Sunday, February 10, 2008

On Beauty and Objectification

A recent conversation with a friend set me thinking about beauty and objectification.
To set the stage; my friend is a particularly beautiful woman. She is comfortable with her biology. She is not intimidated by others. She likes to dance, but this last fact was the source of a recent spousal disagreement.

Her husband will not dance with her at a club. He suggests that she is in a better environment dancing in the midst of her girlfriends. He admits that he does not want to look like the guy who scored the ‘babe’ in front of all the other men who have ogled her the whole night. He feels that other men objectify her when she is dancing and that if he were to dance with her, he would be a participant in that objectification.

Well, I was disturbed by the implications of this conversation.

My own personal narrative prevents me from feeling a similar freedom to enjoy my body and the space it inhabits. I have never given myself this freedom for fear that someone might objectify me; for fear of someone wishing to possess me.

And, then I thought of all the women who cover themselves for religious modesty. I became angry for my own loss and angry that my freedom to be happy in my own body was taken from me for fear that someone might not be able to control himself. And, why must a woman cover herself and be modest if the problem of her sexual attractiveness is not her own but that of someone who cannot take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions. If men cannot keep their thoughts honourable, why must women hide? By hiding our selves, are we not saying that men are incapable of taking responsibility for their thoughts and actions? Do we then objectify ourselves by covering up in order that the only ones might objectify us are our husbands?

If there stands a beautiful rose bush in full bloom, whose fragrance fills the meadow and whose colours testify to the creativeness of the universe, do we rush to cover it so that only he who finds it can enjoy its beauty? Or, do we proclaim its beauty and honour it as something touched by God. Only a very selfish person would cut the blooms and claim them all for themselves. In cutting the bush to possess it, the beauty and the life of the bush is destroyed. So too, in covering the bush is the loveliness of the thing diminished. What fault has the bush committed by being beautiful? Why should the bush pay the price for the immaturity of others? Why blame the bush for the actions that that others may make against it?

My friend is very beautiful and lovely. Her frame and demeanour testify to the creativeness of the universe. She draws attention because she is beautiful and others cannot help but notice. Her husband should dance around her and be thankful that her biology is a wonder to behold. He should not make her ashamed for being beautiful. She has done nothing to incur such a judgement. He tells her that he is embarrassed by her when he excuses his own objectification of her behind a thinly veiled accusation. He blames the objectification of others for his own rejection of her beauty, sensuality and sexuality. He feels that he is the only one entitled to see all of her beauty and would rather sulk in a corner because others are looking at her with desire, rather than proclaim her beauty and honour her as a creature touched by God.

What is wrong with this world of ours? Why can we not honour the beauty that is around us? We all have a right to show who we are without the fear of being cut down or covered. We all have a responsibility to treat that which is beautiful with respect and reverence. We all are beautiful, every one.

Text copyright 2008 by Athena Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed either in whole or part, by any means, without the express, written permission of the author.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

How to be a Fundamentalist

From a convert to liberalism: A Cautionary Prescription

1. Read all documents of faith in a literal way and do exactly as the text says. Do not wait for other interpretations because a good fundamentalist can be directly linked to God through the text. Interpretation delays action and shows a lack of faith. The text tells you what you should do. Do exactly what it says.

2. Anyone who does not live a life that is directed by your faith text, is unworthy of your consideration. Do not talk to them or show them hospitality or help them. In fact, do not like them. They are not significant because they do not want to know what you know.

3. Seriously consider the possibility that God has chosen to speak directly to you through your faith text. Consider too that you alone have received God’s true message. Consider these things so that you can feel important and special.

4. Do not for a moment consider different opinions about your faith text. You read it. You understand it. Others must not be close enough to God to understand your faith text the way that you do.

5. When other people disagree with you, they are persecuting you. Persecution for the sake of your belief is noble and should be endured. Do not wreck the positive payback of persecution by changing your mind. Persevere. You are the right one.

6. Do not let your faith be diluted by a temptation to gloss over particularly harsh passages of your faith text. Your faith text is an all or nothing document. You have chosen to follow all of it without convenient omissions.

7. Remember that God chose you to understand your faith text. You are God’s chosen one. God only gives ‘the right’ understanding of his words to his chosen ones.

8. Remember that you are the special ones that God will reward when everyone else gets their ass kicked at the end of time.

9. Remember that the world is in the mess it is because people do not agree with you and God’s revelation of his ‘Word’ to you.

10. Remember, you get to go to heaven for this!

Text copyright 2008 by Athena Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed by any means, either in whole or part, without the express written permission of the author.