Subjectify Me: 5 Ways to Tell if an Image is Objectifying.

Via Julie JC Peters
on Aug 5, 2013
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“But… how can you say she was being objectified if she agreed to do the photo shoot?” my friend asked.

I’d just expressed my distaste with a nude yoga photo shoot I’d seen on the internet. It’s a good question.

The photo shoot is by prolific yoga photographer Robert Sturman, called “The Girl with the Ganesh Tattoo.” The Girl is naked on some desert rocks, interspersed with quotations about freedom—the photos didn’t make me feel free.

My friend wanted to know why it was so bad to look at erotic images. Does a feminist perspective on yoga mean we should all cover up? Isn’t that oppressive of women, too? pinupgg

Yes, it definitely is and my problem isn’t her nudity. There has been a lot of buzz on in the blogosphere lately about the objectification of women in yoga media, and this is not the first piece I’ve written about it.

Still, images like these tend to get either uncritical gushing responses about beauty or mean-spirited judgments of the person being pictured.

One of the most important lessons about yoga is ahimsa (non-violence) and personal attacks and objectification are both forms of violence. My feeling is that our community is not necessarily equipped with the kinds of tools we need for critical thinking about the images we are increasingly bombarded with.

I fear we are more concerned about what goes into our morning smoothies than the kinds of images we are swallowing. 5429259044_dd97a930b0 Conjecturing about the feelings, intentions, and personalities of the parties involved, though, is a dead end, and generally not very neighbourly.

To answer my friend’s question, whether or not The Girl agreed to be in the shoot has nothing to do with whether or not the work is sexual objectification: we don’t know, for example, what kind of relationship this woman had with the photographer, or how much she was getting paid, or whether she was gushy or outraged when she saw the final product.

Similarly, the photographer may have created something sexually objectifying without any intention to do so.

Perhaps he was simply working with techniques he knows work without considering why they work. Sexually objectifying images are a symptom of a culture that tells women they are wanted for the uses of their bodies, and that sex sells. We buy it on deep, subconscious internal levels, and we do it to ourselves.

Objectification is dangerous specifically because it is so deeply subconscious. sexist ads1024

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum has said that objectification “includes denial of autonomy, denial of subjectivity. Not taking people’s feelings into account, but also treating them as a mere instrument.”

The object has no agency or ability, can be owned, destroyed, or damaged with no moral concern. She adds, “The Internet opens that up in a big way because it is a relatively autonomous world in which someone who portrays a woman in a certain light, can create a whole story about her that is relatively immune to any kind of correction because it goes everywhere, it lasts forever, and then it can spill back and have real effects in the real world.”

The good news is that once we understand how to objectify someone, we can conversely learn how to subjectify them. We don’t need yogis to cover up, necessarily. What we need is to subjectify them.

So what’s a subject, anyway?

In the context of a book, movie, or image, the subject is the being that acts, the main character. It’s essentially you: the one you can relate to and align with. An object is the thing acted upon.

In a grammatical sentence, the subject is the doer: “Julie got so upset she threw her laptop out the window.” Who do you feel with here? Julie (subject), or the laptop (object)? The subject position, interestingly, can switch dramatically, depending on how something is framed and described, we can quickly change what/who we are relating to: “The laptop screamed as it fell to its death off the balcony.”

Do you feel now for the laptop or the balcony?

Spike Jonze directed a fantastic commercial for Ikea that shows how easily our feelings about who is the subject can be manipulated. After watching a lamp being thrown away in exchange for a new one, the Ikea guy tells us that we probably feel bad for this lamp (and we do!), which is crazy, because lamps don’t have feelings.

More problematically, it’s remarkably easy for us to turn the other way and objectify something that really does have feelings. It’s been a political tactic to dehumanize anything (or anyone) a group in power wants to use and abuse. In an image, we feel with the subject, and look at the object.

Learning these five techniques for either objectifying or subjectifying can help us identify them in other kinds of media so that we can become as mindful and critical of our yoga media as we are of our morning smoothies.

Vancouver Burlesque dancer Lola Frost shares on her blog a photo shoot (by Rick Legal) that is erotic, feminine, nude, but also subjectifying. Read along with me: Sturman’s photo set and Rick Legal’s on Lola Frost’s blog.

