The Objectification of Women and Girls at Grace

Ranking based on attractiveness, calling someone too skinny or too fat or just the right amount of “thick,” and treating people as just bodies: these are all ways that women in our school experience objectification.  

Objectification and hypersexualization is an issue that continues to affect women in and outside of our tight-knit community. While anyone is subject to experience this degradation, women of almost every age experienced a situation where they are treated or perceived as an object of sorts.  

In a recent survey, conducted by The Gazette, when members of our community were asked if they had felt objectified at least once at Grace, 41.7% of the 24 responders agreed. Furthermore, of these responses, 100% of male responders marked that they have not been affected by objectification. This percentage cannot encapsulate accurate statistics, as many common occurrences of objectification happen just before our eyes and go unacknowledged. In our survey, those who responded saying that they have felt sexualized submitted experiences of being ranked by men and having received unsolicited photos of genitalia.  

Objectifying a young female student within an academic setting puts one’s quality of education at risk. School should be a place where every person feels valued and excited to learn. The act of objection within this so-called “safe” setting devalues the significance of school as an academic setting and starts to make girls feel disconnected from their education. 

Mary H. ‘25 claimed, “Women are forced to choose between being viewed as attractive and being respected in their ideas. You can’t have both, you can’t be a woman who embraces her sexuality and is valued in her ideas. You have to choose one or the other …Every young woman in our community has incredible ideas that should be shared.” 

In school, particularly in this delicate period of adolescence, the idea that a girl needs to choose between her appearance and ideals is dangerous, but entirely true. Ultimately, this shouldn’t be a choice that young girls are forced to make, especially in a time of valuable self-exploration of who we are and want to be. The perpetuation of this idea –that a girl cannot be smart and beautiful –causes girls in our community to question their intellectual, physical, and emotional worth, and makes building confidence an endless uphill battle. 

It is also important to be aware of the ways that women experience objectification in different ways and that there is no one female experience. Madison K. ‘22, the leader of Let’s Dish, an affinity space for women of color, said that when discussing the ways women of color experience objectification, “oftentimes we’re not the ones that are looked to to be sexualized but it still does happen. There’s, of course, the fetishization of black women, just because of their body types and of women of color in general….” 

Madison continued, noting that “the intersections are important because there’s not one set specific way to advocate for feminism … it should be noted that there are other groups within feminism that still need advocating for that.” 

Ara K. ‘22, a leader of Asian Affinity, said that when addressing the sexualization and fetishization of asian women, “a lot of people see Asian women as exotic and hypersexual, yet simultaneously demure and weak, sexualizing these traits. The fact that terms like “yellow fever” and “Japanese schoolgirl” exist in sexual contexts and are widely used shows just how much Asian women are fetishized (and also speaks on pedophilia in our society but that’s a different topic). 

Plus, in movies and TV shows there are sometimes Asian female characters who only show up as a temporary sexual prospect for the white male main character, and it is clear that the writers put no real effort into developing this character in a substantial way. For example, that one time Michael and Andy from “The Office” both had Asian girlfriends, and they couldn’t tell them apart (or couldn’t remember whose name was whose, it’s been a while since I saw the episode but it was something like that. Either way, very tragic).” 

Objectification doesn’t look one way, and it is extremely important to be aware of how different women experience it based on their intersecting identities. It is crucial to protect all women from objectification and fetishization and make sure to highlight the experiences of women of color, whose voices are often silenced in conversations like these. Part of doing this involves listening to women: women of color, queer women, disabled women, fat women, trans women and all women that are impacted by this issue, not just white, sis, straight women. Marginalized women are those at the forefront of this issue and everyone needs to be heard. 

Another issue that many women in our community face is the fetishization of their queer identities. In addition to them already being objectified because of their gender, their sexuality allows these women to be fetishized. Being queer, especially bisexual, brings experinces of fetishization, hearing that one’s attraction to both men and women somehow makes them more desirable or attractive. 

Male validation is something that many women seek to gain because of the way society has taught us that that is the best thing to have, that their validation is the ultimate prize. Because of this, many straight women hook up and kiss their girl friends in order to fit into this male gaze. Although seemingly harmless, this act invalidates queer relationships and gives men more amo to invaliate queer women. 

Charlotte M ‘22, one of the leaders of Bi-cons, the affinity group for bisexual identifying members, addressed her opinions on the issue. “It seems like it’s to turn on the guys, for the male gaze, so they find the women more attractive, which I’ve seen andit’s weird, …you know … someone would come out as bi [bisexual] and then people would be like: ‘would you be down for a threesome?’ Just really out of pocket questions like that, which are weird … there’s super invasive questions that I don’t want to answer.”

Queer women are often fetishized by men and have their real relationships invalidated. These relationships are invalidated by cis, straight men claiming to not care if their girlfriends kiss a girl, claiming its not cheating, claiming it isn’t a “real” kiss. 

When talking to Michelle Carpenter, the dean to the class of ‘24, a math teacher and the future assistant head of the highschool, we discussed her take on objectification within school communities. She said, “I don’t want to feel like I am under siege, and I don’t want the girls and women anywhere, whether they are in my life or just alive, I don’t want them to feel like they are under siege. I want them to be able to show as much or as little of their bodies as they choose. I want them to be able to do work that reflects their interests and their passions and their competencies, and not be slotted into this career or that career. I want men who feel entitled to respect, the same respect to which they feel entitled.I want them to feel a sense of obligation to extend that same respect.” 

Objectification is dangerous and harmful to people within our school community and needs to stop. Mary H. ‘25 said, “It’s this idea that men think that their validation of us is so valuable that if we don’t have that, then we’re nothing … Here I’m bestowing this gift of value upon you. You can finally feel whole again.” 

To the men at Grace school: we do not need your validation, we do not need your objectification, and we do not need you to tell us we are beautiful. The objectification and unsolicited sexualization is something too many women in our community experience. It negatively affects the way we see ourselves and is unnecessary at school and everywhere else in society. 

Featured Art by Aquinnah Lane-Furlow ’24