Thursday, 30 June 2011

Why is Dita De Boni wrong? Because grammar

I am only going to respond to half a sentance of Dita De Boni's ridiculous article about slutwalk, because life is too short to pay attention to the rest. She says:
I can't see the value in putting yourself out there to complete strangers as a sexual object - especially in social situations where alcohol blurs the ability of people to moderate their behaviour.

Actually I'm ignoring the second clause in the bit I quoted too - because it's stupid. And I've been a feminist blogger too long to have new ways to say "That's victim-blaming nonsense and if you don't mean to victim-blame then you should stop talking."

No the bit I'm interested tonight is the idea that you can put yourself out to strangers as a sexual object.

You can't - it's nonsense. If you are putting yourself out there you are the subject in that sentence, not it's object. This is a really important and basic point, which can very easily get lost. You can't objectify yourself - it's not possible. If you are acting then you are the subject of that action - you can't act to make yourself acted upon. Because in everything you do, even things that people suppose take away your agency, you are using your agency.

I keep saying the same thing, but getting increasingly more convoluted in saying it, because it's a really simple grammatical point.

But it's also an important political point; you can't present yourself as a sex object. Objectification is something that is done to you, it is not something you can do to yourself. Without this understanding any attempt to talk about the politics of objectification descend into gibberish.


NZFemme said...

I saw Dita's article and just groaned inwardly at the sheer banality of it.

On the subject of objectification, I noticed Brian Edwards has posted a trite piece called "I want to be a sex object". Apparantly written by him in 1986. It should have stayed there.

Trigger Warning: First comment, sexual abuse.

Scar said...

Actually, you can objectify yourself; auto-erotic, fetish cross-dressers do it all the time.

Bianca said...

This is awesome Maia :)

Maia said...

NZfemme - Wow that is a ridiculous article "I want to be treated as a sex object and have control over it." Rolls eyes.

Scar - I disagree - I don't think what people are doing is objectification. To objectify someone is to deny their agency and you can't use your agency to deny your agency.

Thanks Bianca :)

NZFemme said...

Scar, that's an interesting point.

I also think that many women (and certain male populations of gay men) do self objectify - specifically from an objectification theory framework.
(In which self-objectification is described as occuring in a society which forces women to look at themselves from the viewpoint of another.) It underpins the experiences of body shame, eating disorders, appearance anxiety etc.

But self objectification in the context of objectification theory occurs because of sexual objectification within a culture in the first intance. It's an outcome.

It's been an interesting few weeks for me - reading the different perspectives towards the Slut walks. For me, in the context of the Slut walks, I don't equate dressing in a way that aould be percieved as slutty as wanting to be seen as a sex object. I thought of it as theatre performace as protest. Particularly when there was such a mix of how people dressed. From everyday wear to PJ's, to fishnets. And that was the crux of it for me. Ultimately, whatever anyone wears can be construed as slutty by another person. It's a judgement placed on another person and as such is completely subjective.

Scar said...

We'll have to disagree again; I do think that you can use your agency to deny your own agency. People are pretty good at, well, being dicks to themselves. If that wasn't the case, there wouldn't be so many self-harmers.

Carlist said...

Scar, as a woman who has struggled with self-harm I think your characterisation of me as "a dick" is really harmful and hot helpful. I am not "a dick", I don't even have a dick. I am a woman in pain who is struggling to overcome it in a world that is very thoughless and unfeeling towards my identity and problems. Finding comments like yours in what is intended to be a safe space doesn't help.

Scar said...

I also self harm and live with a reformed self harmer. I feel that when I self-harm that I -am- being a dick to myself and that I really shouldn't. I regret every time I have self harmed - especially when I've thrown boiling water on myself or put my head through a wall.
After each instance, I've felt shame and hurt; there is nothing good or empowering about it and it leaves only sorrow.
I have the deepest sympathy for other people who self-harm and I most certainly wouldn't want to make you feel bad or unsafe.
I'm happy to delete my comment if it offends.

I'm not sure what the angle of the 'I don't even have a dick' comment was; would you care to explain?

Maia said...

This discussion of self-harm is entirely off-topic and not useful in this thread.