So, here’s the thing: We’ve got a big problem that encompasses rape, bullying, prejudice, racism, sexism, and divorce. All of these hot topics start from one single action: objectifying.
Why do I bring this up?
Because of Robin Williams.
The much beloved comedian committed suicide a few days ago, and the news of it really shook a lot of us, especially those who had grown up with everything from Mrs. Doubtfire to Jumanji to Flubber to Aladdin. It seemed he would always be with us.
But the proverbial ink hadn’t even dried before he had been objectified to represent depression. I hadn’t even heard the news before there were pins and posts everywhere making him the poster child for depression and the quiet suffering of anyone with mental illness. No chance to simply mourn his passing, no time to honor him for the affect he had on so many lives and the great man he had been. Not even an opportunity to feel bad before we got caught up in a crusade for a problem we should already be dealing with.
How long has depression been a thing? How long have we heard about people suffering from depression? How many other people had committed suicide because they felt they couldn’t cope with it any longer? How many people are still fighting depression and only now are getting some kind of attention because one more person made the irrevocable choice?
And more importantly, why was depression only important enough to bring to light because of one famous person versus millions of real and every day people?
That’s the essence of objectification. So many beautiful things get sacrificed for a single, selfish idea. With that as a definition, objectifying becomes a much, much more diabolical action, but also a much more common action.
Let’s consider some more examples:
Years ago, there was a ‘family’ comedy where a woman felt that her husband didn’t listen or respect her. So, she put a hand over her face and asked “what color are my eyes?”
The husband responded with “34C.”
And then everybody laughed.
Neglect the fact that there is so much wrong with this scene, at the base of it is objectification. A wonderful woman and devoted homemaker is reduced by a thoughtless husband to a bust size. Expanding that out, the role of husband and father is reduced by the media to a joke.
I could dedicate a whole different blog post to the media’s definition of fatherhood, but that’s a story for a different time.
Or, how about this one:
Yes, we all laughed. But again, there’s that objectification rearing its ugly head. Every good thing about a person is pushed behind the idea that married women spend their time on Pinterest to the neglect of important things. Which is true for a tiny, minuscule percentage, even though the joke ranges far and wide.
Here’s the most stark example. Personality is washed down the drain, morals and ideals are set on the back-burner, the concept that the girl he is with is an actual person and not “arm candy”, it’s all outside of the picture of the guy’s physique.
There are some, since we’ve broached the topic of mental illness, where that’s just how their brain is wired. They can’t differentiate humanity from any other object. It’s called sociopathy. A walking, talking person is no different than a chair, lamp, or cucumber. It becomes a lot easier to see a person as a tool to accomplish a goal, rather than a potential relationship to nurture. For everybody else it’s a choice, a learned habit, or a taught skill to ignore a person for a single trait of that person.
Can I show you what the opposite would look like?
I have a friend who is transgendered. He’s a great person, and a friend I have admired for many years. I’m a Latter Day Saint and follow the tenants of my faith.
Naturally, one would think those polar opposites, grounds for a wonderful, never-ending argument, or a fight waiting to happen.
How are we still friends? We didn’t let one idea override all the many others. If I objectified him, and he objectified me, then yes, it would have panned out as predicted. But, we chose to see full, wonderful people of which those traits were only a single part.
There’s a simple solution to this commonplace plague, and I use the words of the LDS leader Deiter F. Uchtdorf.
If you don’t like that the person you’re talking to is a Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Ashatru, Mormon, Hindu, Jew, Black, Chinese, Muslim, hipster, nerd, geek, LGBT, weird, quiet, loud, pierced, clean-shaven, bearded, tall, short, not skinny, skinny, male, or female, and you don’t like that, guess what?
Don’t talk about it. Try the weather, what books they’re reading, movies they’ve watched, what made their day better, a favorite recipe (Nothing brings people together like food. Trust me), where they work, what they like to do, anything that is something you do like. Statistically, there is something you can agree on with EVERYBODY in this great, wide, freakin’ wonderful world.
Go find what that is.