Eugene Cho

The dangers of being a woman, media, and our complicity.

I know folks use the phrase “must watch” video very loosely

but umm…

This is a must watch video.

Yes, it’s 8 minutes long (for RSS readers, click here), but it’ll likely be some of the best used 8 minutes of this month. I’ll refrain from saying the best used 8 minutes of your life (and it’s only a trailer) because that would be sad if watching a video is the highlight of your life.

The video, entitled Miss Representation, is about the gender inequity in this country – shaped largely by the media. The point is very simple:

It is dangerous to be a woman in our society.

Or to put it more bluntly from my male perspective: I thank God that I am a man and not a woman. 

Regarding the media, it’s easy to vilify the media (and because they deserve it!)  but when we’re such easy consumers and mindless pushovers, we need to really do a deep self-examination. For example:

Americans watch an average 31 hours of TV in a week, listen to 17 hours of music, and have 3 hours dedicated to movies =

an average of 10.45 hours a day of media influence

We have to self-monitor ourselves because let’s be honest, the media (in all of its forms) aren’t particularly invested in the development and beauty of our human souls. Granted, they have an agenda, too, and it’s not “spiritual formation.” I’m often reminded of this quote (granted from a larger context) from Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney:

“We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make a statement. We are here to make money.”

Boom.

If you didn’t know, now you know…

As I’ve contended before on my blog, the treatment of women is the oldest injustice in human history. It’s so old and so taken for granted, that we don’t quite understand what’s at stake – not just for women, but really, for all of us. In more nuanced and simultaneously graphic ways, women are objects to be objectified and marketed and packaged for consumption. And these messages start early and often in human development and identity.

“Girls are taught at a every young age their worth is dependent on what they look like. Their body and not their mind.”

Couple years ago, one of my daughters was celebrating her 8th birthday and had about 9 of her friends from school at a sleepover party. While they watched movies, talked, laughed, and played games, I tried my best not to interfere but on one occasion, I slowly walked down the stairs to the basement where they were playing and was absolutely heartbroken over their conversation.

These 8 and 9-year-old girls were going around and sharing with each other…how much weight they wanted to lose.

Yes, you read that correctly:

…how much weight they should lose.

According to the video:

78% of girls hate their bodies by the age of 15. 65% have an eating disorder. 17% cut themselves, and the number of cosmetic surgeries quadrupled on women ages 17 from 1997 and 2007 and have increased six fold since.

So, please watch the video.

Share the video – especially with our sons and daughters.

And let’s work towards creating a more beautiful world where our identities are not rooted in warped and twisted perspective of objectification, consumption, and distorted power.

This is why the Gospel of Christ is so powerful and important.

Jesus’ death not only reconciles sin but his life reveals the true reflection and way of the Kingdom. The apostle Paul captures this vision of the Kingdom so compellingly in Galatians 3:28 when he subverts the dominant worldview through the lens of the Kingdom:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Such powerful words. Such beautiful vision of what God intended and promises to restore. And so with that vision and path in mind, may we all work together to create a more just world where we can honor and celebrate the unique ways in way God created us rather that using our differences to manipulate, exploit, and rule over.

Here’s the video. Enjoy or better yet: Get Angry…

And make sure to watch this, too. It’s probably one of the most informative 5 minute videos I’ve seen about the dehumanization of women.

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45 Responses

  1. Jon says:

    Thought this was really cool:

    “We’re creating new leaders and they’re going to not look like how they always did – an older white male. They’re gonna look like a woman and they’re gonna look like people of color – and that is the true reflection of this country and of this world.”

  2. JM Smith says:

    Anyone else find it ridiculously ironic that Rosario Dawson was one of the voices in this clip?? She’s one of the most sex-ed up actresses in Hollywood…going all the way back to when she was a teenager in “Kids”. In fact, I can’t think of a role she’s played that’s NOT been an oversexed eye-candy role.

    • Maia says:

      She’s definitely not the first actress to come to mind when talking about “sexed up actresses” – um Scarlet Johansson, Megan Fox?? Compared to her peers I think she’s kind of tame… anyways maybe she’s had a change of heart, thats not ironic at all. I think it adds credibility to her message – she’s an actress who could play into that and it sounds like she now sees the problems that creates. Good for her – she’s risking potential roles, her income and her reputation as a “feminist” to speak out about this issue. Shame on you for trying to diminish that. Didn’t you get the point of the video??? That these images teach both men and women what is valuable? Blaming her for buying into that at some point in her life/ career is not helpful at all, would you prefer that to avoid being “ironic” that she continue to perpetuate the sexy actress image?

