First a definition of objectification! I’ve seen objectification defined as “the viewing of people solely as depersonalized objects of desire instead of individual of complex personalities having desires / plans of their own”.
I love automobile analogies. Sports analogies are good too, but I know more about cars than I do sports. Let’s say that a person is like a car. This is a good place to start because there are car nuts that appreciate cars more than they do an attractive person. So, let’s say that there is a car that that catches my attention. It has just the right model year, color, and shape. My heart goes aflutter just based on the car’s appearance. I just saw it and find the car incredibly attractive. People can have that impact on us. When this happens, and it does, we have crossed the line into objectification. Some call this normal. The “what happens next” is the part that speaks to whether the objectification has become wrong, evil, and just creepy.
Continuing the car analogy, let’s state how a person could react if they see a car that is attractive to them:
1) Inwardly acknowledge that the car is very attractive, and then go on with life
2) Stare at the car for an hour or so, and then move on with life
3) Research the car and find out all specifications, recalls, and consumer reports rating
4) Follow the car around town so it can be viewed as much as possible
5) Plaster pictures of the car all over a room at home
Of all the reactions, perhaps the first one is only appropriate if a car was a person. It is appropriate to inwardly acknowledge that you find a person attractive, and then leave things at that.
The rest of these reactions are legal when it comes to cars, but they would be bad creepy objectification if the “car” was a person. What is the difference? Why is it OK to plaster a room with pictures of a car, but not pictures of a person? Why can’t I find out everything there is to know about a person? Why can’t I follow them around to appreciate their attractiveness? The answer is the acknowledgement of the person as a human being. The answer is seeing them as a spiritual equal and then treating them with respect. And because of this, while it may be OK to think a person is outward very attractive, it is NOT OK to move beyond that.
What is the lesson here? It seems that too many people treat attractive people like they would a beautiful car. Do they know different? One would hope, but somewhere the appreciation that the person is more than just a car is lost. I suspect that we are taught more about wanting things than we are taught about appreciating things. We are taught more about life being about objects than we are taught about the innate humanity of people.