What is meant by the phrase “objectification of women”?

Objectification can be of anyone, not just women, but it appears to be worse off for women.

Answer by A Quora admin:

I think the most useful way to explain this is to highlight the difference between the object and the subject.

Is the woman the subject of the sentences narrating her life (or just this particular interaction), or is she an object in the sentences? Do they do, or are they done to?

This doesn't always work (for example, "That person works for me."), but it's a good gut check.

Disney princess movies are simple and good for contrasting examples.

In Sleeping Beauty, Aurora was born, and a witch was jealous of her and cursed her. Her parents and fairy godmothers hid her. The witch still managed to trick her and put a sleeping spell on her. A prince found her, kissed her, and rescued her, so she married him.

Aurora never really did anything. She never drove the plot; the plot happened to her.

Anyone else could have been switched in for her character and not changed the outcome. What makes her an individual didn't matter.

In Mulan, Mulan was prepared by her family to meet the matchmaker, but the matchmaker was not satisfied with her. Mulan snuck into the army in order to save her father. She struggled initially in training but ultimately succeeded in saving the emperor from the Mongols. When Shang came to her home, she invited him to dinner.

Something happened to her, and then she reacted and did impressive things.

Mulan does not objectify the main character because the movie is so focused on what she does. She takes an active role in everything past the matchmaker (and even the disaster of that interaction was driven by her unique characteristics). Some other character with different values and emotions would have dramatically changed the story.

Being the subject of sentences is important because it generally means that your thoughts, wants, needs, and actions are considered.

"I'd hit that" is objectifying because the hittee's subjectivity is not considered, and the dehumanizing tone of "that" discourages thinking of the hittee as someone with actions, thoughts, emotions, and preferences.

The sexual interest is not the problem. The lack of assumed agency is.

Wanting to do something to someone is objectifying. Wanting someone to do your bidding is objectifying. But it's not objectifying to want someone if you care about their individual subjective characteristics, their wants, needs, and emotions. It's a confirmation of someone's internal subjectivity to want to make them happy.

The question details ask about complimenting someone on their looks.

Complimenting a person's looks doesn't generally draw attention to what they do. It praises their function as someone who is looked at.

When someone has done very impressive things, like Kamala Harris becoming California's attorney general, calling her "the best looking attorney general in the country" highlights her importance as an object of critical visual evaluation.

However, when someone is going out and has spent an hour on hair and makeup, complimenting their appearance is also a compliment on their preparations, so an appearance-related compliment is more appropriate in a club than in the office, where most people hope that competence is their defining characteristic.

The question details also ask about objectification of people like bank tellers, who are treated as important only for what they can do for you.

Classism and the commodification of human interaction are issues. Treating someone as a robotic fulfiller of your needs and wants is objectifying.

But if you're polite and approach the interaction with some empathy, then you're treating them as a person with an internal emotional world that could be affected by rudeness, not as a robot.

Now I'll address sexual objectification, which the OP also asks about.

I think it's discussed a lot because it's so inescapable in advertising and other media. People are constantly exposed to shameless, unapologetic, undeniable sexual objectification and have a lot of opportunities to form strong opinions about it.

The Society Pages published an excellent article, Sexual Objectification (Part 1): What is It?, and I'm going to go through the test questions they came up with and expand upon the subject/object distinction I discussed earlier.

Does the image only show part of a sexualized person's body?

Will this backside do things, or will things be done to it?

Does the image present a sexualized person as a stand-in for an object?

Does a thing (like a table) want, feel, or do?

Does the image show a sexualized person as interchangeable?

If people are interchangeable, their individual wants, needs, and emotions are erased. Fully realized people have so many variances in preferences and actions that they cannot be interchanged.

Does the image affirm the idea of violating the bodily integrity of a sexualized person who can't consent?

Clearly, things are being done to a person in something like this situation; she is not doing things.

Does the image suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the person?

The presentation of indiscriminate sexual receptivity eliminates the concept of the person's preferences. Such a person does not chose but is chosen.

Does the image show a sexualized person as a commodity (something that can be bought and sold)?

Again, such a person does not chose but is chosen and will, presumably, robotically fulfill the wishes of the purchaser.

Does the image treat a sexualized person's body as a canvas?

Canvases are written on and then looked at. They don't actively do anything.

The reason that people make a big deal about it is that normalization of sexual objectifiction of women leads to rape culture, which has been discussed a lot recently because of the Steubenville High School rape case and other high-profile cases.

If those boys had been conditioned to always think of women as people who do things (including actively enjoying sex) and not people whom things are done to, it's less likely that they would have taken advantage of an unconscious female. They would have thought more about her subjective experiences rather than what they could do to her body.

