By Georgie Bright Kunkel
No matter how often women have complained about being objectified, the fact of the matter is that the female body sells. Just recently, after sorting my memorabilia, I found a 1987 calendar displaying Marilyn Monroe who was the icon of female sexuality. Why a feminist like me would have saved such a glaring exploitation of the female figure was at first an enigma. Then I remembered that I used it to illustrate the exploitation of women’s bodies when I gave talks about the status of women and such. The calendar showed one provocative nude pose with this comment from the photographer: Marilyn Monroe has more sexual vibrations than any woman that I ever shot. Yes, every man who looked at her thought he was the only male in the world and that Marilyn was his alone.
It is interesting that so many men can separate love from sex. One WWII veteran was recently interviewed about his service of piloting a B-17 bomber. He was asked, “What was the name of your plane?” and he replied, “The Naughty Virgin.” I couldn’t help remarking, after the interview with him was over, that she could only be naughty once. (Get it?) Yes, men often eased their stress and anxiety in the war zone by fantasizing about women and using women as sexual outlets. These same men who loved the sight of scantily dressed women painted on their aircraft went home after the war to a life of marriage and children, not associating their wives with this sexy woman decorating the war plane.
Some women have settled for being sexual recreation for men. But most women are seeking partners who can be trusted to stay around after the children are born. You have already read about my own experience in meeting such a man and making a home with him. However, when a couple is separated by the death of one of the partners, the one remaining may welcome companionship and closeness after the grieving period is over. Unfortunately, women tend to live longer than men and not all women can find partners in their later years.
The tradition which pushes men into being warriors and seeing women as sex objects is debilitating to women. To overcome this, the modern young woman has overachieved—feeling she has to be attractive, talented and competitive as well.
But the evidence of females used for marketing is still with us. The TV show, "The Price is Right", is an example of the young woman in tantalizing costume showing off the corporation’s products as the viewing audience salivates over the newest automobile or expensive appliance. Since there are more women viewers during the daytime hours, attractive men are now joining these woman in enticing viewers to covet the latest corporate toy. Note that these men are usually not skimpily dressed.
Now don’t get me wrong. Sex is an important part of the human condition. It is only when women become sex objects without the opportunity to participate equally in the process that the picture becomes distorted. The display of women’s art at the downtown art museum characterized such distortion as women expressed their frustration in being viewed as objects. Yes, women express their own needs on canvas and in many other art forms but they have not objectified men for their own pleasure as men have often objectified women. Someday both sexes may see the world with new eyes and there will no longer be a need for an art exhibit featuring just women’s art.
I welcome that day.
Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-935-8663.