Yeah, I’m not done with this subject yet, and I must apologize to those of you for whom the conversation has moved on. But since being accused of sexism in recent discussions on these issues, and finding myself in the regular company of women who don’t regard my feelings as sexist in the slightest – having argued, if I might say so myself, quite persuasively that what we call ‘objectification’ is normal, and not in the least to be despised or to find offensive – I must quote from noted film critic Roger Ebert, who wrote last week:

Nobody taught me to regard women as sex objects. I always did. Most men do. And truth to tell, most women regard men as sex objects. We regard many other aspects of another person, but sex is the elephant in the room. Evolution has hard-wired us that way. When we meet a new person, in some small recess of our minds we evaluate that person as a sex partner. We don’t act on it, we don’t dwell on it, but we do it. You know we do. And this process continues bravely until we are old and feeble.

Indeed. And to take it a step further, as I did in a recent article, we objectify each other for more than sex. We objectify the waiter as the mechanism by which we are brought dinner, and the chef we objectify as that which makes it. The hostess we objectify as that pleasant-looking smiling thing which makes us feel that we chose this restaurant wisely, and the manager we objectify as the means to resolution of our gripes. We don’t need to get to know them ‘as people’ before we do this, nor would they expect us to or desire us to; the truth is they are also objectifying us, as that necessary entity by which they get a tip for their smile and prompt service.

In my critique of Jean Kilbourne last year, I took issue with her for the comments she made about advertisers’ use of ‘ideal female beauty’, saying that it wasn’t surprising or offensive in the slightest that advertisers would choose a ‘perfect’ woman to sell a product. Ebert has something to say on this, too:

Yes, Playboy presented women’s bodies for our regard. Yes, they were airbrushed and photo shopped to perfection. Not a blemish, not a zit, not one single chewed fingernail. This process of perfection doesn’t deny nature, it reflects it. When we meditate on the partner of our dreams, the mental image we summon is without flaw. We don’t dwell upon a pimple or a bad tooth or a little underarm fat. We meditate on the gestalt. We meditate on being accepted and loved by that wonderful person. Photographers like Diane Arbus photographed people realistically, and were called cruel.