I believe that people act out on bad ideas they were taught and are not inherently bad. Problematic media themes plant the seeds for social problems. What happened to Daisy Coleman is a worst-case scenario that plays out if boys are taught by a perponderance of media messages that women are doees, not doers.

What is meant by the phrase "objectification of women"?

How long is a company considered a startup? Is it the time, revenues or size?

A good read for anyone wanting to understand why startups behave the way they do.

Answer by A Quora admin:

There is no one definition of a startup. But, one of the gurus in this field, Steve Blank, offers this definition:
a startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

Think of a startup as a lab. A lab to experiment a variety of business models until one of them sticks & scalable. A researcher at the lab might try out a variety of combinations until she finds out the winning drug formula. With each formula she performs a variety of tests – first in the lab and if that works in the broader world [field trials etc].

Once she discovers the right formula that passes all the tests and cures the disease, she will take that to the engineers who will then build a large manufacturing unit that will mass produce that drug. At that point, her job is over and she can go and start discovering another drug.


Discovering a drug

This is what happens in a startup world. You are discovering for that right "drug" [solution] for that right "disease" [problem]. Facebook helped fight the disease of not being able to stay in touch with your friends and family who have moved far. Google helped fight the disease of not being able to find the right info on the web.

In their initial stages, both companies were not sure of their market and not sure of how they would make money. It took a few years for their business model to fall in place. That period of time is known as the startup phase.

Once the drug is discovered and tested, it can be mass produced in millions and billions. That's how startups grow rapidly – with the right drug they can have explosive profits.

Properties startups

  1. Most startups fail: People outside the field tell this with a dramatic effect as though they have solved Fermat's last theorem. Of course, most experiments in the lab fail. Most pharmacologists never discover a blockbuster drug. Does that mean it is not worth pursuing that goal? Any path that is worthy in life will be riddled with failures.
  2. There is luck, but can be improved with agility: Some researchers hit upon the winning experiment by chance. While others slog for years patiently looking for their combination. In any discovery, there is a huge element of chance and luck. However, this factor can be a bit reduced by doing a lot of experiments and improving from each. That can substantially improve the probability of finding the winning drug. However, many startup founders are too stuck with their initial idea and never experiment.
  3. There is failure and there is pivot. What happens when a chemist tries out a combination and that doesn't work? He tries another. He might not bother about that "failure" too seriously. It will just go into the lab observation notebook. When you are in the experiment mode, you will not get your desired result in all but one experiments. However, after each trial, he can fine tune his next experiment based on previous experiments. If including sodium gave only partial results, maybe move down the table and try potassium? In the same way, startups keep pivoting after each trial. That's not failure. That is the nature of the system.

  4. Keep testing. Chemists might write their reactions in paper and plan. But, they don't stop at that. They will do the experiment to see how the reaction actually pans out. And if that works in the lab, they will do further tests in the real world. In the same way, startup founders needs to keep pushing new products & features and keep testing. You cannot just assume something would work based on theory.
  5. Startups do get acquired even when they don't make money. This is something that the outsiders get so confused about. Underpaid journalists in popular media will scowl at how these darn startups get bought out without generating profits. Let's say you have hit upon that winning drug and have not built a full factory yet. Is the drug valuable, still? Of course. Because, making the factory is quite straightforward for a company with that expertise. But, making the winning drug combination is not. That's why Facebook bought Whatsapp and Instagram before they made a lot of profits. Both companies already had a strong winning drug, while Facebook was good at building the factories. 
  6. In fact, you don't even need to produce the winning drug in some cases. If you are quite advanced in the process and have done multiple trials – you might still get acquired by a bigger company who would build on that process. While the common public would not know about the value of that midstage product, trained eyes can.

In summary, a startup is a lab that is attempting to produce a money-making enterprise. As long as it is on track to produce a rapidly scalable company, it can be called a startup [99% of small businesses are not startups – they are not built as labs nor can have explosive growth with a winning formula].

How long is a company considered a startup? Is it the time, revenues or size?

MacLeod’s Model of Organisational Sociology

I recently encountered the MacLeod’s Model of Organisational Sociology from Michael O Church’s excellent article. For someone who devoured plenty of literature of organisational behaviour during his MBA days, this was a new model that intrigued me, and made me think of how our organisation works.

MacLeod’s model classifies all people in big organisations into three types.

  • Losers, who recognize that low-level employment is a losing deal, and therefore commit the minimum effort not to get fired.
  • Clueless, who work as hard as they can but fail to understand the organization’s true nature and needs, and are destined for middle management.
  • Sociopaths, who capture the surplus value generated by the Losers and Clueless. Destined for upper management.

