Buzzfeed’s Sexual Objectification Problem

Written for Acculturated

October 2nd, 2015

Like many other college students, Buzzfeed is a regular part of my daily routine (especially when I ought to be working on my homework). It’s a nice mental break to peruse the articles, lists, and (my personal favorite) quizzes. The other day while on Buzzfeed, I came across an article about a famous female celebrity.

The article included a picture taken on the set of the woman’s latest movie and showed her in a skimpy bikini reaching under her top to re-situate her breasts. The article prattled on and on about what a wonderful photograph it was and how it was already hanging in the author’s home. Naturally, the public was infuriated. What blatant objectification! How horribly perverted!

At least, that’s what would have (and what certainly should have) happened if everything I told you were completely accurate. There was just one difference: the celebrity in the story I read was a man.

The actual article, entitled “Everyone Stop and Appreciate Zac Efron Touching Himself,” (rudely subtitled, “So jealous Zac got to touch Zac’s junk”) depicted Zac Efron reaching down his bathing suit. While there were some detractors in the comment section, the overall reaction was a positive one. Unfortunately, this article isn’t an isolated incident; it’s one of many similar articles Buzzfeed has published.

While simultaneously publishing articles bemoaning the objectification of women, Buzzfeed has engaged in the blatant objectification of men. Want to see pictures of shirtless male models in some seriously tight tightie whities? They’ve got you covered. Want to test your knowledge of celebrity males’ body parts? They’ve got a quiz for that (and one specifically for abs). Interested in seeing models in men’s lingerie? There’s an article for that too. They’ve even published a photo series of naked men holding some well-placed high heels. Then there’s this list of shirtless men. Another article on abs.Abs. Abs. More abs. Abs. Men’s butts. Abs again. At this point, you’ve got the idea.

These articles and the behavior they encourage are disturbing. Viewing shirtless pictures of an attractive man is tantamount to viewing bikini pictures of an attractive woman. Unfortunately, this behavior isn’t limited to Buzzfeed. The male body is objectified everywhere in mainstream media. We have the Magic Mike movies, Fifty Shades of Grey, Instagram and Twitter accounts devoted to sexually provocative images of hot guys, and now even a male version of Hooters.

Male objectification isn’t the only form of objectification that exists, and it certainly isn’t worse than objectification of women. Playboy still exists, women are used as sexual objects in movies and advertising, we still have the regular Hooters, and men catcall on the streets. But these behaviors have their critics. And these critics are heard and are considered to be right. Viewing women as objects of sexual desire instead of as people is wrong.

But where are the critics of men being objectified? Where is the moral indignation, the public protests? This behavior is still clearly objectification, and is therefore wrong, but thanks to a perverse strain of feminism it’s considered acceptable conduct.

This extreme feminism goes beyond achieving equal rights and recognition for women. Instead, this ideology teaches that women should be equal to men ineverything, including their vices. If men lust, they want women to lust. If men are sexually promiscuous, they want women to be sexually promiscuous. Never mind that these actions are immoral if men are doing them.  Their reasoning is that women should be allowed to be as immoral as men. The scholar Harvey Mansfield summed up this attitude, noting, “To prove that women can do everything men do, the most logical feminists find it necessary to practice their excesses, or at least boast of them—announcing with satisfaction that the murder rate by women is rising or discovering that rape is a gender-neutral crime that women too have the force and malice to commit. A strange independence of men that requires slavish imitation of their faults!”

This way of thinking stands in direct contrast to the original feminists, the suffragettes. Their movement was based on the premise that men and women weren’t equal in every respect, and that in some cases women were better than men, and certainly more moral. Lucretia Mott argued that because women were seen as lesser people than men, and weren’t involved in the government, “The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation.” Modern women, and society in general, would be better off if feminists returned to their moral roots, holding everyone to a higher moral standing instead of lowering women to the level of men.

And Buzzfeed would do well to remember that objectification might be good click-bait, but it’s bad for men as well as women.