I'm not really a fan of the definition used by Everyday Feminism and combining it with the "sexual objectification is always bad position" because it puts the example Sheoldred mentioned ("Is it objectification if I'm attracted to women I see on the streets purely based on their looks and body language?") squarely into the "sexual objectification" category...
I scanned through the article again and I did not find that particular example you raise. So I think it would be up to you to spell out at more length how their definition must interpreted and deployed to be so "firm" on that. I can imagine, with some work, a way you might
interpret it that way. But I'm inclined to think (maybe and hopefully) that's not really what the author intended. I don't see that what you say in this part must
follow from the contours of the short discussion she gave.
Personally I'm not wedded to the website, but for a relatively quick explanation, I'd say it's not bad and at the same time it seems broadly principled with a focus on intent and consequence, rather than generalizing vaguely about situations. At the same time I would be inclined to agree that there are probably a few traces
of what Val mentioned -- that is, a few different (and sometimes conflicting) ideologies that sometimes inform various feminisms
(or strains of feminism if you prefer).
But here, I think maybe you're being a little oversensitive about stuff they didn't
spend time to really analyze. It's a short piece and I don't see the actual article stating an intent to conclude
all that you are concluding.
... and sexual objectification is bad. In that case there is clearly an observer (Sheoldred) and an object (the person he finds attractive) and there is no way to escape that, thus sexual objectification. If you find someone attractive you are sexually objectifying them... you are viewing them as a sexual object.
While I realize some people speak like this, and a few even overgeneralize it rather shotgun style... I don't think this is built into the heart of that definition quite as you suggest. To me, the heart of the definition revolves more around conceptualizing what is basically consensual, and what is more a true representation of self or openness to allowing true representations onto the playing field (i.e. who gets to go to work or walk on the street at all
-- without being excluded or picked on over stereotyped "attractiveness.")
Here, you are only focusing on sexual desire and you are starting from your own point of view. And I think what is eating you there, is that if you assume your point of view is the common one, and
if you assume they are demanding equal access for every female body to every man's date card on any given day... Then
I suppose, the article definition might come across more as placing the desires of those women who are not conventionally made up -- say, desires to get a date etc. -- somehow 'above' the preferences of those men for conventional feminine performance in the looks field. However, they have not really stated such in the article. To be sure, I guess we would have to ask for comment specifically about this sort of scenario -- it's not really raised as a model case.
their intent with "subject" and "object" is not really to ban gazing and viewing to suit simple desire. But rather to encourage people to think more about how desire is often itself nurtured, shaped -- even socially limited
as to what
desires will be allowed to be mentioned -- for many people by convention, and often regardless of personal preference. And moreover, to think about how certain desires are packaged into "types" of people who can have more
power systemically: Not simply in gazing as a matter of attraction, but more in controlling some people and driving others way from dating and
from public life more generally at the same time.
But here's a point... and it's one the Everyday Feminism article touches on but doesn't go the whole way with... is sexual objectification in-and-of itself bad?
You said above you had already concluded they modeled it as if it always were. Though this could also be taken as some tacit admission that they haven't talked much about the stuff you have been saying was so obvious as to what you claim to be 'certain' what the author intended.
Feminists often use the term like we generally use the word rape, yes. Fine. I guess we can agree there. But to your question? I don't feel that all situations with objects need to be placed under their concept of sexual objectification.
Sometimes people do overshoot. There are certainly some feminist analyses I take great issue with, in small or large part. But to me that is a problem with the analysis. It's not necessarily a crisis for this working definition. Though I do imagine from a certain angle, linguistically, it could be possible to draw out the questions you raise until it feels like any
fully positive or negative words could be totally unworkable in life. We might also then have to constantly second guess words like consent, and rape, and idealism completely too. I'm not sure it helps us, on the whole, to go that far.
Let's start by pointing out a certain incoherence in the Everyday Feminism definition. Sexual desire requires two (or more) parties stating their desire before consensually acting on it.
Perhaps they could have gone without "two or more," or taken some time to explain why they are interested in that particular version here. I think it makes more sense if we assume the article was initially concerned
with a particular form of objectification (call it exploitation, if changing the word a mite helps you any). It makes it easier to show the principle when people assume the ideal
case of consent involves both parties. But with a little imagination, you could apply much the same principle to matters of sexual desire generally.
The point isn't just who asks first or who looks at who first. It's more a question for whoever is acting: How much of what the other person does, do I imagine is what they would prefer (or at least, are very
happy to settle for) -- and how much do I wonder if they might not be into it at all, but it's work they do because they feel at some level they have
to do it to have opportunities or perhaps simply to be accepted at all? The nagging thing for feminism on the social theory side is, many of those things people "have" to do pile up as stuff women often enough do not like or find in their interest, no matter that many are quite good at gaming it or going through the motions -- and women as a group do often suffer both sexually and in public life if they don't do (or are even spoken of as a "type" who probably wouldn't do) many of those things.
And this also can be one
perspective from which some women who do not
present as conventionally feminine, may sometimes come out as highly critical of women who do seem to play that game more devotedly. ( As to who gets to gaze, it's more of a problem for feminism generally that women are somewhat practically forced to assume a passive and decorative role, not because they may enjoy pretty things or fashion but because they want to get a job in many companies serving the public, and to go about life outside the door without being mocked. And there it becomes more of an issue whether it's usually, so-called "normally" the man who is placed in the role in the gazer and the asker and the initiator... But that's a somewhat different discussion. )
But if sexual desire only appears once both parties state it, then what desire are they stating?
And unless in a moment of ludicrous coincidence the two (or more) parties see each other at the exact same moment and immediately state their desire at the exact same time then both have been sexually objectifying the other up to that point.
I suppose you have a certain point in there. But then, so does Ridgway. I think her idea of desire is a more socially motivated one. You strike me as using a model of desire where it's sort of organic and spontaneous. To put it another way, I wonder if she would say, be interested in more direct negotiation
of how things are going to be done, whether on the street or in the bedroom. "Can we sit down and talk about how this is going to be played now, between us, to make it all more fun?" Whereas you seem to me to implicitly question whether anything that must be verbalized or negotiated (or even materially organized over time and through work and cooperation), can actually be
spoken of as "desired." And it goes round and round, because I would say -- and I think she would -- that many of the things we do with others (yes, granted they feel spontaneous and sometimes even one-sided to start) are also scripted and imagined in advance. But how much of that is personal desire and individual intention, and how much is just social manipulation -- at the moment, manipulation that often limits women in macro ways.
Forgive me if this sounds like I'm concluding stuff you would not say at all. But I'm not sure you quite explained what your model is, and I'm trying to reconcile a particular gap I sense.
Sexual objectification is, at its heart, viewing another as a sexual object. If I see someone and consider them attractive I am self-evidently doing that.
There I think you're wrong about the heart. You're trying to reduce it to a very physical definition in your concerns above and in chasing down so many possible
uses of the word "object." I do get very wary of definitions when it seems like they might readily be applied to smack things that I think are basically innocuous or natural too. But here, the definition is more about principle than physical mechanic.
How much of what you consider attractive, might be already systemically drilled into people and used to manipulate them on many different levels? How much are you aware of when it is and how? And do
you take into account that there are other dimensions to people in your relationships? Do you ask about consent when there could easily be problems? Do you have a philosophy about dating, or even viewing, or at least about people and society, that somehow tries to help? You say you do at least some of these things, or at least sometimes. Good.