1. Faces

Faces are incredibly important to humans, and we have a whole separate brain region for facial recognition. We relate quickly to something that has a face. A quick way to give subjectivity to a pet rock is to paint two dots and a curved line on it.

6287020081_741168ecc9 Objectifying technique: In Sturman’s photo set, the first thing we see is not a face but the piece of The Girl’s body with the Ganesh tattoo. We don’t see her face much. ganeshtattoo

Subjectifying technique: In many of Legal’s photo set, we see Lola’s face, looking right at us.

2. Pieces

Cutting things into pieces is also something we do with meat. The less it looks like the whole animal, the easier it is to eat. A classic hallmark of objectification is showing just a butt or boob so you don’t have a sense of its belonging to a person/subject.

Objectifying technique: At best, we are being asked to view The Girl’s tattoo, and the woman, as a piece of art. Unfortunately, neither art nor cuts of meat have feelings.

Subjectifying technique: Lola has tattoos, too, but we see them in the context of her whole body, face included. We are never asked to look just at one piece of her body.

3. Visual distance

Seeing someone through a mirror or window (like the Ikea replacement lamp) reduces their subjectivity because we are put in the position of this side of the mirror or window, while the object is on the other side. We become the voyeur.

Objectifying technique: In Sturman’s set, there’s a distinct impression that the camera is attempting to “capture” this woman without her knowing. She is looking away, she doesn’t appear to be choosing what to show us. Our subject positions are separated: She is over there, we are over here, behind the camera, which separates us.

Subjectifying technique: In Legal’s set, there is a window, too: but we are always on the same side of it as Lola. We are in the room with her.

4. Personality and Context

A telltale sign of subjectivity is if we can learn anything about the being’s subjective self. Who is this woman? What does she like or dislike? Can she speak? Make a joke? Does she think deeply about the universe?

Objectifying technique: The Girl has a name (Michelle May), but you don’t find it out until the very end of the piece. Her nakedness and the desert atmosphere lends little sense of who she is as a person. We don’t see much of her face, so it’s very hard to project any kind of personality onto her. She is a mystery.

Subjectifying technique: Legal’s photos have a dark, boudoir style to them. Lola wrote the attached blog, so we know she likes this style, but we also see her laughing, showing emotion. She appears to be in her own home, a context of her choosing, with her fridge photos, antique chairs, and a unique hairstyle that give us lots of information about what kind of person she might be.

5. Agency and ability: 

One of the telltale signs of objectification according to Nussbaum, is that the object has no agency or ability. She appears powerless.

6246120493_2ddf04b000Objectifying technique: In the one shot where The Girl is looking at us, she is not in a yoga pose, but something closer to that of a playful, harmless pinup model. (For an alternative view of pinups, check out the totally incapable-looking Menups!)

dsc6358nwSubjectifying technique: Lola looks into the camera often, and we get the feeling we have been invited into her home, a space she has agency over, and we at one point see her holding herself up by her formidable triceps. She is choosing to show us what she wants to show us. She has agency and ability.

These five telltale signs can take subjectification and objectification out of subconscious arena and into the mindful, conscious brain. Understanding how they work and how powerful they can be helps us name objectification and celebrate subjectification.

Interestingly, we see Sturman using these same subjectifying techniques in a photo set he did with the prisoners in San Quentin, a group that is often objectified and dehumanized in society. Again, it’s difficult to speak to intention.

Sex and nudity themselves are not the problem. Sex can bring us closer together, too, when it’s subjectifying. Knowing how these techniques work means we can empower ourselves to choose more often to represent women less as objects and more…well, like Ikea lamps.

Like elephant enlightened society on Facebook.

 

Ed: Bryonie Wise


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About Julie JC Peters

Julie (JC) Peters has been practicing yoga on and off from the tender age of 12, and it has gotten her through everything from the horrors of teenagedom to a Master’s degree in Canadian Poetry. She is a yoga teacher, spoken word poet, and writer, and teaches workshops on yoga and writing called Creative Flow. Julie also owns East Side Yoga in Vancouver with her mom, Jane.

Comments

86 Responses to “Subjectify Me: 5 Ways to Tell if an Image is Objectifying.”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    The thing of it is, there is room in this world for everything.

