Last Friday, Nov. 4, a demonstration against sexualization of women was held on the University Mall from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The demonstration was a project of women’s gender and sexuality studies student Julia Haberstick for WGS 201: Topics in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
“It is such a harmful thing for women to see themselves as sexual objects. It reduces what women can see themselves as and leads to things like violence against women, which is super-normalized in the media,” Haberstick said.
In 2008, researchers from Wesleyan University conducted a study of nearly 2,000 advertisements from 50 well-known American magazines. Researchers found that half of them show women as sex objects. A 2007 report of the American Psychological Association (APA) found evidence that the increasing number of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development.
“It’s [sexualization of women] a substantial issue,” Patrick MacKay said. He is one of two men in the class of eleven students. The topic of WGS 201 this semester is social media movements and change. The class closely focuses on reading-based discussions. One of the most recent books that the class read is “Feminism Unfinished: A Short, Surprising History of American Women’s Movements” by Dorothy Sue Cobble.
“This discipline evolved out of women’s liberation movement and out of consciousness raising groups,” adjunct instructor in the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies program Nicole Littrell said. “Activism is a major foundation of WGS. As an educator, I feel like it is really important to offer classes where student can learn about history and present day movements, and learn about adopting some of those activist practices into their own lives. Taking scholarship from classrooms and applying it to the campus community and a wider community.”
Students started planning for the demonstration last month. They got in contact with Hardy Girls and Healthy Women (HGHW), which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health and well being of girls and women and helped out with their eighth annual Freaky 5K on Oct. 29. The goal of the race was to bring back Halloween as a scary rather than sexy holiday. Halloween costumes for women and young girls have become increasingly sexualized, with costumes that feature short skirts, fitted bodices and high heels.
Faceless mannequins with slogans were laid out for people to see during the demonstrations. “Fifty Shades of Grey — more like fifty shades of objectification,” was one of the featured slogans.
Some of the featured quotes came from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. One of them was a comment that Trump made about actress Nicollette Sheridan in 2005; “A woman who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.”
“A lot of people don’t think that it [sexualization of women] is a real issue,” Gwendolyn Kotyk, one of the demonstrators, said. “But even if you look at media, I think it’s become so normalized, that you have people just ignoring the consequences of what’s happening. It leads to a problematic scheme we see in America, like eating disorders and prostitution. From one source, it almost creates a ripple effect and spreads everywhere.”
Littrell came to the demonstration with her son. She shared that her task, as a parent, is to challenge normalizing sexualization of women and for her son to see women as whole human beings and not just objects.
“I see sexualization of women all over the place. The media practically controls everything and affects lots of stuff,” Leo Horhcler, 11, said.
Horhcler also shared his thoughts on sexualization of women in the comic books.
“One thing that is good about Marvel, is that they’re not sexualizing women so much, but DC is not doing a good job at it, I think.” Horhcler’s said. His favorite female superhero is Marvel’s Spider-Gwen, whose alter-ego is Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man’s romantic interest.