biblical egalitarianism, biblical equality, Body of Christ, Christ, community, equality, feminism, gender, hope, incarnation, peace, proverbs 31, racism/classism/sexism, redemption, relationships, the Church, Victoria's Secret, violence
Recently I came across a YouTube video that made me quite frustrated and angry with the evangelical world. For those of you who know me well, you will realize that this is not unusual at all. This video, however, was especially offensive because it actually committed the very same crime it was purportedly trying to correct.
In the video a young male college student at a Christian college talks about how he would rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model. Saying, “She doesn’t have to look perfect, she just needs to be perfect.”
We can pause right there, but let’s break this down a bit. A little deconstruction never hurt anyone, especially if we can build something useful out of the rubble.
The earnest and eager young man in the video is making a pleading case that we should not hold women to the impossible standards set by fashion and beauty icons. Also, he proposes a woman should not be reduced to a sexual object. All good so far.
I fully agree; we have innumerable damaging images in society telling women and men that a woman’s worth is defined by her sex appeal. Hosts of problems result from this ranging from eating disorders and depression to sexual abuse and divorce (ok, I don’t have statistics on that, but it makes sense to me).
In a society torn apart by 24/7 electronic connectivity, separations, war, and sin, we are desperate for intimacy, real connection, and love. Instead we substitute skin and physical contact. And we are left with loneliness and despair.
I see this every day in clinic. Young men grasping for love and intimacy end up with dozens of sexual partners, and no solution for their pain. Young women desperate for love and intimacy end up with dozens of sexual partners, and no solution for their pain.
Say what you will about biology and men not being able to control themselves, etc, the drive for love and intimacy is similar between men and women. And the tragic outcomes of our misguided and desperate quest for love and intimacy are similar as well.
Into this bleak, vicious, and hopeless cycle the clarion call for Proverbs 31 women appears. It seems so appealing, what man doesn’t want a perfect little wife who will take care of him, care for their children, and make him look good around town? She is virtuous, industrious, and gosh darn it, people like her.
What is the problem?
It is one of definitions.
It is one of being human.
When the phrase “Victoria’s Secret model” is used the automatic outcome is that the woman’s status a person is removed and replaced by “model.” She is no longer seen as a person with hopes fears dreams and aspirations. She is simply something to stare at, at best a work of art, at worst a stylized mannequin.
Defining the women who work for Victoria’s Secret as less than they truly are, as objects rather than people, is the standard operating procedure of society. However, it seems, with this video, to be the standard operating procedure of Christians as well.
And when we start down that slippery path of defining people who engage in activities we don’t like by those activities, we end up in a very dark place of blaming victims and revoking their status as people. We end up saying that 17 year olds with no money and no future who deal drugs to put food on their family’s table are defined by what they are doing to survive. We end up saying that women who engage in survival sex—a more accurate term for prostitution—are to blame for having no alternatives. We end up saying that women who are raped “had it coming” because they dressed like prostitutes.
But the damage doesn’t end with the denigration of women who work for Victoria’s Secret or people on the margins of society. No, the damage extends into the hearts and souls of the women and men sitting in the pews at church every Sunday.
What is it that wrecks such havoc?
It is defining women as only having worth if they live up to Proverbs 31.