I Objectify Women
Scott Roche
94

If you take a long look back at pop culture literature and film and other kinds of stories, you see that the worst possible thing that can happen to a woman is to be raped. Women will go so far as to die (suicide) before the rape to prevent it, or after the rape to prevent the shame. Either by suicide or by murder, often by their father.

And I don’t mean this is the worst thing that an audience can think can happen to women, I mean the women in the context of the stories. Stories tell women over and over again that the worst fate is rape. Philomena. Shakespeare’s Lavinia. Austen’s Kitty in P&P (she runs off with a guy, the rape is made OK by marriage — her consent is irrelevant to society). Stoker’s Lucy. Black Widow — she becomes an assassin, then is sterilized, and so can’t have children — quite the punishment for her sins, no?

Women are also rendered unacceptable for having sex outside of marriage. Shakespeare’s Ophelia is warned of it (and maybe does it) and dies. Or my favorite: The woman in Dirty Dancing who has the abortion (I can’t remember her name). She almost dies and at the end is conservatively dressed and dancing with the old, black bandleader (there’s a lot of race stuff there to unpack, too, but focus on gender for now!) Now, that’s a “woman has abortion = must be punished.” But you get the idea about women, sexual agency, and life expectancy in literature.

Men, on the other hand, the worst thing that can happen to them is for their woman (wife, gf, mother, sister, niece whatever) to be raped. That’s a humiliation because his property has been damaged. Look at how many men (in stories) build their plots on the bodies of dead women (and sometimes children).

None of this is to pile on you or to say that what you’ve said above is wrong in some way. It’s just to point out that there is a long, long history of this kind of thing in literature, and it is SO permeated in our culture that it can go entirely unnoticed, even by folks TRYING to notice.

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