Confession #19: Yoga Pants and Objectifying Women

qrTJbVBsjHLYxtm-556x313-noPadIt’s been over 2 years since I did one of these confession posts (here’s the last one). They’re not easy to write, as many of them don’t reflect on me well at all, but what good is a personal blog if you can’t get personal?

Here’s the deal: I think I’ve been objectifying women for quite some time without realizing it, and I’m taking some steps to be a better man.

For most of my adult life, I’m pretty sure I’ve understood what objectifying women is, and I’ve known it is a bad thing. When you objectify a woman (or a man, for that matter–I’m writing this from the perspective of myself, a single, heterosexual male), you stop looking at her as a person and instead look at her as an object, usually a sex object.

The confusing part–for me, at least–is that there’s a big difference between finding someone attractive and objectifying them. Here’s what I understand that difference to be if I see a pretty woman, say, at the grocery store:

Attraction: Wow, she’s really hot.

Objectification: Wow, she’s really hot, and that’s all she is. She wants me and the other men around her to view her in a sexual context.

Attraction is fine. Objectification is not. Not only is it degrading to women, but it’s a really unhealthy way to encapsulate a human being, and it can even lead to some very inappropriate (and even dangerous) behavior.

Obviously this is something I’m aware of and sensitive to. That’s why I was caught off guard recently when I realized that something I was choosing to do was slowly inching me towards the “objectification” end of the spectrum.

For several years now, I’ve subscribed to the RSS feed of a website called Girls in Yoga Pants (it should be “Women in Yoga Pants”–the women pictured on this site are of appropriate ages). It’s not a pornographic site. Basically, the site features photos of women–mostly selfies–wearing tight yoga pants. The photos accentuate their legs, butt, figure, etc.

Now, I should step back here for a second and say that just like in real life, there’s a difference between attraction and objectification when it comes to the way we surf the internet. There isn’t a person out there who hasn’t seen a photo of an attractive person–a celebrity, a Facebook friend, etc–and though, “Hey, they’re hot.” That’s fine. That’s a normal reaction to seeing a photo of an attractive person.

I think I convinced myself that attraction was what I was getting out of Girls in Yoga Pants. But recently I realized that something else was happening as a result of me getting those photos in my RSS feed.

I realized that in real life, I was objectifying any and every woman I saw wearing yoga pants. It wasn’t a conscious decision–it was something I simply did without thinking every time I saw a woman in yoga pants. Somewhere inside of me I had started to look at those women the same way I look at the women on the website–as sexual objects who wore yoga pants because they wanted guys like me to admire their figure.

Yeah, it was bad.

I’m not blaming Girls in Yoga Pants (the site or the women who post photos to the site). I blame myself for getting their posts in my RSS reader every day. I blame myself for admiring those photos. And I blame myself for transferring my thoughts about the women in those photos to women in real life.

So a few weeks ago when I realized this, I deleted Girls in Yoga Pants from my RSS reader. It was the healthiest thing I’ve done in a long time.

I feel like I owe the women of the world an apology. I’m sorry, I really am. You deserve better than that. I hope this confession shows I’m serious about improving as a man and a human being by stopping this kind of behavior.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. There are probably other subtle ways I objectify women without even realizing it, so if other men have had similar epiphanies, I’m open to your insights.


21 Responses to “Confession #19: Yoga Pants and Objectifying Women”

  1. Lorena says:

    I will say this: years ago (probably years, I’d have to look it up) you posted about how girls should smile at a guy during the day. You intended it to be a ‘when someone smiles at me it improves my day, so improve someone’s day’ kind of thing, but it isn’t like that. I didn’t want to comment about it then because it felt like you would view it as an attack, and also it felt pointless to alert you to something so obvious to me, but I still think about this and this post has made me decide that it’s time I mentioned something about that post.