It is a pity that the terms used are so negative, perhaps because MacLeod believes that big organisations are themselves dysfunctional in certain ways.

Each of these three are who they are because of another trilema at work – how the Team, Dedication and Strategy interacts in such a way that only two can be found in a person, because the third is by nature impossible once the other two is in place.

  • Team refers to the importance the individual places on belonging to the group.
  • Dedication refers to the importance the individual places on his work.
  • Strategy refers to the importance the individual places on doing something “worthy” for himself.

The Loser values the Team and Strategy. He wants to be part of the group but at the same time wants to do something “worthy” for himself (and the company does not provide that). Hence they are normally the “foot-soldiers” of the company, creating enough value not to get fired, but yet resisting giving more of himself to the company so that he can enjoy what he values more (his family, his hobbies, etc). His values preclude his ability to dedicate to the company.

The Clueless values the Team and Dedication. He wants to be part of the group and he finds value in his work for the company. Unfortunately, because of his inability to see for himself, such a person quickly rises to middle management and ends up pawns of upper management who easily sacrifices him.

The Sociopath values Dedication and Strategy. To him, belonging to the group and being seen as accepted by the group is nonsense. Such a person, because of his ability to manipulate and use both the Clueless and the Loser to attain his personal goals, quickly rises up to Senior Management.

The MacLeod model explains very quickly how certain types tend towards middle management and get stuck, how others are perfectly content just being receptionists or a junior staff, and how those who “work the least” but are extremely good at playing the corporate game get promoted to senior management.

Hopefully, it can also serve as a model to frustrated managers wondering why they are not getting the break they want despite their hard work and dedication to the organisation. It is a game they cannot win, unless they start up their own small organisation.

A Fantastic Karst Cave

This essay was written by a Chinese student of mine, Sarah Zhang, currently in Grade 5.

On International Labour Day, my grandma, grandpa, mother and I went to a karst cave.

The karst cave was fantastic. It had seven layers, but only four layers were open. The first to fifth layer were dry, the sixth and seventh layer had water on it and we could go boating. The fourth layer was under the ground about 300 metres deep. It was very beautiful.

Inside the cave were some stalactites. Provided there were water, these stalactites could be longer, but they grew just one millimeter a year. In the karst cave, there were lots of beautiful artificial lights. And it had some stone waterfalls, which were unimaginable!

It had some transparent stalagmites, they looked like crystals. The curtain was called a schistose, the formations looked like harps.It was very beautiful! The best of them all was a kind of rock with some fragile things inside, like flowers, and easily broken. It was called a stone flower.

These many fantastic stalactites were all made of limestone. I thought that nature is wonderful. I learnt so many things today!

A Visit to an Orphanage

This is an essay written by one of my Chinese students, Linda Huang, currently in Grade 6.

A Visit to an Orphanage

It was the May Day holiday, and I was so bored. Then mom asked me, “Would you like to go to the orphanage with me?” “Sure!” I replied heartily.

The orphanage was far from the downtown, we needed thirty minutes to get there by car. After thirty minutes, we arrived. That was my first time at the orphanage. The building was a villa, it looked very luxurious.

First I saw the playground, there were many things belonging to the orphans on it. The inside of the orphanage was pretty clean, but we also needed to wipe the floor. Mom and I worked hard there, after we wiped the floor, we went upstairs to clean the beds which the orphans slept on. This work used up much of my time. Because I have mysophobia, I could not let the bed go dirty.

After we have finished all the work, mom and I played with the orphans. They were so cute, and they were only one or two years old. I liked an orphan best, his name was Lele. He was lovely. I played with him all the time, he never cried when I was there. I felt excited when I was in the orphanage.

Soon it was time for me to go. I said good-bye to them all. I was so happy that I could help them, but sad because they have no parents. But the orphans were also happy, because now they lived in an orphanage. That day, I had a meaningful morning.

I ended the day with gladness and delight.

An Exciting Day

This essay was written by a Chinese student of mine, Sarah Zhang, currently in Grade 5.

“Great,” my mother told me, “Linda, Jason and I are going to take part in a play!”

A few days ago, we went to Beijing by car. We felt happy we had seven days to learn drama. Our drama teachers, Durand and his assistant Alice, came from America. They were nice and ebullient. They were funny and good at drama.

Our play’s name was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Linda portrayed Quince, Jason portrayed Flute, and I portrayed Queen Titania.

The exciting day finally arrived.

The morning of the day we put up our play, we got up, and the first thing we did was to review our dialogue. Everybody did what he had to do. Our teachers were very caring, they wanted us to rest at home that morning.