    When we create art, we do it from the heart—it's like this invisible pull that leads us down the garden path. We think not of anything else, because we are there, here, in the moment, making this thing with this vision that comes over us.

    And like with anything, screaming and yelling and ranting takes us one way; farther away from each other, usually.

    I can sit here and honor all sides to this story—the story of words written by Julie and the story of the images created by Robert.

    As the editor on this piece and as Robert's editor at elephant journal, publishing this article was a challenge for me. Although Julie reworked this piece for us, my instinct wanted to protect everyone by not publishing it. I knew somehow, that Robert would be hurt and that Julie would come under fire.

    The thing is, we need space in this world to express our truths, especially the uncomfortable ones, otherwise we become too afraid—and we all suffer when truth becomes suffocated.

    We can dialogue with each other, with kindness, if we choose to.

    May we continue to create art and words and music that shakes the dust off of what we think we know.

    “Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.” ~ Osho

    ~ Bryonie

  2. Robert Sturman says:

    For the author:
    We are both subjects and objects at once, depending on who is telling the story. In flesh or in concept, it is impossible to fully separate both notions or offer a pure example of either. But whether one particular image may lean more towards one concept or another (depending, once again, on who is telling the story), I deeply respect and cherish each person I meet and have the honor of photographing.

    I studied Berger extensively at the academy and after many years of undoing the restrictions that some of these concepts create, I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to make art from my heart. Everything else is a waste of my time.

    This argument is useless unless it is explained thoroughly. Even then, it leaves people confused and more opinionated. It's pseudo intellectual bullying. Throwing around age old arguments. Go write an article about Some sexist hip hop artist or men who start porn companies. Not some guy that adores, respects, honors, is inspired by and shares deep, friendship with his models.

    Fortunately, your thoughts will come, make some noise, and then disappear. You got your clicks and you get on a list that doesn't mean anything, while the real art goes on living — and, I am certain that anyone with any sense who views this massive body of work, now and generations to come, will conclude that this artist really honored people — all people. All colors. From prisoners to beautiful women, to people with illnesses and to children living in orphanages in Africa.

    So, I'd advise you to take your undergrad 101 class knowledge in objectification and subjectification and sharpen up on your skills in explaining and find images by an artist that really objectifies women — clearly and consistently. Not a random, slightly questionable image in a million from an elephant journal "family member."

    I have been a fellow author at Eleohant Journal for about the same time as you have. Maybe in those parts where you say you don't know what my intention was, you could have just sent me a note and asked me. You're far from an expert on this topic. If you want to make a true argument and not another trashy example of ill-judged so-called journalism, check with your sources – namely, the people you're mindlessly pointing at and talking about.

    You could have also asked Michelle May, the Ganesh girl. Our identities and willingness to cooperate and clarify, are not a mystery. It's a small world and we are all interconnected – in most cases, just a mindful email away. And the first thing that not just a shadow of a journalist but even an artist – like yourself – should consider is the truthfulness of any statement or criticism they make in public (more simply put, think and consider before you open your mouth).

    And how about the part about comparing my cropping to presenting the woman as a piece of flesh? Are you serious? I cropped those images because they were first posted on Facebook. I cropped them just enough so that they couldn't flag me and close down my page for showing nudity. My cropping actually took out the nudity.

    I don't think you're a terrible person or that you have bad intentions. Just ignorant and / or misinformed. With a little more time and investigation, you could have found more thorough examples without so poorly misjudging and misunderstanding my work. I sincerely believe that you chose me because you, like many at Elephant, are interested in the shock technique and would go to any extent to create more controversy, even if that means being dishonorable to your own reputation – in this case, as a thinker, poet and yogi. It is, after all, the quickest way to clicks.

    I'm on a different mission here. That was actually the only nude body of work I've ever done as a professional artist. We did a shoot earlier and we loved it. And we decided to do the next shoot nude because the clothing was a distraction to her exquisite tattoo.

    I am unpleasantly surprised by how you've taken this out of context and misused my work to prove your incomplete, biased point of views. I am also disgusted with elephant journal to the point of no return. A publication which I've supported even despite all the constant drama and controversies and to which I've given some of my best work so far.

    This isn't mindful journalism, don't kid yourselves. This is a rat race for traffic and controversy that doesn't uplift, inspire or enlighten anyone.

