Students recount their experiences with objectification


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Three women got on stage in Kennedy Auditorium to present a philosophical panel titled “Objectification” on Oct. 9. The panel was moderated by Bethany Henning, the Xavier philosophy professor who inspired the panel.

Students Alexa Ollier, Ashli Pratt and Ariela Gaspar began the conversation by offering insight into what objectification is. They asked questions such as: “Who gets to decide when I’m an object and when I’m a subject?” After learning more about the panelists and their overarching theme, they shared their experiences with objectification throughout their lives.

Gaspar ties objectification to her experiences with Asian stereotypes and her single mother. Criticism about ethnicity, her single-mother household and gender came from outsiders. She defines these criticisms as “preconceived notions on who I could be due to my gender or family.”

Gaspar questions why differences are seen as obstacles or weaknesses given that she ultimately broke the cycle of teenage parenthood with her mother’s support. 

“I didn’t want to be a part of the victimized mentality society presented to me on a silver platter,” Gasper said. 

According to Gasper, people saw her incorrectly and objectified her inappropriately no matter how successful she proved to be.

“A lot of people don’t speak up about the experience of being in a single-parent household,” she continued to explain. “It’s a bit unconventional and has its challenges, but I survived and have overcome that.”

Pratt’s motivation for participating in the panel was to “(bring) a Black woman’s perspective to the forefront of the Xavier community.” 

Pratt used the philosopher Frantz Fanon, alongside experiences connected to race, to express how objectification affects her. For Pratt, Fanon stirs questions such as ‘will our physical appearances forever doom us to enslavement?’

Pratt felt as though she was reduced to her appearance despite establishing her worth on several occasions. As she shared, she was told by one of her classmates that she was only at her high school with a scholarship because she was a black “charity case.”

According to Pratt, objectification extends from what we are taught stereotypically, too. She explained this through the multi-dimensionality of objectification. It can apply to anyone or anything treated as a subject: for example, how humans treat Earth.

Ollier addressed objectification through her self-image while passing as a cis, straight woman and existing as a homosexual. Ollier stated that she clung onto her femininity so strongly that it turned the external views of others into an unhealthy obsession.

“Heteronormativity characterized how she grew up, and it became easy as well as comfortable to live in a world where I could conceal gayness with femininity,” Ollier said. “Living in this bubble made me comfortable.”

Challenges to Ollier’s heteronormative bubble turned into new experiences for her. Eventually, she began expressing herself differently.

  “The daunting reality of objectification can ruin your life,” Ollier said. “This stands in contrast with some people who have the experience of never being an object in their life.”

During the proceeding discussion panel, the objectification of women in our society and how to solve the issue were both topics of discussion. Kim Kardashian’s butt and how the Kardashian family exploits black culture for monetary gain were brought up during the panel. The discussion also explored student-professor relationships and how they could be built on mutual respect.