Fallen Angels? Christians and the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show
Yet whether we designate certain women as "Angels" or as "Proverbs 31 women," we almost self-consciously label them as abstractions, not real women.
The 2013 Fashion Show seems like a good time to readdress why Christian subculture latches onto binaries like the Victoria's Secret model versus the Proverbs 31 woman. Truthfully, I think this tagline exposes our habit of turning female virtue and vice into symbols in opposition. After all, how different is Live31's binary from Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly in Proverbs 9? And how often are these literary abstractions used as prescriptive rules for female behavior in church teaching?
In contrast, we find no male abstractions as popular as Dame Folly, Lady Wisdom, or the Proverbs 31 woman in the rest of Scripture, no oft-recited proverb about the "virtuous husband." Although the "fool" and "wise man" of Proverbs are certainly important archetypes in Scripture, they are not as prevalent in today's Christianity as the more popular feminine literary archetypes.
This inclination to group women into binary categories exists in our culture at large, with "the lily and the rose" or "the virgin and the whore." Christianity has reference points in the Bible for these cultural archetypes, but they are easily abused.
Because of this, I now understand why it's so easy to judge the Victoria's Secret model: in our Christian imagination, she fits the bill of Dame Folly. It's easy to cast a Victoria's Secret model as the foil to Lady Wisdom, but when we do this we view the woman through the lens of a literary construct and not through the eyes of God.
Kylie Bissuti recently published I'm No Angel: From Victoria's Secret Model to Role Model, a spiritual memoir that highlights her less-than-savory experience in the modeling industry and her decision to quit modeling to become, in her words, a Proverbs 31 wife.
Although I believe in the earnestness of Kylie Bissuti's story, I cannot help but wonder if Christians latch onto I'm No Angel because it shows a woman "appropriately" relinquishing her abstract sexual power as an Angel for the sake of being a Proverbs 31 wife.
At the end of the day, though, aren't we just trading one abstraction for another? Isn't it time we move beyond using abstractions as our primary tool for discussing female virtue and vice? Scripture contains so many paradigms for understanding the Kingdom-oriented life for both men and women, not the least of which is the example of Christ himself. We diminish the rich complexity of the Bible when we amplify the few literary constructs that are easiest for us to categorize, teach, or promote, rather than a more realistic, nuanced view of our pursuit of God amid our own struggle with sin.
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