    And I have had enough.

  3. Larry says:

    You say: "we don’t know, for example, what kind of relationship this woman had with the photographer, or how much she was getting paid, or whether she was gushy or outraged when she saw the final product"

    You don't know because you seemingly didn't bother to find out. You might have written a better, more informed, and more informative article if you had made the effort to do so.

  4. Stranger2AllOfYou says:

    I've read your article, and reviewed both blog posts, and have come to the conclusion that you really don't like the Ganesh tattoo's photographer. The photos of Lola were more like gratuitous nudity; her tatts were not the subject of the photos — her boobs were. If Lola's tatts were the focus of her shoot, clothing would not have interfered — but they would have with Michelle's tatt. I'm not crazy about nudity in photos at all, but Robert's were far more beautiful and tasteful. Please don't pose as an "expert" in photography — your piece is no more than an opinion piece, and and I would respect what you have to say far more if you referred to it as such.

  5. Melanie says:

    I love the photographer’s work and especially this series. I would NEVER have had associations or problems with it like the author of this article did. I believe that in photography it is a CHOICE of “reporting” whether you present a model in an objective or subjective manner. Both is perfectly legitimate as long as the model is happy with it. To me the model in this series is a work of art. I don’t see what’s wrong with that except that the author here seems to have some personal issues with it.

  6. erin says:

    terrible article, felt like I was reading an ill-informed college student's paper…I am surprised EJ would run this, and also use Robert as the example, as his work is the opposite of objectification– however, if the point was to get a reaction, well done.
    However, it doesn't do much for the reputation of EJ in my book. I go to this site for insightful, professional articles, and this is just lame. I know you can do better EJ.

  7. Jemima says:

    I have met Robert and been photographed by him. I can say with confidence that I felt supported and respected in every way on my photo shoot. I think the author’s comment at the start of the article about whether the model agreed the final shots or how much she was paid are churlish at best and a slur on his professionalism at worst. Most people pay Robert to photograph them and I would be astounded if he published a piece without full consent.

    One of the issues surrounding mass media is the lack of connection it propagates, we see images or words and we make a snap judgement – it’s in our nature. It’s a human way of understanding the world. When we then expound our views in the very public domain maybe we forget about the consequences of having a strong opinion because we don’t need to be brave enough to speak our words face to face with the actual person and thus find out their reasoning and opinions too. It’s a privilege to be able to speak your mind, treat it as such.

  8. Hi Bryonie,
    I appreciate the situation you must have been in when reviewing this article, but I'm curious… from an editorial perspective, was it considered or why wasn't it suggested to Julie to find a different visual example of her arguments – images that would perhaps support her stance more clearly. In addition, out of respect for a highly visible artist and contributor to elephant? Also, where is Waylon's voice in this? – Tanya

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Robert's personal note to me about leaving elephant was far more tender, and friendly, than what's here. This whole episode is sad, and stressful—but that's the duty of a site that does welcome dialogue, and respectful disagreement. Robert, your work is wonderful, and I think that's reflected in the comments. That said, your anger above is equal, if not greater too, Julie's criticism. You are engaging in direct criticism, and personal criticism. That's okay, as long as respectful. That's what elephant gives space to—we're not just about our family, or choir, or clicks (like Upworthy, MindBodyGreen, Positively Positive, and other wonderful but almost-always happy, healthy, holy sites)..no: we're about offering a space for uncomfortable discussions. That's important, and you've brought to light such discussions before, whether through your prison work or raw heart, generally.

    Yes, elephant benefits when readers read. It's our job to be read. But it doesn't make much of a difference—not even 1%, this blog. Our job is to do our duty. Our reputation is far more valuable, and losing you is a sad blow to me. That said, my job is stressful, and sad, often—we cover many issues, whether abortion or feminisim or politics or diet/animal rights that excite controversy and, often, I'm the one to pay for reader's anger, whether I'm involved in any way or not.

    My only involvement in this piece was to support its right to exist, as long as it was fair/respectful, and to take its focus away from yourself in the title, pretty much. Do I personally agree? Not really. I feel you celebrate women and men. Do I think she makes good points, worth considering, in a thoughtful manner? Yes, and I did and have.

