This article right here sums up exactly what I’ve been trying to say and have been butchering over the course of my blog.
Dianna Anderson sums it up nicely in her critique of the Proverbs 31 culture. I had forgotten the proper term (“male gaze”). Thankfully, she didn’t, and she defines it for us.
Although I’ve touched lightly on it, I haven’t hit it quite as bluntly as she did. In case you don’t have the patience to read Anderson’s blog post (or this Wikipedia entry or this TV Tropes page), let me sum up. Male gaze has to do with the idea that women, in the media, are seen via the way men react to them. In other words, it’s not about her real self, but about her as perceived by and evaluated by men.
And now the pieces fit together. This is why so much of purity education is directed toward women. This is why there is still so much shame attached to premarital sex when it comes to women. This is why we have metaphors about kitchen appliances. When understood in this light, is it any wonder why so many men are confused about female sexuality and seem unaware that they have any apart from their men?
In her blog post, Anderson offers this:
Whether a Proverbs 31 woman or a Victoria’s Secret Model, it still comes down to the male gaze. It’s even more problematic that the campaign is phrased in a way that interjects the male gaze back into the conversation –“I’d rather have…” rather than, “I’d rather be…”. This, of course, makes sense as the campaign was started by a man.
Yes, exactly. Instead of thinking about what kind of men they could be, they’re figuring out what kind of woman they want her to be. Be yourself, figure out what God wants for you and through you. Then you can discover the kind of person you want to be with who balances you.
But what makes the campaign connect with people is also that which gives it the most problems. Regardless of which category you fall into – let’s lift the veil and call it what it is: The Virgin or the Whore – it is still something inspired by how one is perceived by the other gender. This is something I see reflected in the Christian singles culture over and over. The focus of the campaign especially is on Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceitful and beauty soon fades but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Praised by whom? Why, men, of course! And this is the fundamental problem: Regardless of whether or not you’re living as the virgin or the whore, if you’re doing it because you think it will be more attractive to the opposite sex, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
And again, she nails it. Life, for women, isn’t about being either of those ideals (physical or spiritual perfection) in order to land a man. It’s about listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit and following the plan God has for our lives.