Undressing is Now “Empowering”

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Jennifer Lopez calls her new film Hustlers an “empowering, feminist story.” The inference is that the strippers—the film’s protagonists—use the sexualization of their bodies to gain control of their male clients. This has become a common message for women. The entertainment industry no longer portrays women as straightforward sexual objects. Now, leading ladies accentuate their sexual power and proposition themselves to men.

This is the boldest method of exploiting women yet: we’ve been convinced that internalizing and acting out pornographic fantasies is not only desirable but “empowering.”

The apparel industry accepts this message without question. Women’s fashion options are dominated by plunging necklines, rising hemlines, and form-hugging silhouettes. What’s worse, our daughters are being groomed for sexualization at a very young age. Step into The Children’s Place and you’ll see halter tops and mini skirts for girls.

Ironically—in an age of supposed enlightened emancipation for women—we’re designing women’s clothes for the primary purpose of giving carnal pleasure to men.

 

How do these clothes affect the women and girls who wear them? Frontiers of Psychology reviewed a wide range of studies about this topic. When a woman is objectified by her clothing, observers are more likely to feel less moral concern for her and perceive her as less competent and less human.

And it’s not only men who dehumanize sexualized women. At a basic cognitive level, it’s a widespread practice for both men and women to diminish the human personality of objectified women and view them as objects who are used for pleasure, even if not their own.

Women in provocative clothes don’t only struggle with objectification from others. Studies show women tend to self-objectify when they wear skimpy or form-fitting attire. Persons wearing skin-tight clothing (such as a ballet leotard) or little clothing (such as a one-piece bathing suit) are demonstrated to have greater negative feelings towards themselves and their abilities. This negativity affects their intellectual performance. In one study, women who wore bathing suits performed worse on a math test than women who wore sweaters.

Feeling objectified also decreases a woman’s mental health, leads to depression, and can cause her to behave as a lesser being in social interactions.

What about grooming men to see women as objects to be used? Because objectified women are viewed as less human, granted less moral concern, and given more victim-blame, men can feel more entitled towards them. Another study showed that men who were exposed to TV with objectifying images of women reported a greater likelihood of engaging in sexual coercion and sexually harassing behavior, compared to men who watched professional or neutral portrayals of women.

Bizarrely, our society rails against “toxic masculinity” while promoting imagery that portrays women as objects to be used for sexual gratification. Hollywood is again hypocritical. They glorify violence and the exploitation of women but point the finger elsewhere when our media-saturated society reaps the ugly fruits.

Only a total disregard for science, morality, and natural decency could lead the entertainment and fashion industries to reduce women to merely their body parts. They tell our daughters that it’s empowering to self-objectify and use their nakedness as a tool. They belittle modesty as a fuddy-duddy old idea, an embarrassing concept that holds women back.

But they are the ones glorifying a path to “empowerment” that is scientifically questionable, conveniently pleasures men, and is short on integrity and genuine progress. The only healthy way for women to realize their worth and to influence outcomes is to rise above provocative dress. We should encourage our daughters to dress in a way that reminds them and others of their dignity as a person made in the image of God.

We advocate modesty because we authentically value women and see them as more than the sum of body parts. We consider women for all the worth of their soul, intellect, personality, wits, and talents.

Insightfully, John Paul II writes, “There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” It is modesty, not objectification, that reveals a woman for all she is and empowers her.

Photo credit: YouTube/Movieclips Trailers

Audrey Cole

By

Audrey Cole is the co-founders of Paris Bloom, a fashion brand of classic and modest dresses for women that are made in America by workers paid fair wages.

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