It’s been floating all over the internet the last couple of days. It doesn’t take a Where’s Waldo expert to notice that something has gone horribly awry in the process of photoshopping the model to make her more…er…”appealing.”
I wasn’t sure exactly what Target was going for with this photo hack job at first.
Are girls supposed to be aspiring to have no crotch? Because that is a standard no one can reach.
Are they supposed to be emulating Stretch Armstrong? Because I’m not sure if we are looking at a young lady or a shaved orangutan. I’m almost as gangly as guys get, with my measurements being 15.5 / 34-35 (yes, you can applaud my bravery for posting my real measurements), and I can tell you that there’s no way that girl is ever going to find sleeves long enough.
It turns out that the object of the ad was to give the girl a “thigh gap” a term that heretofore I was not aware even existed. Trust me ladies, no gentleman suitor is going to be using his measuring tape on the space between your thighs to determine if you are an acceptable mate.
So it turns out that despite all we talk about positive self-image, there is still a lot that needs to be done to help ladies (and gentlemen) accept themselves. And I think there is an especially large amount the church can do.
Because I happen to think that this problem (and a myriad of others) stem from how the church of past dropped the ball when it comes to our bodies.
God Created the Human Body and Said It Was Bad, Apparently
I teach art history to my high school seniors.
And if you’ve been to an art museum, you know that naked people are kind of hard to avoid. Apparently, naked people just line up to get painted and sculpted since there isn’t much other employment available for them.
And every year, I ask my students what they think of that. Is the nudity beautiful? Objectionable? I am curious because we are in a Christian school.
And without fail, their answers largely come from how we were all indoctrinated in church, starting in Genesis.
It goes like this…
Adam and Eve are naked and sinless.
Adam and Eve sin and feel shame.
God clothes Adam and Eve.
And the conclusion that we all draw is that our bodies are bad. That is the damage I try to undo every year. The fact is that clothing was God covering not our bodies, but our shame. God still saw us the same. We just didn’t see ourselves the same way. That was the day that poor body image entered the human heart. God never said, “Put on some clothes, you two!” Instead, He asked, “Who told you that you were naked?”
The Modern Victorianism
Maybe at different times and places, the church did a better job, but we still live with a pretty Victorian mindset that believes that the human body is actually secretly evil. It must not be looked at. It is not a thing of beauty. It is inappropriate.
Every discussion that we have about “modesty” starts with that assumption. We don’t start with the assumption that what goes into a man’s eyes does not make him clean, but the lust in his heart is what makes him unclean.
No, we tell girls, “Your bodies are evil and will cause men to stumble so make sure you cover them up.” Framing modesty through that lens is just as neurotic as trying to achieve a “thigh gap.” It makes women chase a moving target and lets men off the hook. If more clothing equaled less male lust, then why do the places where women cover completely still harbor so much rape and violence against women?
It is this Victorian-esque repression of the body that has given permission, not only for so much misunderstanding, but abuse of the body.
How The Church Helped Create the Porn Industry
This is how far the church’s misunderstanding has gone:
Since the church has essentially said, “Bodies are evil,” it has left the conversation there.
And the rest of the world accepts what we have said and treats bodies like they are evil.
So fashion companies imply that girls should punish their bodies to achieve a certain look. I even give the church partial credit for the rise of the pornography industry. The church made God’s creation taboo. And people always want to look at taboo things. And the more the church refused to look, the more people wanted to look. And now the problem is so enormous that I don’t know how we will ever go back. Nothing is taboo, and yet people can’t seem to stop looking.
The church said bodies are evil, so people treated bodies evilly.
Can We Start Being Honest?
So what can we do as brothers and sisters to repel this plague of body issues?
We can tell people the truth. That their bodies are not evil. Evil thoughts comes from our hearts, not our bodies.
We can tell girls about modesty, not in terms of being responsible for men, but in terms of what they need or don’t need to do for attention.
We can go back to Genesis and actually understand that clothing was grace, not punishment.
And we can remember that everything that is twisted into an evil thing was created to be a good thing.
What do you think? Does the church bear some responsibility for our body image crisis or the porn industry? How do we change the way people look at themselves?