    As I said on my FB wall: "Just lost another great contributor because elephant insists on allowing (only) respectful criticism and dialogue, including of yours truly. Sad day…

    …I open myself up for fair criticism all the time. As you know. On my own site. I walk this talk. We do not need yes-men. It's not healthy. elephant is not here to do PR, merely. We need to share beyond the choir, not insulate ourselves.

    Sometimes, we are singled out, justly or unjustly, because we are, as the Japanese say, "is it the nail that sticks up that is hammered down." It's a complement. And remaining open to fair criticism makes us better people, better able to fulfill our duty to be of benefit.

    That said, I didn't ask for the article, and my team worked to edit it in such a way that it was less personal, and constructive…

    …the mission, duty and right of the press to discuss uncomfortable issues in an open manner is vital."

    It's more important than my stress, or sadness, or our hurt, deserved or no. Giving a space to such dialogue is of great merit. I hope beyond hope that you might, in time, change your mind about leaving elephant.

    Yours in the Vision of Enlightened Society,

    Waylon

  10. elephantjournal says:

    This is not elephant's work. We're a diverse community. We'll publish anything that is relevant to the mindful life, as long as it's respectful. Dialogue is vital, and suppressing views we may or may not (I've said a bit about my thoughts on this matter) agree with is important, whether our editorial staff agrees wit it or not.

    The tendency of modern media like Fox or MSNBC to cater to its readership and reinforce their preconceptions or views is not something we want to be a part of. During the election I was welcoming of conservative points of view, or pro-life povs, as long as generally fair or respectful.

    It is our duty to be bigger than our views, and to allow dissent and respectful, constructive dialogue. ~ Waylon.

  11. elephantjournal says:

    This is the kind of eloquent, powerful comment that this post invites and that I'm personally grateful for. Thank you for treating your own words with respect. ~ Waylon

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Not sure I follow…Robert is male. His identity is made clear. It's a safe assumption.

    Not that being male necessarily means anything one way or the other when it comes to objectification…if that's your point, granted. ~ Waylon

  13. elephantjournal says:

    I'll answer that one, since I had the same question, though not in an accusatory manner.

    I don't believe she did. It does help for writers to be able to show what they're talking about. That said, if Robert wants it down and just a link, that's more than fine by me. He knows me and has been in touch. ~ Waylon

  14. elephantjournal says:

    Hi Tanya: thank you for your comment and question. I'll respond in further detail a bit later. I've asked Waylon to voice his thoughts as well. ~ Bryonie

  15. elephantjournal says:

    Someone posted this to reddit/r/feminism: interesting, informed, open-minded discussion. http://www.reddit.com/r/Feminism/comments/1jvh2s/

  16. barbarapotter says:

    So true Liz and his work is beautiful. You are one amazing subject as well.

  17. Well expressing distaste with a particular nude yoga photo shoot does not equal having general "issues" with nudity. That's a bit of a leap. I express distaste with certain reality television shows but I don't have "issues" with all media or all television generally.

    My read of this article was that it was an attempt to give specific criteria which explicate that distaste and present something that could be discussed which was not simply an opinion.

    While certainly there are experts who analyze cultural artifacts and art, I think we should not leave the analysis only to the experts, just as we should not leave the art-making to professional artists only. I also think that perhaps assuming Elephant Journal is the place for such scholarly analysis is a bit misplaced.

    It is a premise of current communication theory that the meaning of all communication is contextual. I think it is reasonable to posit that at least in some contexts, putting an image of a woman behind glass would increase "distance" which could lead to more objectification. No doubt in other contexts the opposite would be the case.

  18. barbarapotter says:

    I agree .

  19. I think it is quite common for women to choose to be objectified, sometimes consciously and deliberately, other times choosing contexts which lead to their objectification unknowingly.

  20. Here are some common responses to artistic and cultural criticism which avoid addressing the substance of the critique. How many can you spot in the comments to this article? 🙂

    The author is not a legitimate critic/only experts can criticize
    It is easier to criticize than create
    You don't know me/the subject so your argument is invalid
    You have "issues" or psychological problems which means your argument is invalid
    The critic is a pseudointellectual (whatever that is)
    The original author/artist has good intentions

    None of these responses addresses the merit of the arguments. Most are ad hominem attacks.

