The Flip Side: Women as Commodities

This is the second of a two-part series about the short film The Flip Side: Dating.

In the first post we discussed how The Flip Side: Dating portrays women as hysterical, illogical, and irrational. In the film, the “gender roles” (or “gender rules,” depending on how you view it) are switched: men act like women and women like men, in a variety of scenes that depict stereotypical gender behavior. This post focuses on one scenario that we found both interesting and disturbing.

A man tries on clothes in a store’s dressing room while his girlfriend plays on her phone. The man finds a jacket that he really likes, but rather than buying it himself, he offers to perform a sexual favor if she buys the jacket for him, and she agrees. Interestingly, the man concludes the exchange with a rather victorious smile on his face, like he is happy he got his way, when in fact it was the girlfriend who got what she wanted, all for the price of one jacket.

Even if this conversation is supposed to be funny, the exchange of sexual favors for material ones, especially when it is supposed to be something that women turn to without a doubt, is really not that funny. When we think of the huge market for human trafficking, prostitution, mail-order brides, child sex tourism, and sex slavery, it is difficult to claim that the exchange of sexual favors for money is innocent and inherently something women do, rather than are coerced into doing.

The main notion of pornography–that women are submissive objects, commodities that are bought and sold–is in line with the way that sexuality is portrayed in this scenario. The short clip does little to abate the notion that women are gold-diggers, or use their sexuality to get what they want. It also reinforces the belief that women are sexually dangerous, exploitive, and cannot be trusted, while men need no emotional connection whatsoever to have sex with a woman as long as cash is involved.

It is not only The Flip Side that portrays women as sexually available when gifts or money are present. A commerical for the jewelry company Zales does the exact same thing: after a woman gets a diamond, the man gets some action. And a BMW ad reinforces the stereotype that men are emotionally unexpressive and dislike physical contact, telling potential buyers to “make a resolution to hug more … corners, that is.”

The notion that women are sexual objects is everywhere. When such behavior becomes normalized,  we accept the idea that men can easily possess women and that women enjoy using their sexuality to get material possessions. But the sexual objectification of women has ramifications. Human trafficking and sex slavery are extremely widespread, lucrative, and  based on the notion that women are objects, and worth less than men.

Picture of stack of bills and credit cards uploaded by flickr user Anthrocopy and shared under a creative commons license. 

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