Autumn, at The Beheld, writes:
As of 12:01 a.m. Sunday, May 1, 2011, I’ve embarked on a monthlong mirror fast. Thirty-one days of no mirrors, store windows, shiny pots, spoons, or the dark glass of the subway.
My personal bathroom mirror is shrouded; my windows will either be open at night or be covered with drawn blinds so that I can’t sneak a peek. At public places and the homes of others, I will avert my eyes where I know there’s a mirror, and will look away as quickly as possible if I run into an unexpected reflection.
Why is she doing this? She writes:
What I am concerned about is the uncomfortable recognition I had when reading John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. He writes:
A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. … And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. … Thus she turns herself into an object—and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.
Reading this was the first time I’d understood that objectification does not mean sexualization. Because I don’t usually present myself in a particularly sexualized manner, I thought I’d done what I could to safeguard against my own objectification. But I haven’t, because in many ways it’s near-impossible: Women are constantly being looked at. Even when we’re not, we’re so hyperaware of the possibility of being looked at that it can rule even our most private lives. Including in front of our mirrors, alone.
Something like this might be an interesting experiment to suggest for one’s students (for a day, or something like that!) when reading de Beauvoir or Bartky.