Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How Objectification Silences Women: the male gaze as a political muzzle

I changed the title below to the one above in order to more accurately reflect what is going on. Science typically produces findings that make political issues into "psychological" ones. Because they haven't learned the term "white male supremacy" yet,  and won't speak about "racist patriarchy".

All that follows is from *here*.

How objectification silences women - the male glance as a psychological muzzle

Category: Gender issuesPsychologySocial science
Posted on: January 12, 2010 9:30 AM, by Ed Yong
For something intangible, a glance can be a powerful thing. It can carry the weight of culture and history, it can cause psychological harm, and it can act as a muzzle. Consider the relatively simple act of a man staring at a woman's body. This is such a common part of modern society that most of us rarely stop to think of its consequences, much less investigate it with a scientific lens.
Headless-barbie.jpgTamar Saguy is different. Leading a team of Israeli and US psychologists, she has shown that women become more silent if they think that men are focusing on their bodies. They showed that women who were asked to introduce themselves to an anonymous male partner spent far less time talking about themselves if they believed that their bodies were being checked out. Men had no such problem. Nor, for that matter, did women if they thought they were being inspected by another woman.

Saguy's study is one of the first to provide evidence of the social harms of sexual objectification - the act of treating people as "de-personalised objects of desire instead of as individuals with complex personalities". It targets women more often than men. It's apparent in magazine covers showing a woman in a sexually enticing pose, in inappropriate comments about a colleague's appearance, and in unsolicited looks at body parts. These looks were what Saguy focused on.

She recruited 207 students, 114 of whom were women, on the pretence of studying how people communicate using expressions, gestures and vocal cues. Each one sat alone in a room with a recorder and video camera. They had two minutes to introduce themselves to a male or female partner, using a list of topics such as "plans for the future" or "four things you like doing the most". The partner was supposedly sat in the next room and either watching the speaker from the neck up, watching from the neck down, or just listening on audio. The camera was tilted or blocked accordingly.

Saguy found that women talked about themselves for less time than men, but only if they thought they were being visually inspected by a man, and particularly if they thought their bodies were being checked out. They used the full two minutes if they were describing themselves to another woman (no matter where the camera was pointing) or if they were speaking to a man who could hear but not see them. But if their partner was a man watching their bodies, they spoke for just under one-and-a-half minutes. You can see these differences in the graph below (although note that the y-axis starts at 60, a practice I don't particularly like).

Men had no such qualms. They used the full two minutes regardless of whether they were being watched or listened to, and no matter the gender of their partner. The fact that men didn't react in the same way is important. For a start, it shows that it's a man's gaze and not just any downward glance that affects a woman's behaviour. It also puts paid to the false equivalence arguments that are often put forward when discussing gender issues (i.e. "women look at male bodies too"). 
When the students answered a questionnaire after the experiment, both men and women "felt more like a body than as a real person" if the camera focused on them from the neck down. But only the women were really put off by it. Around 61% of them disliked the body-pointed camera, compared to just 32% who disliked the face-pointing one or 7% who disliked the audio. For the men, 36% disliked the body camera, 42% disliked the face one and 22% disliked the audio. 
As Saguy explains, "When a woman believes that a man is focusing on her body, she narrows her presence... by spending less time talking." There are a few possible reasons for this. Saguy suspects that objectification prompts women to align their behaviour with what's expected of them - silent things devoid of other interesting traits. Treat someone like an object, and they'll behave like one. Alternatively, worries about their appearance might simply distract them from the task at hand.

Obviously, this experiment used a fairly artificial scenario. In the real world, social interactions are more complicated and objectification can take place more subtly, with a quick glance rather than a blatantly angled camera.

Even so, these behaviours don't go unnoticed. They could be major problems if the same detrimental silencing effect in Saguy's study applies in real-world situations where being vocal is important for success - job interviews, work meetings, networking sessions, classrooms and more. There will always be hardened lechers among us but often, objectification happens without us thinking about it or becoming aware of it. It's time, perhaps, that more of us did.

Reference: Saguy et al. 2010. Interacting Like a Body: Objectification Can Lead Women to Narrow Their Presence in Social Interactions. Psychological Science

Update on Kevin Annett: white preacher beaten up for speaking out on Canadian police's genocidal AND gynocidal atrocities against Indigenous North Americans

[image of three men, the third being Kevin Annett speaking out, is from here]

The life of one white man is not worth more or less than the life of one woman of color. This is often  forgotten in a white male supremacist society. As are the dead women of color. As are the raped women of color. As are the "disappeared" women of color.

