Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Priority #1 - She Must Be Hot! . . . .

There it is! That's the Zits comic I saw in Monday's paper. Zits is my favorite comic strip. It follows the adventures of a teenager named Jeremy as he finds his way through the maze of adolescence in contemporary youth culture. His clueless parents try to "find" him while he's immersed in his own journey. It bothers me just a little bit that his clueless father is named. . . Walter.

Every now and then Zits gets me thinking about cultural realities that deserve our attention. Things like trends that we should notice, respond to, and perhaps even work to reverse. Our growing obsession with "hot" as the central goal of personal identity and as a prerequisite for relationship. . . that's a big issue these days. Ever notice those Facebook photos? The self-obsessed self-portraits? The attempts to not only be "hot," but to be seen and liked and commented on as "hot"? It's pervasive.

"Hotness" is so destructive. For one, the standard for "hot" is so high that no human being is able to achieve it. We're always trying to get there, but always left wanting. "Hotness" leads us to objectify others and ourselves. People are not people. They are commodified. "Hotness" is killing marriage. When a person's "hotness" is what draws us to them, the inevitable forthcoming "cool down" period makes marriages go cold. If all we're committed to is having a "hot" spouse. . . well, time and gravity will some day ruin it all for us. . . and for our spouse as well. On the upside, it just might be our commitment to "hot" that saves our economy. We spend billions of dollars every year to remain "hot" in the eyes of ourselves and others. And when we start to "chill," we spend even more money to cover it up and fool the world into thinking that we're still "hot."

Could it be that a powerful apologetic for the truth and reliability of God's Word is found in I Samuel 16:7? "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." Wow. . . that sure tells the truth, doesn't it?

How'd we get here? One of my heroes is Jean Kilbourne. She's been unpacking, explaining, and challenging our obsession with "hotness" for years. Her book Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising rocked me when I first read it years ago. It's worth a look.

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends posted this video clip of Kilbourne speaking on a college campus. She does that quite a bit. Students need to hear her message. Maybe this is a clip you should show to the kids you know and love.


JP said...

What a great speech. But sadly, the conclusion leaves us no hope: "Public health problems can only be changed by changing the environment." This has been the standard humanistic answer for all social problems for over a century now. Yet all the changes we've made culturally/externally to bring women into equal standing with men have really changed nothing at the core. As Christians, we must stand up for women who are being objectified. It's not about changing the environment. It's about changing hearts through the Gospel of Jesus. Thanks for your faithful service to us, Walt.

ministrywifefamilylife said...

Walt, thanks for sharing... I have shared this with a few friends and fellow leaders in our Middle School MInistry. We lead together to impact girls for His sake but struggle with this issue... I had some mixed emotions watching - saying "Amen" but feeling really broken at the same time.... praying for a worldwide change.

Sue said...

I'm going to take issue with part of what you've said here, Walt.

You said, ""Hotness" leads us to objectify others and ourselves. People are not people. They are commodified. "Hotness" is killing marriage.""

I'm going to suggest instead that "hotness" isn't killing marriage, but our refusal to see our spouses as God's answer to our desire for "hotness" is killing our marriages. Our desire to find attraction in the opposite gender is God-given - it's the basis for an opposite-sex-attraction, which is the basis for marriage, pro-creation, and God's instruction to "be fruitful & multiply." In other words, it's how He created us.

It's when this desire is subverted by culture/the Enemy/ourselves (cf: James 1:13-15) that "hotness kills marriage," not any other way.

Interestingly, the author of "Zits" didn't draw Jeremy's girlfriend as a voluptuous teen, but as an average one. Which is really quite hope-inspiring to me. You see, most of us women are average-looking; the video reinforces the idea that most of us don't look like the supermodels or the airbrushed images we see. And I believe ALL of us (as women) desire to be considered "hot" by the men we love and who love us, even though we're mostly average. Indeed, I would suggest that if the Song of Solomon is any indication, God wants us to see each other as "hot" and to cherish each other in that "hotness."

I do understand your point about the culture and how we raise our daughters, however. I struggled with the lack of perfection my own body exhibited for many years and it's only now, as a married woman approaching the 2-decade mark of monogamous relationship that I'm able to shed the baggage I carried for so long. "Hotness" in a Godly marriage doesn't diminish with sags, wrinkles, and gravity - it increases as the depth of intimacy & shared experience continues. It's a lie of the world that we need to strive to be younger in order to maintain our husbands' attention and "be hot." If we say that "hotness" will diminish with the effects of gravity, we're playing in to the hands of the world and are using our words to validate the lie!

I want to protect young women from dealing what I've dealt with, but I think encouraging us to look to God for our satisfaction of self and mate (or future-mate) is a more positive, healthy way to do that. :) If I'd had the benefit of considering how God saw me as a young woman, instead of having my parents trumpet back the message of the world (that you must look a certain way in order to have a man love you)... well, I can only imagine how my early marriage would have been different.