The Objectification of Men
As a black feminist, I spend some of my time thinking, speaking and educating on the dangers of the objectification of women. The notion that women are somehow not fully human and can be seen, compared to and thought of as things (que R. Kelly's "You remind me of my jeep."). When people are not seen as fully human entitled to inalienable rights or worse not even seen as somebody's child, sister, mother or friend; it becomes easy to dismiss their needs and ultimately leads to much of the abuse and violence we experience in our culture.
I would like to make the case for a different kind of objectification. One that often goes under the radar, but is a source of strife, struggle and often leads to the destruction of relationships and whole families. The objectification of men.
From the time women are young, they are trained that they must find a mate. (See Chimamanda Adiche's “We should all be feminist”) Much of their worth and value is tied to not only attracting a mate, but keeping that mate. Hence, the billion dollar beauty industry (debatable, I'm aware, but follow me for a sec). If you can not keep a man surely you are flawed in some critical way (you ugly, you stank, or the cardinal sin and every woman's worst fear, you got wack puss).
Because of this existing framework, desperation for a mate, even if it is subconscious, begins to set in for a lot of women. Particularly black women who are told by their families, media and statistics that there is a shortage of men who will want them. Because of this, men for a lot of women, stop being men. They stop being friends, sons, brothers and fathers. A human being with whom to make memories, build a relationship, and share their deepest vulnerabilities. Men become a means to an end. A way to prove to the world and themselves that they are worthy of love, admiration and attention. Men become a source of security (not necessarily financial, but emotional and physical). There's comfort in knowing your body count won't rise for a couple years and if you play your cards right, maybe not ever. And finally men are seen as the means to the most priceless end. A baby.
For some women, whether conscious or unconscious, having a baby is a way to ensure eternal love. We've all seen at least one teen mother on a talk show or after school special, look down lovingly at her infant and utter "I just want someone who will love me." Well, newsflash there are plenty of grown, very accomplished women who feel exactly the same way.
Many men enter interactions with women knowing none of this. Whether it be a one night stand, relationship or marriage, they are unaware of the great expectations placed upon them. They often do not know they are a means to an end. Tasked with filling a void that they are neither qualified nor equipped to fulfill. They are unaware of the expectation that a woman may have of needing a man to complete them and fill a bottomless hole. This disconnect can be the source of much strife and struggle in relationships. Leaving men feeling inadequate and women extremely frustrated.
As someone who has walked this road, I believe it's time to shine a light on this issue. We as women need to start coming to our interactions with men complete. We need to be able to see men as more than our validators, void fillers and sperm donors. They are fully functioning people entitled to complex personhood. It is totally unfair for us to expect them to give us the love that we are unwilling to give to ourselves. We as women have to know in our marrow, that we are worthy of love, attention, effort and gentle care. Not because of what we look like, how smart we are, how much money we make, or how well we can cook. We are worthy because we are here. And that is enough. You are enough.