  21. sharon says:

    Waylon – What is your definition of mindful? Because it made it to reddit? Read today's article from your ex-editor Kate Bartolottta. Maybe it's a lesson you should re-visit.

  22. Rachel says:

    Ha ha…. I dont like what she says so she is not a 'good Yogini'…..

  23. I missed this article when it first came out. Then, though I had an opinion, I really debated whether it was worth adding.

    J.C., I nearly always love your writing and your perspective. I think talking about objectification is important—especially on elephant where there is a significant amount of discussion about sexuality. I don't agree with your conclusion on Robert's work, but it's a good conversation to have.

    As someone who loves art, loves Robert's work and has posed nude in the past, I find nothing remotely objectionable or objectifying about any of his work. And again, as mentioned, the "subject" of these compositions is the tattoo. I'm sad to see Robert go, as his work is tremendous and has been a beautiful addition to elephant.

    What's frustrating here to me as a both a reader and an elephant writer is that when an opinion is expressed and people say "That doesn't belong on elephant," the response is "that isn't elephant…we're an open blogging community, etc." which is true and has been true since the site started. But then the flip side of that is the statement that elephant is about a mindful mission. So, maybe we've grown as an elephant community to the point that some choices need to be made and it stays just an open blogging community, or shifts toward a more focused editorial point of view?

    I say this with all love and respect, and considered sending it privately, but we are an open blogging community right now, and Waylon, you pride yourself on transparency. So maybe as these discussions come up it's a good thing? It could be an opportunity to truly move into the journalistic realm and, while not shying away from difficult discussions, be more discriminating about what is published.

  24. elephantjournal says:

    Hi Tanya,

    I'm sorry it's taken me some time to respond.

    Please know, as a fellow artist and human being, that I respect Robert and his work deeply—and I treasure my growing relationship with him. I also have great respect for Julie and the courage it took to write this piece.

    No, it was not suggested to find another visual example; we did have Julie rewrite parts of her piece, because the language needed softening.

    While I may not agree with every voice and every article that we publish, I don't feel that I have the right to censor our authors—and in this case, asking her to change the visual examples she chose would have felt like censorship to me.

    What I regret most about the fall-out from publishing this piece is that I didn't reach out to Robert myself to let him know it was going up. I can only imagine what an attack it felt like, not having notice or warning, that we were publishing a piece that discussed his work in this manner.

    Waylon has responded, in this thread of comments, somewhere and I'll keep encouraging him to participate in the dialogue.

    Thanks for your patience. ~ Bryonie

  25. David says:

    A true artist has no concern for critics, only intentions for reactions. I am not sure after reading this article whether the author is making an effort to stop an artist from their choice of work based off of her critiques. Where does one draw the line of censorship, where it is convenient to them? This article makes me feel uncomfortable, as it is designed to make me feel guilty for appreciating this artist's work. As a result, the author has become the very subject of her own critique. If art was meant to make the world feel comfortable and respected, then the world would be a terrible and mundane place.

  26. Ruth Bella says:

    I love this article. Thank you for bringing some consciousness and critical thinking to yoga and the world of imagery that it has come to generate. It desperately needs it. And desperately needs women like you writing about it. Well done!

  27. Kogen says:

    9 bows in your direction, yogi! You're like Meghan Murphy, but with compassion. Thank you so much.

    Deep bow,
    Kogen

  28. Annapurna says:

    I agree. In the first year of my photography major, we had to photograph a nude model. One of my favourite shots was of just my (male) model's hands and feet. According to this article, that's objectification. My goal was simply an elegant, beautiful photo that drew attention to a section of the human body, and it was.

    The article also makes me wonder about bodyscapes, which never have a face in them. Based on this article, one has to ask, "when IS it okay to photograph a nude person???"

  29. Rachel says:

    The images do not, and perhaps it would not be possible to include the assertion that the model did give her own free will.
    So the images must speak for themselves, and be 'judged' as they stand.
    I do not think it is realistic to ask every woman if images taken of her and put in the public domain were for her own benefit, or if she thinks it is sexually objectifying.
    Yet I agree that agency is important in the context of this discussion, and of prime importance in regards to respecting the rights of women in the modelling industry.

