All their lives, women and girls are bombarded with objectified images of other women.  From birth, they are pressured to fit within the margins of what society and the media dictate their appearance should be.  When women are objectified, they are seen as objects of desire – having no autonomy or personality – and are reduced to the sum of their body parts.  Essentially, what this suggests is that women are not fully human because they cannot express their sexuality in the way they want to.  Women are viewed as objects rather than subjects who have a personality, individuality, voice, control, and empowerment.

If you take for example Playboy models, they are depicted to look a certain way physically and are judged by the sum of their parts – bust, waist, thighs, rear end, and facial features.

Image Credit: The Citizens of Fashion

Image credit: The Citizens of Fashion

We do not know who they are, they have no personality or individuality, and we – as a society – control how we want to use them thus taking the power away from them.

How many of these images are accurate depictions of women’s bodies in real life?  You can see why the average woman will want to physically alter herself in some shape or form to fit within these margins.  From magazines to commercials to billboards, all members of society are confronted with photo-shopped images of what women should look like.  More so, what seems to be an attractive trend for a woman to have are these three main features:

  • A large bust
  • Small waist and
  • Large rear end

There are permanent and temporary ways for women to physically change themselves to fit the idealized, objectified image.  The extreme would be to undergo plastic surgery – which is a huge commitment and would result in a permanent change.  The more subtle option for women would be to use fashion to physically alter their appearance.  It seems that this universal look that woman aim to achieve has some historical significance.  I decided to look at historical patterns in fashion that incorporates the three main features in an effort to show how long this trend has going on for.

Green dress, 1870, silk brocade, 58", Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY, N0239.1954

Green dress, 1870, silk brocade, 58″ (length, neck to hem), Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY, N0239.1954

This early twentieth century dress accurately supports the trend to conform to these features because it incorporates a corset – intended to dramatically slim the waist and accentuate the bust – as well as a bustle – which gave the impression of a large rear end.  It was normative during this time for women to wear corsets because they symbolized femininity and fertility, two important attributes of women in the early 1900s.

Fast forward to the early twentieth-first century. We have lost the corset, but the same ideal figure is pursued.  Women seek out bras such as the Victoria’s Secret miracle bra to enhance the bust, and they resort to butt pads to emphasize the rear.

Image credit: The Hollywood Heels

Image credit: The Hollywood Heels

Image credit: Bubblews

Image credit: Bubblews

Television shows, magazines, and advertisements that create bodily insecurity among women today publicly point out flaws in women. I think it is important to mention that not all women conform to these trends. More and more, women are starting to aspire to look less like celebrities and embrace the body they were born with. Women need to reclaim their identity and sexuality in order for sexual objectification to end.

– Araya Henry, Cooperstown Graduate Program 2015

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