Media


This past week, the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, gave birth to a baby boy.  But rather than a slew of media stories offering her congratulations, Mayer has been met with criticism for saying she will only take a two week maternity leave, and for using a photo of herself pre-pregnancy, for the cover of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women issue, in which she is listed at number 14. Yet, this is not the first time she has felt pressure from the media.

A few months ago, when she announced her pregnancy soon after taking her CEO position at Yahoo, Mayer also found herself under scrutiny.  If a man found himself in a similar position–becoming a new CEO and a parent in the same year–it wouldn’t make headlines. But for Mayer the combination brought much criticism, questioning if she could handle the pressure. (And we wonder why she’s not taking a longer maternity leave?) We all know there is a double standard for men in our culture–whether they want it or not–in regards to business and having a family. But what makes me most concerned is what stories like this do to us as women in our thoughts on taking roles of leadership.

From the time we are young, we overhear phrases that make us as women out to be “less than” our male counterparts.  The most common phrase being “you throw like a girl.” Though revealing some truth that generally men have more upper body strength than women, it makes boys believe that its a negative thing to be like a girl. But it doesn’t just effect the boys, it effects us as girls too.  Phrases like this one enter into our psyche, and our view of our abilities begin to diminish slowly, over time. Whether we realize it or not, because of our media and cultural stereotypes, one of our abilities that we begin to doubt the most, is our ability to lead.

In the documentary, Miss Representation, Dr. Caroline Heldman, explains that little girls and boys, when they are seven years of age, equally want to be president of the United States. But she says when you ask the same group of students when they are fifteen, you see a massive gap emerging. Miss Representation powerfully shows how the media is effecting the world’s view of women, and therefore our view of ourselves.

One of the phrases that keeps occurring in the movie is “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Because we have seen so few positive examples of women in visible positions of power, I think you and I, as everyday women, can subconsciously fall into believing that we aren’t leaders where we are, nor could we be leaders in what we do.  This line of thinking isn’t just dangerous for our future, it is also dangerous for the young women and our daughters who look up to us.

If they don’t see us leading now, what will inspire them to lead in the future?

One of the things, I believe, that holds us back from taking leadership roles is that we think we don’t have much to offer.  But have you ever looked around a business or work meeting and noticed who was doing most of the talking? Are you in a situation where it is usually the men?

When we don’t speak up and share our knowledge or opinions in meetings, it is as if we are saying that a woman’s perspective isn’t needed. We are denying all that we do have inside of us that is important, and forgetting that we are in our positions for a reason.

Now, I am not saying for you to go into work this morning, and totally change who you are. What I am saying is that your voice matters. Your actions matter. Are there ways–as a businesswoman, teacher, mother, student, etc.–that you are leading and you don’t even know it? Areas in which you have been holding back, that your voice and perspective is needed? Ways that you can speak truth? Ways that you can encourage the best out of those around you?

Whether you are being followed by one or by many, you have a lot more to offer than you realize.

 

In the hearts of women and men everywhere, there lies the myth of the perfect woman.  She is beautiful, put together, and does it all. We think we see glimpses of her–When Martha Stewart displays the perfect meal. When a mom drops her kid off at school, looking completely unruffled with flawless make up, as if every morning is a breeze. Or when we see a women at the grocery store, in her “after the gym” attire,” yet it doesn’t look like she even broke a sweat and she has a body that makes you think she doesn’t even need the gym.

We see glimpses in TV ads and shows, that tell us “she’s out there, you just have to change these twenty things about you, and you will be just like her.”

From the time we received our first Barbie doll, we have been bombarded with the image of the perfect women, making us believe she exists.  But have you ever noticed that this perfect woman–who doesn’t have PMS, mood swings, or insecurities–also doesn’t have a voice?

The women who portray her on TV, are only following a script and rarely does it reveal the true heart of a woman.  The media, our society, and even the organized church have given us one dimensional views–though different–of what a woman can be, do or care about. Rarely do they truly speak to the complexities that we face in the world and inside of ourselves.

