I Was Offended by Sexualisation of Women on Mother's Day

To the young man who sat next to me on the plane on Mothers Day,

Plane Sitting

Mother’s Day is a day celebrating motherhood and thereby it is a day we cherish womanhood and esteem femininity.

Let me tell you, I did not feel valued as a woman and esteemed as a mother when I looked at your shirt. The topless young blonde in tiny lacy knickers displayed on your shirt was sexually objectifying women. There is never a good day to objectify women and on Mother’s Day it was particularly offensive to me. For the first time that day I was glad I did not have my children with me. I am glad that my four boys did not see an image that should never be thought as ‘normal’ and the fact they are young enough to not be turned on by a naked lady but enthused by the water pistol the woman on your shirt pressed to her oversized breasts just makes it more dangerous. I’m glad my daughter did not see a picture that debases females.

You seemed to be a nice enough young man. You smiled as you sat down and spoke to my husband politely. At the end of the flight you considerately passed my husband his suit jacket from the overhead locker. I don’t know whether you have even considered or realised that there are some people who would find your shirt offensive. I wish I was brave enough to tell you in person. I will use this platform to explain why I take exception to men who wear shirts with images that belong in a porn magazine. (And might I add that I don’t think porn magazines and their extreme objectification of women belong in society? That is another issue however.)

I wonder, if you knew that on Mother’s Day you were going to sit on a plane next to the mother of the girl on your shirt, would you? Or if this woman was a mother, would you sit next to her children with their scantily clad mother plastered over your chest? Would you like her mother or her children to know that you look at a picture of her daughter or their mother and imagine having sex with her? And would you like them to know that you don’t imagine having sex with her because she is a special person or that she has a delightful personality or that she is lovable? How could you think of her in that way? You do not know her, she is a merely a pictorial object that causes you to have a biological reaction?

You might say that my indignation is unfounded. You might say that the way you wear this shirt is nothing personal to the young woman depicted on it.

That, young man, is my point. You have a sexually explicit picture on your shirt and it is indeed nothing personal. It is a woman you do not know and it makes you, and others who look at her meaningless. Sexually gratifying to a certain point for you. Exciting to behold perhaps? But meaningless, as her image only produces a mere instinctual reaction.

Sex should be far more than a biological reaction. When sex is seen as impersonal, womanhood is not valued. The loving sexual relationship that men and women have,  that produces children who are  loved and brought up in a loving family needs to be esteemed. Our society is damaged by depersonalising sex and our thoughts regarding sex.

Young man, I wish I had the confidence to tell you this to your face. I wish that I could be as confronting to you as your shirt was confronting to me.

I wish you could realise on Mother’s Day that having sex in a loving committed relationship upholds a woman’s dignity and worth as a person and not as an object. I wish you could realise that wearing sexual images reduces the dignity of womanhood. The fact that you dare to wear this in public may not be offensive to all, but for those who it does offend, it is reasonable for us to feel this way.

I wish that you did not feel the need to advertise your own primal desires publicly on your chest. I wish that you would recognise that if more young men changed the mentality that sex is a commodity to be thoughtlessly imagined and consumed, then there would be less young women feeling the need to degrade themselves by dressing in a provocative way to get your attention. Because even though women do dress in a way to evoke a sexual response from you, there are very few women that actually want meaningless sex. I am confident when I say that most women want love, committed love, more than they want sex.

Please young man, think twice before you wear clothing with naked women photographed on it. I know that the woman has posed for it, and it was her free choice to do this. Don’t take away society’s free choice when we choose not to look at sexual images. When you walk up to us with that image, you take away that choice. You evoke other men to have lustful thoughts governed purely by biology, whether they wanted to or not. On so many levels, that shirt is not fair.

Yours sincerely,

The Mother sitting next to you, rushing home to hug her children before they go to bed.

PS. I saw you checking Instagram and Facebook in the air. What if our plane had dropped out of the air and I didn’t get to see my kids again because your failure to place your phone on Flightsafe mode….

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  1. I know I wouldn’t have said anything to this young man either but I would have found his shirt equally as offensive. I wonder whether he even realises the offense it can cause? I hope someone says something to him one day.

  2. I wouldn’t have been able to say anything either but from the sounds of it anyone would have been disturbed by that image right in your face.

  3. This is a good post and who knows if it might wend its way to the person you were hoping to confront. I am also worried and angered by the gratuitous and normalized sexualization of women in our society. We need to fight it in any way we can.

  4. What a shame you had to see that on Mother’s Day. I’ve had all manner of experiences being around tradies and porn and they don’t realise the ramifications of viewing it. I don’t like porn tees and they should be illegal to purchase. Purely because you can’t control who will see them!

    1. Hear, hear. They really should be outlawed. Since when is it OK for kids to see these images? I bet you did see porn around tradies, it’s such a shame that men don’t realise the harmful effects of porn. Someone needs to tell these guys that research shows it can actually negatively effect their sex drive long term. Not worth the short term gratification.

  5. Goodness, that’s awful. I don’t understand why people wear t-shirts like that. Do they think it’s funny? Do they walk about their day and forget that they’re wearing it? What if they ran into their grandma or mother on the street while wearing it? Thanks for linking with #TeamIBOT today x

  6. I get really annoyed when I’m flying and people won’t use flight mode. I’ve actually reported people to the cabin crew for it. FFS I use my phone a lot but I can live with just music and headphones for a flight!
    I also thought airlines didn’t allow people to fly in certain clothing…I guess it wasn’t offensive enough for them? Not at all taking away from your offense but I do wonder how and where airlines draw the line.

  7. Well said, Caitlin. This young man clearly sounds like an air head. I doubt he would have given that shirt he’s wearing a second thought and that is sad. It really isn’t appropriate to be wearing clothing like that, particularly in places where children are.

  8. That’s just terrible he didn’t use flight mode. But that just sounds like the tip of the iceberg!
    It’s such a shame that there isn’t enough education or awareness about the sexualisation of women or the date rape culture in general. It would be great if more older men stepped up to the plate and became a role model for these younger kids.

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