      • JM Smith says:

        I’d prefer actresses who have made a fortune off of being part of the problem publicly acknowledge the damage they’ve done in the area they are trying to be a spokesperson against. Even a google image search with moderate safesearch on shows that Dawson is part of the women-as-primarily-sex-objects problem that the video is attempting to speak out against (how much more her hyper sexualized romps on screen, such as in “Alexander”).

        If she’s suddenly seen the light, great. That’s a good thing. But when you’ve done sex scenes on film and made millions as a result, you don’t get to lecture people on the problem of the portrayal of women in Hollywood and not get criticized for it, IMO.

        Interestingly, both Johansson and Fox haven’t done gratuitous nude scenes…Dawson has. Why shouldn’t that raise eyebrows from consistent feminists?

        • Maia says:

          If you ask a high school or middle school kid who Rosario Dawson is I doubt you’d get the same recognition when asking about Megan Fox.

          Worst-sexy-actress debate aside, I empathize with the fact that it must be pretty hard for Dawson to be a consistent feminist when you fit into the idealized version of what a woman should look and act like in Hollywood. Here are some of her thoughts on being a woman in Hollywood that highlight how hard it can be: http://feministguidetohollywood.blogspot.com/2011/01/sexism-as-norm-in-hollywood.html.

          It sounds like you are blaming HER rather than the media machine that sells and promotes her image. Further, its frusterating to hear you, a man, who isn’t subject to those standards or the confusing messages of what a woman should or shouldn’t behave like, criticizing a woman who is promoting a message that is already hard enough to get behind.

          Is it possible that you are being a little self-righteous in your consistent feminism?

          • JM Smith says:

            Possibly, Maia. Self-righteousness is hard to identify in ourselves, but easy to see in others.

            But do you not feel that Dawson is equally to blame for capitalizing on her ability to titilate by getting naked on film? If last year’s Playmate of the Year had been featured in the video and I responded the same way, would you be more sympathetic to my view? What about if Megan Fox had been featured?

            If so, then we’re just on very different pages. But if not, why not? Why does Dawson get a pass, but Fox or other women who’ve made a career off selling their sexual imagery not get one?

  3. brad says:

    This story about Topeka decriminalizing domestic violence highlights one of many injustices. An obviously complicated situation that ends with victims being ignored.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/us/topeka-moves-to-decriminalize-domestic-violence.html

  4. symphony says:

    thanks for sharing this! I’ll def check it out. So many problems are linked back with people’s perspective of women :(

  5. i just saw this today, and it’s been on my mind ever since. i cannot wait to screen the whole thing. thank you for spotlighting this film. we still have so far to go.

  6. tami says:

    Thanks for posting, Eugene. Nice to see this posted by a man. Thank you.

  7. Ryan says:

    The video is staggering; there’s knowing it’s a problem, and then there’s seeing it all laid out at once, in perspective, staring you in the face. And it’s even more horrific to say that this is almost as good as things have ever been for women.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      agreed.

      i think we can all agree that there’s a problem. seeing ‘the big picture” and how it impacts everyone – both women and women – makes a big difference.

      it still feels overwhelming but it became much more personal for me after hearing stories from my daughters – over and over again – about how they felt never “enough”.

  8. Janice says:

    Thank you for sharing.

    “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” – John Wesley.

  9. Thanks for this post! I just shared the video on my blog. Just yesterday, I was noticing how many Christian men refer to their “beautiful wife” so-and-so on their Twitter profiles, and had a long, appreciative conversation with my husband for valuing me for what’s inside, and speaking of me that way to other people. I wouldn’t want my husband’s *primary* descriptor of me to be “beautiful”–especially when he’s talking to other people about me! Ick!

    • Eugene Cho says:

      besides the obvious which you mentioned…

      i can’t for the life of me understand it when men talk about their “hot” girlfriend or wife.

      i wonder, “do you really want people ‘looking’ at your gf/wife in that way?”

      • No kidding, right? But maybe they do, if they feel like having a “trophy wife” somehow validates their masculinity, means they succeeded in some way. Women as accessories is NOT a new phenomenon. :-/

      • JM Smith says:

        Eugene, what then do you do with Song of Songs, which contains overt descriptions and praises of physical beauty by both the man and woman to the audience? As you know, it’s quite explicit and quite unapologetic in praising the outward (as well as the inward) beauty and attractiveness of the couple in each other’s eyes.