So often, I hear the phrase that women want to “have it all.”  It is thrown around as if we are selfish, driven, myopic beings. Some of us are, yet the majority of us just want to be able to share with the world all that is inside of us.  Some of us want to use our talents and abilities in the business world. Others of us want to take on the heroic task of nurturing children by being mothers. Some of us want both. We are artists, leaders, teachers, ministers, businesswomen, writers, etc.–who are trying to give life to what is inside of us, while also trying to live up to the cultural expectations that we should become the mythical “perfect woman.”

In her article, Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect, the president of Barnard College, Debora Spar writes:

“…we are laboring…under a double whammy of impossible expectations—the old-fashioned ones (to be good mothers and wives, impeccable housekeepers and blushing brides) and those wrought more recently (to be athletic, strong, sexually versatile, and wholly independent). The result? We have become a generation desperate to be perfect wives, mothers, and professionals—Tiger Moms who prepare organic quinoa each evening after waltzing home from the IPO in our Manolo Blahnik heels. Even worse, we somehow believe that we need to do all of this at once, and without any help.”

So, what do we do as women who are being measured by–or measuring ourselves up to–this mythical creature? What do we do as women who have so much in our hearts that we are striving to make into a reality?

I believe, we need to start speaking.

We need to start using our voices to speak truth into the lies the mythical woman would have us believe. We need to begin living into our own skin and encouraging others to do the same. We need to start telling the world the truth about us women, rather than letting the world tell us who we are.  And, we need to give each other permission to talk about when we have failed, because when we do, I am sure we will discover we are not alone.

I also believe, we need to let some things go.

Rather than trying to make all of our dreams become reality, we need to pick the most meaningful ones and seek to give them life. We need to accept that we aren’t humanly able to look like, be and do all that “perfect woman” image tells us is possible.  Rather than trying to do it all, we need to be OK, when some things get dropped.

As much as we all would like to believe we are Superwoman, we are not.  She is fiction, and we are reality.

“…I can say that I think it is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially when you are full of loathing for your body. Maybe you think you are too heavy. Maybe you have never liked the way your hipbones stick out. Do your breasts sag? Are you too hairy? It is always something. Then again, maybe you have been sick, or gone through surgery that has changed the way you look. You have gotten glimpses of your body as you have bathed or changed clothes, but so far maintaining your equilibrium has depended on staying covered up as much as you can…This can only go on so long…”

-Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, p.37-38

This past Monday, on her new talk show, Katie Couric talked openly about her struggle with Bulimia that lasted through college and into her twenties. Because Katie has always seemed so put together, Fox News asks is this the “Most Surprising Celeb Confession?”  They say that they “didn’t see it coming.”

Yet many of us women know better.

Whether “put together” in the eyes of others, or a little rough around the edges, very few of us have made it to where we are today, without at least some insecurities about our physical form.  We have body issues that often come back to haunt us in different seasons of our lives.  Many of us have at least approached experiencing what Barbara Brown Taylor describes as a “loathing for your body.”

Blame it on the media, an ignorant comment a kid made in Jr. High, or on our tendency to compare ourselves with the women around us–whatever propelled us, each of us has traveled down the path of body discontentment.  And many of us have gone as far as hurting ourselves physically or emotionally.

All of this, I believe, breaks the heart of God.

In Genesis 1:27-31, we find that God created us in His image, and saw that He created us good.

In Psalm 139, God revealed to David, that He created our “innermost being” and that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

And in I Corinthians 6:19, we are that our bodies are meant to be temples.

But often, it feels as if the world we grew up in as women, is screaming otherwise.

So Barbara Brown Taylor invites us to pray.

But not just anywhere or any how. She encourages us to pray in front of the mirror, naked. Now, I will admit, I haven’t done it (I am all for baby steps).  But I do believe that she has a point–our struggles with our bodies “can only go on for so long.”

We can only believe the lies that tell us we are not pretty enough, thin enough, curvy enough, tall enough or short enough, for so long.  

And so we need to pray. We need to look in the mirror and pray.

Because of past weight struggles and believing I was ugly for all of my adolescence, I admit I haven’t been able to do the naked part yet.  But lately, after I am done getting ready for the day, I have made myself look in the mirror a little bit longer.  And as I look, I am beginning to ask:

“Ok God, what do you see?”

The answer, I am sensing, is far better than I think.

“Whether you are sick or well, lovely or irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.”

-Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, p.38

 

I didn’t have any confidence in my beauty when I was young. I felt like a character actress, and I still do.

–Meryl Streep, age 63

 

“My appearance has changed a lot over the years, but it has far more to do with how I feel about being a woman. I`ve never thought of myself as vain. When I was at Cambridge, I shaved my head and wore baggy clothes. It was partly to do with the feminism of that time: militant and grungy. That`s all changed now, though I don`t think it is liberating to get your tits out. I don`t hold with that. But I am much more comfortable with being a woman now than I was in my twenties.” 

–Emma Thompson, age 53

 

“Now all of a sudden I’m so less interested in pretending to be a lot of other people, and much more interested in being me.” 

–Jamie Lee Curtis, age 53

 

 

 “There were times when I hated my nose. But you grow up and you start to recognize that maybe it wasn`t a bad thing that you weren`t born Barbie.”

–Anjelica Huston, age 61

 

Why does it seem to be the common experience of women to spend most of our lives feeling ashamed of our body or looks?  Why do so many of us silently struggle with our size, nose, or smile? Why do we feel somehow that we will never measure up?–That we will never fit the definition of beauty?

Sure, we could go on for hours and days talking about the media’s part, the cultural messages we are sent, and the billions of photoshopped images of women that are in our faces every day.

Yes, all of these things have played a pretty big part.

But why have we believed them? Why are these women in their fifties and sixties saying they are just beginning to accept themselves? And rarely do I hear women in their twenties and thirties being able to say the same?

What is the switch that needs to be turned on inside of us as women, that will enable us to fully accept ourselves, imperfections and all?

I don’t want to wait until I am fifty, forty-five, or even a few years from now when I am thirty-five; I don’t want to wait any longer to begin embracing the body, personality, and heart that God has given me.

And, wherever you are on this journey, I don’t want you to have to wait either.

What step can we take today, to begin to embrace ourselves a little bit more?

I am a little behind.  The book Fifty Shades of Grey has been out for a while, and Magic Mike, has been in the theaters for at least a month.  But, I couldn’t not write about this “new” craze that people are calling “mommy porn,” better known under the genre of Erotica.  So, here it goes.

Whether we are aware of it or not, books and almost every form of media have become solely about entertaining us.  Very often, when choosing to see a movie or to read a book, we are thinking about the experience it will give us–Will it make us feel good? Will it make us feel a part of something? 

Perhaps we are too trusting of the media industry, or we value keeping up with the times too much. Perhaps, like I mentioned, we are caught up in how it makes us feel.  But my concern is that we don’t stop and ask “how will this effect me?”  or my favorite question:

Will it make me more whole?

This post isn’t about judging those who have read the 50 Shades trilogy or were the first to see Channing Tatum as “Magic Mike” the striper.  But rather an invitation to discuss what is becoming a culture-wide phenomenon.

Are these things building us up as women?  Are they making us stronger?  Are they strengthening the relationships that we have with the men in our lives?

The Media, deeming this “Mommy Porn,” is equating these things with an incredibly large pornography industry that traditionally targeted men.  However, statistically, one in three visitors to every porn site is a woman. It is a growing issue for both genders, with effects that we may not realize.

When speaking about the negative effects of male usage of porn in marriage, Rabbi Schmuley, in this article says that “Porn portrays all women in one of four degrading, dehumanizing categories,” and that it is a form of sexism. It “makes men get bored with their wives,” and it “cultivates a single standard of beauty that no real women can live up to.”

If this is what happens when a man uses porn, how is Erotica going to affect our relationships? Is it creating a standard of masculinity that real men can’t live up to?

For those who aren’t aware of the hype, Fifty Shades of Grey is about the character of Christian Grey, who convinces a recent college graduate to sign a contract in which she becomes his sex slave. From what I have read about the book, it gives us a picture of sex and love in which the woman is in bondage.

True love and sex in its best form, was created to free us, not enslave us. It was created to connect us with another human being, and to make us more whole.

Fifty Shades seems to be an invitation to disconnect from the world and the men in our lives, and in a sense, become enslaved in a fantasy.

You may disagree with me. You may still feel it is just a guilty pleasure.

But is it making you more whole?