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KATIE COURIC: Some newswomen dress like they’re going clubbing.

RACHEL MADDOW: It’s un-businesslike. … But there’s an interesting question in there: If you make a decision about trying to succeed on the basis of your looks, is it less objectifying than if it’s somebody else’s decision?

Could someone please elucidate the bold sentence? Definition of objectify as a transitive verb:

  1. express (something abstract) in a concrete form:
  2. degrade to the status of a mere object:

Is the apt definition #2? If so, does the bold sentence mean:
Is [ making a decision about trying to succeed on the basis of your looks ] less demeaning/degrading [ of those newswomen who dress inappositely ]
when it's somebody else's decision ?

5

Definition 2 is correct. When you or someone else emphasises your looks and physical attractiveness over your character and skills, you are turned to some degree in a mere object of people's physical attraction and desire, instead of being an agent, a subject yourself—or so says the newswoman.

Your paraphrase is not correct: you left out than. To edit your paraphrase:

Is [ making a decision about trying to succeed on the basis of your looks ] less demeaning/degrading [ of those newswomen who dress inappositely ] than when it's somebody else's decision ?

The difference is that what you said means the opposite of the original.

If you use an umbrella (A), you get less wet than if you hold a newspaper over your head (B).

With am umbrella (A), you get less wet than with a newspaper (B).

As you see, situations A (using an umbrella) and B (holding a newspaper over your head) are opposites. The two opposites in the quotation are:

  • if you present yourself as a mere pretty thing by using your looks to boost your career as a newswoman
  • if someone else treats you as a mere pretty thing by giving you a promotion based only on your looks

The question she asks is, "is situation A less objectifying than B?". So are you turned into a mere object of sexual attraction (as opposed to your mind and skills) less if you do it yourself than if someone else does it?

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  • +1. Many thanks. Two supplementaries : 1. Could you please clarify to what situations A & B refer ? 2. How and why are the 2 statements in your 2nd box opposite to each other ? The 2nd sentence in your 2nd box can be construed as With an umbrella, you get less wet than with a newspaper [over your head]. – NNOX Apps Oct 21 '13 at 9:07
  • @LePressentiment: Ad 1: I have added references to A and B in the text, is this clearer? Ad 2: I don't understand your question. You can choose to protect yourself from the rain either by using an umbrella or by using a newspaper. Those two are opposites in that they are mutually exclusive options in the given situation: it makes no sense to hold both over your head at the same time. The way the 2nd sentence "can be construed" is exactly as it as intended: I don't understand the problem. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Oct 21 '13 at 10:12
  • Thank you very much ! Yes, it helps prodigiously ! I now register the relevance of the second box. However, in the second box, why did you present two sentences to illustrate situation A (the subordinate clause at the beginning of both sentences in the 2nd box) vs situation B (the independent clause)? The two sentences appear to say the same? – NNOX Apps Oct 21 '13 at 11:23
  • @LePressentiment: Yes, they mean the same thing. I added the second sentence in order to remove the if clauses, because those made the sentence more complex. They made it harder to grasp the essential construction at a glance, while not being essential themselves. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Oct 21 '13 at 11:31
  • Thank you very much ! I deeply appreciate your instructive, thorough answers and expeditious comments. – NNOX Apps Oct 21 '13 at 11:57

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