22 Analysis: Dehumanizing and Objectifying Women 

The dehumanization of women occurs when there is an emphasis on treating women as objects and stripping them of their identity. Examples of this treatment are present in both literature and media.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, an elaborate fornication ritual that minimizes nudity while enabling sexual intercourse called the “Ceremony” occurs. The protagonist, Offred, claims “it has nothing to do with sexual desire, at least for me,” which suggests that the individual who takes the forefront is the man (Atwood 82). While the ritual is stylized for literary purposes, it encompasses the idea that men equivocate women to objects of sexual and physical pleasure (Boswell and Spade 139). Given the lack of intimacy, Offred’s existence is confined to her genitalia, which strips her of her humanity and transforms her into a “faceless” victim. Furthermore, the man apathetically leaves the room, which mirrors the findings that men who engage in detached sexual relations view women as objects for their pleasure that do not warrant courtesy or respect (Atwood 82; Boswell and Spade 138). Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Offred’s name is not Offred, but rather a patronymic mandated name that tied her to a male superior (Atwood 267-269). Using the prefix “Of,” the names were quite literally symbolic of ownership and equivocated women to property. The anecdotes within the novel amplify the dehumanizing treatment of women as objects for men.

Female objectification is also observable in advertisements where women become “faceless” and “bodiless” victims. Both the American Psychological Association’s study on magazines and Kilbourne’s study on advertisements determined that women were more likely than men to appear in media with obscured or dismembered body parts. The APA Task Force found that half of all ads featured dismembered females and the following ad is a prime example.


(Source: Gucci 2003)

Noticeably, only the woman has become headless, as the man next to her is fully visible. Additionally, it is impossible not to notice the sexual innuendo of the advertisement. The sexual appeal of the woman is harnessed to depict her as an object, similar to Mulvey’s notion of voyeurism to paint women as pleasurable objects for men. Ultimately, such images are the embodiment of female objectification as women’s obscured identities emphasize the pleasure of men and assert the prominence of female desirability (Orenstein 116). By portraying women in a manner that dehumanizes them and strips them of their agency for the benefit of a man, their existence is diminished to simply becoming outlets of pleasure for men.




Power: Origins, Instances, and Protest Copyright © by Candy Lucero-Sanchez; Leah Rivera; Leslie Paz; and Liam Madigan. All Rights Reserved.

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