Messages and Meaning

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We live in a world full of messaging. It is impossible to escape it—unless of course, you live as a hermit without electronics or human contact. Marketing and advertising professionals know what sells. In addition to the inundation of marketing messages, we receive untold messages from society and our ever-changing culture. The messages are often confusing and, more often than not, conflicting.

The worst message we women continue to embrace is the one that insists that we cannot be successful (or loved, for that matter) unless we look "sexy" and "beautiful." Our talents, intelligence, gifts and character are secondary to physical appearance. Imagine a professional portfolio picture of a man with his shirt unbuttoned to expose his naked chest, or a professional volleyball athlete wearing the same uniform women athletes wear. If the uniform truly improved performance, then men, too, would wear them.

I recently came across an ad in which the beautiful face and overly exposed body of a young woman jumped off the page. She looked like a professional model. It was startling to me, because the photograph seemed out of place for what was being advertised. Reviewing the advertiser's website, I discovered that the featured woman’s talent and success in her field had little to do with her physical beauty. In the advertisement, the achievements of this incredibly talented woman were reduced to her image as a lovely object. Also of note: None of the males featured on the website were dressed in a provocative way. Why do we feel the need to objectify ourselves?

I entered the world of business when women were "breaking the glass ceiling" and achieving recognition in fields as never before. Even then, it was a struggle to navigate the world of business and be recognized for my achievements. I persevered, believing my struggle—and that of other professional women—would create a better environment for my future daughter or daughters. My daughter is now a teen. Every moment she is bombarded with images of models, singers and actresses as beautiful objects. Teaching her to first focus on developing her character, gifts, talents and education is often like swimming upstream.

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Women desire the same respect and voice as men, and the fight began long before the suffrage movement. While we have made great progress for equal rights, we continue to foster the importance of objectified beauty, which at best is fleeting. Like men, we have the ability to be attractive and fashionable without diminishing our value as intelligent, sentient humans. We must change the messages, for our daughters and for ourselves.

We have the power, ability and influence to change the messages. Let us continue to band together, to change the way the world views and treats women. We are not objects and we should never be viewed as such.

messages and meaning headshotWritten by Coleen Redmond, a West Michigan Woman reader who wants a better environment for all women. The opinions of our blog contributors are their own, and West Michigan Woman—while not necessarily agreeing with all opinions—appreciates giving readers a voice. Is there something you’d like to write about? Contact [email protected] with your ideas.




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