Great piece. It reminds me of Susan Bordo’s analyses of advertising.
Here’s a question. Do you think it’s possible to depict the athletic female body in a way that doesn’t implicate sexual objectification? Or does the general social background sexualize any image of the female body?


Filed under Feminism, Objectification

2 responses to “Exorcism

  1. cuntcomputer

    Thank you so much for reblogging. Great question, too.

    Though the purpose of this post was to draw attention to the “fitspo” boards on Pinterest, tumblr, etc. and to highlight why fitness magazines are not purely preaching health and happiness, it also begs the question, “Is the female body nothing but a plaything?” I think this is largely determined by the author’s and the audience’s perspective.

    Throughout history, the human body has been glorified by art in every imaginable light. Fit bodies, chubby bodies, abstractions of the body, they’re all fair game and all captivating in some way. The body is interesting and we are creatures who love to look, nothing wrong with that. Problems arise when an image begins to inspire shame, guilt, covetous… negative stuff, and the viewer continues to consume the imagery for those very reasons. The merry-go-round that “fitspo” perpetuates is one of insecurity and desire for a perceived image of perfection, something unattainable and never-ending. Which is great for Shape, Nike, Lululemon, and Athleta who don’t want you to ever stop striving for more of their product.

    I’d also like to add that if a person genuinely finds these images inspiring I don’t care if they Pin them or repost them or buy a bunch of sports bras or whatever. I wrote this for those who felt uncomfortable seeing these “inspiring” images but didn’t know why.

  2. I hope I’m not derailing your post from the point about “fitspo.” I’ll admit that I’m not very familiar with this. My research interests include objectification and some of the images as you mentioned definitely sneak in some not-so-covert eroticization. But this fitspo thing looks to be relevant to my work, so I will investigate it more.
    As for my question, I think I agree with your point that the status of the female body in an image is determined by the contexts of author and audience. But I worry that this response just sort of kicks the can down the road.
    The question can be reformulated: Are there any contexts in which the female body (particularly the athletic female body) isn’t sexually objectified in some way?
    Now, of course, there are some contexts in which the image isn’t generating something like an erotic lust response, but this isn’t necessary for objectification to happen. Even if women are looking at an image and simply wishing that they looked like the woman in the image, it seems to me that the objectifying male gaze is still present – for the simple reason that the male gaze informs what women want to be like.
    Hmm, now this does seem to be directly relevant to your overall point in the post. I take it that you are worried that fitspo is smuggling in some worrisome features (selling product by nurturing insecurity). Maybe it’s in the nurturing insecurity that the male gaze is deployed.
    I wonder what the answer to this is? How does one respond to this? And how do I protect my daughters from it?

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