We were about stepping in the elevator a few hours before the US presidential elections, about seven of us, all males a few of whom you would consider alpha males. The doors opened up and three ladies stepped out and some of the males followed them out of the elevator with their eyes just before all of us stepped in. Then the comments started. The married teasing the unmarried about their preferences from the three, the unmarried analyzing the ‘specimen’ that had just stepped out of the elevator.
Specimen, items for sale, pieces of artwork. The way men often speak of women (and maybe even vice versa in certain circles) makes the object of the observation and analysis seem just less than a living, breathing, person. Terminologies like ‘assets’, ‘back side’, ‘endowed’, and more such terms than I can comfortably write on my blog. The talk often sounds like one is analyzing a car in a garage for sale. Six cylinder engine, alloy wheels, pure leather upholstery, convertible, ‘tear rubber’ etc. Those are expressions one employs when speaking about objects.
More disturbing is the subtle use of women’s bodies for marketing purposes, a massively thriving business. I am not even referring to porn, by the way. I heard the story of a certain Ghanaian bank yesterday which I will paraphrase very slightly. A customer steps into the bank irate about incessant bank charges hitting his account, wanting to speak to the manager. As he approaches the operations manager’s office, he is met by three tall ladies just in front of the manager’s office one of whom mentions his name. One dark, another fair and yet another bigger and more ‘endowed’ (forgive the term) than the others. They lead him to the manager’s desk and two of them sit by his sides. This emotional (an traumatic) experience makes him forget his pains and admit to the manager that there is actually no problem at all with his bank account but he just wanted to confirm his balance. Classic case of manipulation.
I do not think women or men are objects. The choices we make about our life partners should not be based merely on such shallow assessments of a person. Such talk merely exposes our shallowness and shortsightedness. Do not get me wrong, we should know when a woman is pretty or not and even when a woman is better looking than another in our own judgement. In our own judgement because they say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; in other words, it is often just an issue of perception. We do have capacity to be aware of differences in physical appearance. What I am trying to address is the manner in which we speak about it.
Every living human deserves some level of respect. Those who use their bodies to entertain others simply do not have self-respect in my opinion. And those who assess others merely based on their appearance and dare to create near obscene jokes out of people’s appearance do not have respect for others. I do not agree that we evolved from apes so the argument that a man’s primordial instincts are getting the better of him does not hold water where I am concerned. Whether it is the bus conductor at Mile Two bus stop whistling at a voluptuous passer-by (again, forgive the questionable term), the Harvard University male football team or even the President of the United States, I do think all of us males, alpha or not should show more respect in the way we think about and talk about women.