A Cultural Amnesia

peter-c-vey-let-s-just-sit-tight-till-the-cultural-amnesia-sets-in-new-yorker-cartoonBy: Dayna Drum

“Dad, I think I’ve become a feminist.”

These were among the first words I spoke when I called my dad last week. I could only imagine the expression on the other side of the phone.

“Oh?” he said. There have never been two letters more calculated than those.

“OK, so maybe I’m not exactly feminist.”

I went on to unleash the frustrations that have been culminating inside of me for the past two months. It all started with a trip to Hollywood where I was mercilessly confronted with sexually-based novelty items and tee shirts — naked women were on every mug and beach towel, as if it was a requirement. Next, I encountered a music video portraying dead, lingerie-clad women carelessly thrown in the background of the video as props. Yet another revelation occurred to me while I was perusing the National Geographic website where I found an article about rape statistics in Asia and the South Pacific. In the United Nations’ study of six different countries and 10,000 men, one in four admitted to raping at least one woman.

I had reasoned and justified where their messages were coming from: It was Hollywood, it was the music industry and it was Asia. I had attempted to isolate the issue to realms I wasn’t a part of, but for some reason these internal arguments wouldn’t stick. I was forced to face the reality of what I was feeling: I was offended, outraged and confused. Why was this accepted? How could this still be an issue? Why wasn’t anybody doing anything?

After the proverbial smoke cleared, there was a simplistic reality that cut far deeper: Why was I barely noticing that I was surrounded by objectification? Had it been the first time I had ever seen a bikini babe on a tee shirt or a woman flaunting herself in a music video? In actuality, I’ve seen it time and time again, and it’s never bothered me. All of those questions I had self-righteously demanded an answer to had just been answered.

The objectification of women continues because women themselves have become immune to it. Many women, myself included, have subconsciously decided the reality of our culture and paved the road of continuity. The admission that “it will always be this way” is the very fuel that keeps the train rolling. Even worse is the reasoning of the comparison, “look how far we’ve come.” It appears that we have forgotten to bring self-respect into modernized culture. Perhaps desensitization is the direct result of the dwindling level of self-respect in females. The two are undeniably related. If women had a high level of respect for themselves and other women, then objectification would no longer be an issue because it would not be tolerated. If women acted in such a way that commanded nothing less than the utmost respect, then our now established cultural amnesia would end.

So instead of crying victim for being put in a position of objectivity, I am taking partial responsibility. I have excused artists for demeaning women in their lyrics and videos because I am a fan. I have laughed at lewd jokes because they are funny, and I have not even given a second glance at naked women in advertisements. If I can watch Robin Thicke’s video “Blurred Lines” and subconsciously ignore the overt sexist themes because I am a fan of Thicke, then I am a contributor.

I’m not in this argument advocating for the equal treatment of women, although I do want that. I’m campaigning against this cultural amnesia that has caused us to forget how we should act towards objectification in the interest of self-respect. I’m not sure what this campaign fully entails yet, but I’m beginning by being intentionally aware of what I surround myself with. If the music I listen to, the movies I watch or even the clothes I wear do not bring respect to women, then I won’t support it. If even a small percentage put this thought into action then we might see a shift in the immunity towards objectification, which a result worth pursuing.

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