As meaningful interactions begin between children and the adults in their lives, boys are socialized into the patriarchy. As a result, many men become complicit and even willing participants in it, developing attitudes of entitlement toward women’s bodies. 

Girls, on the other hand, are slowly stripped of their humanity in increasing waves of severity as they reach womanhood. They are worn down by systems of oppression and consumed by the patriarchal system until just bone remains. 

This objectification of women creates a gendered dynamic in which men perceive women as sources of gratification and as assets to accumulate and mold into extensions of themselves. Hence, women are erased as people in their own right. Hypersexualization — the attribution of a sexual identity to something or someone not inherently sexual, such as women in professional settings — is a tactic weaponized by men to suppress women’s humanity, thereby hindering women from prospering in workforces where men thrive.

Sydney Carter — a former basketball player who is now a coach for the Texas A&M women’s basketball team — posted a series of photos to Twitter of her outfit for the 22nd game of the season, as she does after every game she coaches. Carter was dressed in a pair of appropriately fitting pink leather pants accompanied by a white turtleneck sweater and heels.

However, despite the fact that the majority of her skin was completely covered — a widely accepted yet flawed definition of what modesty entails — some men decided to respond by spewing nonsensical and incoherent complaints, whining into the void about something they would likely never criticize on a man coach: her attire.

One user replied to the photo demanding, “Why would [she] dress in pants that tight to coach?” This perfectly exemplifies the entitlement that men feel toward the bodies of women, speaking with the fervor of someone who fears that the elasticity of Carter’s pants is going to have a significant impact on his lifespan. 

Another user went so far as to respond to a supportive response by writing, “She dressed like she’s hitting the bar. I guess she prefers to look good rather than be good seeing her team’s record.” Looking past the fact that Carter actually improved her team’s record with a victory that day, the absurdity of the situation reflects the extent to which men feel like they have a monopoly on women’s actions.

The world is designed for men. Cars are crash tested using dummies that have the weight of an average man, temperatures in offices are set to what the average man would find comfortable, and the standard for men’s professional work attire is a suit, which comes in a variety of sizes, colours, and patterns, available in a plethora of stores.

For women, this is not the case. There is not a single outfit made for women that can fit every ‘professional’ situation. The only standard for determining the professionalism of a woman’s outfit should be whether it hinders their ability to do their job effectively. SinceCarter’s team won the game in which she was wearing her ‘inappropriate’ outfit, it is safe to say that it in no way affected her job performance. 

Additionally, there are many elements of daily life — in professional environments in particular — that are considered completely normal for men, but that have been hypersexualized for women. Pursuing certain careers like nursing or teaching, wearing glasses — which serve no other purpose than to correct vision — and wearing a required uniform to school can put women in a position where they are scrutinized by men, limiting the areas of everyday life where women are liberated from the curse of being perceived.

The hypersexualization of intrinsically nonsexual aspects of women’s lives projects the notion that their worth is derived from presenting themselves as sexual, since this is the kind of behaviour that garners men’s attention. In a society where men’s attention is treated as currency — since they control promotions and societal status in the corporate capitalist world — women are forced to put their bodies on display and submit to a sexualized version of themselves to appease men and, essentially, survive.

Therefore, the criticism placed on Carter by men is representative of the faults in their socialization and upbringing and has nothing to do with the outfit or Carter herself. Despite the fact that Carter’s team were victorious that day, women still can’t seem to win.   

Paden Neundorf is a third-year English and critical equities studies student at Woodsworth College.