Beauty, Gender Roles, and Freedom

So, I have this friend who has recently lost a lot of weight. When I commented on how good she looks now, she said she didn’t see it. Being the loving, encouraging friend that I am, I told her to go look in the mirror. Then she said that her whole life her mom told her that “there’s always something to make better.” Now, I don’t think that her mom was being cruel or malicious in any way. I think that, as a cosmetologist, she just had a hard time leaving work at work. She gets paid to help people look their best, and it’s hard to shut that off when you go home. I mean, it’s hard for all of us to leave work at work. I spent most of my life doing technical support where I pointed out problems and offered solutions. That’s great at work, but sometimes it can be very annoying around my friends and family. However, I think this illustrates a concept that has been so driven into our culture that we barely even notice what it does to us anymore.

Gender Roles
With all of the conversations surrounding feminism and gender roles I see going around the blogging world and Twitter, I’m surprised this isn’t surfacing more often. The whole issue of gender roles is whether women should be able to have the same roles and functions as men within the church, home, and everywhere else. While I don’t want to get into that directly, my friend’s statement shows me that as a society we have effectively said that “women must be physically appealing, cosmetically and aesthetically pleasing.” That whatever else they do, this is their primary function. In other words, they have to be hot, beautiful, gorgeous, etc. for them to be really accepted or desired. It places them in a role of little more than a sex object. For all the fighting that happens about the way the gospel should affect gender roles, why isn’t this being addressed as a leading issue among feminists as well as men and women who hold Complementarian beliefs?

How many young women do we have being raised under the burden of having to be physically pleasing to be loved? How many teenage girls, whose worldview is shaped so easily, are implicitly or directly taught that they have to keep striving to be better looking so that they will fit into society or really be loved and accepted by a man? (Side bar: If that’s all a man cares about or expects, he doesn’t love you. Move on.) How many college girls actually live out all that they’ve been taught about their role in the world when they were younger (if they even wait that long), finally giving in to the guys who are smooth enough to get what they want by making girls think they’re beautiful without actually committing to them in the covenant of marriage?

Men Are Part of The Problem
The way we raise our sons affects this just as much as the way we raise our daughters. If we allow teenage boys to reduce the role of girls to existing solely for physical pleasure, then we compound the problem. Because then we have girls dying to be loved and thought of as beautiful and the guys who will gladly affirm their external beauty in exchange for physical affection. And when that girl doesn’t look as attractive anymore? Well, we have countless girls with broken hearts, feeling even more used and ugly than before. But they only know one way, and the cycle repeats.

Porn Further Instills This Thinking
Yep, I said it. The overabundance and ease of access to porn, and even lingerie websites and shows, leave girls idolizing the women they see on TV instead of living in reality. So, they look down on themselves for actually being healthy because they aren’t a size double zero like the Victoria’s Secret models they see strutting down the runway. And, porn specifically instills unrealistic expectations on both men and women. It presses women to look (and act) like the female porn stars they see on TV, laptops, and smart phones. Further isolating them inside of the sex object box, making them feel less than they really are. It does this to men too. It screams at guys “If your girl isn’t like this, she isn’t good enough,” leaving tons of gorgeous, Godly girls single into their 30’s because guys aren’t just looking for the super-model anymore, they’re looking for the porn star too.

The Gospel Frees
Fortunately, God’ grace is sufficient. In Christ, there is healing and hope, both for the individual and the culture. The same power of God that raised Christ from the dead can heal hearts, correct worldviews, and change lives.

The gospel teaches us that instead of women being mere sex objects, they are created in the image of God, with just as much dignity, value, and worth as men. The gospel teaches us that husbands are to love their wives, laying their lives down for their wives, like Christ did the Church (Eph. 5:25). Husbands aren’t just to value, but also to care for the heart and soul of their wives by “the washing of water with the word”(Eph. 5:26). Husbands are not their Savior, and may not even be pastors, but they are called and commanded to seek the spiritual welfare of their wives. This means it’s impossible to view one’s wife as only a physical being, ignoring the emotions, spiritual needs, and even insecurities of their wives.

The gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can heal the wounds that have been inflicted by society and by parental mistakes. The gospel frees us from having to try to be perfect. The gospel frees us from being stuck in a role of mere physical expectations, and breathes life into our soul.

The beautiful thing about the gospel is that it doesn’t just give us the mandate to do these things, it gives us the power to do them. The gospel gives us the power and grace to live and love like Jesus.

In the gospel we find grace, freedom, and healing.

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