    In light of the yesallwomen hashtag I’m sure you are now fully aware that women are harassed basically daily. Like walking outside means it will likely happen. This is common daily practice for us, yoga pants or not, and so we do what we can to ignore and avoid. Smiling at a stranger means a 50% chance of harassment in return for me. So when you tell me to smile at someone, it’s offensive. You are basically telling me to get harassed to improve some man’s day. I know it’s not your intention because I know you enough to know that, BUT I don’t know the stranger you said I should smile at. I don’t know what they are going to do or say.

    As an example, I was walking home after a night in the city and it was probably 2am. I feel pretty safe in my neighborhood at all hours of the day so it wasn’t weird to walk home then, esp not from the subway on a sat night etc. I was jamming to my iPod and enjoying the music while looking at a car as I crossed the street to make sure I didn’t get hit by traffic (safety first, right?) I smiled and the driver of the car proceeded to follow me for four blocks and tell me I was hot and ask me repeatedly to hang out. I ignored him and hauled ass home still checking each block to make sure he wasn’t following me. When was that ever okay? It was never okay. And that night after calming down, I thought about you and that post. I thought to email you and tell you and say Don’t say shit like that, Jamie. But I didn’t because I shouldn’t have to. You should just know that there are possible negative consequences for women if they smile at men. I don’t want any apologies or whatever, I just want you to hear what I’m saying, internalize it, and move forward.

    Also, yoga pants are comfortable but I will never feel comfortable wearing them in public … Got complimented on my yoga pants the other day by a stranger. I ignored him, but I wanted to say, “yes, you like my ass and legs. Thanks for deciding it was your right to inform me.” It’s not wanted. It’s not okay. Again, I thought of you and how much you love chicks in yoga pants.

    I’m glad you’ve recognized that you’re objectifying women and are making an internal effort to stop. Please always think about the other person as a person with feelings and impatience and the capacity of fear. They are not you therefore they are different than you. It’s really about respecting that, respecting the differences. Just because you know that you mean no harm doesn’t mean that the other person knows that. And when someone is harassed essentially daily, they quit having patience to find out if you mean harm or not.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Lorena: Thanks so much for your comment. I’m really glad to hear your perspective. I don’t remember the original comment you mentioned–I’m a little surprised that I told women what to do on this blog. It seems a little more like me to say, “I like it when a woman smiles at me,” but regardless…I definitely see your point. I think there’s a big difference between liking it when a woman smiles at me and following a woman around because she smiled at me, but I can also see how behavior that reinforces objectification might be part of the slippery slope that leads from one to the other. It’s helpful for me to hear what you go through. In fact, it really sucks that you have to go through this. It sucks that women have to deal with guys like me (and, even worse, guys like that driver).

  2. Adreinne says:

    I think you are overthinking this. If you enjoy looking at these photos and it brightens your day – go for it. Most of the women post/allow their pics to be posted because they secretly want to be objectified a bit. They get just as much enjoyment from the “I’d tap dat” type comments as you would making (or thinking) them. And as far as the “creep shot” posts, I’d be flattered as a woman if someone actually took the time and effort to photograph my behind and post it. So subscribe away!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Adreinne: I think that’s a good point for the women who post photos on that site (the selfies, at least). The issue happened when I started to objectify the vast majority of women in real life who aren’t asking for that type of attention. I should be clear that it’s MY issue. If I could look at the site and not carry those thoughts over to women I encounter in real life, I would be comfortable continuing to subscribe. But unfortunately I don’t have that kind of willpower.

  3. Adreinne says:

    Also, if you were to end up dating one of the post-ees and were only dating her because of the way she looked in her yoga pants – MAYBE that would be objectification if she wasn’t OK with that. And, if she wasn’t – it would be on her to dump your ass.

  4. Leandra says:

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blatant honesty Jamey. And on behalf of women, I accept your apology. The fact that you recognize this struggle within yourself and actually DO something about it speaks volumes about your character…and your heart. You are a good guy Jamey. We all have our flaws, but when we know what they are and try to be better people because of them, it’s truly something beautiful and Christ’s love shines through! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks Leandra–I very much appreciate that (I wasn’t expecting someone to actually accept my apology, but it feels good that you did so!)

