The Autonomy of the Female Commodity

From the article:
“We love to commodify women, but hate and fear women who commodify themselves.”

“”Our culture treats women’s bodies as if they only have worth when they are serving someone other than themselves: men’s gaze, commercialism, the concepts of sexual innocence or “purity” that uphold religious ideas. When a woman’s choice comes into it, that’s when it’s a problem. Only then. That is when she is devalued.

THIS IS RAPE CULTURE. A culture that upholds a norm of women’s bodies being used, but demeans her self-ownership and choice. The double standard is nauseating.””

Note how, in the second quote, Jayne Griffith includes “commercialism” in her list of problematic uses of the body–despite the context of the first quote in which she affirms women who commodify themselves.

I think Kant’s second formulation of the categorical imperative in terms of treating people as ends and never merely as means can serve to clarify here. It’s obviously already in the background.

One problem comes from where we see women as *merely* means, which is a possibility in some forms of the commodification of women’s bodies, such as sex trafficking that involves elements of slavery. Here the use of women’s bodies is generally acknowledged to go against their free and autonomous consent, so it is not as problematic for feminism. It is clearly wrong.
However, there is also a gray area where people can easily disassociate the commodification of women’s bodies from their consent as irrelevant or innocuous, and that is on what Griffith is focusing.

Her point, understood in this way, is that people are rather comfortable with using women’s bodies in these gray areas but freak out when women take a free and autonomous role in explicitly making their bodies available for use *as means to others and themselves*, thereby applying it toward their selves as an end in themselves. Rather than allow themselves to be *merely* means, women who freely and autonomously commodify their bodies make themselves available as means to others *and* as means toward and ends in themselves.

Implicit References
Marino, Patricia. 2008. “The Ethics of Sexual Objectification: Autonomy and Consent”. Inquiry, Vol. 51, No. 4: 345-364.
Nussbaum, Martha. 1995. “Objectification”. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 24: 249-291.

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