Lamenting My Prejudice Against Beautiful Women
In the fast-paced Christian journalism industry in Carol Stream, Illinois, the workaday world is a man's world. At Christianity Today, most of my fellow editors are men, and at the conferences I attend in a given year, I am in the gender minority.
But at that conference last month? All women. Sixty of them. Feminine women, with dresses and heels and references to each other as "girls." I was terrified.
In just a couple generations, women have attained more positions of leadership and influence than ever before. According to Hanna Rosin's The End of Men, in 2009, for the first time in U.S. history, they held about half of the nation's jobs—and not just as waitresses and stewardesses. Today, women hold 51 percent of all managerial/professional jobs, up from 26 percent in 1980. Over 60 percent of accountants are women; 45 percent of law firm associates are as well. The number of female breadwinners is growing, and the number of women pursuing higher education outpaces men.
Yet at just the time when more women invest in their workplaces and positions of ministry with gusto, a powerful visual culture continues to root them in a timeless myth about themselves: They are how they look.
We all know the culprits: Cosmo and Vogue, pornography, Miss America, the music industry (thanks, Sinead), and the marketers peddling anti-aging creams and Botox injections and a multitude of other products that play to our collective fear of gaining weight and getting old.
The culturally savvy among us can analyze these troubling forces to death, and the Christians among us cling to the belief that our eternal beauty is inward (1 Pet. 3:3–4). Still, on a gut level many women want to be physically beautiful, if not to attract men, then at least to keep apace other women.
At the conference last month, held at an immaculate day spa in the Texas Hill Country, I was surrounded by women who hit all the contemporary markers of beauty. The majority of them were thin and tall, with long hair, masterpiece makeup, and trendy clothing, much of which was provided by a personal styling service. Our conference swag bags included makeup samples and a jewelry catalog. And the bag itself? A gorgeous fair trade orange-and-blue purse hand-sewn by a Rwandan woman named Ucumyo. While I had packed my most fashion-forward clothing (highlighting that I too value physical beauty), I felt drab and boring, like I had shown up at the prom wearing sweats and a scrunchie.
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