When noon came, everyone’s hearts were jumping fast. After lunch, Ms Alice put on our makeup, one by one, in accordance with our role’s character. She was very careful and diligent, our dresses were different too.

Time passed slowly, the time to start the play was close at hand. Do I feel happy? Excited? Tension? I did not know, I was full of contradictions. Before the play began, we still did some exercises, so we would not hurt our body when we fall.

Soon after the first act was the second act, when I must go on stage. I went up on stage. First, I was scared, I lost a sentence. And then, I felt better. Finally, I was not afraid, and was enjoying it.

After the show, I asked my mother, “Do you know I lost a sentence?”

“I don’t know,” my mother said, “Everyone was good!”

As the play ended, we must finally split from our classmates and teachers. We were not willing. We hugged our teachers, but had to leave at last.

That day was most exciting! I knew how to act in a play, but better than that, I knew what true friendship was!

An Accident

This essay was written by a Chinese student of mine, Jason Shan, currently in Grade 5.

An Accident

A month ago, I was on the street. I saw a car and another car collide. I was very surprised. The accident happened like this. The first car turned left, the second car went straight. The two cars went along. Then the two cars collided.

The policeman saw the accident and came to help them settle the accident. One hour later, the accident was settled. There were many cars on the road, bumper-to-bumper. All the cars could not go. The policeman came and directed these cars. Later, these cars went on their way.

I thought to myself: we should think first before we do anything. We should not do anything sloppily.

An Exciting Day

This is an essay written by one of my Chinese students, Linda Huang, currently in Grade 6.

An Exciting Day

After our laborious practice, the most exciting day was coming! It was the day that we were performing our play!
We were allowed to sleep in that day, so I slept until nine o’clock. In the morning, except the time when I was sleeping, I was practising the lines with Sarah and Jason. I was so nervous about the show in the evening.

The time passed by quickly, the afternoon was already coming. Our parents sent us to the place where we always practised. Alice and Durand were there, too. These two were the teachers who taught us to perform our play. A busy afternoon was waving at us.

Teacher told us to put on our costumes for the show. After Alice reviewed our performance, we practised again and again, because Alice and Durand wanted us to be perfect. This time everyone did a good job, no one was distracted. Everyone wanted to be the best, too, including me.

Soon, it was time for supper. We ate at the canteen to save time. Then Alice put on our make-up. Many parents were in the theatre. My heart pounded with nervousness.

After a while, the play started. It was pretty quiet in the theatre. I was the first to go on stage. I could not see the audience on the stage, so I was not nervous anymore. The time passed by really fast.

Unfortunately, I was not really immersed into the play, until the play was over. When the play was over, every member of the audience clapped their hands, some even cheered for us!

It was also the saddest part. We needed to say good-bye to our partner and teachers. But we also did a great job, maybe someday we could meet again!

This experience was the best experience ever! I believed everybody had fun, learnt many things from this experience, and found a new friend!

A Most Exciting Day

This is an essay written by one of my Chinese students Haylin Lu, currently in Grade 9.

A Most Exciting Day

I could still remember that most exciting day when we were running on the racing track; the early autumn wind wafted across our faces and T-shirts. It was hard to hear what the spectators and cheering teams shouted because my heartbeats were as loud as their voices. My first sports meeting in junior high school gave me the most exciting memory.

On September 28th, 2011, I got up early and packed my things 3 times. I have never taken part in any big sports meeting like this one, so I was very excited, and of course a little nervous. I was asked by my teacher to enroll in the 400m race. The opening of the meeting was grand. Flags were everywhere; every class marched to the field  in good order. Each class had chosen a slogan previously. It told other classes how united and excellent we were. When Class 10 marched by the rostrum, we shouted our slogan together. The cheering team waved their bouquets towards us.

After the speech of the principal and the kung fu performance, we could finally start the sports meeting. We sat in the auditorium and took the snacks out of our bags. But I sat there still and stared at the field impatiently.

“Would you like some chocolate, Haylin?” One of my friends handed me some chocolate.

“No, thank you. I would rather not eat anything so that I won’t feel bad when I am running.” I thanked her and gave back the chocolate.

“Don’t feel nervous, it is just a sports meeting. We are so lucky to be in this China Petroleum and Natural Gas Pipeline Bureau Middle School, aren’t we? Other schools in the city have never had a sports meeting before.” She comforted me and gave me a bottle of water.

“I am not so nervous; I am just very excited and can’t wait for my turn,” I explained. “I hope I can win the something for my class; no matter the medal is gold, silver or bronze.”

