The Misunderstanding of Objectification

Kit Harrington, let's have a conversation about what is sexually inappropriate.

Kit Harrington recently went on record to discuss his status as a "hunk." Now, whether or not Kit Harrington is a "hunk" is not a question I can properly answer. Instead, I want to focus on his words, and why his view on male-objectification should not be compared to the scrutiny actresses and women in the media are placed under. In an interview with Page Six, Harrington went on the record to say:

"To always be put on a pedestal as a hunk is slightly demeaning... It really is and it's in the same way as it is for women. When an actor is seen only for her physical beauty, it can be quite offensive."

Whether or not Harrington is aware of the difference in how men and women in the public eye are objectified, his language seems to be. In fact, his use of "pedestal" rings truest -- men as "hunks" are placed on pedestals. Can the same be said of women in the media? Yes, the public digests the female form and their sexuality with a ravenous appetite. Sex sells. But these images of women are not celebratory as much as they are exploitative. From the Black Venuses of yesteryear to the Adriana Limas of today, the female form has largely been commoditized in our society. It is not so much a "pedestal" as a scale of measure. The media attempts to dictate what a woman should wear, eat, say and do constantly. It is not "slightly demeaning" or "quite offensive," it is completely dehumanizing.

I believe there is great power in owning your sexuality, but the reality is much more complicated. The image of a woman in a bikini shouldn't be taken at face value. One must take into account the fact that the person behind the lens is most likely a man, the person who came up with the concept was most likely a man, and most of the creative force behind the image is likely stemming from... a man. That is not to say that there aren't female photographers or creative geniuses, but we shouldn't deny the skewed gender ratio within most professions, or the fact that the standards of beauty and sensuality are imposed by industries that are largely domineered by men.

As a man, I understand that my body can be scrutinized. I am not denying that men have to live up to certain standards of what is considered attractive, but I can just as easily flip through television channels and see chubby man after chubby man married to slender, beautiful woman after slender, beautiful woman. It's a known trope, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeing past a man's chubbiness, I believe that the opposite should be just as normalized. Men's bodies are allowed to be, there is no shame in the male form. Meanwhile, women are socialized to liberate their bodies only under the male gaze. If a woman wants to remove her shirt to breastfeed, that is not acceptable. Women can show off their bodies, but not too much, otherwise it is seen as Rated R.

I do agree that it is wrong to reduce any person to their physicality. What I disagree with is that Harrington has disregarded existing power structures and modes of institutional oppression.