seek more attention for themselves by posting sexually suggestive images. The images they post on social media platforms suggest that they equate their self-worth to their body appearances and sexual functions. This display of self as a sexual object is the ultimate goal for a significant percentage of this populace, as opposed to the quest for other more important displays of self, such as making good music or meaningful content.

The tendency to objectify oneself may be attributed to the societal glorification of such sexualized content. According to Loughnan et al. (2015), culture is a major trigger of self-objectification. It leads to the belief that women are less human than men. For this reason, they feel the need to place themselves as symbols of sex for them to feel as worthy parts of society. They compensate the assumed deficiency with self-objectification in a quest to be acceptable in a community that has already degraded them. For this reason, self-objectification amongst Canadian women may be attributed to the existent objectification of women by both media and society. It is the resultant effect of women’s inability to protect themselves from succumbing to the pressure exerted on them by the people surrounding them.

Differences in Types of Objectification and Perspectives of the Same

Differences exist in the type of objectification that women face in Canada. According to Women and Gender Equality Canada (2013), Black girls and women in Canada face the highest risk of gender-based violence. Their skin color makes them more vulnerable to violence than the Whites are. Whites’ dominance in society makes Black women a larger target for the issues such as body shaming and physical, sexual assault. The issue arises since society is more inclined to theorize about beauty and its standards than the intellectual capacities of the different women and girls within the Canadian community. The need to fit in society triggers self-objectification amongst the Black girls and women, as witnessed in the massive pageantry that is ongoing in the society. It may be considered that Black women use the pageantry and its relatives to express their sense of belonging and gain access to the economic gains that their White counterparts have.

A similar scenario is observed amongst groups of women who differ from each other in terms of social class. Groups of poor and lower social classes are obliged to push to the limits the possibility of fitting in a society like their counterparts who are doing better in life. For example, women from minority groups encounter a higher poverty level, thereby having to endure more stressors and barriers. They have to make the necessary adjustments to fit in a society that categorizes people according to financial ability and social status. Poor women are part of the class that is categorized as lower than that of their richer counterparts. For this reason, they have a higher tendency to self-objectify in the quest to gain equal or fairer access to the advantages accorded to their richer counterparts.

In some cases, women self-objectify to seem better than their counterparts in society. Posting revealing images and using sexualized environments triggers their ego as being better than others in the competitive society. Such and similar behavior shows that self-objectification may be also be attributed to self-interest. It diminishes the depiction made by feminists, which seems to support men’s immorality and the unwillingness of society to desist the objectification of women as the only triggers of self-objectification. Feminism blames all aspects of society and media that trigger the agonies of women. It rules out the possibility of women being part of the blame game, a factor that makes its theories incomplete. It is important that Canadian society also considers the contributions of women in their objectification. For example, women who objectify themselves on social media to gain fame can hardly blame society for their self-objectification.

Impacts on Women’s Self-image

Amongst the main effects of sexual objectification is the degradation of self-esteem. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation (2013), adolescent girls who frequently encounter unrealistic representation of women fall victim to self-consciousness. They start to realize the imperfections of their bodies, a factor that provokes a negative self-image. The issue extends to them basing their worth based on the perception of one’s body instead of their intelligence and other strengths. Their self-image is inclined more towards their bodies than towards other aspects of self that should matter more in their lives, especially in their developmental stage of adolescence. A negative self-image promotes general shame and causes appearance anxiety. The availability of media content in the numerous technologies to which girls in contemporary society are fast increasing the number of girls who cannot perform properly due to negative self-image. It has increased the number of adolescents who experience negative moods, especially in social contexts.

The effects of negative self-image are several and far-reaching. Amongst the main ones is the development disorders related to stress. The resultant quest for the perfect body leads to the development of eating disorders. Adolescent girls fall victim to such disorders as they try to either slim or add weight to meet the implied standards. Some of them experience stress at such high levels that they consume too much food, while others experience anorexia. The associated depression negatively affects them in both mind and body. Adolescent girls who fall victim to depression prompted by sexual standards are unlikely to make meaningful progress in maintaining good physical health. In most cases, they get worse body conditions, such as obesity.

Extreme cases of sexual objectification minimize women’s sexual satisfaction. According to Saez et al. (2019), sexual coercion is consequential. It deprives women of achieving the satisfaction that they would have desired to get from engaging in sexual activity. The violence associated with coerced penetration amongst people in sexual relationships gives rise to sexual dissatisfaction and relationship dissatisfaction. It causes lower sexual functioning, owing to the victimized women’s unwillingness to undergo similarly horrifying experiences that trigger anxiety. In another aspect, the feeling of being used as an object of sex by another person is in itself a cause of sexual dissatisfaction. Women who feel that their male counterparts use them instead of having a mutual experience with them fail to enjoy the level of sexual satisfaction they would have desired and gotten if they thought and felt otherwise. The feeling of dehumanization lowers their sex drive.

The use and abuse of drugs amongst women is, at times, caused by sexual objectification. According to Szymanski, Moffitt, and Carr (2010), frequent body evaluation, sexual assault, and other objectification experiences may lead to the use and abuse of drugs. Girls and women who have experienced traumatizing experiences in the past are likely to feel the urge to consume nicotine and alcohol, amongst other substances, to numb the painful thoughts while avoiding the effects of depression and body shaming. The association of drug and substance abuse with objectification in Canadian society is especially evident amongst young adults. They lack knowledge of managing the resultant stress after experiencing sexual coercion or other forms of unfavorable sexual encounters. Substance abuse is also common amongst women whose identities place them at a disadvantage in society. For example, Black women have a higher prevalence of drug use than White women, owing to the higher standards.

Society should fight against the objectification of women. According to Bareket and Shnabel (2020), the sexual objectification of women results from the dominance of heterosexual men in society. The results of this hierarchy are majorly negative in the lives of women. Canadian women face sexual assault and other effects of objectification. They are forced to bear the pains of undergoing the experiences at various stages of their lives. The fact that none of the effects is positive means that society is obligated to change objectification for the betterment of women’s welfare. Canadian society needs to shift to being more habitable for women. The course to succeed in making a better society demands the combined efforts of men, women, and the media.

Conclusion

Canadian women face massive sexual objectification. The patriarchal society sets standards that women should achieve for them to be considered beautiful. The media is the major source of messages that objectify women. Also, men in Canadian society seek dominance at all times, which leads to the dehumanization of women. Cases of coerced sex, improper language, and unwelcome contact are common in society. As a result, women fall victim to low self-esteem, drug abuse, and sexual dissatisfaction, amongst other effects. However, the negativity of the issue necessitates societal action towards the elimination of sexual objectification in Canada.

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