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How to End Objectification (According to Norma Kamali)

My 9-year-old and I were waiting on the subway platform yesterday when I got my first good look at the poster for Seven Psychopaths. I was already a little riled up, but as I looked down the line of “characters,” I realized this was the perfect opportunity to talk to my kid about something I’d been wanting to raise for a while. “Look at this poster,” I said, “and tell me what you see.” He pointed out the weird guys. And the women. Not weird. Just women. It’s a movie about psychopaths. Most of the men are middle-aged. Even the exception (Colin Farrell) looks wild eyed and woeful. The women, however, just look hot.
And about 20 years younger than most of their co-stars.

Maybe it was a weird place to start the conversation about objectification — it’s not like being a visible lunatic is something to aspire to — but it was a clear example of how women are expected to be beautiful over all else. And a good way to open the conversation about why that’s a problem. What I really wanted to show my kids was the video I’d seen while watching Good Morning America in a waiting room that morning: Designer Norma Kamali’s new initiative against the objectification of women. 

The fashion world is a funny brewing place for an anti-objectification message, since the industry’s interests provide one of the problem’s major feeding tubes. But Norma has always been outside the box, creating her own empire with her own rules. According to her interview on GMA, the inspiration for stopobjectification.com came from her own experience. After graduating from FIT in the 1960s, Kamali went out for job interviews and instead of being asked to show her portfolio, was asked to show her rear view. At the time, she complied, eager for work and muted by the general acceptance of this kind of behavior. But when she realized more than 40 years had gone by with very little progress, she decided to try to make a dent in the situation.

The main point: women are more than bodies. But it’s up to us, Kamali says, to tell our stories and remind the dumb culture of this very obvious fact. Her site is simple. You, a woman, upload a picture of the body part of your choice (your own), and annotate it with something about you that transcends the physical. These words are then overlaid on top of your image in a sort of reversal of society’s tendency to see a woman’s looks above everything else. It might seem too easy, but seeing all these pictures side by side is pretty powerful. And if you haven’t started talking about this issue with your kids yet, the video below is a great place to start. It’s a little racy, sure. But if they’ve ever seen a perfume ad or a car commercial, the imagery will be all too familiar. I figure if they’re going to have to see that stuff, they might as well understand what they’re looking at.

 

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