“I do get tired with rich western women complaining that they are being forced to be thin. If you don’t like it, don’t buy the magazines…So blame yourselves and shut up.”
This comment was posted under a YouTube video for a documentary film called Cover Girl Culture. (FYI, the trailer exposes the ways the fashion industry and mainstream media are impacting women and girls in our culture.)
Then it gets even better. If that’s possible. smrndoff adds…
“There are real women really going hungry in this world whilst spoiled vain witches like these complain about starving themselves out of peurile childish anal vanity.”
Great sentence, right? The comment really hit a nerve with me. Most often this happens when I find something that the author has said to be offensively wrong or offensively right. In this case, both.
I was ticked off at smrndoff’s dismissal of the Cover Girl Culture project because, although many of us are aware of the devastating impact of the media on identity and self-image, western women and girls are still swallowing the lie whole that the way we’ve been made is unacceptable. Also, it’s not just vain western women who are being impacted by the media’s unattainable standard of beauty. The dissatisfaction that effectively sells products to women by evoking body shame is now our ugly, and unquantifiable, export to Africa, Asia and every other culture with access to mass media.
So while women and girls around the globe continue to suffer under the tyranny of richly resourced retailers, it’s not yet time to “shut up.”
But despite the oversimplification of the biting comment, one thing was spot on: women without access to food are going hungry around the globe. I certainly don’t think that the absurd reality of the world’s food crisis co-existing on the same small planet with America’s obesity epidemic has enough traction to cause a woman to think twice, wrap up her Milky Way bar and send it around the globe to fight hunger. Nor should it. I am convinced, though, that there is real Christian hope inherent in this weird pairing of over-resourced hungry women and under-resourced ones.
A 1997 report from the United Nations Development Programme estimated that the amount needed to eradicate poverty around the globe was $80 billion. The amount Americans fork over to the beauty industry every single year? $80 billion. Though I’m typically wary of simplistic answers to very complicated problems, in this slim instance, for Christian women, it really is this simple. What I mean is that as affluent Christian women follow Jesus, a natural expression of that discipleship is to redirect the resources we spend on ourselves, beyond what we really need—on gourmet coffee, or our fifteenth pair of shoes, or a quickie mart run for Oreos and a Diet Coke—to kingdom purposes. Believe me, I can hear how it sounds a little bit like send-your-candy-to-Africa, but Christian women are beginning to catch this kingdom vision.
One particularly Christian shift of resources is being modeled at the True Campaign. True, challenging our culture’s warped messages about beauty, has partnered with Compassion International, in True Shift, to educate and empower women to change the world.
“As we shift those dollars to where they are truly needed, ” the True site promises, “we challenge our appearance-obsessed culture and help end a crisis of poverty and hunger.”
Sisters, we really can make a difference. So though smrndoff advises vain witches to blame ourselves and shut up, I think we can do a lot better than that. As we take concrete steps to behave differently we can actually kill two crises with one stone.
Ready to kick your coffee or shoe habit? Visit Compassion today.
Margot Starbuck is a communicator who writes and speaks about kingdom living, God’s heart for the poor, body image, edgy love & other fresh ideas. She’s convinced that because God is with us and for us in Jesus Christ, Christians are set free to live love that is for others, especially those who live on the world’s margins. This is kind of Margot’s big thing. Margot lives in the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, NC, with her husband, Peter, and their three kids by birth and adoption. At Reality Ministries, she shares life among friends with and without disabilities. A graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Seminary, Margot is ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA.
Click here for more information on Margot Starbuck and the work she is doing for the Kingdom.