Monday, December 24, 2012

Appreciation vs. Objectification

I found myself on the misunderstood side of a misunderstanding recently. One of the things that I've addressed in therapy on a number of occasions is this quirk I have about not being understood. I can't stand it when someone doesn't get me or they misinterpret something I've said, written or posted on Facebook. This little treatise is an attempt to clarify such a misunderstanding.

First off, I'm a guy. Guys are visual creatures. We're easily distracted by a pretty face or a curvaceous figure. However, some guys allow themselves to be ashamed by this. To confuse the appreciation of the human form (male or female)—or even a pretty face—with objectification. Admittedly, others do indulge in it and do objectify people.

I took the liberty of polling some close friends. I asked them if they ever perceived me as someone who objectifies women. The general response to my query was, "No." However, there were a couple of caveats. That someone who doesn't know me as well as they do might misconstrue something that I say or post or "like" on Facebook in that way.

This seems to be what has happened in reference to the aforementioned misunderstanding. Not once but twice. The first misunderstanding had to do with someone who thought that I didn't respect women because I subscribe to a few pages on Facebook that celebrate what I think of as unconventional beauty. One of them is the Facebook presence for a web site called "Suicide Girls." These are "alternative" models. Women with tattoos, body piercings and unusually colored hair. The web site itself is adult in nature because many of the photo sets include nude "pin-ups."

I do not subscribe to the web site. I honestly have no interest in seeing nude photos of these women but I'm happy to see the more "modest"—if you will—samples that they share on their Facebook page. Yeah, they're in lingerie, swimsuits and are generally scantily clad (the better to show off their tattoo artwork) but there's something to be said for "leaving something to the imagination," as they say. Though I honestly don't find my imagination going there. I just appreciate what I see. Yes, the pretty faces. Yes, the attractive figures. But also the artwork, the hair, the jewelry, the way that these women take charge of their identities and express themselves. I love their sense of individualism and the courage they have in expressing it.

Another page I subscribe to is simply called "Curvy is Beautiful." This page rejects modern standards of "beauty"—i.e. stick-thin supermodels—in favor of ideals that are historically more appreciative of the genuine female form. Not just the hourglass figure but reflecting what the average woman is really like physically and declaring that they are beautiful just the way they are and that they don't have to subscribe to unrealistic—and often unhealthy—standards of beauty.

Unfortunately, some people still think that "curvy" is synonymous with "fat." I disagree.

Which brings me to the next misunderstanding.

"Curvy is Beautiful" posted a picture that really appealed to me and I decided to share it on my Facebook timeline. It was of an anime-style illustration of a curvaceous girl in glasses and said, "I like my girls nerdy, dirty and curvy."

This wound up hurting the feelings of a friend of mine who thought that I was posting it about her. While she does wear glasses and is curvaceous, I don't think of her as "dirty" and she was very adamant that she wasn't.

Though I do think the word "dirty" can be interpreted in different ways. Within the context of that particular picture, I thought of it as referring more to open-mindedness and not being offended by things that others might consider dirty. Others being a more prudish type of person. I feel I should say here that my friend is definitely not a prude.

Another source of tension and misunderstanding was a remark I made about eye glasses. I said to my friend that I had an appreciation for girls who wear glasses and that it was "almost a fetish."

I said "almost" because I don't get a weird sexual thrill from eye-glasses, I just appreciate them on a pretty girl. Glasses make people look studious and inquisitive and I find that very appealing. But my friend heard the word "fetish" and seemed to come under the impression that I was objectifying her. I tried my best to assure her that I wasn't.

She also said to me, "On the inside I'm not a fat girl with glasses. Those are really not things I pride myself in."

Of course, I know that isn't who she is on the inside. I just wanted her to know that I think she's beautiful just the way she is.

This all begs the question of where one draws the line between appreciation and objectification. Personally, I think it's in the heart of the individual. I know what's in my heart and when I see a pretty face or express appreciation for something quirky or unique about a person, I know I'm not objectifying them. Of course, I can't control what other people think or how they perceive things. I just hope that this explanation helps others to understand more about me and the way I think.