Friday, September 26, 2008

"Lipstick Jungle"

One aspect of our modern culture that is puzzling to me is that some women argue for a type of feminine "freedom" that actually enslaves and demeans women. You would think that feminism and Biblical womanhood would at least agree on one principle: that women are created in the image of God or, failing that, be in agreement that women possess all the worth accorded to a human being. Thus, you would think that both Christians and feminists would be in favor of teaching girls to respect each other and to behave in a way that inspires everyone to greater respect for women. Alas, in today's world, that is sometimes not the case.

In an article entitled "Lipstick Jungle", which appeared in the September 26th edition of the Wall Street Times, Ashely Samelson speaks of her fears when she helped move her 18-year old sister into a freshman dorm at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Ashleigh had experienced culture shock during her own stay at Tufts University in Medford Mass. She recounts meeting women who called each other degrading and obscene insults and also women who urged other women to participate in self-destructive and degrading behaviors.

Because children may read this blog, I won't outline just what horrors Ashleigh claims she witnessed or heard of on her campus. Suffice it to say, however, the behaviors were dangerous. These ways of acting, talking, and dressing also invited young men to look at women as merely forgettable partners in momentary pleasures. The conduct obscured men's view of women as honorable and fellow human beings.

Ashleigh notes that a male friend wrote her the following: "I, perhaps unconsciously, observe women to try and determine how they want to be treated. When I see girls at a party who seemingly have no self-control, I'll admit that it's really tough to visualize them as ladies. It's as if they, solely through their own actions;, have lowered my expectations, lowered my standards of behavior."

Now, one might ask what the young gentleman was doing at a party where the girls were exhibiting a loss of self-control. He might take responsibility for his own standards of behavior and search out friends -- both male and female -- who will inspire him to better things. Perhaps, he is looking for role models in the wrong places.

However, this young man does have a point. If women want to be treated as capable, virtuous, and honorable humans -- rather than as objects -- it makes no sense whatsoever to dress, act, and talk like objects. Licentiousness is freeing to no one -- male or female.

Ashleigh notes that she was so pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere on her sister's choice of campus. Hilldale, she says, is noted for attracting conservative and religious students. After walking around campus and talking to the women there, she realized that her sister was entering a healthier and happier college environment than she, herself, had experienced. The women talked of each other with respect.

Here's a telling comment: "The posters on the walls in my all-female freshman dorm at Tufts offered information about eating disorders, what to do if you think you have been sexually assaulted, and suicide and depression hot lines. The Hillsdale walls that I saw were covered with advertisements for quilting clubs, charity opportunities, and a listing of local churches."

She notes that at Patrick Henry College, where traditional marriage and family roles are emphasized, a large group of girls made a "No gossip pact" to refrain from slandering others. At Wheaton College, girls band together to pray for one another and to support each other in their struggles. In my opinion, it's no coincidence that in atmospheres where healthy values are encouraged, students exhibit healthy values. Of course, there are students at every educational institution who make wise choices and students who make unhealthy choices, so it still comes back to personal responsibility. Even so, our choice of mentors and friends does affect us.

I know from my own experiences as a college student three decades ago, that the seeds of the, "I'm going to be as morally and sexually liberated as any man on campus" were already growing. Alas, I found out the hard way that abandoning God's ways of doing things is liberating to no one. I met many young men and women who should have been enjoying their youth, but who were already wounded and scarred by participating in a party culture. Many were already deeply enslaved to self-destructive behaviors and addictions by the age of twenty. Is that a picture of freedom? I think not.

God gets blamed for many things in our society. It seems that people who know little about Christianity think that God has a double standard in which men are allowed to indulge every whim while women must always be ladies. In truth, God calls both men and women to holy, healthful, faithful, loving, and righteous conduct.

This, in itself, turns many people off, because godly self-control doesn't sound like much fun. Likewise, submission to a higher power doesn't play well in a world where everyone wants to be their own little "god". Yet, I and many others have learned that abandoning God's standards does not ultimately lead to freedom. True freedom is found only within the guidelines set by our Creator, the one who intimately knows and loves us better than we know our own selves.

Do you want to meet a man who treated both men and women with the utmost consideration, a man who elevated rather than demeaned women? As in everything, our Lord is the perfect example. In following Him, we learn how to conduct ourselves and how to love others. Women learn how to be friends and not competitors in self-destruction, and both men and women learn how to interact with respect and consideration.

On a side note: Perhaps, your child will go to college; perhaps not. Either way, at some point in life, he or she will encounter the world and its hollow philosophies. We need to prepare our children to have convictions that do not fold in the face of peer pressure and persecution. We must model for our children what it means to live as salt and light for a troubled world, and we must train our children to be salt and light, as well.

This is a matter that we cannot take for granted. Our children will make their own choices in life, and we are not always responsible for what course they take. However, we do want to set a strong foundation for their faith. Much as we would all like to shelter our children, we won't always be on hand to protect them. We must pass along convictions that will stand them in good stead when their faith is tried. To equip our children properly, we must depend on and trust in the Lord.



Anonymous said...

You quoted: "The posters on the walls in my all-female freshman dorm at Tufts offered information about eating disorders, what to do if you think you have been sexually assaulted, and suicide and depression hot lines. The Hillsdale walls that I saw were covered with advertisements for quilting clubs, charity opportunities, and a listing of local churches."

This is completely true. On my campus these signs are everywhere, even in the bathrooms and hallways. They can't be avoided.

I'm not trying to say personal responsibility doesn't exist, but environmental things (like those posters) take their toll. I've tried to tell girls the "1/4 girls on campus are raped" myth is false, I've tried to explain why I don't like movies where boys are stupid morons trying to get laid, I've tried to encourage my friends to watch movies that have strong godly men but nothing seems to be enough to combat the belief that men are pigs.

A majority of the girls do NOT respect each other. Women are some of the most nasty and brutal people I know on campus. And no matter what happens, the consequences are always blamed on the brutal-male-dominated-patriarchal society.

Sometimes it's difficult to stand my ground, (I've made many mistakes) but I know a few older women who keep my on track and reading blogs like yours keep me in tune with true femininity. :-)

Many blessings,

Lizzy F.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Lizzy,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It's great to hear from someone on campus. I'm so glad you're thinking about these things, rather than drifting along with the crowd.

Hugs to you and prayers for you,

Buffy said...

Good article. Thinking back to my University days in the late 1980s it was an incredibly permissive culture. That is not to say everyone went off the rails because we are all individuals, but after a while there's no doubt that standards slip to some degree. People form physical and emotional relationships and then nearly always get hurt. It's not really working out.

God's Princess said...

This article hits the nail right on the head so to speak, concerning university life. It's such a shame the way that society is going and something has to change!

Unfortunately feminism has played a large part in damaging the moral fabric of society, and I agree with one the commenters on this article that women can be very nasty.

God Bless.... M xx