This post is about what happens to those in an oppressor class who place their allegiances fully with the oppressed, and work to expose the lies and cover-ups, THE ATROCITIES,  perpetrated and perpetuated by WHITE MEN IN POWER. What happens is that he will be threatened, hunted, tracked down and beaten or killed.

I've had one "cluster threat" against me so far by privileged white men who want to beat me up, rape me, and kill me and who say they'd be willing to go to jail for doing so, for exposing the atrocities white heterosexual men do to women of all colors. So I appreciate Kevin's work and his perseverance, and I hope he lives a long life, never letting white men in power silence him. That they have the power and means to silence him goes without say. And I fully support his efforts to speak truth to power.

But in a society where white men speak "truth" (not even just "our truth"--but allegedly objective Truth) and people of color speak "their stories", we must remember that it is a radical thing to hear THE TRUTH in the stories of people of color, of women, of any oppressed group. That is why I highlight on this blog the truths being spoken by women of color. Because neither whites nor men of color take women of color's "stories" or analysis, or theories, or activism to be centered on human truth, human reality. And this, in and of itself, is a very central part of the problem. If you're waiting to hear something from a white man to know whether or not it is true--and this is, in part, the structure of the film Unrepentant, then you're not respecting women of color as truth-tellers, social theorists, political activists, etc. If you need your feminism packaged and edited by white women, then you're practicing white supremacy. If you need Indigenous women's experience to be restated and reframed as "Indigenous" experience, leaving out what happens to Indigenous women because they are women, then you are practicing white and male supremacy.

All that follows is from here. Thanks, again, Brenda!

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights
Click for Censored News Homepage:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kevin Annett: Canada's police involved in sex crimes

Kevin Annett, beaten in Vancouver on Wednesday, releases this new article about Canada's police and churches involved in sex crimes and sex trafficking, including Native women and children. Annett has exposed the murder of Native children in church-operated residential schools in Canada and is pressing for the identification of the graves of disappeared Native children.

The Disappeared of Canada :

How and Why the Killings Have Never Stopped

A Sequel to last issue’s article “Child trafficking in Beautiful British Columbia ” in The Agora newspaper

By Kevin D. Annett

Hidden From History website:
Kevin Annett Assaulted
“Ten of the last dozen women to be taken to the killing site at Piggy’s Palace were accompanied by Mounties or regular cops. You think it was just Willie Picton who was killing them?”

Marion, sex trade worker, downtown eastside of Vancouver , May 10, 2006

In October of 1992, when I was still a United Church clergyman, I was approached by a colleague at my first Presbytery meeting in Nanaimo . The topic of child abuse came up, and after a few moments, the other man, a retired minister, smiled and gave me a sort of insider’s look. He lowered his voice and said to me,

“It’s easy to get a child in this town.”

I must have looked shocked, for his smile faded.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Nothing” he replied. “Some people are, you know, interested in that sort of thing.”

It all felt like an offer, masked but real, like a sort of masonic handshake: something known to insiders only.

The same man had worked in the United Church ’s Alberni Indian residential school for years, and piloted one of the “mission boats” that visited coastal Indian villages. One of my native parishioners later accused him of raping her as a child, but the RCMP threatened her not to press charges.

Later, after I was fired from the church for asking too many questions, I learned of the well-protected child trafficking network that linked the coastal residential schools with wealthy men and clubs in Vancouver . Just how many children disappeared into those clubs and never emerged is unknown; but they are among the more than 50,000 residential school children who cannot be accounted for.

“No crime ever disappears; it just adapts” a journalist once told me. And in British Columbia, the crime of abducting people is rampant, on the rise, and very lucrative, since it is part of a deadly international network in human trafficking.

George Brown is a retired aboriginal RCMP officer who was part of a community-based “Missing Persons’ Task Force” in Vancouver . His group documented hundreds of missing people until their work began to identify the complicity of local police, politicians and businessmen in the disappearances. At that point, George’s group disbanded.

“We didn’t want to get killed” George told me during a videotaped interview in the summer of 2005.

“I was called up by a senior officer in the force and told, ‘George, the number of disappeared women is nine, and it’s going to stay at nine. Stop sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong or you may lose it.’ The fact is I personally know two fellow Mounties who were linked with Picton and making money by bringing girls out to his place. None of the girls ever came back. Everybody knows about it.”

