Letters from the Underground: Defined by Beauty




Just a quick note about this ad, that I just HAD to post on because it reveals a nuance in the cultural/church gender role debate, of which I have been exploring in light of my missions work. I see a lot of objectification of both woman AND men. It’s pretty easy to see how the culture objectifies women. Our bodies are for sale everywhere. And if we aren’t willing to sell them, we’re chastised for being prudes or lesbians (I have been called both–what’s wrong with those terms anyways??). Of course, if we look a little deeper, underneath all of the blatant ways we make our women and young girls commodities for men to consume, we will find that our base assumption about men is as insulting. We may not ‘objectify’ them in the sense of turning them into a commodity (though we are coming closer and closer every day), but we frequently talk about men in the context of their hypersexuality as if they cannot possibly have dreams bigger than sex with as many women as possible.

So, if one were to open their eyes to the gender role/objectification debate there is no shortage of obvious examples for them to whiteness. But what isn’t so obvious, are the subtle things we embrace that create an environment where the obvious disrespect and degradation (of both genders) can continue to flourish. This ad speaks to one of those subtle things; and the reality is that the church embraces this as much as the culture.

It is not news that women make the world a more beautiful place. It is one of the biggest gifts that we bring to humanity. A woman’s beauty is uniquely her and uniquely her own and therefore should not be compared on a value scale. People are themselves, no one is the same, and therefore we cannot create a standard of people with which to compare others. But that is exactly what our culture has set out to do with beauty, and that is perhaps why our definition of beauty is often shallow, destructive, and objectifying. Let me be clear: A woman’s beauty was never meant to define her, her interests, or her position in society. But by primarily praising our daughters for their physical beauty we teach them to emphasize their physical beauty over their identity as a person–a perspective that is inherently objectifying.

Smart+Woman.+Nothing+to+describe_b1b732_3586066It is also a perspective that limits their potential and reinforces old, conservative standards for gender roles (a woman’s job is to be pretty and dainty, and make sure you don’t intimidate their men with intelligence or excellence). It could be that we only want to encourage our young girls to pursue interests or professions that we deem ‘appropriate’ for the role we assume they should take in family, church, and society. Instead of encouraging their natural gifts and abilities (gifts God has given them) we hold on to the one thing that is different from men and emphasize it, as if to say that physical beauty is what defines a woman as a woman. What we don’t realize is that in our attempts to maintain the traditional gender roles, we are institutionalizing a lie that the world is selling us. Mainly, that our daughter’s worth is in her body and her beauty and that she had better be good at that or she will fail as a woman.

A woman’s beauty will glorify God…but so will her intelligence, strength of character, and big dreams. Let’s help our daughters value themselves for more than their beauty. Let’s help them explore and achieve the identity that God has born in them; one that includes but is not limited to being beautiful.



4 thoughts on “Letters from the Underground: Defined by Beauty

  1. Great rendition! I AM more than what anyone will say about my physicality. Although, I appreciate the compliments I receive but I hope people don’t miss out on the attributes that God has uniquely created in me to be a woman at His honor. I feel the same for our brothers who are uniquely created to bring glory to God. Objection comes from those who are dissatisfied in the roles they sought to take on…then the comparison games begin. Beauty and masculinity isn’t as glamourous as the world falsifies it to be, in fact, according to the world, gender roles have become blurred in hopes to transcend God’s divinity in creation. So why is it that we care so much about the outside when Jesus said defilement comes from within…

    • I agree. In fact I appreciate that as I tend to the inside of the cup the outside will reflect my restored identity in Christ. It will be beautiful because it is reflecting who God naturally made me to be, not because I conformed to a standard or role of womanhood.

  2. I agree, it’s a daily fight to reassure ourselves that we have been created to work with men. Adam needed a helper – his life was not the same after having Eve. Both roles are important – they are equally different and valuable. We all should encourage intellect, challenge opinions and ultimately radiate God’s love in all that we do. This is a tough conversation but it is sooooooooooooo relevant in our society today, the struggle should not be with what am I going to wear today but what am I going to do today to make this world know a little bit more about Jesus and what He did on the Cross.

    • “the struggle should not be with what am I going to wear today but what am I going to do today to make this world know a little bit more about Jesus and what He did on the Cross.” Couldn’t agree with you more!

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