We’re Kidding Ourselves: Self-Objectification is not Self-Empowerment

WGS 2225: Women in Popular Culture

by Giselle Hengst

The line between whether representations of female sexuality in the media amount to female empowerment or objectification is a blurry one. There is a very real need for normalizing displays of women’s sexuality, yet a lot of images in the media that claim to do so heavily cater to the male pornographic gaze. This creates a paradox wherein it is easy to condemn any representation of female sexuality as a product of the male pornographic gaze. It’s easy to feel as though this oppressive conundrum has no solution. One solution supported by liberal feminists is that we should disregard the concept of the male gaze, otherwise it would be impossible to ever represent female sexuality.

However, just because we choose to participate in a dominating system doesn’t mean it ceases to be oppressive. In the words of Black feminist thinker Audre Lorde, “the master’s tools will never…

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