I asked George who “everybody” was. The world-weary man shook his head sadly.

“The Mayor. The Chief of Police. All the senior press people. Hell, you can’t get into those positions without making a deal with the drug lords who run this town. The days of organized crime as a separate thing are over. It’s all business run and legit now. It’s organized corporate crime now – the drug importers from Asia and the real estate developers and the off shore investors, they’re all part of the same gang. The cops all work for them. And body snatching pays well.”

George Brown’s group documented a link between the disappeared women of the downtown eastside and the trans-pacific organ trafficking network based in China . According to sources within the network, at least a dozen women and men are abducted and murdered every month in Vancouver , their bodies disposed of in protected grave sites on the north shore, and their organs shipped overseas.

Most of the disappeared are homeless men, transient youth or sex trade workers.

A year after I interviewed George Brown, I was given more confirmation of his groups’ claims. I received a message to meet a woman named Annie Parker at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver ’s downtown eastside. Annie was a short, timid woman with haunted eyes and scars along her neck and arms.

“I got these by threatening to go to the press with what I knew” she said matter of factly, pointing to the scars.

“Who did it to you?” I asked.

She told me the man’s name, a senior RCMP officer, and then said,

“Who doesn’t matter. They’re all doing it. It’s called the ‘hooker game’. The Vancouver cops will pick up girls off the street, drug them with scopolamine and film them as they fuck them, in a cop club downtown on Georgia street . Then sometimes they kill the girls and film that too, and sell it for $25,000 as a snuff film.”

I asked her what happens to the bodies.

“That was one of Steve Picton’s specialties. I met all the Pictons. Steve runs a snuff film operation in Coquitlam and then he dumps the bodies at a hunting camp about ten miles up from Horseshoe Bay , near the Sea to Sky highway. There’s a special grave site there with sealed containers in a metal cistern. I was taken there, I seen it. It’s watched over by the Mounties.”

Les Guerin is an aboriginal man who lives and works as a maintenance man on the Musequam Indian reserve near the University of B.C. He claims that the reserve holds at least two body dumping sites from which he personally has excavated human remains, and had them forensically examined.

“As far back as 1989 I saw a man who I later identified as Willie Picton drive onto the Musqueam reserve and bury several large bags. Later when I saw his face on the news, I dug up the bags and had them examined at a lab at SFU. The report says they contain human and pig bones remains, including the humerus, pelvis and skull pieces of a young woman in her twenties.

“The weird thing is I told the Vancouver Police, the press, everybody about this, and nothing was ever done. I sent the police the forensic report, me and my buddy Jim Kew, I told the CBC and even the lawyers for the families of Picton’s victims. Nothing. The cops roped off the site in 2006 and that was that.”

A signed letter from Musqueam Band Housing Officer Glenn Guerin dated October 29, 2004 indicates that Dave Picton was employed by the Museum Indian band for a three month contract during 1990 to provide land fill for local street construction.

Frustrated by the lack of police response, in December of 2005, Les Guerin mailed the bone fragments he obtained from the Picton deposit, along with the forensic report, to Amnesty International’s head office in London , England. The package was returned unopened the following month.

Next month, the eyes of the world will be on British Columbia and its Olympics. But will those eyes perceive the missing men, women and children whose remains lie scattered in hidden graves – and the authorities who put them there? Will the visiting world media record the truth of those who continue to disappear?

Most important, will the killings be stopped?

That depends on us.
Rev. Kevin Annett is a community minister, educator and award-winning film maker who lives and works in Vancouver ’s downtown eastside. He is a member of the revived Community Task Force into Missing Persons. For more information on this Group, and for a copy of their recent report on which this article is based, contact Kevin at: or 1-888-265-1007 (messages).

His website is:

Read and Hear the truth of Genocide in Canada, past and present, at this website: , and watch Kevin's award-winning documentary film UNREPENTANT on the same website.

UNREPENTANT: Kevin Annett and Canada's Genocide
- Winner, Best Foreign Documentary Film, Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, March 2007
- Winner, Best Canadian Film, Creation Aboriginal Film Festival, Edmonton, 2009

Soon to be released feature film, THE DIARY, based on Kevin Annett's epic struggle to bring to light genocide in Canada - see the trailer at: