It’s no secret. We live in a society drenched with sexually objectifying images of women. What may be less obvious is just how harmful these images are to the dignity and treatment of women and girls by men. Objectifying images teach men that women are objects for ownership, rather than complete persons worthy of moral treatment.
In our society, we are bombarded with sexually objectifying images both in brick and mortar stores and in online advertisements virtually every day. These images are so ubiquitous, the average person feels powerless to change the status quo.
A clear example of this corrosive experience happens every time we shop at Walmart. The sexually explicit Cosmopolitan magazine lines virtually every checkout aisle, at our kids’ eye level, teaching women, men, boys, and girls that a woman’s value ultimately lies in her sexuality and sexual abilities.
Consumers have been sent that subliminal message every time they check out at Walmart. That is, until now.
Walmart and NCOSE Work Together to Change #MeToo Culture
After collaborative dialogue between the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Walmart, this major corporation will remove Cosmopolitan magazine from checkout aisles in all of its locations across the country!
That means all of Walmart’s 5,000 locations will adopt this new policy to concretely combat our sexually exploitative, #MeToo culture. The #MeToo movement is comprised the millions of women, and also men, who have experienced some degree of sexual harassment or assault in their personal or professional lives.
When major corporations change their policies to stop promoting sexually exploitative influences in our culture, we are all better off. With this policy change, and by acknowledging and changing the way they influence the culture, Walmart is proving itself a leader in corporate responsibility.
How Objectification Fuels #MeToo Culture: What the Research Tells Us
But what does Walmart removing Cosmo from checkout aisles really have to do with the treatment of women in our society? A lot, actually.
Research demonstrates the link between sexual objectification and the attitudes and behaviors that shape #MeToo culture—in other words, objectifying images of women instill in men the attitudes of male sexual entitlement that drive men to feel at liberty to sexually harass and assault women and to use them for their own pleasure. For instance, objectification teaches men that women are violable—that they are objects lacking in boundary integrity that men can break up, smash, or break into.
Research likewise shows that when someone is being objectified the objectifier is viewing them as if they do not possess a real, individual mind and as if they are less deserving of moral treatment.
Objectification is typically manifested through either interpersonal encounters or the media, and “sexual objectification” results in the fragmentation of a person so that they exist as a collection of sexual parts/functions, rather than as whole person possessing a unique personality, attributes, and feelings.
The truth is, women are more than a collection of body parts, and women are worth more than their sexual functions! But you wouldn’t know that using only Cosmo as your guide.
In the case of the Walmart victory, women and girls are the prime beneficiaries, since Cosmo exploits female sexuality for profit. Disturbingly, Cosmo even targets young girls by placing former Disney stars on its covers, despite the enclosed sexually erotic articles which describe risky sexual acts like public, intoxicated, or anal sex in detail.
While the editors of Cosmo unconvincingly claim to help women achieve happiness and satisfaction in life, they really only help women achieve status as second-class citizens in our society, and as objects for men’s pleasure, rather than as whole, independent, and respected persons.
We applaud Walmart for their leadership and encourage other corporations to follow their lead. If we want to tackle objectification and the harms it does to women, major corporations need to do their part.
Likewise, to truly change #MeToo culture, corporations need to do their part, and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation will continue to advocate for policy changes like Walmart’s as we work toward a world free from sexual exploitation.
To learn more about the harms of objectification, click here.