Human Beings or Ornamental Cars??

Today I read an article about comments Alex Bilmes, editor of Esquire UK, made at a recent conference on Feminism in the Media. The comments themselves are vile, nasty, and have dangerous consequences for women – although he fails to recognize that. But what I find most frightening is the public reaction to these sexist comments. Men – and women too – seem to be celebrating him for telling the “truth” about women in the media rather than exposing him as the chauvinist that he is.

But what exactly did he say? He begins by explaining that “what we do at Esquire is produce amen’s magazine, and it has a male gaze…This is the controversial bit that people don’t like but I always say the truth about it: The women we feature in the magazine are ornamental.” He goes on to respond to a woman’s objection by saying, “Well I could lie to you if you want and say that we’re interested in their brains as well, but on the whole we’re not, and they’re there to be beautiful objects. They’re objectified.” Apparently he believes that’s justifiable because “heterosexual men regard women in many, many ways: They’re our sisters, our daughters, our wives, our mothers, and we do see them as three-dimensional human beings. But there are certain times we just want to look at them because they’re sexy… One of the things men like is pictures of pretty girls, so we provide them with pictures of pretty girls.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, he believes women “are ornamental. This may sound even worse, but it’s the same way we also provide them with pictures of cool cars.” Pictures of pretty women are the same as cars? Come on! 

I find it deeply disturbing that we exist in an environment where this man feels he can not only say such demeaning things about women, but say them proudly! He avoids acknowledging the consequences of the objectification of women. How have we regressed so far?! Was there not a time when this kind of opinion would be met with outrage and ridicule? I scrolled down to the comments section of the article expecting hordes of people to call him out as the dinosaur that he is, but instead I found comments like these: 

The truth hurts – some people at least. i highly respect this guys (sic) honesty.”

“Bikini-clad models are indeed like cars. Men like to look at them and to dream about getting inside a nice one.”

“Why does this surprise anyone? This man speaks the truth. Women ARE objects in the eyes of the media and in the eyes of media consumers. Look around, women of any societal “value” are commodities. They’re waxed, spray-tanned, plucked, polished versions of the real thing. And we’ve accepted that…”

And from a woman:

Women perpetuate this stereotype themselves. Look at the way men are dressed for award shows as compared to the way women are dressed. they had to introduce a dress code to keep stars like J-Lo from revealing too much flesh. Any dress codes for men revealing too much flesh?”

So, not only has society “accepted” that women are sex objects, but apparently we have created this situation ourselves? Sometimes I just feel like screaming at such people: perpetuating the objectification of women has real life consequences! It is not the same as objectifying men. When was the last time you heard of a group of high school girls gang raping an unconscious male? Thinking of women as objects desensitizes us to this sort of brutality. If a woman is just like a car, she is a chattel to be owned and treated in whatever manner her owner desires.

There is nothing wrong with looking at fancy cars, pretty girls, or a piece of art. There is nothing wrong with looking. But we need to remember that people are not things – that way madness lies.


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