By: Abbie Goldschmid
When women discuss the nature of self-condemnation, they often start with the premise that the media is at fault. “The media has sexualized and objectified us.” “It’s the media’s fault that we don’t love ourselves!”
I wish it was that simple. I wish it was just the television’s fault, and we could simply turn the switch. It is not just the world’s messages that play a role in the way women view themselves. It may be a factor, but in my experience, even the counter-cultural movements that attempt to change the objectification of women have done just the opposite. I believe that the attempts of the Church have been far more harmful than positive in the struggle of self-image.
The Church orders modesty. It does not suggest but burdens women with the idea that a skirt that does not touch the floor when she kneels down is a sexual device used to tempt the eyes of men. A woman should not simply look in the mirror and decide what she feels beautiful in, but she should constantly be concerned with how her appearance is affecting her brothers in Christ. Men cannot help the way they look at women; it is the job of the women to keep them from “stumbling.”
For starters: men are not mindless sex-addicts, and it IS possible for them to view a woman without lusting after her. The modesty philosophy puts the responsibility of purity completely on women when men share the burden. They can choose when and how they look at a woman, and to assume that they can’t is extremely disrespectful. This philosophy claims that they are incapable of guarding their own hearts, and it puts far too much pressure on the shoulders of women.’
I believe that the attempts of the Church have been far more harmful than positive in the struggle of self-image.
Furthermore, this philosophy objectifies women in a far more obvious way than the media’s portrayal of “beauty.” When a girl is told to bend down so her skirt length can be measured, she is at the mercy of the judgments of others. What they say is now law, and if she has broken that law, she has become a criminal. I believe modesty is a good thing, but being modest does not make you a Christian.
A woman is under pressure from every avenue in her life to be this strange definition of “perfect.” The world tells her one thing, and the Church tells her another. The Church attempts to be so anti-cultural that it distorts the picture of body image even further. How can a girl be expected to feel good about herself when she is being told she is a sinner and a tramp for making boys stumble? How can she find the middle ground when even her safety net of Christianity is shouting that she is doing it wrong? How can she ever feel beautiful?
The answer is simple: She can’t.