        It seems that physical beauty, just like wisdom, intelligence and any other personal attribute that people do not possess in equal measure is something that is to be praised and celebrated, but not elevated to supreme status or seen as the totality of a person’s worth (which is what the video seems to get right).

        Isn’t there a danger in overreaction to the point where beauty is denigrated, shunned, or feared as “unspiritual” by Christians? I’ve seen it happen so much here in the Bible belt. Is there a balance we can achieve between fixating on outer appearance on the one hand, and treating it as a sinful handicap to be overcome on the other?

        Interested in your thoughts.

        • That’s interesting–I see the opposite coming from many male Christian leaders. I could cite several infamous examples of pastor’s crowing about their wives sexuality, but will refrain, for the sake of keeping my blood pressure within a normal range. Maybe there’s a place for that sort of sermon, but I, for one, would be seriously offended if my husband took what is sacred and special and broadcasted it to the world. And I think that in our hyper-sexualized society, focusing on other valuable things that women bring to the table is a better idea. Why not talk about your compassionate wife, or your brilliant wife, or your hard-working wife, or your funny wife, instead of your “hot” wife? It just seems like a better idea…

        • Eugene Cho says:

          Good questions and good pushback.

          Honestly, I don’t know what to do with Song of Songs but if I’m honest, there are a few other things in the Scriptures that I’m not quite sure how to exegete in light of that culture and transpose to our culture.

          But one thing I know is that everything seems to be so ‘hyper-sexualized’ that I think the [C]hurch can simply go to bed w/ that worldview.

          I also know that ‘beauty’ is very cultural. We tend to elevate a particular cultural lens of beauty. Those statistics I shared are downright scary, disgusting, and I hope you’d agree with me – unGodly.

          If the pursuit of ‘beauty’ or the elevation of beauty leads our daughters (and sons) to such measures and actions, count me out.

          I agree with you that there is a balance. The pursuit of that balance shouldn’t exclude us from calling out the obvious infringement of that balance and that is over-sexification and pornification of our culture – including our children.

          • JM Smith says:

            Good thoughts, Eugene. I agree with you for the most part. The only reason I mention it is because I had to teach on Song of Songs this past Spring at CharlotteONE and the issue of beauty/attractiveness came up immediately. (If you or your readers are interested in hearing how I preached it, it’s posted at http://jmsmith.org/store/audio/ ).

            As an artist who does mostly portraits, physical beauty is something that has always caught my eye. I think the problem is, like so many other things, the world takes what was originally a pure gift from God and has produced, marketed and elevated a shabby half-truthed version of it. Thus, instead of focusing on being “healthy”, young girls (and boys!) grow up to focus on being “skinny” (and boys grow up longing for huge muscles…because we grew up with He-Man instead of Barbie!). I think the challenge we face is to be found precisely in holding a biblical balance in how we approach beauty.

            Of course what that looks like in practice will vary, depending upon one’s culture and setting…and therein lies the challenge. But I believe it’s a conversation worth having, so I’m thankful for posts like yours. Keep it up brother.

            JM

  10. I just wanted to echo @tami above, and tell you how much I appreciate you, a man, highlighting this issue. Often, when women speak out about these things, we get called a “femi-nazi”, or we’re told we just don’t like it because we are not sexy/pretty, and worse…the type of things that perpetuate the system. The message is much more powerful coming from a man. Thank you!

  11. Thank you for sharing this. Perhaps what’s most disturbing to me, when I reflect on the status as a white woman, is how well I’ve been socialized to believe that I’m no longer a minority voice. Granted, I’m given more of a voice than my sisters of color because of my whiteness (albeit an unfair reality of current culture), but still I am objectified, coerced, and poorly represented in most forms of media.
    I look forward to God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

  12. Patrick says:

    I really liked the video and your blog about this piece. Women are in danger, and it’s not even something new that we didn’t know… but it’s a reality that people just ignore, especially women.

    Women are in danger cause men objectify them, but they have to take some responsibility and not add fuel to the fire by allowing to be objectified. For every woman in this video trying to make a change there are thousands of women doing the exact opposite.

    Check out this video about a women’s football league that started a few years ago. Note: it has nothing to do with celebrating women as athletes.

    Women need to respect themselves and put value in themselves. I’m not saying men are innocent. As a whole men encourage this… but the women have to take responsibility for being a major part of the problem rather than playing the victim and pointing fingers.