    The image is what sends the message though, and I think the question – what do people take from this? is more important when analysing if a woman is being objectified, and therefore the unconscious message is sent – 'womens bodies and how they look are more important than their hearts and minds'. (for example)

    Personally, I did read some background to these photographs before I viewed them, and did not see them as objectifying. I thought they were beautiful.
    I also think this article is great, and an extremely important discussion.

    in regards to the photographs personally my taste moves more towards photography that makes us see attractiveness in less model pin up forms. …and I recoiled a little thinking they perpetuated the idea that you have to be 'perfect' and 'beautiful' to do Yoga….. but thats just me (and my issues!!)
    But as I said, I appreciate the photographs as beautiful images.

    And we need to unpack what sexual objectification looks like

  30. Drew says:

    JC Peters' article is great–informative and important. I'm pretty shocked at the comments from all the yogis and yoginis that seem to have Shavasana'ed through 30 years of basic feminist analysis and media literacy.

    I'm sure Robert Sturman is a lovely person, and a sensitive soul, (as well as a talented photographer), and I can understand his sensitivity here. But his reaction seems a little over-the-top. Criticism and feedback are the price of having a platform. He selected 14 photographs of a nude woman, and in all 14 photographs the woman's face is totally or mostly obscured. The critique is of the images, and is perfectly valid.

    Is this the worst example of objectification ever? Of course not. But our culture and our yoga mags are awash in such imagery. Spiritual mags and soulful artists don't get a pass from people's commentary, and from basic feminist critique. This is a perfectly appropriate issue for this site to raise.

    Lastly, this from Robert Sturman is particularly ill-considered:

    "Go write an article about Some sexist hip hop artist or men who start porn companies."

    That's derailing. The author can write about whatever she wants.

  31. Hey Bryonie,

    Thanks for this! Censorship vs. a publication's values, an interesting discussion it could be! There are many intersections between the two and something I'm still pondering over. It's pretty cool to me that elephant has had and maintains an extremely open platform for all voices despite (at times) quality, a clear message and some may even go as far as to say responsibility. You could say it's a full spectrum. At least everyone knows what to expect!

    Thanks again, Tanya

  32. Brooke says:

    I like this article very much and I agree with the points made… I love nudity, I think it is wonderful and beautiful, but I abhor pornography. After viewing the photos by Sturman, though, I feel the photos were more about the asanas then they were about the girl. And I feel that she did not want to show her face for that reason, as well.

  33. Maja Nielsen says:

    Hi! I like your article very much and want to use your 5 ways to write a bachelor paper, so I was wondering if you had any theoretics whom you have used or I can use to reference?
    I hope you will answer me as soon as possible,
    Kind regards Maja Nielsen.

  34. perversecowgirl says:

    I tend to think that a person who doesn't want to be easily identified wouldn't show their GIANT-ASS DISTINCTIVE TATTOO.

  35. perversecowgirl says:

    Visually cutting a person into body parts IS objectification. You're not showing the model to the audience as a person, you're showing just parts and saying "Hey, look at this hand/foot/leg/ass/whatever, isn't it beautiful?"

    I don't think this is an inherently bad thing (I model nude for art classes and am fine with people doing studies of specific body parts – focusing on particular anatomical structures is part of the learning process, and the resulting drawings ARE beautiful). But I think it's a matter of balance. Women are objectified SO DAMN MUCH, everywhere you go, that I'd really like to see more subjectifying images to kind of even the score.

    And if you're wondering "when IS it okay to photograph a nude person???" you apparently didn't read the damn article, which was ENTIRELY ABOUT what makes a naked photo problematic (not BAD or not-okay, just problematic), explains some differences between objectifying vs. subjectifying, and GIVES A LINK TO NAKED PHOTOS THAT AREN'T OBJECTIFYING.

  36. TJF588 says:

    The existence of objectified depictions of bodies is not wholly detrimental, but the dominant presence of such is.

    Admittedly, much of my sexually-oriented viewing is illustrated (or otherwise rendered), but that's a greater ability for the objectification of a broader range of subjects. I hope to be more mindful of how I'm perceiving and receiving persons, especially outside of sexual contexts, but I worry that breaking myself of such undesirable habits regarding not-real subjects ("subjects"?) would be more involved, and hope that advancements "IRL" will positively affect my impersonal reactions rather than lingering habits holding me back from where I'd rather be.

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