Objectified Women Looking At Women
In the essay by Scott Russell Sanders, “Looking at Women,” there is a message that women are always being objectified in society today. The way they wear their hair, dress, do their make-up or even walk is grounds for classification among the male populous. Sanders also deems women who dress up and wear make-up as women who are trying to turn themselves into “dolls” that don’t mind being treated as sexual objects. He asks the question: “by turning herself (or allowing herself to be turned into) a work of art, does a woman truly escape men’s proprietary stare?” (253).
We seem to have this idealized concept of what love is supposed to be like according to the way society has molded us. Perhaps these ideals are more about the self than they are about a relationship between two people. We want to feel loved, and when we get that love from another person we become determined to secure that feeling. By securing these feelings we lean towards controlling that relationship. However, control is merely a way of fabricating and disguising reality. And by manipulating reality in this way we create an ideal relationship stemming mainly from our own selfish and vain imaginings. Primarily, the role of the manipulator goes to the male populous. Literature gives us many examples of these sorts of ideals while at the same time showing us how reality eventually prevails in these conceptions.
In the short fictional story “The Other Wife” by Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette, a clear objectification towards women is demonstrated. Marc seems to be a controlling man, and he no longer wants to be a part of his ex-wife’s life. When he sits down with his new wife at a table farther away from his ex-wife, he begins to talk about his past marriage. He claims he could never make her happy, and that she was “difficult.” Marc is an example of a man who wants to be in the dominating role in his relationship, and he assumes that he can portray that role no matter what the woman wants. Obviously, his ex-wife was not happy living like that, thus ending the relationship. Marc characterizes her as a woman who can never be satisfied, in contrast to Alice, who is “obviously” completely happy. But his reasons for this conclusion are interesting, and very revealing of him as a character. He thinks that because his ex-wife did not indulge him as Alice does, then his ex-wife must not have been satisfied in their relationship when in fact he was not satisfied with her because she did not place him at the center of her world. He assumes that the act of indulging his wants must be satisfying to the woman as well. Alice, on the other hand, envies Marc’s ex-wife for her independence. The ex-wife clearly doesn’t feel she needs to indulge anybody. While Alice is nearly jumping out of her skin from nervousness, the ex-wife isn’t uncomfortable in her singlehood at all; she rests “her head….against the back of the cane chair, her eyes closed with an air of satisfied lassitude (199).” Colette’s last sentence tells us Alice even sees the woman as “superior.”
Why would this be? Because she, at last, is divested of the need to indulge a man, to be subservient to his wishes and whims. Alice wishes she could be so lucky. Marc also says, “We divorced like well-bred people, almost like friends, quietly, quickly…” which is evident that it is not completely the truth because Marc doesn’t ever say hello to his ex-wife. He had picked the wrong woman to try to control, and it is evident he wants nothing to do with the independent woman in red. He objectifies his new wife by commenting on her weight gain during their travels, and says “You’ve been putting on weight since you’ve been traveling…. It’s nice up to a point, but only up to a point!” (198) Marc orders from the menu for his wife, and when asked what she wants she can only say whatever what he wants is fine with her. She is so worried about pleasing him that it is evident she simply lets him decide everything for her.
Another story in which a woman is clearly objectified is Claire Kemp’s “Keeping Company.” Nora is an oppressed and lonely housewife whose husband is controlling and judgmental. The new gay couple that moved in across the street are not people that William would ever be friends with, and he expects the same for Nora. She, however, comes to enjoy the couples’ company and finds herself sneaking out of the house to visit when William is at work and coming home before he returns. Eventually, William builds a wall around his house in order to keep Nora enclosed, he treats her like an object he owns, and he feels the need to keep her in their home. Nora says, “I know if permitted he would make it six feet high, five inches taller than the top of my head, but the law won’t allow it. Its purpose is to keep me in my place” (226). She is aware of her own boundaries, but she chooses to break them in order to have some kind of freedom in her life. Nora compares herself to “Cinderella” because she feels she has to hide her friendship with Dennis and James from William. He oppresses her by trying to control her constantly as if she was an object that belonged to him.
In these two stories there are similarities and differences within the objectifications regarding the women characters’. In both “The Other Wife” and “Keeping Company,” we see the overpowering male figures who are controlling to their wives. They both act as if they have the final word in all matters. The difference is the way the men go about dominating their relationship. Marc is more suave in his ways, and he makes his wife feel almost more loved and admired by his controlling her, in that she believes he is taking care of her. William, on the other hand, is more abrasive in his domination. He will just straight tell Nora what he considers acceptable behavior and what he does not. Further, he demonstrates his domination in a physical form when he builds a wall around their home in hopes of keeping her inside.
In the “Looking at Women” essay, Sanders addresses some important questions about how men are supposed to look at women. It is evident in our society that women are constantly being looked at as objects, which can be seen in advertisements, television and billboards. Why do women allow themselves to be viewed in this manner? Society tells men at an early age what is right and what is wrong, and in turn societies are making young males into dominating men figures. Ultimately we can blame ourselves for the ways that women are looked at in our society.