    When you point your finger, you got four fingers pointing right back you.

    Blessings,

    “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

    • The hard part is it begins so young that it’s really difficult for girls to filter the messages they’re receiving about themselves. Of course, women need to respect themselves and not agree with their own objectification. Of course. But keep in mind, we’ve got three-year-olds being slathered in make-up and put on display. If a child is consistently valued for being “cute” or “pretty,” and is taunted for raising her hand in class or standing up for herself on the schoolbus, how is she going to learn to respect herself, to value herself for anything but what those around her value her for? At what age does a female become responsible for developing and guarding her own healthy self-image?

      We’re not just talking about a bunch of silly college girls with lax morals–we’re talking about a social phenomenon that starts in the cradle. I was talking a while back with a couple brilliant, gifted young women about the ballooning rates of anorexia on Christian college campuses–NOT cool. :-( Shucking off the messages we absorb as young children is easier said than done, and we can’t expect people to do it successfully without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive work of Christ in their life. Grace and encouragement, an affirmation of their other wonderful qualities, will go a lot further toward healing the woundedness of a woman’s soul than telling her to cover up and have some self-respect. Because trust me–women don’t usually objectify themselves for fun, no matter how brightly they’re smiling. Jesus’ gentle treatment of “sinful women” is instructive.

      Sorry–that was super-long! Hot topic for me, I guess!

      • Patrick says:

        That’s alright Jenny Rae don’t apologize for sharing =) I’m honored that you took the time to respond =)

        My previous comment is only tip of the iceberg, as is the original article which is designed to get people to ask the question: Why do we act this way? Why are women Objectified? Why are women undervalued? etc.

        I think if you take some time and ask enough why questions you will eventually get to the root of the problem. And it all starts with how we value our families.

        The value of family is almost non-existent these days. When at home everyone is on the internet or on their cell phones or watching TV rather than spending time with their family and eating dinner with loved ones. In fact, hanging out with family is now viewed as a chore to most kids, and they can’t wait to be excused to go back to their computer games or phone calls.

        And that’s for the 50% of the families that aren’t divorced. The divorced kids get even less parenting growing up in a broken home.

        Everything starts at home. If people don’t love and respect their marriage and their kids then nothing will change. A little girl learns to respect herself because she sees how her father and brother treat her. A young boy learns to respect women because of the way his mom thought him how to treat women. etc.

        I guarantee you that Pastor Eugene had a quick talk with his daughter after he overheard her talking about weight loss at the age of 9. You know why I know he did? Because he values his daughter and will spend as much time as needed to help her filter out all the junk that media has fed her up until now.

        We have 10% unemployment and people are freaking out… but no one is freaking out over 50% divorce rate in this country.

        If fathers and mothers start to take parenting seriously in this country, then all the examples you brought up will be null and void. Because a three year old doesn’t put on 10 lbs of make-up on her face without her mother standing there helping her put it on… and a 9 year old doesn’t become anorexic if her father took some time to be a parent.

        Of course, I am only generalizing. I’m sure you can come up with many individual cases that had great parents and they still fell in through the cracks, but if we ignore the few cases you’ll see the root of the problem lies right there in our own homes.

        Parents need to get involved in their children’s lives, and that starts with not getting divorced. =)
        But if you go further and ask the why question again and say: Why do people divorce? Then you’d be really digging in deep to real root of the problem… which is lack of morality of our nation, and most importantly lack of God. But I won’t go there cause I’m planning on keeping this short hahaha (I really did plan to originally)

        We can change this work in one generation. One man took his entire one year salary and donated it to world of poverty and started a chain reaction of getting people to dig in and make a difference. That man is the writer of this blog Eugene Cho and his non-profit is called One Day’s Wages (I’m 90% sure you already knew that)

        I’m bring him up because he is right. We can be the change that we want to see in this world. And we don’t have to do something big or extraordinary… we can start by doing something small, and if a billion of us all do it together… than we’ll be an unstoppable force.

        If everyone took care of their families than we won’t need to go after the media… media would become irrelevant.

        Blessings,

        P.S. This really was long… I apologize in advance =/

        • Patrick says:

          P.P.S. Check out this video below about a dedicated father who goes above and beyond for his son.

          http://hopefaithlove.us/ultimateinspiration/

          It’s very inspirational but in reality it really shouldn’t be because he didn’t do it for a neighbor, a stranger, or an enemy… he did it for his son. This should be the norm in every family for every father.

