Question: We have discussed objectification (Nussbaum) and derivation (Ann parker). can you think of other forms of sexual violence common to our culture that do not fit these two patterns? explain.
In this essay, I am going to critique the two prescribed readings (Nussbaum, 1995; Parker, 2016) briefly to first theorize the arguments made by these two writers about different forms of objectification and derivatization followed by my personal viewpoint regarding these two positions. I will argue that whereas objectification is a very broad and problematic concept, derivatization is also not any less complex. Instead, I am going to present a third view that coalesces these two positions by moderating them and making them less complex: I argue that rather than concerned with feminism, objectification and derivatization are issues that pose a challenge to humanity at large. A sojourn to sexual exploitation of women, men, and people with different identities through objectification or derivatization, is probably, possible when we, as one community, learn to realize that we need to respect differences in life in any way. This is happening through latest models of education. I would conclude the essay by restating the thesis and summarizing my claims.
Nussbaum (1995) critiques the notion of objectification of women, central to feminist argument, in a more complex way by focusing on not just objectification of women in any way but sexually. She expands the view and identifies seven different features of sexual objectification of a woman in a man-dominated society: (1) Instrumentality – treating a person as a tool; (2) denial of autonomy – denying a person in a way that implies that the person lack self-determination and autonomy; (3) inertness – treating someone without acknowledging or admitting that they, as a human, have agency; (4) fungibility – making a person interchangeable with other things; (5) violability – denying someone the integrity of personal boundary and limit; (6) ownership – treating an individual as if she is owned by someone who can probably sell her or buy another; (7) denial of subjectivity – neglecting altogether a person’s feelings and experiences. She thus expands on then prevailing concept of instrumentality giving us a much broader view of objectification. However, Nussbaum adds another layer to her primary premise, the importance and role played by the context and postulates that it is context that needs to be taken into account to decide whether a personal sexual objectification has really occurred or not. If the context is such where two lovers, while keeping the profound sense of each other’s autonomy and self-determination, indulge in the benign objectification, then it is positive and wonderful as it kindles their intimate lives.
I personally find this view quite enlightening yet very complex to apply to real life context. For instance, it is difficult for me to understand that, besides just women portrayed in media in certain ways, probably these seven forms of objectification take place on a regular basis while we interact with others in daily life. For example, a teacher may deny autonomy/self-determination to her students (does not let them go out the class) when an important test/lesson is going on. My employer, as per common employment norms, wants me to stay at work during the office hours and to do the jobs assigned to me (instrumentality?). Therefore, I think the concept raises as many problems as it solves. Probably, the right approach, here, to develop the idea of objectification, would be to just include its negative examples and try to create awareness among people not to a part of it. Similarly, I find such objectification (or rather exploitation) happening other than sexual exploitation of women.
Parker’s (2016) critique of Nussbaum’s notion of objectification takes a refreshingly different direction. While she gives Nussbaum some credit for expanding on the idea of instrumentality, she adds a completely different layer to sexual exploitation of individuals (not just women) by introducing derivatization and genitalization. By sharing the sad episode of the murder of Gwen by Michael and Jose, because Gwen did not fit into their worldview of what a woman should be like: Michael and Jose ‘derivatized’ Gwen: “To derivatize is to treat someone as a someone whose life, whose body, reflects and reinforces my sense of my own life” (Parker, 2016, p. 113). She also notes the derivatization of Daisy by her aunt Tia Chuchi while Daisy expresses her desires for another woman (something not the norms in the Columbian culture). Thus, Parker argues that the major problem is when people want to see others (outliers or the different) according to their worldviews. Hence, since Gwen challenged or probably confounded Michael and Jose’s worldview of what a woman should be like (per her body), they killed her.
Once again, although Parker (2016) problematizes the concept of derivatization quite philosophically, I personally believe it is not this easy to attribute Gwen’s murder to Michael and Jose’s worldviews of a woman alone.
First, this is a well-known fact that transgenders, lesbians, and gays have existed throughout history and in every part of the world (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). Hence, it is difficult to say that whether it was Michael and Jose’s shock to Gwen’s transgendered identity or it was some other factor. Probably, a thorough research of the case can lead us to more meaningful ways by which the real motifs of the murder can be revealed. It is possible that even though the two young men may have been shocked to find Gwen’s gender, alcohol, (probably drugs), and other factors led to a physical scuffle followed by that tragic event.