  5. Jared Misner says:

    Jamey, first I think it’s commendable that you’re apologizing, but playing devils advocate here, most of the time the girls who allow those pics to be taken want to be objectified a little bit. I mean, I’m just saying if I was a girl and told my boyfriend to take a money shot of my perfect behind to post for the world to see, i sure would not be like, well these guys better respect me and think I’m a person. No, they’re thinking, I’m doing this for the exact reaction of someone or multiple someone’s objectifying my perfect behind.

    As a woman, I understand not wanting to be approached and being able to wear whatever they want, but I’m. Just saying if I walked around town with a skin tight speedo on that clearly showed my junk off to the world, I have to expect that I’m going to get a reaction out of it. Yoga pants are undoubtedly popular, but if someone doesn’t want to be objectified for wearing them, a jacket ties at the waist or another over garment is all it takes to stop that from happening.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Jared: Thanks for your comment. Another commenter above (Adreinne) had a similar point to your first paragraph. My response is the same: My guess is that the women who post selfies on Girls in Yoga Pants want men to look at and admire their bodies. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re signing up to be objectified, but they’re not posting photos so men can compliment their personalities. The trouble is that someone like me who looks (looked) at those photos on a daily basis might begin to look at real-world women in the same women–women who are most definitely not signing up for the world to admire their bodies. That delves into your second paragraph. Just because someone wears tight fitting clothing does not mean they want me and other men around her to view her in a sexual context. In fact, I think it very rarely means that. I think it’s our job as men not to look at women that way or to think about them as objects who cater their image in a way purely to get our attention.

      • Jared Misner says:

        Oh I get you Jamey, you’ve basically conditioned yourself by looking at girls in yoga pants all the time in your RSS feed to the point that in normal public situations you’re looking at women the same way. I’m just stating that every woman has a choice what to wear and not to wear in public.

        My beef with it is if you have no desire to be looked at or thought about that way in tight fitting clothes, why wear them in public? Are the yoga pants serving some purpose, like actually going to yoga class? I wear sweat pants and a hoodie almost exclusively to the gym with my workout clothes underneath them because I’m not trying to flaunt my muscles in my muscle shirt.

        If my pants aren’t to draw attention and I don’t want someone to be checking me out why not just wear over garments? I like walking around in my boxers when I’m at home because theyre comfortable, but I’m not going to go prancing around town like that. Of course if I did I accept that anyone man or woman would be freely open to see me, stare, and have their own opinion/assessment/reaction to it. I can’t control them, all I can control is preventing myself from being thought of in that way by my own actions on my choice of what to wear or not to wear.

        I’m not saying I’m the one going around objectifying women or anything either, nor am I justifying that it’s ok for someone to objectify women. I’m just saying that I think it’s hypocritical for a woman to wear a garment of clothing that draws attention to some part of their body and then get mad at someone for looking at them. There are creeps out there and people with no manners or morals, and walking out in public regardless of what you’re wearing has a level of understanding that anyone at any time could offend you. Wearing sweat pants has a far lower likelihood of being objectified by creeps than yoga pants do. I get it, women should have the freedom to wear what they want and I’m all for that, but just like I accept that what I wear dictates peoples reactions towards me women need to be aware that yoga pants unfortunately bring on extra sets of eyes because of how they flatter the feminine figure. There is a website dedicated to them for crying out loud 🙂

        Good topic as always, Jamey. Keep it up!

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Jared: Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you being a part of this conversation, and I’d like to challenge you a little bit (hopefully in a healthy way).

          What you’ve said about is that the reason women wear tight-fitting clothing (yoga pants, in this example) is because they want men to look at them and want them. My challenge for you is to list 10 other reasons–reasons that have nothing to do with sex–that a woman might wear yoga pants. You can reply to this comment with your list. Thanks!

