Trapped within Limits: Women as Merely Sex Objects

Since last week my teacher has been trying to explain the idea of literary feminism, and I have to confess, it had been quite difficult for me to understand the range of sometimes conceding and sometimes competing ideas which are all placed under the heading of Feminism. However, a lighthearted Facebook post gave me a unique insight into Feminism.

Yesterday, I posted a sexy picture of a Nepali model Sushma Karki taking a river bath with an elephant. I did not have any problem with the picture save the fact that I found the presence of the elephant in the picture redundant. However, within no time a funny sparring of words (in the comments) turned into some serious discussion on women’s body, women’s rights and the moral propriety.

I was surprised to see how two men (my Facebook friends), both of whom I know as very respectful to women, were having polarized opinion on women’s rights and the idea of decency. One was of the view that there should be a certain code of decency so that women won’t be commoditized as sex-objects whereas the other strongly denounced this as “patronizing attitude” of men and averred that every person has the right to use his/her body the way she wants, and the idea of decency is extremely relative. Their positions reminded me of the drama that takes place during the Miss Nepal Contest almost every year, where “Nepali liberal feminists” laud the program as a great platform for young women, the “Nepali Marxist feminists” censure it as an auction of women’s self respect and demand such programs be stopped immediately.

Even though I agree with the premise that everyone has rights to his/her body and moral policing should be stopped, I do sincerely believe that women’s body has been commoditized to such a great extent that for most people women are only good-looking objects and nothing more. One relevant example can be seen in the movie industry. In the movies, where men are given various kinds of lead roles, female characters are present only to dance, look sexy and be in distress until her man comes to her rescue. I have heard many a times Nepali actresses trying to justify their sexy looks in the movie as “kathle mage samma” when the fact it is that a non-sexualized female lead is of almost of no use. However, the problem is not with the star who sells her sexuality to get established. In fact, I don’t have problem with women selling their sexuality. Rather the main problem is the culture that fosters only sexuality in women, and sets the rule that women’s only path to success is to sell their sexuality.

This trend of selling sexuality is not exclusive to women. There are men too who sell their sexual charms to get fame and I find such men cool. However, where selling sexual charms is one of the various options open to men, it is the only way for women. My qualms is not with people who entertain us with glamour and sexual charms, but with the culture that has set the rule of fame rather unfairly: if a woman wants to be known, really known, she has to denude herself; and if a man wants to be known, he has a whole range of options that might include denuding too.

I believe most of us are willing to bring about change in such unfair culture, but are scared because change in gender roles demands unsettling some revered cultures values. However, even unsettling “revered cultural values” too would not be too big a price to set things right. Personally speaking, I hate to see bright girls growing up in a society where she has to feel weird to say, “I love to study science more than be concerned about looking sexy.”setopati

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