“Good luck to you, Haylin. I know you can. I will cheer for you,” she said.

We sat there and watched the meeting. Finally the loudspeaker said, “All the female students in the Grade 7 400m race, please come to the registry.”

“Come on, Haylin. You can beat them!” my classmates said. I smiled and said, “I won’t let you down.”

I leaned down on the racing track with the other girls and took a deep breath. When the referee pointed his gun at the sky, I told myself this was the time. After the gunshot, I ran as fast as I could, but the others were faster than me. I was the last one. Then I realized that I should not use all of my strength on the beginning, so I began to adjust my breath. When the others slowed down in the final dash, I ran past one after another. I heard my classmates shouting, “Come on, Haylin! Come on, Haylin!” and waved at them. At that moment, I felt so glad to be in this school and this class.

I got the bronze medal in the end. My classmates patted my shoulder and said, “At first, we all thought you might be the last one, but you really didn’t let us down.”

“That was because you guys raised me up.” I patted them, too.

It was the most exciting day in my life. For days and days we spent time studying and doing homework, but our school provided us a chance to relax and have fun. It also made our body strong and healthy. And I also saw friendship during this sports meeting. After the sports meeting, we knew each other better and the whole class became more united.

Cultural Differences

This article was originally written when Sensei Michael was still working in China. It is edited and republished here for the benefit of my readers.

Sijngapore is a multi-cultural, multi-racial nation, but within this vernier lies a “Singapore” culture of its own, defined by a shared nation-building process over more than 40 years. The “Singaporean” culture, however, has been eroded over the years as immigration forced a nation where citizens comprises only 62% of the total population (and we have not considered citizens that were not born and bred in Singapore).

In this post, I share with my readers what I have learnt in my 8 years in China, working not just with the Chinese but also with the expatriate community (my business serves the expatriate community).

Singapore has a very detailed-oriented, serious and strongly communal working culture. It is probably why we Singaporeans are normally in demand as managers of very strongly process-oriented vocations (factory managers, for example).

Singaporean teachers are well known for the details we pay to our marking of our pupils’ work. A single essay would have all the spelling, grammatical and structural errors all circled and marked out, and peppered with comments in the lines between, as well as at the end of the essay. I have seen how 2 of my former western colleagues mark their essays – it’s normally a single tick across the the entire essay, with some comments at the end of the essay. All the grammatical and spelling errors were not pointed out to the pupils, since the grade is given based on an impressionistic approach based on the content. Such differences created a lot of problems during the marking of essays during examinations.

Western teachers are always shocked to find that a child who has answered a question correctly (the idea is there) for a Comprehension question, but has structural and grammatical errors, would not get the full 2 marks for that question – a mark would be penalised for his non-comprehension-related errors. Over where they came from, as long as the idea was there, the pupils get full marks for that question. To them, the child would be crushed to see their essays riddled in red ink – it’s a mutilation of their work!

Our Chinese staff have their differences as well. I was always very puzzled, when I first began my work in my school, why it was that simple little things that anyone of us would have done without being told needed us to tell them, before it got done. It was not until Buddy’s encounter after one of our major performances that we began to get an idea.

The janitors were hanging around in the auditorium, chatting among themselves, although the chairs needed to be cleared after the performance. Buddy approached them, and asked if they could see the chairs needed clearing. They nodded – they understood. Then why were not they clearing the chairs?

“No, no, we cannot do anything without our supervisor telling us to do so. Otherwise she’d think that we’re trying to climb over her head or that we can go without her. Our lives will be very miserable in the future!”

So here is the crux of the matter. When a westerner or Singaporean takes the initiative and made a mess out of things, his superior recognises his leadership potential and will cover up for him. The westerner or Singaporean will make an apology, learn from his mistakes and become a better person in the organisation. When a Chinese does the same, his superior thinks of him as a threat and will thumb him down. The Chinese tries to make excuses to avoid getting into trouble as a result, instead of accepting his mistakes and learning from them.

And wait till the 3 cultures come together. The Chinese are shocked that we Singaporeans expect them to think on their feet and move with us at the same crazy pace that we used to race at. The westerners are shocked that we Singaporeans approach every little thing so seriously, every event, every publication, every exam paper, must be perfect – as if President Hu Jintao himself is coming to inspect (as a Canadian teacher remarked once over our preparations for the school open house).

And we Singaporeans get exasperated over having to deal with every little thing the Chinese do if we want it perfect. We get exasperated over how mistakes that we cannot accept could be accepted by our western colleagues. And unlike a Singaporean manager, the concept of giving face to a superior or to another probably holds little water, creating plenty of friction.

It sure is challenging being a leader at an international school!