Objectification and Humanization
People in almost every developed country and culture on earth have attained unprecedented levels of personal freedom and equality to their fellow human beings. Of course, people did not suddenly start enjoying this relative freedom and equality at the turn of the 21st century. It took centuries of social movements, hundreds of poignant social thinkers, and a countless number of social activists to get from a social structure of nobility and peasants to the equal opportunity we enjoy now. The majority of soc ial problems that people have faced over the centuries, from slavery to gender and race inequality, have fallen under the overarching problem of objectification. Objectification itself is fairly simple concept, but the many problems that stem from objectif ication are what are so complex and problematic. Although objectification of people is primarily negative and harmful to society, people can have positive experiences with objectification. Finally, while the objectification of people is dwindling, there ar e still ways to diminish its presence in everyday life, especially with resocialization as Simone de Beauvoir recommends.
Before any discussion of objectification can be conducted, it must be clearly defined. It is the treatment of a person as an object. For instance, before putting on a shirt, one doesn't politely ask the shirt if they can stick their arms into it. In fact, one doesn't even ask permission from a dog to pet it; they ask the owner. Why would the dog mind? It's just an animal after all. Howe ver, it is unacceptable to touch a stranger or even an acquaintance, forget pet them, before asking them. This is because of respect we have for someone's personhood. When we objectify someone, we strip them of their personhood. For instance, one doesn't a sk an apple or a prostitute about their opinions on local government policies, but this would be a casual conversation topic for conversation between two people. The apple is incapable of forming opinions, and a prostitute may as well not have opinions whi le he or she is on the job. Of course, objectification is not treating someone like they are actually a shirt or an apple. It is more like stripping an individual of their humanity--their emotions, thoughts, feelings, and intellect--in favor of focusing on a small aspect of them. This one aspect can vary quite a bit. In the case of the prostitute, their physical appearance and sexuality have been objectified. Those aspects are all that matter to their clients.
In fact, service people of all types are objec tified, especially menial positions like a cashier. One could argue that it is, if fact, objectifying to just use a cashier as a means to buy goods. That may be true, but it is not where the negative consequences of objectification come from. Instead, cash iers are often seen and treated like vending machines. When a vending machine doesn't dispense the bag of chips that you paid for, it is acceptable to get frustrated with it, maybe shake it or kick it to try to make the bag of chips fall. Although it is no t necessarily acceptable, it is common that cashiers will get treated in similar ways. Cashiers can expect to be yelled at at some point over the course of their career if, for instance, the fries aren't coming out fast enough, or if they can't let a custo mer return shirts without a receipt, or if the food doesn't taste good enough, even though all of these things are outside of their control. This is because cashiers have been objectified. To their customers, all they are is a face that says, "Hello, may I take you order?", "That will be $5.50," and then eventually gives them their food. It's easy for customers to forget that the cashier is more than a machine, so it's unfortunately quite easy for a customer to treat the cashier like machine. The main reper cussion of treating service people in this way is that it is very emotionally stressful for the worker. It is not uncommon for cashiers and other service people to spend their breaks crying in the back of the store because of how cruelly