Second, such derivatization (trying to fit others into my worldview), most probably, happens in every walk of life not merely in the domains of intimacy or identity. For instance, a fast-growing religion of the world is today known to impose their values on to others. Similarly, our workplaces, schools, legal justice system, and communities expect us to behave and act in certain ways. Probably, I find such expectation as also derivatization of another person’s values, identity, or self-determination. It is here that we are still struggling with concept like prejudice, racism, and cultural shock. For instance, a recent hashtag on Twitter (#RefugeesNotWelcome), which is still active, took to a frenzy a few months ago, because certain people were seen as different in many ways (and a threat) to the European and North American culture. I think this context also fits into Parker’s concept of derivatization because there is a clash or two worldviews. Those in host countries are trying to avoid these refugees simply because they do not reflect and reinforce ‘my sense of my own life’.
Third, I think in today’s growing immigration, mass mobility, and swifter communication on a global level, there is constant clash of worldviews. If Michael and Jose’s case presents an extreme example of this clash (shocked by Gwen’s transgendered identity – if it truly was the case that I doubt), we can find many such examples in daily newspapers and TV of probably both intense of milder scales. Thus, it would seem logical to argue that the problem is probably escalating and extremist views (imposing one’s sense of life over others) are shaping more rapidly and in more sublime ways.
Forth, Parker (2016) herself problematizes the notion of derivatization not solely as an issue of women’s rights, but, probably, as an issue of humanity. In other words, Parker argues that our broader society should acknowledge the rights of others the way they are, be it a transgendered individual, a lesbian, a gay, etc. Hence, she blames the prevalent social/cultural norms (in which children are taught in certain ways about their identities) as a major hurdle in avoiding deaths of persons like Gwen. I would agree with Parker here and would expand the argument that, as noted above, it is less with women or different looking individuals, probably, it is more about the current models of home, school, community, and state education and practice that is playing a role here rather than personal derivatization. For example, since Gwen’s inhuman murder in 2002, her mother, Sylvia Guerrero, has led an awareness campaign that focuses to educate the masses to respect transgenders and accept them the way they are. According to this news story (Fraley, 2016), Guerrero never heard the term transgender until media started referring her murdered daughter with it. Yet, it is quite visible to see that Guerrero was aware of Gwen’s identify differences but loved her daughter the way she was because she had affection, respect, and compassion for Gwen. Thus, I would argue that it is a matter of humanity in the broader sense and includes all those that threaten our worldviews, and to avoid such a shock, many among us might derivatize others be they transgenders, refugees, or a person belonging to another faith.
The central point then is that we should shape a narrative that focuses on global awareness of mutual respect and space to others’ differences, autonomy, and self-determination (including of course women). I think with advanced communication technologies, it is happening gradually though with a rather slower pace. However, it is also apt to enumerate that the crises are still going on as we see different such stories almost daily. The most horrible case is genocides that are going on in some parts of the world to this very day.
In conclusion, I would restate my main thesis that whereas objectification is a very broad and difficult concept to translate in daily life (as posited by Nussbaum), derivatization is also a complex construct. Both of these concepts focus on women’s treatment in particular but, in essence, extend beyond feminism to include ill treatment of humans as a race. Thus, I argued that rather than being concerned with feminism alone, Nussbaum and Parker project the concepts of objectification and derivatization as issues that pose a challenge to humanity at large. Society that understands the negative ramifications of sexual exploitation of women, men, and people with different identities through objectification or derivatization, is probably going to evolve gradually and is possible when we as one community learn to realize that we need to respect differences in life in any way. The most fundamental role is that of education that focuses on the world as a community because with mass mobility, today, cultural contact is swifter than ever before. As people encounter different worldviews more frequently, a more holistic form of education is inevitable that is all inclusive and primarily concerned with not just tolerance to but appreciation of diversity and interpersonal differences. I think it is the point where a number of global problems can be solved without having to derivatize anyone for any of their beliefs about life. Canada, globally admired for its mosaic-based social philosophy, is one of the prime role models for the world to inculcate in people the sense of mutual respect and harmony while getting along with differences with ease and joy rather than cultural shock and disdain.
Fraley, M. (2016). Gwen Araujo murder 14 years later: Transgender teen’s killers face parole. The Mercury News. Retrieved from http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/10/14/the-murder-of-gwen-araujo/
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2016). Personality: Classic theories and modern research. New York: Pearson.
Nussbaum, M. C. (1995). Objectification. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 24(4), 249-291.
Parker, E. A. (2016). Sexual violence as derivatization.” In Desire, love, and identity: A Textbook for the Philosophy of Sex and Love. G. Foster, & D. Mills (Eds), (pp. 107-114). Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada.