A few years ago Meghan Trainor released a song, "All About that Bass", that climbed the charts and became an anthem of the summer. The main theme, for those two people who haven't heard the song, was a celebration of females who possessed a body that was significantly larger than the average super model. It was heralded as a song of empowerment for the "big girls" and celebrated throughout the land as a great song to build "positive body image."
The song fit right in with the current culture's obsession with what I will call the "body image rebellion." By this I mean the rebellion against the size 0 supermodel and everything that represents. Every month or so it seems some new thing goes around on Facebook and other social media, TV news, and the Huffington Post, upholding some "plus size" woman who did something as a "plus size" woman; or shaming people who engage in so called "fat shaming"; or telling us that "Big is beautiful" or that you should "Love your body"; or that such and such fashion company is working with models who represent the "average-sized woman."
Now to be absolutely clear: as a culture, we do have an issue with creating an unrealistic and narrow definition of human beauty. And this is not a problem that should be ignored. As a father of 4 young girls the problems generated concern me greatly.
Unfortunately, telling young girls that Every inch of you is perfect, from the bottom to the top, is the precisely wrong wrong way to solve the problem.
It is precisely wrong because it doesn't address the true problem, it exacerbates it. The issue is not one of negative body image generated by unrealistic expectations built upon unrealistic imagery. The problem is one of value.
Let me quote a few more lines from the song to help illustrate:
* 'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase / And all the right junk in all the right places
* My mama she told me "don't worry about your size" / She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night"
Now, where is this song telling us that a woman's value comes from? The desire of males. The rather creepy advice from her "Mama", is basically, "Don't feel inferior if you aren't a size 2, guys will still want to have sex with you." Wow.
Explicitly, the song says you should still feel good about your body if you are "plus size" because men will still want to hit that. There is tons to be said about what this indicates about the state of a society that lauds a song with this explicit premise. But I want to go past the explicit, and look a little deeper at the implicit assumptions in this song and in the body image rebellion.
Implicitly, one of the major assumptions this song, and the body image rebellion, is that the body is the major source of value for human beings, that humankind's worth is tied up in the body. The current, narrow ideal of beauty, operates on the same assumption. Physical beauty = value.
The reaction against the view that beauty = value has been not been to say that human worth is not tied to physical beauty, but to say, essentially, that everyone is equally physically beautiful. That's why it has become hateful to suggest someone should lose weight, you are directly criticizing what makes them valuable as a person. You are essentially saying that they are less valuable. It's the same reason why aging has such a stigma in our society and we use any and all means to appear younger than we are. Our value leaks out as our physical beauty deteriorates.
But the prevailing view that your value as a human is your body is precisely backwards. The value of the body is that it belongs to a human. The body is to be taken care of not because it is the source of worth, but because it belongs to somebody who has extraordinary intrinsic worth.
The question then becomes what makes humans have worth? Upon what can we anchor their value? Currently, our culture values humans the same way it values what I'm going to call "stuff". We value "stuff" based on how it looks and what it can do. The danger of valuing people in the same manner is that our looks and our abilities are not the same, and we tend to lose them as life goes on. One does not need to look far back into history (or the present for that matter) to see the atrocities wrought when cultures have off kilter views of what makes humans valuable.
The standard Sunday School answer to this is to say that "Humans are valuable because they are made in the Image of God." And I submit, that in this case, the Sunday School answer is the correct one.
Some will dismiss this as trite. Or as just a psychological game we play to feel better about people. But, man as the imago dei is profound. This is not a meaningless "feel good" statement. It has implications. Implications abound. And this affects your life now, practically, not just in some theoretical abstract concept.
However, this post is long enough as it is. So, I leave you dear reader to do your homework. If you are curious, or would like to discuss, I would thoroughly enjoy meeting for coffee, lunch, brunch etc. Hit me up!