“Everyone in society should be a role model, not only for their own self-respect, but for respect from others.” – Barry Bonds
Like so many other Americans, I spent last night watching the Super Bowl. My teen-aged daughter had a couple of her gal pals over, and we feasted on pizza, chips and make-your-own sundaes.
I admit that I don’t know a whole lot about football, and the game itself doesn’t interest me much. As a writer with a background in journalism, advertising and public relations, I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials.
This year, I was pretty disappointed.
My daughter and her pals use the word “awkward” for most any situation. So when the Calvin Klein, scantily clad male-model underwear commercial aired, in a room with impressionable young ladies, let’s say I felt, um, awkward.
Dismissing the commercial as inappropriate, I reminded the girls that, like female models, this guy didn’t represent real guys. And most men don’t do interpretive dance in their skivvies (I think!). I mean, they may slide across the floor like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business,” but not like in this commercial. And Tom did have a shirt on, too, didn’t he?
Of course, these types of commercials are prevalent. Airbrushed men and women grace our big-screen TVs and magazine pages, and make us average Joes look like the Stay-Puf Marshmallow Man. I think I am dating myself.
When Beyoncé took to center stage for the half-time show, let’s say at that point “awkward” was an understatement. I thought that I should run and stand in front of the TV, blocking the girls’ view, not caring about being labeled the old-fashioned, non-cool mom. But I didn’t. Instead, I took the opportunity as a teaching moment; to say that the attire these gals were wearing for the entire world to see was, in my opinion, entirely inappropriate. And because of what they wore, they sold themselves short. Basically, their talent came in second to their costumes, and that is sad.
Oh, I am a fuddy-dud. But please, hear me out.
Sex sells. That has been proven over and over again. But in our culture, we are selling ourselves out. We are getting to the point that we are being de-sensitized. Does that matter? In a word, yes! Well, why?
Just as with violence, we keep pushing sexual images on everyone. Young, impressionable kids are told by our attitudes that “sex is bad; sex is dirty,” and then they see images on TV and in magazines showing big boobs, tight butts, trim bellies and more. They are so used to seeing these images, that there is a need to show more and more skin to make messages and shows more effective and enticing. And shocking.
Sadly, the more skin they see, the less they find it shocking. Our young ladies are basically encouraged to dress provocatively to get attention, because that is the message they are sent. So, any talents or skills they have are second in line to how much skin they bare. And it is spilling over to the guy’s side now, too.
When we, as a culture, de-sensitize sex, at what point do those lines blur into increased incidents of sexual harassment, assault, rape and other crimes?
I remember back when I was about 18 or 19 years-old, and I was heading out the door to meet my friends. I had on a brand-new, tight-fitting skirt, with a very long slit. It showed plenty of thigh.
My dad stopped me at the door.
“You’re not wearing that out of this house,” he hollered.
“What?” I responded, shocked and stunned. I mean, come on, Dad, I’m a legal adult!
“That sends the wrong message,” he yelled.
“What are you talking about?” I yelled back.
“That slit will be sewn up. You are not walking out the door in that thing. End of discussion.”
And he walked away.
Stunned, I went back into my room, changed, and muttered about getting my own place and wearing what I wanted. A few days later, when cooler heads prevailed, my mom sewed the slit to an approved length.
I am really sorry I never thanked my dad for that valuable lesson. Though he didn’t use these exact words, by his actions, he was showing his concern; that he wanted me to respect myself enough to not sell myself short. If some young man wanted me, then he should want me for who I was; the whole package – not just the thighs.
I bet if I post a racy photo on my blog today, it will generate a whole lot more hits than by just posting my words. But that’s okay. I am not going to cheapen myself. No Dad, I am glad I listened. I wish you were here for me to say thanks. Whatever I do in the world will be done to God’s glory, via the talent He’s given me, not by selling myself short.
So there it is – my a-ha moment. After all these years, it hit me last night while giggling with the gals and eating ice cream smothered in chocolate, caramel and whipping cream: If a product or a person needs to be sexualized in order to sell, then you know what? It isn’t worth my money or time.
An a-ha moment I plan to share with my kids. And their friends.
What do you think? Am I old-fashioned or onto something here? Let me know in the comments section.
© 2013 – Lynne Cobb