Women in male oriented fields have been marked by some very unsavory objectification (turning the ladies into objects instead of people), but as time goes on, and women grow in those fields, some of that off-putting objectification turns into some sexy, sexy equality. It is just the passage of time, or is female visibility part of bringing women out of the object status?
Women in Menswear. Not Objectified.
We all love menswear. It’s simple, it’s high utility, looks rich, and lasts longer. Plus, menswear is historically bangin’ on ladies. High heels, tweed suits, and denim are all great menswear styles that women have stolen (and look great in). If you’ve ever slipped into a pair of boyfriend jeans or a boyfriend fit sweater, then you know that the large, comfortable, sturdy comfort from menswear is a great way to get more out of your clothes. Or is it?
Yeah. Totally is. Menswear is great.
Women’s clothing can be impractical, expensive, and less utilitarian. Menswear in the early 1900s wasn’t a new concept, but the sturdy fabrics and boyish shapes do allow women be free from heavy clothes (like the hobble dress, called as such because it literally hobbles you). Take for example, the bloomer trend of the 1800s that allowed women to ride bicycles with freedom. Menswear for women has often meant more utility, women’s wear for men is usually more for flair, like skinny jeans, skirts, or the ever-fashionable Jaden Smith.
Women in men’s clothing, like athleisure, which is super comfy, and partially born out of menswear trend, is about comfort and isn’t super controversial. So it’s strange to see women entering into other traditionally male fields initially objectified.
WorkPlace. Yes, but not sold that way…
When is the last time you saw an ad about a very sultry, but incompetent secretary? It’s probably been awhile since you’ve seen one. It’s still a popular trope, but sexism in the workplace has at least gotten more subtle. Part of it is more women in the workplace, legislation, and a whole slew of really awesome women putting work into it. It’s a field where women have definitely changed the conversation with years of hard work and legislation.
Babes in Muscle Cars. Sort of? Maybe?
You’ve probably scrolled through vintage car ads that are horrifically sexist. You know the ones that imply that women come with the car (or are less than it, or can’t drive it because of our tiny poorly coordinated lady brains). You probably have also watched a more modern commercial with a well dressed slim woman driving a shiny car through the night as the neon lights flash along it’s sleek bullet like exterior. You might wonder to yourself if there is that big of a difference between the lady coming with the car, and the lady being used to sell the car.
There is a big difference.
The babe telling you about the benefits of putting side steps on her big truck that she really likes is not sexist (or turning her into the product). She can like stuff and know exactly how to pick out steps for her F-150. As long as she isn’t the product, it isn’t objectification. Even if she’s showing off the truck in her bikini.
There have been big strides in transitioning car ads from the sexist ads to ads that include attractive ladies in ways that don’t involve selling the women. Part of that success is a visibility of women in the automobile industry. Realizing that women dominate car buying decisions and even drive cars (more miles each year, and hold more driver’s licenses) put women in higher visibility in the auto-industry’s eyes.
Car ads can still be pretty sexist, but some brands are getting it right. The sexist ads are less of the norm, and more of the exception. Part of that is because while women were driving before, their presence seemed like a new introduction to the male world (thus women were seen as add-ins to the purchase) whereas with women becoming some of the largest car purchasers, and really entering the automobile world, the hot girl doesn’t come with the car, the hot girl buys the car. Here women have changed the conversation with cash.
Still Very Objectified. Sports.
Women are super sporty, and have been for a long time. But sports are still full of objectification and can reward attractive but mediocre players if they are women. Increased visibility to sponsors and airtime can help some of these issues, but won’t solve all of them. For example, one of the most ‘equal sports’ is tennis. Pro-tennis has to pay the winners of the tournaments the same amount of money, no matter the gender, which is great. However, men’s sports still get higher paying sponsors and women’s endorsement deals are still based somewhat on attractiveness and what the market is looking for.
This is especially true with sports like surfing, where although there have been women competitors, there isn’t an equal representation in money or available competition. Part of it could be a lack of visibility of women surfers, it could be that surfer culture usually focuses around men, which is disappointing, since modern surfing is based around the ‘women’s board’ designed for easy handling. There are more ways to combat this, from more women surfing, to supporting some kickin’ lady surfers, to watching more sports that you enjoy. Hate sports? You can’t hate Sepak Takraw, enjoying physical activities is just one more way to stay fit and tell the patriarchy to shove it.
When women enter typically male fields, there is often a backlash of objectified ladies in advertising. Selling ladies as the product instead of as the primary buyers. With women in the work world, playing sports, or driving big cars, they often end up the product while trying to enter a major contributor. Being aware of what products are trying to sell you (or sell to you) can help you put some power behind your purchase when trying out new stuff in men’s fields.