The Objectification of People: Men This Week, by Carmel O’ Reilly

Those Men Can’t Wear Those Clothes, They Need to Look a Lot Smarter, They Need to Wear White Coats, That Will Make Them Look Smarter …

The Objectification of People … are people’s stories of the objectification they experienced themselves, or witnessed – of people around them, or of people in society at large. People’s stories of how they objected strongly to the objectification of people, sometimes inside of themselves, causing them to walk away from these people and situations, and other times when they spoke up and spoke out. Stories of how people took the steps they could to stop this objectification of people – how they did this by walking the talk, by never engaging in this practice, by being the change they wanted to see in people, by living their WorkLife true to their values. People’s stories of what they were able to do to make an impact in making it known that this was not a practice they approved of, that this was not a practice that was acceptable, and that this is a practice that everyone had the ability to impact to enable positive change within themselves, their groups, and society at large.

Those Men Can’t Wear Those Clothes, They Need to Look a Lot Smarter, They Need to Wear White Coats, That Will Make Them Look Smarter … I felt sick in my stomach hearing this words …

But let’s back up a little to my story: The Objectification of People Case Study 

Object To Objectification

I sometimes get asked to take part in focus groups, to be part of a discussion where I give my opinion on products or services, where I share my thinking on things that are happening in the world, from politics to economics and much more in between. 

I was taking part in a focus group about back pain. It was an all-women’s group, and we’d all experienced back pain in our lives. For some women it was from childbirth, for others from an accident. For me it was caused when I spent six months backpacking around Australia, when unable to leave my books at home, I instead loaded up my backpack with them, putting too much strain on my back, causing me to slip a disc; and once it happened once, it happened frequently, until I was able to find a way to prevent it from happening.

The market research focus group had been commissioned by two men: both of whom had significant experience working with people who had suffered severe back-pain. As well as both of them having private practices, they each had specific areas of expertise within the world of sports: one of them worked with grand-prix racing drivers, and the other with world-cup rugby teams, both sports put great strain on participant’s backs, causing extreme pain and injury. 

They had come together to combine their knowledge, skills and expertise, creating an on-line platform which comprised of videos demonstrating techniques and simple practices that people could do in their own home to help alleviate and overcome back pain. This was offered as a stand-alone service, and also in support of in-person treatments with practitioners who they had trained, who were providing their services throughout the UK. 

We were shown a video in which both men shared the story of their work, and then each of them demonstrated different techniques wearing the clothes they worked in – sweat pants and T-shirts. Immediately on the video finishing, one woman said: “Those Men Can’t Wear Those Clothes, They Need to Look a Lot Smarter, They Need to Wear White Coats, That Will Make Them Look Smarter.”

I felt sick in my stomach hearing those words. and a voice in my head was screaming: NO, PLEASE STOP! STOP OBJECTIFYING. As women we don’t want to be objectified, what then makes it OK to objectify men? 

While everything going on in my head was causing me to feel sickened and enraged, I wanted to express this in a way that demonstrated my thinking, without alienating the rest of the group. In my mind I asked myself what I could say in this moment that would allow me to express that I think what is going on is the objectification of men, and that I’m not OK with that. The self-feedback that came to me in that moment was that I could do this by simply bringing it back to what the woman had said about the clothes they should be wearing, and then try to move it on from there.

I said: “For me, white coats would make it very clinical. The clothes they’re wearing actually demonstrate to me that they know their work, and they know what’s needed in order for them to be comfortable in being able to move in carrying out their work.” I went on to say how the best treatment I’d had was from a woman who was dressed in clothes similar to both men, which allowed her to really get stuck in – in performing the hands-on treatment, which enabled me to walk out of her surgery upright and free of pain; and how this differed from seeing practitioners who wore white coats, which reflected the clinical approach of their treatment – which was hands off, apart from a little poking and prodding, and was totally ineffective.

I then said how to me the stories both men shared demonstrated their skills and expertise, along with their passion, and that was what impressed me most.

I wanted to bring the conversation back to what the facilitator had told us that the men hoped to get from this focus group discussion, which was: Do we think the platform they’re creating is something people would use, something people find helpful, and something people would pay for.

So I shared my story of how I first began to overcome my back pain.

Book Wisdom

It was long before YouTube or on-line video platforms, when in a search for what I could do myself to overcome my back pain I discovered the book: Body Learning – An Introduction to the Alexander Technique by Michael J. Gelb. The book gave me insights into how the Alexander Technique helps maintain the health and efficiency of the human body, by putting us in touch with our body, and giving us a way of deepening our perceptions and well-being. The approach it took in teaching the techniques was simple. For example, “Allow the neck to be free to let the head go forward and up so that the back may lengthen and widen”, was a direction I remembered. I went on to say that over time and over the years I discovered video demonstrations of the Alexander Technique, which I found to be really helpful, and what the men were proposing with the service they were developing was in a way similar to what I’d discovered with the Alexander Technique demonstrations, and so I believed there was scope for their idea.

My approach worked in bringing the conversation away from objectifying the men by the clothes they were wearing, to the techniques they were demonstrating, and considering how beneficial the platform they’re creating could be to people – would people use it? would people find it helpful? and is it something people would pay for?

Sage Wisdom

All of the women began to share their experiences, which was in effect Sage Wisdom. They shared their discoveries in being able to manage their back pain, many of which were video tutorials – tips and techniques, along with support being offered by local GPs and the NHS (National Health Service), health and sports centres, organisations for  employees. They talked about ways in which these men could work with GPs, the NHS, health and sports centres, and organisations, by way of offering their services to reach wider audiences. 


As the group was nearing the end, the facilitator said she’d just pop next door to ask if there were any further questions from the clients – who had been observing from the room next door! She wasn’t explicit in letting us know who was observing at the beginning of the session. She now explained this was because the men wanted to get our feedback based on what we really thought – rather than what we thought they wanted to hear, which might have been the case had we known they were observing. However she had told us at the beginning that as it was a focus group, and we were in a viewing facility, there were people observing, and our conversation was also being recorded – this was to ensure that everything we said was captured, allowing her to facilitate the discussion without having to make notes. She came back in with both men, who laughingly asked: “So what can we wear that will make us look smart?” They had taken what had been said in a good-natured way, and while I don’t think they wanted to get across any underlying message with  that question, that is exactly what they achieved. As I left the building with the other women, the woman who had said those words said how mortified she was in saying what she said. She hadn’t meant to objectify the men by the clothes they were wearing, but now recognised that’s exactly what she had done. 

Words of Wisdom

The golden rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. 

Today’s story was about the objectifications of men, last week’s story was about the objectification of women.

Today’s Book of the Blog is: Body Learning – An Introduction to the Alexander Technique by Michael J. Gelb

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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