How I Objectify My Wife
Yesterday, I published a story called “All My Wife Needs Is Food and Cuddles” (link at the end). When I shared it on Facebook, one of my female friends, who read only the first two paragraphs, responded,
The title, as well as the excerpt, are disturbing for me to read. Comes off as objectifying. I assume if I were to read more it would be clear you are joking? Cindy seems to think it is funny, so I guess who really cares what I think. But, I figured I would share some feedback. Maybe others might be having my same response?
I can see how it could be perceived as objectifying my wife, and even Medium suggested the tag “Pets” when I published it. Do I think of my wife like a pet? Sometimes I do. She acts like a pussycat sometimes, responding with meows, and loving to be stroked. But the way I perceive Cindy is always changing and is part of a complex set of concepts I use in an attempt to define her. However, as I responded to my friend, it’s impossible to make Cindy into an object; she’s a force of nature.
This interaction got me thinking about objectification, which is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. It’s been becoming increasingly clear to me that what is actually happening is one seamless whole with no real separation. Even what I would think of as myself is not distinguishable in what is happening.
Without honestly looking at what is actually happening, we often fall into the trap of believing in the abstract concept of separation. We think that we are separate beings and that the world is made up of separate objects. By default, unless we are seeing the world in its natural state, we are objectifying the world and everything in it.
From the perspective of separation, we conceptually split the world into a myriad of objects, and we evaluate them in dichotomies or spectrums: dogs are less important than people (which I happen to be); my favorite political party is more honest that the others; this is my house (as opposed to someone else’s); these are my children.
I used to think that the way the indigenous people of North America talked about the land was just quaint and naïve, but now I’m beginning to understand them. They were confused when the European settlers arrived and began to claim ownership of the land. The natives said, “How can anyone own the land. The land owns us?”
I don’t know if this was just a different perspective, or was coming from the non-conceptual non-perspective of no-separation, but it makes so much more sense to me now. How is it possible for some tiny brain-bodies to own and control land? The land holds these little bodies, and feeds them, and shelters them.
Rather than me owning my home, it seems much more true that my home owns me. Sure, I’m renting, but it would be the same if I owned a home (as I have in the past and likely will again in the future). Rather than me having a job, it seems more true that a job has me. I don’t have friends; friends have me. While it’s not really true that there is any separation, that there are any objects to own any other objects, framing ownership in reverse like this helps to dispel the illusion of control.
So then, can I be objectifying my wife? Of course I can. Objectification is all we can do as illusory separate selves. “He’s such a gentlemen” or “He’s an asshole” or “She’s pretty” or “She’s so smart” are all judgements that attempt to categorize a collection of living and dead cells, some water, plus a few pounds of bacteria. But where does my wife start and where does she end? Are her clothes part of her? Her children (if she has any)? He career? Her friends? The street she lives on? This planet? Where does my wife get circumscribed? Is she simply everything that seems to be happening?
There is an opportunity to let go of the conceptualizations and allow what is happening to be like a river that carries us along. We can do this instead of frantically rushing around trying to partition the river and categorize it into neat distinctions that seem to make us temporarily less anxious. Until we let the river pour through with its powerful force-of-life, washing away all of the false partitioning, we will continue to feel unnamable anxiety because our false sense of security, based on ownership and knowing and control and selfhood, is continually teetering on the brink of collapse.