Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Grappling with sex objects at work

A Touch Of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

Since I read the book The Naked Ape which exposed the funny side of women as sex objects through the eyes of a male chauvinist, I have never been the same. It actually changed my life.

I mean I have since realised that being a man does not necessarily make me superior in any way to the opposite sex. But there is this rider to the foregoing. As a Christian also I believe in the Biblical explanation of creation how Eve, the better-half of Mr Adam, was created by the Almighty God. Does that sound contradictory?

I have heard it said, and even argued in some erudite scientific circles and read in magazines that God had very good reason for creating woman that way with a spare-rib from Adam. I am not about to question God's judgement on this particular decision.

However, a new book just published has again disturbed the hornets' nest, as it were, just as we all thought the issue had been permanently laid to rest. Working Woman by Jessica Strang and A Woman's Touch - (Women in design from 1860 to the present day) by Isabelle Anscombe, express pretty strong sentiments on women epitomised as sex objects at work.

Observed one commentator on the issues raised: "A row of women's legs make a toast-rack, women appear as candlesticks and bottle openers - these are some of the startling images in Working Women. It's a fascinating photographic study on the way the female body has literally been treated as an object. The book is devoid of feminist commentary "...A Woman's Touch however, is explicitly feminist. It is part of the general movement to rediscover the successful women whom history has too often ignored… Women designers have not abused the male body, using it as a cheap gimmick to sell uninteresting objects..."

I have pondered over the observations and criticisms made in the two books and have come to the conclusion that the authors, being women, have let their emotions run away with them. The fact is that (and few women would readily admit this) the male body all over the world has also been publicly exposed and abused. According to some men, the macho male image portrayed in films and magazines, art- works, etc, are aimed at achieving precisely the same effect as what the two writers are complaining about. The only difference, perhaps, being that these "cheap gimmicks" are probably not the work of women. Or are they? I decided to talk to someone who may shed more light on the subject. Professor John Knowal of the Centre for Industrial Research.

"I would like your opinion on Working Women and a Woman's Touch..."

"The first subject matter would obviously need a detailed discussion but I can give you a quick answer on how the touch of a woman you love feels like..."

"You misunderstand me," I corrected him. "These are titles of two new books written by Jessica Strang and Isabelle Anscombe."

"Oh yes, I have read the reviews and I think the two women are being overly sentimental about this age-old complaint," he said. I couldn't believe my luck.

"I disagree with you on that score, Prof, you see Ms Strang's indignation about women's bodies being used as candlesticks and bottle-openers are shared by many people. It's disgusting, to say the least."

"What's disgusting about an art-object?"

"This isn't art, it's cheap exploitation of the female body."

"Exploitation? My dear lad, in the industrialised capitalist economy, market forces are allowed free play to determine the saleability of goods. The competitive spirit thus generated is channelled to produce goods which must appeal to the public and what can be more appealing to man's base instinct than the body of a woman?" the Professor asked.

"That's where the degradation comes in," I argued.

"Why, for instance, should a car be compared to the physical shape and beauty of a woman's body?"

"Because it is an appealing selling gimmick and it works!"

"Professor, you must be ashamed of yourself. You should be the person to defend helpless women against this naked exploitation but you appear to enjoy the whole unfortunate situation immensely," I said reproachfully. I wiped the tears from the corner of my eyes.

"Cheer up, my friend. If you listen and observe the world carefully, you'd soon come to realise that all the publications and views spewed out by these writers are not what they are cracked up to be," he said.

“OK, Prof, can you give me an example of a male sex object at work?"

"I can. It is a beautiful artwork which very few people can afford and, well, may possibly offend the artistic sensibilities of others."

"What is it? I'm dying to know."

"The pissing statuette - you know, it's actually a decanter which dispenses drink through the male organ.'

"That's terrible, and you call that art?"

"Beautiful thing and a perfect example for your careful consideration."

"I now know why one woman wants to see a particular male sex object (product) made," I said.

"What's that?" he couldn't hide his curiosity. "Perhaps I can pass the information on to an enterprising manu-acturer."

"A pair of male legs nutcrackers!"

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