Visualizations of Adrienne's words.
Trying to educate my children to think critically about what they consume in our overwhelmingly consumerist culture is like howling at the moon and waiting for a response.
We see the billboards slathered in pencil-thin women with massive breasts and buxom, rubber-ball bottoms. Those of us with curves wish we were skinnier. Those of us who are skinny wish we had curves. The pictures we see show us nothing real or natural. The pictures show us how much money we need to spend to fit the current trends being sold to our children, peers, and lovers. The pictures show us what we will NEVER be without ponying up.
During the second world war and the early ad era, curves were evidence of prosperity. Women rued their skinny bodies and forked out money to purchase Marilyn Monroe curves. My friends tell me how "lucky" I am to be "skinny" but being skinny means I will never have those breasts I see jiggling back from every billboard and mall kiosk. Being skinny means I can only have those breasts with surgical help.
"So if you want them, why not just buy them?" one friend asked.
There are many things I want that are for sale. But sometimes the act of purchasing these things robs me of who I am to myself- this little "me", this self I call mine, the integrity that is the only thing I've worked to leave to my kids.
I cannot buy those breasts because my desire for them is a betrayal of myself. I am not a busty female. I am not well-endowed. My curves are not as steep as mountain roads. I am learning to appreciate my hills. In a sense, I cannot buy those breasts because somewhere in that transaction exists the seed of human slavery. Dissatisfaction with self threatens to make a slave of me.
Notice how this ad sets up envy between females? Creates it as backdrop?
I am tired of seeing sister placed against sister in this competition to be prettiest. Or coolest. Or most powerful. Or most gifted. Or most successful.
My menstrual cycle is not a sickness that I feel the need to hide from men. It is not a contamination that makes me disgusting. Patriarchy begins with such myths.
I will not perpetuate the need to wear super-short shorts during my period in order to entertain a man while hiking (of all things, hiking!).
I won't pretend to like whiskey or football or hunting to play the cool girl. If I liked football, I would not be ashamed to like it, but I don't care who wins the Iron Bowl. I don't care who plays quarterback.
I DO care when a football star assaults a female and the public gets mad that this is reported because "oh my gosh this will ruin his career." A person who assaults others should not be surprised if his/her career is ruined. That's how we learn and grow up.
Or stop cruelty to women in the name of animals.
PETA's ads are annoying. Is there no other way to argue for decent treatment of animals than by dehumanizing females? Do her legs have to glow like butter? Does have Celina have to appeal to a personal fetish in order to make the world a better place? Does supporting PETA implicate us in much more insidious consumerist memes?
Do we have to imagine a blow job in conjunction with a burger? Do my kids have to imagine it as well? Do males have to compensate for penis size with sandwich size? Do males need to be told the lie that size matters?
I don't want my husband or son to ever think such things.
Size only matters in porn.
Size only matters when the goal is to punish.
No, no- I'm not done. Does innocence have to be peddled as sex product? Is the all-hallowed aura of virginity what we're peddling here? Who cares if someone is a virgin or not? Nevermind, misogynists and religious fundamentalists care. Does Christ care? I think the Bible is pretty darn clear on that one.
I want Lifeway Stories to stop selling virginity to my kids and then calling it "Christian." I'm tired of the disgusting cruelties and misogynies perpetuated in the name of a God who came to this world to overturn law and tradition and convention as we know it.
This female looks scared. That is scary.
And I'm soooooo tired of ads that paint sex as something "done to" a female. I'm tired of ads that show fear on a woman's face while suggesting sex. I'm tired of those ads because I'm tired of rape.
I'm also tired of bad sex. Why can't sex feel good? Why can't it be awesome, beautiful, intense, sublime, a loss of self, a discovery of another- the closest thing we come to magic in this life?
I love sex. I have always loved sex but never so much as now when it is mine- and my body is something I share with my partner- two bodies joining to create a landscape that exists only for us when we seek it- and differently every time.
In our house, I am as vocal about loving sex as I am about despising nonconsensual sex. I will never tell my kids to wait until they are married. I will never glorify abstinence. Instead, I will tell them to wait for someone who deserves to explore that world with them- wait for someone who is willing to get lost.
The last thought is our responsibility to be honest and truthful. Where sex is concerned, this means I'm going to be honest. I tell my kids:
Although the sex I've had while married has been the best and most intensely mind-blowing, the sex I had before marriage was also pleasurable. It's not about a wedding ring so much as the other party.... and your relationship.
And there is nothing wrong with pleasure as long as your pleasure does not hurt or damage another life. Perhaps you will discover pleasure is too easy and therefore unsatisfying. Perhaps you will discover you want more than pleasure. Perhaps you will develop an appetite for communion. If so, godspeed.
If all the other voices in your culture- all the ads and billboards and peer groups and maskulinities- speak only for consumption, may you find words to hold in opposition. May you find words for the sacred unspeakably beautiful things. And may the truth of these words keep you free.