During Friday’s Male Auction, a particular skit featured two friends jamming in their “apartment” onstage. One said to the other something to the effect of this:
“Just imagine that instead of seeing our wall there right in front of us, we looked out on a sea of beautiful women.”
It was a clever bit of fourth-wall breaking and quite apropos for the event. If the performers in question are reading, I’ll have them know that theirs was one of my favorite skits of the night.
But when a friend quipped to me, “Oh as if every man weren’t thinking that all the time,” the joke gave me pause.
For a bit of sketch comedy, a harem joke is mostly harmless, but is there not a more pernicious attitude referenced by the joke?
I bring this up only because of certain comments revealed in recent days as coming from a person of public interest. Those comments bore nothing of the harmlessness or witty good cheer of Friday’s skit, but only the pernicious objectification of women.
The comments were dismissed variously as “locker-room talk,” or an indiscretion 11 years in the past.
Those are excuses. The way in which men talk about women reveals conscious or subconscious attitudes toward the worth of each woman. Is a woman a commodity or a person?
Last October, The University News published a piece on the glass ceiling at the University of Dallas.
“[There is a trend of] inappropriate comments toward women, feelings of women being left out of activities within their departments and lack of advancement opportunities for women,” the article said.
In our very own community, professional women are commoditized more than their male colleagues.
It’s important to note the subtle ways in which this commoditization can occur: a passing comment about the fickleness of a woman, a lewd quip about a woman’s appearance, an attitude that suggests that women are less competent than their male peers.
Certainly each of these examples constitutes a different degree of severity in its offenses. There is, nevertheless, a common thread among them — the perception that a woman is lesser or that she is easier to exploit than a man.
John Paul II famously claimed that the opposite of love is not hate, but use. I suppose that’s the idea I’m trying to get at when I talk about treating a woman as a commodity — whether that be as the butt of a joke, a source of cheap labor hours or an object of mere sexual gratification.
After these reflections, I must admit that I am at a bit of a loss as to what can be done. What societal norms need to shift so that women can be seen personally and professionally as having dignity? For that answer, I will have to defer to another column.