I became aware of something today that leaves me with the urge to cry and scream. Today I learned that, size six in women’s clothing is now considered a plus size. I have spent the last few years in the happy place of fluctuating between a four and a six. Nothing wrong with that, to be perfectly honest I don’t think there is anything wrong with any size whatsoever. For me this change in regulation (if you can even call it that) makes no difference. I am what I am and nothing is going to change that. But for a lot of people, and you may be one of them, when you read that above sentence your reaction was immediate, you need to drop a size. I am writing this to try to change that reaction. Because when I read that sentence my heart broke for all the girls who are size six and no longer feel good about it. You are more than a number on a pair of pants. You are you, and there is no one better to be than you. Here is a fact, “most runway models meet the body mass index criteria for anorexia.” We want to look like the girls we see in the pictures, but if we try, it could kill us. Here is another little tidbit, “twenty years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23 percent less.” Models are beautiful, and they serve a beautiful purpose. They are art. They themselves are a person, but we don’t know that person. We observe them in photographs where the photos are an art form, the clothes are an art form, and the model herself is an art form. The models are not the average, but they are whom we see the most. Models are there for us to enjoy, not to compare ourselves too. If you compare yourself you will always fall flat, trust me. Comparison steals joy. We all need to learn how to love ourselves. It is an uphill battle, but one worth every struggle. I want every girl to know without a doubt that she is more than a number. The only way I know for that to happen is to open yourself to God’s love and let him fill the gaps in your heart. In my other posts I have used quotes on beauty, they are all lovely, beautiful, and true; but they focus on beauty. Today I want you to think about your self-worth. I want you to think about how valuable you are. You are here on earth, living and breathing. I want you to be able to hold your head up high secure in the knowledge of your God. Because you are more valuable than you can imagine. “You were bought, not with something that ruins like gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ, who was like a pure and perfect lamb.” (1 Pet. 1:18-19) I want you to think about that. I want you to hold it to your heart. I want it to seep into your marrow, so that in time you will be changed, clothed in dignity and God’s love. You are you, and there is no statement that’s is more true than, besides maybe that Lord God your savior loves you.
Dear Jessica Valenti,
Abstinence, as a choice in sexuality, is a commonly misunderstood concept. It is looked upon from only a few angles when in actuality there are so many different angles to see. Each story is its own angle. Each story is different and each story breaks through the boundaries and stereotypes placed up around it. Abstinence in its true form is a choice, a story, and a way of life. Each and every choice is personal, so I can only share with you mine. However, I hope that through this you can see that abstinence is just another choice, in a long list of choices, that girls must choose from when finding their own sexuality. I hope that you will understand that abstinence is not always forced upon us; it is a choice, a similar choice to being sexually active.
In your book Full Frontal Feminism you discuss the messages the world sends young women about sexuality. You say that they all promote “the same idea- that young women can’t make their own decision about sex.” (Full Frontal Feminism 20) The world may send these messages, but not all women listen. There is no better way to say this than the way you did. “Feminism tells you it’s okay to make decisions about your sexuality for yourself. Because when it comes down to it, what’s more powerful and important than being able to do what you want with your body without fear of being shamed or punished?” (Full Frontal Feminism 30) Whether we realize it or not, sexuality is a choice. I don’t believe that there is a “right” or a “wrong” choice when it comes to sexuality, as long as you believe in your choice. It is an individual and personal decision about how to express ones-self.
The choice of sexuality is not simply about religion or any one factor. There are a great number of factors that contribute. A psychological study was done on “Influences on adolescents’ decision to postpone onset of sexual intercourse.” In this study, which was really quite fascinating, researchers looked at eleven factors, including: residence area, school performance, religious feelings, and body pride. The study compared these factors to the number of teens who were sexually active and those who were not. The conclusion of this study states that, “The present analysis shows that influences on adolescent sexual behavior are complex and that contextual factors such as family structure, and area of residency, as well as personal characteristics such as school performance and religiosity play an important role.” I believe that beyond all of these factors, which can push a girl in one direction or another, she still has a choice to make.
Because of the way abstinence is portrayed in our society, many people believe (you may be included in this group) that it is forced upon young girls. Part of this belief stems from the fact that there were “more than 1400 purity balls where young girls pledge their virginity to their fathers at a prom like event in 2006.” (The Purity Myth, 10) However, not all purity pledges come about in this form. The ones that do come from purity balls more often than not are not a meaningful personal choice. They are more like a public announcement made to “fit in” and to please one’s father. I agree that this is an angle of abstinence, however, you cannot let one view shape an entire opinion.
I am a virgin. But more than that, I will be a virgin until I get married. And to clarify my earlier comment I have never once pledged my virginity to anyone but myself. I believe that abstinence is a choice of sexuality. I believe that it is just as empowering as choosing to be sexually active. I also believe that in no way has abstinence been forced upon me.
