This article was originally posted on Christian Entertainment Reviews.
Kiera Knightley made headlines recently for a bold move causing feminists and other groups against objectification of women to applaud her. No, she didn’t speak out about sexism in film, nor did she refuse to do a sexualized photoshoot. In fact, she posed for a topless photo.
Confused? Yeah. So am I.
To be fair, the fact that she posed for the photo topless isn’t the point. She insisted that the photo be unaltered, in a broader protest to magazines doctoring images of the women they feature, which creates completely unrealistic expectations for women. This practice likely has a very damaging effect on girls who are already struggling with a sense of self-worth in a culture which is increasingly telling them that they are only valuable when they provide sexual pleasure to a man. That’s a horrible, horrible thing. But did Kiera Knightley really take a step towards fixing the problem, or did she unwittingly contribute to it?
Knightley was quoted as saying “Women’s bodies are a battleground and I think photography is part of the problem.” That shows a bit (okay, a lot) of a misdiagnosis. Photography is a medium that the problem has been shown through, but it itself is not the problem. The problem is that women are used as sexual objects made to satisfy or intensify the lust of men. And what did that topless photoshoot do? The very thing that she was trying to speak out against.
I don’t want to say that Kiera Knightley was being hypocritical when she made this statement. I don’t think she was. I’m sure that she had good motives in making this statement and thought she was addressing an evil in the world by doing so. But by refusing the extreme and normalizing, exalting, even, the primary method through which women’s bodies are degraded to the point of being objects for the sexual desires of men, she only further enhanced the problem, which is a culture in which the objectification of women is accepted as normal by the populace.
I find myself unable to believe that the vast amount of stars in Hollywood who agree to being thrown in movies as sex symbols and whose sole purpose in appearing on a magazine cover is for sexual allurement really enjoy or even approve of being used in that way. I remember reading an interview with Jessica Alba a few years back when she was expressing frustration at always being the sex symbol. She wanted to be a serious actress, but she kept getting approached with roles that were all about sex and not about representing compelling characters in a serious work of art. I wonder what would happen if these women stopped agreeing to these photoshoots and film roles. If those that would rather not take on those roles acted as offended as they truly felt, would they stop asking?
But really it goes deeper than that. Why is there a demand in the first place? Why have we allowed the demand to be created? Are we really so selfish that we’re willing to pay to see these movies and look at these magazines that exploit women as sexual objects, just so we can get some sexual pleasure out of that?
Just as this should be a lesson not to pound on the symptom and overlook the disease, it should also be a grim reminder that it’s not only those fulfilling the demands of a sinful culture that are to blame, but also those responsible for creating the demand.