          • Jared Misner says:

            1. Nothing else to wear
            2. don’t care what others think about them wearing
            3. Matching pair of pants with best friend
            4. Sentimental value
            5. only clean pair of pants heading to do laundry
            6. just left or headed to yoga class
            7. they’re comfortable
            8. it’s the only kind of pants they wear
            9. they like the color of the pants
            10. put them on by mistake

            😉

            • Jamey Stegmaier says:

              There it is! Challenge accepted. Thanks for being a good sport about this, Jared, and hopefully that exercise will help you a bit.

            • Katy says:

              As a woman who often wears yoga pants, I thought I’d chime in (a little late to the party, but I think that’s okay) with 10 reasons why I, other women might wear yoga pants in public.

              1. Comfort– no buttons or zippers like on jeans or dress pants, and the fabric for most makes them feel like pajamas that are acceptable to wear in public.
              2. Attending a yoga class.
              3. Spending a day shopping and trying on clothes? Yoga pants are easy to take on and off, which decreases the time spent in the dressing room trying to wriggle back into the same pair of jeans countless times.
              4. Yoga pants that are fitted (leggings?) won’t get caught in the gears/pedals of a bike (something that has happened to me when wearing loose fitting sweatpants on my bike), making it safer for female cyclists.
              5. Perfect for any season, as they can be worn under skirts/dresses, with a shirt, or even with boots and a sweater.
              6. Generally speaking, yoga pants are flattering (and forgiving) on a wide variety of shapes and body types.
              7. Laundry day.
              8. Walking the dog, and you don’t want your neighbors to know that you prefer to spend all day lounging in pajamas and binge watching the latest season of “Orange is the New Black.”
              9. Thanksgiving or any food heavy holiday– the lack of a waistband and forgiving material means that you can go ahead and have that extra helping of your favorite dish without feeling like your pants are going to be too tight.
              10. Motivation to actually go to the gym and workout– on days when I need to run errands but also have a workout on the agenda, being already dressed for the gym in yoga pants means the chances of my actually going are greatly increased.

  6. Adrienne says:

    How is wanting men to look at and admire their bodies not objectification? It 100% is particularly in an anonymous context like GIYP.com. They don’t know if the girls has other positive attributes like a great sense of humor, a keen understanding of quantum physics or can catch, clean and fry up mean crappie. All she is presenting is a body to be objectified. If it leads to a deeper connection as that is her entre to a dating relationship – great. And, if all said relationship is based on goes no further than the dude admiring her ass rather than getting to know her other pros, that is up to her to decide if the attributes he
    Possesses are enough for her to keep around (let’s say money for example) 😉

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Adrienne: Thanks for your question. I think you’re saying that when a man only looks at a woman as a sex object, that’s the same as objectification. I would agree with that statement.

  7. rainperry says:

    I’m 2 months late to this discussing but only recently discovered your blog (and I hope you had a great vacation).

    Two thoughts:

    1. Humans objectify each other all the time. There are scientific studies showing how quickly we decide whether someone is hot or not (it’s in milliseconds). There’s no need to feel ashamed about this – it’s just how we are.
    2. That said, there’s a time and a place. Hot guy you see in a club – objectified. Guy who’s sitting across the table from you – individual. In a way, it’s like objectification is square one, but then a mature person moves on pretty quickly. if you feel uncomfortable about how this is making you look at women in real life, then by all means, make a change! But I would argue there’s no harm in appreciating hot women in yoga pants who have posted pictures of themselves online.

    Here’s a pretty cool thread on the topic at reddit, of all places:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/AskFeminists/comments/1kvwhi/thoughtsquestions_about_objectification/

    • rainperry says:

      “discussion,” not “discussing!”

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Rain: Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to revisit this post, and I appreciate the way you stated your points.

      It’s been several months since I’ve visited Girls in Yoga Pants, and while I still really like the way women look in yoga pants, I like who I am better without my daily visits to that site. I’m not quite sure I can put my finger on why–it just feels right for me. 🙂

  8. Jean says:

    I think describing any woman as hot begins the sexualizing/ objectifying process. A better word to use to achieve that separation could be attractive. Women can be attractive in a whole bunch of ways, not just sexually.

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