Let me start by saying that yes, I am religious. I know that I have been influenced by my church and by society. It is impossible to grow up anywhere and not experience this. However, perspective is key. When I say I am religious, I mean that I attend church once a week, I am part of a Christian organization on my college campus, and I am a member of a bible study that meets every Monday. Growing up in the church I was repeatedly told that the bible says “no sex before marriage.” Recently I decided to look into that. As it turns out, that is not exactly true. The words “no sex before marriage,” they aren’t in the bible. The bible makes clear that “sexual immorality” is a sin. The deal breaker, the bible doesn’t clearly define sexual immorality, it’s up to your own interpretation. The passage that is most commonly used to support the ideal of no sex before marriage is 1st Corinthians 7:2, “but since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” 1st Corinthians 7:8-9 continues by saying “now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried as I am. But if they cannot control themselves they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” These passages can be taken so many different ways, but one thing is for sure, they are not telling you that you cannot have sex before marriage. That is only one interpretation. My personal interpretation is that sex before marriage is only a sin when it takes away from your relationship with God. But I also believe that in that case sex can be a sin inside of marriage as well. To state it clearer, I don’t believe that sex before marriage is always wrong. Yet after discovering this (it was quite a shock), my decision remains the same. I am not a virgin simply because that is what my church told me to do.
I would also like to say that in no way has my family pressured me towards my decision. Both of my parents have openly shared that they were not virgins when they married 22 years ago, nor were they virgins when they met. In the process of writing this letter I interviewed my little sister. I asked Lauren (who is almost sixteen) if she believed that sexuality is a choice, her answer was yes. Next I asked her if she chose the sexual choice of abstinence. This was her answer, “no, I am currently a virgin but I have nothing against premarital sex. I wouldn’t just go around sleeping with any guy, but I don’t believe that sex needs to wait for marriage.” Although my sister and I grew up in the same house, and we went to the same church we have different views. If abstinence were forced upon us we would have the same views. Abstinence can be a valid sexual choice in everyway.
In your book The Purity Myth you make reference to being labeled a “slut.” However, this labeling goes both ways. Many girls are bullied for being termed the “slut” I however fit on the opposite side of the scale. I was bullied for being “innocent and naïve.” The preferred term for that, I believe is prude. Peer pressure is a nasty thing. I think we could both agree that the world would be better off with out it. Even though I was being teased I never once changed my mind. And I must say that it is really quite simple to go about changing your status as a virgin. I could have done it, but I didn’t.
In researching for this letter, ie, reading your books, I have come across things that have made me question that my decision was completely my decision. Or rather that it was the best decision for me. I can see all of the arguments and I can see how some of the factors have affected my life. But when I step back, my decision is the same. Nothing has changed.
To me sex is special. I am not saving myself so that I can give myself to my husband. I am not saving myself because it is what the bible tells me to do. I am saving myself, because if sex is truly all it is built up to be, wouldn’t it be all that more special if the first time I made love was to the person I just promised to love for all of eternity and he me? Yes, I believe in God. Yes, I was raised in the church. But I am also a hopeless romantic. I believe that love is magical. For me, there is no other way. Love is magic and my love one day will shine brighter than all the days before it. On that day I will know if I am right, and not a day before. You and I, we are the same. We each made a choice. Our choices just happen to be different. Just like each and every choice made in this world is different. I will never know what it is like to make your choice, and you will never know what my choice is like. But the differences shouldn’t stop us from understanding the other. We both made our choice- and we have stuck to it. Isn’t that what’s important? The freedom to make our own unique choice no matter what that choice is, and that it is accepted?
Love, Forever and Always,
Barker, Kenneth L., and Donald W. Burdick. “First Corinthians.” Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002. Print.
Lammers, C., M. Ireland, M. Resnick, and R. Blum. “Influences on Adolescents’ Decision to Postpone Onset of Sexual Intercourse: a Survival Analysis of Virginity among Youths Aged 13 to 18 Years.” Journal of Adolescent Health 26.1 (2000): 42-48. Print.
Reese, Lauren. “Sexuality.” E-mail interview. 6 Dec. 2011.
Valenti, Jessica. “Feminists Do It Better.” Full Frontal Feminism: a Young Women’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. Emeryville, CA: Seal, 2007. 19-40. Print.
Valenti, Jessica. The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women. Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2010. Print.
As this blogging assignment has been coming to an end I have been looking back at my posts. Through this process I have realized a few things. First off, my purpose has varied. In the beginning I set off to explain how God influences sociological issues. However, as time passed I found it more influential to actually state what was on my mind. Therefore, my purpose become more personal rather than sociological. Secondly, because of this change there has been a small lack in academic research in my paper. I began to discuss what was weighing on my heart and using only the bible as part of my research. The bible is a credible resource, however, it is only one source. The risk of having only one source is that it can remove credibility from my blog. I was willing to take this risk because it was easier to get my emotional and religious views and pains across without excess sources. My words came straight from my heart. To me that raw belief and advice is much more important than the academic credibility. This blog became more to me than just a school assignment. I loved writing this because it became personal and because it could portray what I personally could not. This is simply my heart, my wisdom, and my insecurities poured out in front of everyone who chooses to look. Rhetorically I chose to make this personal yet academic. I wanted it to be a place where women could learn from my mistakes, a place where I could teach and share what I had learned. This was the thought behind every word placed down in each post. My voice grew as I became more confident. In the beginning I was almost hesitant to say what I believe. Now, however, I just write. My heart informs my brain, which tells my fingers what to type. I desperately want to continue this journey. It has affected my faith and my self-understanding in ways that I don’t know I can describe. Thank you for this opportunity. I never would have started this without the push this class gave me. May God’s women be a force to reckoned with.
