The Bechdel test and Objectification
The Bechdel test is a test asks the question if a work of fiction has at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Though it was originally used only as an indication of sexism in films, it has be used by in a wide range of genres. The most important thing about the test though, is that it highlights a serious issue in new media- the objectification of women. Though this idea is not new, it does give key insights into how it is used, since the rising of new media. Using the idea of the Bechdel test as a catalyst for change, many other parallels can be drawn.
In recent entertainment media, the objectification of women has become obscenely prevalent. Specifically in advertisements, women are portrayed as sexual objects, and in doing so, less than human. This is inherently harmful because it creates unhealthy social and physical stereotypes that degrade and promote negative behavior. Furthermore, the increasing use of objectifying ads only adds to the perception of their normality. The longer this is able to continue, the greater the damage sustained. Thus, objectifying ads have a negative effect on women and society as a whole and must be stopped.
Femininity negatively portrayed in ads have serious negative effects on women’s mental health. Upon viewing an objectifying ad, women are shown to develop the belief that their personality is meaningless and that they are only valuable as sexual objects. Especially with young adults, whom American apparel targets, these images establish the belief in physical appearance as the only measure of self-worth (Tkarrde, 2003). What is worse is that these problems are directly linked to sexualized images. Women seeking to emulate these unrealistic standards fall victim to their own bodies. They begin to see themselves as deficient when in actuality it is the ads that are neither real nor healthy. Just like the ads they cannot avoid, they become toys for manipulation by companies that have no interest in their well being. It is no longer unusual in your ads to see female model’s body parts exclusively, without even a face. This dismemberment, the focus on specific parts of the body, again detaches the person from the body. It creates an idea of beauty which is inherently false. This also serves as its method of dehumanization. With no reference to everything that makes a person real, a personality, etc. it legitimizes the glorification of the body. This has the potential to lead to problems such as eating disorders low self-esteem and even depression. It is a surprising that over 40% of Americans report knowing someone with an eating disorder? These are the facts, and they are sickening.
These ads have immediate and long term consequences. Not only are the intended to arouse, they in turn create negative associations. Collectively, these negative associations create stereotypes in society. First, that society entirely sex driven, and secondly that women are merely objects of desire. Exploiting sex as a selling point, these ads sacrifice a women’s integrity by showing more skin tan product. This is especially detrimental for children. Being in the developmental stage of their lives, this over sexualized content rewrites what they see as normal because they are unable to accurately critically analyze these messages are not fully developed.
In understanding over sexualized ads, there begins to show a clear focus on profit. The more people buy into the idea that women are objects, the more companies are able to continue these practices. Thus the media has a real power in this situation. The more they profess these beliefs the more they are able to profit off these ideas, and it will continue to be prevalent in society. It is a choice the media makes to present unrealistic portrayals of society. This trend towards objectification is only prevalent because it is profitable. It does not care about it the harm is casing in countless men and women. It creates a social acceptable struggle of a perfection that the media portrays, at the expense of physical and mental health. Women are brought to the brink of depression and disorder by these incomplete images of beauty. Encouraging sexualization among young audiences has a tangible effect on our society future which can only be seen to lead to an increase of insecurity and inadequately. It is something that only gets worse with time, possibly linked to greater sexual violence and others. It is clear that this objectification can only cause more negative effects on society. The longer these ads are acceptable, the less we are able to truly understand beauty. And thus these negative effects will only continue.
Want to check out what has passed the Bechdel test? Check here!