          We all need to get to where this guy is… We all need to love our children even when its inconvenient and we’re busy.

          We can’t even get to loving our neighbor and loving our enemies if we can’t even love our own families.

          Blessings =)

        • And THAT’S why I’m glad I had parents who affirmed me primarily for character. :-)

          Still, it takes a whole lot of parenting to outweigh the negative influences of the society around you, and even that isn’t always enough. As you mentioned, it all boils down to surrendering ourselves to God, valuing the things he values, and giving free reign to the Holy Spirit to mold our hearts and enable us to live the way God wants us to live.

          It’s all fine and good to say we should do this, we shouldn’t do that, but it’s not something we can do on our own steam (and even if we could, it wouldn’t be the same). Ultimately this is one of those areas where we just need to plead with God to pour out his wisdom, healing, and strength, and empower us to address the carnage we are living in in a Christ-like manner.

  13. BenStan says:

    So. . .what do we do? Regardless of who’s fault it is, how do we make it better (my influence on “clout” positions in telecommunications is fairly limited). If in fact, the media is not responding to consumer demands, but creating consumer demand, how do we respond?

  14. Patrick says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thank you for your response… please read my reply to Jenny Rae’s comment above to see if that answers you question.

    Thank you and God Bless

  15. Bianca says:

    Thank you for being an advocate for women… inside and outside of church walls.
    :)

  16. Helen says:

    Finally had the chance to watch this, been on my radar all week. The sad thing is that none of this is at all surprising. The challenging thing is, how do we change it? Along the lines of what Andy Crouch writes, the best way to change culture is to make more of it; we need to encourage more women to participate in culture-making careers and opportunities so that little by little, change does occur. But it definitely won’t happen without the support of men who get the issue–so thank you, Eugene, for being one of those men!

  17. [...] with my own. I like a lot of what he has to say, particularly on the treatment of women in society. This post is a provocative, thoughtful piece on the Dangers of being a woman in our society. It also has [...]

  18. [...] with my own. I like a lot of what he has to say, particularly on the treatment of women in society. This post is a provocative, thoughtful piece on the Dangers of being a woman in our society. It also has [...]

  19. Pat W. says:

    I just saw the movie and I thought it was great. However, please check your sources. As much as I liked this movie, I also realize that sometimes media behaves just like the media they condemn in order to get a point across, rather than just tell the truth (which is all that is really needed). That quote may be attributed to Don Simpson, not Michael Eisner.

  20. bernadeth says:

    We need to remind ourselves that God created us in His image and likeness. He formed us from our mother’s womb. God carefully designed, fashionably created, wonderfully uniquely gave us the look,His image and His likeness. True beauty is inside then out…

  21. Ken Stoll says:

    did read big endorsement by our First Lady on Beyonce’s performance yesterday… as the father of 19 and 23 year old girls I have a big problem with her doing that. We could start with our leaders addressing this problem rather than contributing to it.

  22. [...] Eugene Cho’s piece is more than a year old, but surfaced this week in a friend’s feed, and includes a video that is still worth watching. [...]

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What a joy to celebrate Dr. John Perkins' legacy this week. Like many others, he has been a deep inspiration to me. 
When I finished the first draft of my upcoming book, OVERRATED, he was one of the first folks I showed it too. 
He wrote back with the following endorsement: "We are called to give ourselves to our generation, and Pastor Eugene's work here in OVERRATED is exactly that. This deeply personal narrative takes readers on a lived journey of wrestling through the realities of being a justice fighter today. I've given my fifty plus years to this fight, and his story is my story. I believe it may be yours as well. I encourage all believers to read OVERRATED. It lays a course for how we must proceed as humble but faithful justice leaders in an unjust world." Needless to say, I'm humbled by his endorsement and words of encouragement. It was painful to complete (and I'm still working on final edits)...but I CAN'T wait to share the book in September when it releases. Wow. Blessed are the artists that help others reimagine the Gospel. #HeIsRisen #questchurch Amazing Resurrection celebration service. Especially love celebrating Communion every Sunday. Today, hosted a super Feast with bread from many different countries. #HeIsRisen Don't rush too soon to the empty tomb. Reflect on the cross. Thank you, Jesus, for your life & love. Thank you, Jesus, for you have redeemed this day of injustice and violence to be "good." You are truly the Light of the world. #GoodFriday Layover. San Francisco. Having grown up here, my heart still flutters. No other city like it. A quick, busy, & meaningful 26 hrs in Wash DC but managed to go for an hour walk for this view.

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