Love forever and always,
Here is a little fact about me: I LOVE Taylor Swift. She is one of the best role models for teen girls I can think of. This Sunday she is being profiled on 60 Minutes, here is the sneak preview. (Please follow the link to the video… I tried for 2 hours to get it to load on the page, and obviously I was unsuccessful… I apologize for my technological ignorance.)
I think Taylor’s words deserve to be repeated… “I think it is my responsibility to know it and be conscious of it. It would be really easy to say I am twenty-one now, I do what I want you raise your kids. But that’s not the truth of it. The truth of it is that every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation, so make your words count.” Taylor is taking responsibility for what so many of us do not. Granted most of us do not have, over a million people watching our every move, but we never know who could be looking up to us. When I left home for college, my sister’s best friend sent me a letter, thanking me for being someone she could look up too, she said “but really I have always looked up to you so you can check ‘changed someone’s life for the better’ off your bucket list because you have completely changed mine.” I was not aware that she had been looking up too me, but looking back I am now grateful for the decisions I made.
As Christian women, we need to be conscious of our actions for two reasons. First, we need to set a good example for those young girls, or even our friends, who could be looking to us for guidance. Those precious little girls who look at you like you carry all of their dreams; they deserve to see you at your best. Second, we need to be the light of the world. We need to walk the walk not just talk the talk. We are role models for those around us, whether we wish to be or not. We need to take this responsibility to heart and show the world our truth. Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Let your true light shine to those around you. Be conscious of your actions, for you never know who is watching. You never know whose life you could be changing.
Wednesday, at Chapman University, was compliments day. There was a booth set up in the Piazza, and when you walked by they would compliment you. At first I thought this was a fantastic idea, but as time went on I realized that the only compliments given were superficial. I realized that there is a difference between someone telling you that your dress is adorable, and someone noticing that you are kind and considerate. The more I thought about it the clearer it became for me. In this society we focus on outward qualities, not the characteristics that make us who we are. I believe that it is important for us to focus on actions and characteristics. Here is an example of a way to use our actions to complement one another, one morning when I walked into Jamba Juice to order my breakfast the man currently ordering turned around and asked me what I would like. This man bought my breakfast for me. This led to a great conversation, and it was so much more meaningful than when the girl at the booth yelled that she liked my dress.
In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus relates to us God’s greatest commandments. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” An easy way to follow these commandments is to encourage others, but I am encouraging you to do this in a way that does not assert many women’s belief that beauty is all consuming. For me the easiest way to do this is to lend a helping hand. When someone drops something pick it up for them, or buy someone breakfast or coffee. These are great ways to get to know people to, for everyone is your neighbor. Walk around with a smile on your face and do God’s work in a way that can encourage the belief in the self! Compliment your friends on things that matter, point out acts of kindness. Show your support, and wear your love on your sleeve where everyone can see it.
Last week NOW (the National Organization for Women) celebrated the 14th annual Love Your Body Day. Love Your Body Day is “a day when women of all sizes, colors, ages and abilities come together to celebrate self-acceptance and to promote positive body image. Since the launch of Love Your Body Day in 1998, NOW Foundation has used the campaign to challenge the unrealistic beauty standards and gender stereotypes promoted by the media, Hollywood and the fashion, cosmetics and diet industries.” I was introduced to Love Your Body Day when I read Erin Matson’s blog “Love Your Body Day: A Woman’s Body Politic.” In Matson’s post she addresses 13 issues that surround body image, including, diets, advertising, and anorexia. To my great surprise I did not disagree with a single one of the topics she brought up. Because truly, I believe that we all need to learn to love our body. Our body can do some pretty amazing things. When you take the time to sit down and consider your body’s greatness it can astound you. Our skin can sew itself back together… our muscles can stretch and gain strength allowing dancers to do some breathtaking dance moves… and our brains are so magnificent that it is hard to comprehend. We may be uncomfortable in our bodies, but that is because of the world surrounding us. We can step up to be plate by believing that we are masterpieces.
Believe that you are a masterpiece. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God made each and every one of us from his own image. Who are we to say that we are not a masterpiece, our maker loves us for who we are, for who he made us to be. Psalm 139:13-14 states, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I know it is hard to make the insecurities go away, but just remember every time you look down upon God’s greatest creation that you are “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” Happy late Love Your Body Day!