Women, Beauty, and Repackaging

action My daughter saw a youtube offering that impacted her greatly and she wanted us to watch it with her. So her brother and I sat down to our hdml hookup and watched a video that went over a perennial interest I have: women and the cultural view of beauty, social impact of those views, and how our baseline moral view articulates those aspects of social identity. It was from a political and cultural perspective very different from mine ( the usual hostility to Christians that is ingrained in the liberal/Democratic views) but imparting some very real concerns and truth for all that.

The video was “Miss Representation”, and you can watch it below. It moves quickly with a barrage of thoughts and images. If you really want to think about what is being presented to you, you must stop it often to process what is being said and what it means. Otherwise, the impact is to rile your emotions without giving a real context to what you should do with these emotions.

Warning there are sexually explicit images – if you are offended with this, better to not watch. There are other presentations of many of these issues, you can find and view those. The conversation remains the same.

Truths I Would Not Argue With

  • Women are objectified and over-sexualized in our society
  • Cultural opinions do matter, and they can be changed –are changed deliberately
  • Those with selfish agendas are promoting false and quite damaging ideas and revisionist “facts”
  • There is still a gender bias that disparages women and puts them at a disadvantage
One interesting thing about this documentary is the way it presents and dismisses the role that movements like the “Moral Majority” or the “Christian Right” had on raising consciousness on some of the cultural degradation of women and the loss of concern over “public interest” as it is expressed in media. Especially in television and movies from established, big business Media.

Also it lacks the will or the depth to connect the dots between the paradoxical conflicts inherent in the old arguments on the side of “legalizing prostitution”, and the growing concern over “human trafficking”. Think about these “two?” issues. Aren’t we using mere euphemism when we want to address the enslavement of women and children in prostitution as a problem, and obscure problems that women face whenever prostitution becomes prevalent and accepted? Maybe you don’t make the connection between the way we think of and represent women and the issue of human trafficking, or how allowing prostitution to be recognized as a legal and viable occupation might be relevant. This probably deserves its own essay and evaluation.

Things I question and take issue with

  • Use of the word “Media”. There is a conflation of old media and the new social media. It is not all one “media”, but a tool that reflects the people making it. To use the word generally is evasion of responsibility, basically. Always an “other”, bad guy, instead of things we promote and allow as people, individuals and as a group.
  • This image emphasis and objectification is only a problem for women. It is increasingly a problem for young men in our society. There is a disengagement from worth being related to character.
  • Disconnect between the human drives and how marketing or media presentation takes those things and uses them. Lack of realization that culturally we have lost a huge body of history about relationship to the whole of human experience. In the entertainment culture, we are reduced to a few basic drives expressed in their lowest common denominator. Why we are doing that should be discussed in terms of where we are morally, not in how men in the media choose to display this.

Just a few thoughts on religion

If I were going to convert to any religion I would probably choose Catholicism because it at least has female saints and the Virgin Mary.
~Margaret Atwood

Before you view the documentary to see what you think of it and the issues it raises, what about a couple thoughts on some of the bias and dismissive perspectives I noticed?

(1) American women have the most freedom of any women in the world. Yes, on the whole, if we look at the opportunity and the freedom to live as we choose (lifestyle, education, economic). No it isn’t paradise, but nothing on earth approaches that idea of paradise. We do and should keep striving for better conditions, preservation of our freedom, access to opportunity, but we also should not forget or diminish what we have.

(2) Christianity is a powerful voice for the oppressed and dispossessed. Historically, it has one of the best records of any force for the empowerment of women. Ask yourself – in what place and in what age did the rise of women’s rights gain the most momentum? And it wasn’t the 1960’s. That may have been when you heard the loudest shouts, but not when you saw the greatest momentum.

Whatever your opinion of the Christian religion, it ought to be recognized for the beneficial influence on ideals of freedoms and rights. If you are willing to deny that, then I would question your ability to correct any of the injustices discussed in the film “Miss Representation” with real fundamental change. My guess is that the best you would be able to come up with is some reactionary and temporary “re-balancing”, which is only injustice inverted, not averted.


Last time I attended homegroup we were asked the question,”What are your passions?” in the discovery process of our gifts and calling. My own answer was “beauty”, as I have had that as a life long expression in many areas. As a child, the answer to the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question was “an artist”. This was usually countered with the impracticalities of earning power in such a career, yet if you have such a passion, it flows into avocations and sort of rises to the top eventually.

It colors what I appreciate in others, certainly. I have broadened my definitions of what makes for beauty in life. It can be a thought well expressed, a home that is perfectly suited for hospitality, the best points of a culture, ….many many things.

In reading through my blogroll, I arrived at today’s lessons where, in this post, the homeschooling mom attempts to provide an answer to the “trend in our culture to ridicule those who love beauty”. Revealing, “when I admit my love of beauty, even to myself, I feel shallow and vulnerable, like the addlepated Anne of Green Gables who was so often twitted about her romanticism.”

I wrote a comment only to have my computer suddenly shut off, and after rebooting decided the topic was worth of a post. While it is a longstanding trend to devalue beauty in our culture, it seems a peculiarly American Christian struggle to rationalize our passion for it. In recognizing this, I am nevertheless nonplussed in explaining it. How do we question God’s intent for this aspect of life when so much of it is integrated into the natural creation? We are surrounded by beauty and it is nature that brings us back to ground in the awe of how much we need to view beauty in order to remember and appreciate the Creator.

When addressing this narrowed viewpoint that seems adopted by Evangelical Christians, I am always reminded of the efforts by the Schaeffer family to rectify this defect. Whether you read Francis, Edith or either of their children’s writings on various subjects, there is an effort to convince Christians that aspiring for excellence and creating something of beauty in life is praiseworthy, and is an important way to glorify God in this life.

So like the homeschooling mom, known as ‘thicket dweller’, I feel that beauty, its appreciation and pursuit, are an important and intrinsic part of a womans life. I think it is most likely more than that, though. I think that God has incorporated beauty into so much of His expression that this is a part of life as it is meant to be lived, both here and in the hereafter. It is a way we inspire, in which we aspire to something greater than ourselves. It brings joy, and for that reason alone we ought to cherish and esteem it.


Dr. Francis Schaeffer Complete Works
Edith’s book on family and homemaking