Last week Emma Watson (best known for her role in the Harry Potter movies) spoke passionately at the U.N. about gender inequality. If you’d like to see that speech you can catch it here. What struck me about her speech is how she called on men to end women’s problems- both real and perceived. One area where Watson and I see eye-to-eye is the objectification of women. Women and young girls are disturbingly sexualized.
Today the goal of this post is two-fold:
- To better explain a man’s propensity (regardless of age or belief system) to see women as objects.
- To illustrate how Christian wives/mothers need to recognize and fight their own tendency to perpetuate objectification- of themselves.
First a story…
The music blared as I brushed my hands through racks of clothes. Nothing stood out to me among the clothes or the music at first. Then I heard the words. I had been politely holding a conversation with the woman at the check-out while being auditory assaulted. When I finally heard the graphically offensive words that were being sung they were branded into my mind… and still are.
Several months after this incident I told my husband that I was still hearing this song’s chorus in my mind multiple times a day and I couldn’t seem to stop the recurrence. I had my Bible out and I was in tears. Working in the radio industry- I am a very auditory person. My husband said my battle sounded very much like his when he’d felt defeated by lustful thoughts and images. He is a very visual person. The battle to fight messages I don’t want to be there has become clearer to me because of my own struggle and I can more easily sympathize with men who feel trapped by pornography and the objectification of women.
So…What Does this Have to Do with Me?
Battling with recurring mental images is normal for men. Lust is normal for men. It’s not something that we as wives like, and it’s not something that our men necessarily like. Just because it is “normal” does not mean it is morally right. Many Christian men use resources such as Bible studies, accountability groups, Internet filters, and online mentoring to guard their eyes and their hearts from the temptations they know are lurking just around the corner. These aids are wonderful and readily accessible for men who seek help.
While viewing pornography (or lust-related habits) often draws men to repentance, we as Christian women seem somewhat clueless about our nasty little habit of looking for attention from men other than our husbands as a way of affirming our own desirability. We, as women, have not been educated about our side of the problem. Often we do not recognize it, nor do most churches address the women’s issue of desiring notice.
Plain and simple… if a man’s problem is lust, our issue is the desiring to be lusted after. The two are opposite sides of the same coin.
For every man who looks for illicit photos online there is a teenage girl who is willing to cooperate, thanks to a smooth-talking photographer. For every man who’s looking for a diversion at the bar, there is an unhappily married woman waiting for a free drink. For every husband who misses how his wife used to be, there is a woman who is eager to fill in that role. For every husband whose wife has a headache tonight, there is a prostitute on the corner who doesn’t. And, for every man who decides to bounce his eyes away, there is a woman at home who is thankful and an attention- seeking woman who is not.
That’s me. That’s you. And that is why His problem really is Ours.
I’ve Still Got It! (Please Say I do!)
The lure to “flaunt what you’ve got” is very appealing for the established (and somewhat disappointed) wife/mother. Honestly, isn’t a 40-year-old more skilled at wooing a man than a 17-year-old? When we are older we bring more knowledge to the table. We are empowered with understanding about what men like and appreciate in women. We probably have a better idea of clothing that “accentuates our positives.” We can out-flirt the young ladies because we have more experience.
Messages around us in society and through the media tell us that we could do better in our relationships and that if we just “move on” we’ll find happiness. That message is apparently quite effective since 2008 statistics now show us that 2/3 of all divorces are filed by women (Psychology Today.) Doing a little math here… The average American woman gets married at age 26, while the average age of a woman getting remarried is between ages 34-37. This leaves these marriages lasting 10 years or less (US Census Bureau statistics, 2009.)
So why do women say they are divorcing? When women do state their legal grounds for divorce, according to MarriageBuilders.com, many are claiming “emotional abuse.”
“But the mental cruelty they describe is rarely the result of their husband’s efforts to drive them crazy. It is usually husbands being indifferent, failing to communicate and demonstrating other forms of neglect… When all forms of spousal neglect are grouped together, we find that it is far ahead of all the other reasons combined that women leave men. “
So the primary reason women are leaving their husbands boils down to lack of attention.
So how does this play itself out? Check out this this illustration:
Exhausted. The day has been one commitment after another… A drive over to the school office because your seven-year-old forgot her glasses, one of “those” annual exams at the doctor’s office for yourself, and a 10-minute conference about using an “inside voice” with your four-year-old’s preschool teacher…
Back to the house you give your husband and kids a peck on the cheek and head out the door… Finally, some “me” time! With the windows rolled down you eject the “25 Best Loved Children’s Songs” CD and punch in your station. A red light stops you at the same time as a guy in a hot little red Corvette.
Admiring the freshly washed cherry red color, you begin to wonder what “he” looks like. A quick glance away and a look at yourself in the mirror… What luck! It’s a good hair day! You’ve always looked your best in red lipstick. Quick flip of the hair. Work it!
No way- He noticed you. I mean really! (Insert heart- pounding sound effect here.) There’s definite eye contact going on. Beyond your pavement-gray minivan, he smiled showing teeth that probably cost the same as his hot little sports car. Savoring the moment you wave back, imagining yourself sitting in that sports car, next to “Mr.Whitestrips.”
How did you feel picturing yourself in that scenario? I mean, really. My heart races at the thought of that kind of attention. My face feels flushed. I want to run to the bathroom and find that magic red lipstick that will make it all happen. It’s like the rush of getting “rated” by the guys back in high school. Or maybe like flirting with the best skater at the rink so he would “slow skate” with me. Not an affair or anything, just feeling pretty and being noticed- the attention. Is that so wrong?
Yes, it really is.
Through my years in Christian radio ministry and online mentoring in the area of sexual addiction, God has convicted me of the feminine face of sexual sin. Follow me on this one. It might sting a bit. Just as with viewing pornography, the guy in the hot red car himself does not matter. It’s the fantasized idea that you could be with him and lure his attention. For a man, viewing a picture of a woman creates a similar rush. It’s the idea of the woman, not the whole person he desires. That is sexual sin. One is objectifying and one is looking for objectification. We as women must own our part of the problem.