Objectification

The other day an image came up on my newsfeed that struck me as wrong, yet I was not sure why. It was a picture of Kim Kardashian, and the headline was something like, “Kim K studies for the Bar Exam in a String Bikini”. I wasn’t bothered by the picture – that kind of thing is everywhere – and I wasn’t surprised by the headline – she is, in spite of what many people think, a very smart woman. It is obvious that she chose to be photographed in that way. And we know that Kim K, who is famous for being famous, and her entire family, thrive on public promotion.

The article (which I read for the content, not the pictures 😊) went on to say that her mission is to help children as a legal advocate, and I respect that immensely. I wonder, though, if Kim thought this way of promoting herself out fully. At a time when women continue to have to fight the cultural belittling of their intelligence and the objectification of their bodies, wouldn’t it have been great if, instead of using her prodigious curves she had worn a power suit? Does this kind of gratuitous self-promotion help girls feel empowered, or does it teach them that they still have to flaunt their bodies to make it in the world? I am not saying that women should not dress in ways that make them look and feel good – men either – but the message being sent here seems less than productive.

Again, I am not in any way saying she should dress in a certain way; what people wear is their choice. I guess what bothers me is that famous people, like it or not, are role models. It may be unfair, but part of what cranks their tractor is the adulation they receive from their fans. They make a lot of money and are known around the world, and they have a tremendous opportunity to make an impact, for good or for bad. When Kamala Harris was elected as Vice President, girls of color all over the world saw someone like them in a place of power, and these girls talked about it with great enthusiasm. When an elementary-age boy has a male teacher, he can see himself doing the same thing. Objectification maintains hurtful stereotypes, and diminishes the true value of the person. Kim K in a power suit would show girls that what they look like doesn’t matter as much as who they are on the inside. I think she missed a great opportunity, and I think this happens a lot.

We are all role models, like it or not. While we should be allowed to live our lives authentically – we have free will, after all, we also need to acknowledge that people – especially children – learn from what we do more, or as much, than by what we say. We don’t have to be something we aren’t, but we also have to accept our responsibility. The Apostle Paul chose not to eat meat offered to religious idols out of concern for new followers of Jesus who might think those idols were real. He made a conscious choice to give up something he enjoyed for the sake of others. His is a good model to follow, because what we do matters – not just to God, but to others.

Prayer – Holy God, help us to consider the impact we have on the people we meet, and guide us in ways that impact them for the good. Amen.

Today’s picture is Kim Kardashian in a power suit.

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