Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dysfunction Junction: What does your body mean to you?

My days are filled with caring for little bodies....
Hugging bodies,
bathing bodies,
feeding bodies,
lifting bodies,
tucking bodies into bed.

I spend lots of time teaching the care of these bodies...
Did you brush your teeth?
Don't pick your nose.
Eat your dinner.
Did you wipe?

I love these little bodies that are in my care more than I can speak of.
Nothing compares to a snuggle on the couch when we all get home,
or that big hug at first sight,
or the kiss before bed.


And yet- in our culture, and in our religious traditions we have this schizophrenic relationship with these bodies of ours.

Today in class (Sexuality and Ministerial Practice) we watched a presentation called Killing Us Softly 4 (

We were bombarded with images that we are all familiar with- images that objectify, sexualize, and dehumanize women.

We saw advertisements for things such as deodorant, jeans, beer, cars, hair gel, and fast-food- that time after time that represent women as purely sexual objects, or as meant to be submissive and voiceless (while still being sexy of course). Violence against women was repeatedly used to sell products. The images told us we need to slim down to a size 00 or less-- but if we can't, then surely cookies or a Carl's Junior burger will comfort us.

We seem to have two choices: Run from this world- escape these bodies of ours and dream of the sweet by and by...

Or whore our bodies out to the highest bidder.

There is no in-between.

How have our religious teachings not only been complicit, but been an accessory to this atrocious way of seeing our bodies?

Perhaps too often women are seen as either the 'Virgin Mary' or the 'trouble-maker Eve'?

Or, maybe our bodies are seen as something of no value. Something that will be left behind?


I wonder- how can we embrace our own physical 'created-ness'? We were after all created in the image of God- as good- right?

How can we reclaim healthy physical relationships- enjoy and appreciate our own sexuality (and the sexuality of others) as a gift from God- not something to be objectified and used a a marketing scam- but something to be embraced and enjoyed?

How can we develop a healthy self-image and relationship with our body? Perhaps one that inspires us to care for this physical gift from God through feeding it healthy foods, exercise, sleep- while also letting go of cultural ideas of 'perfection'?


Honestly, most important for me today-
as I snuggle my sweet children on the comfy couch,
as I feel my skin next to their skin,

I long to protect these bodies. I long for them to love their own bodies. I hope that they will see their body as a gift from God- I hope they will respect their body- and the bodies of others. I hope they will one day experience the full joy that living in a body brings...

But really- my gut inclination is to build a giant bubble in the back yard and keep them in it until they are 30 or so... That would work. Don't you think?....

ps- props to Anderson Cooper on CNN who tonight while I was writing this ran a bit about a ridiculous t-shirt JCPenny just pulled after the outrage it generated- check out the story...


  1. Excellent insights, as usual. As our sons have aged, 11 and 14 now, I've been grateful that we don't have a daughter to help navigate through the many sexual dysfunctions of our culture. But reading this I realize the heavy lifting of parenting is no less with sons, i.e., we have to make sure they have a healthy perspective on sex and don't fall into the the easy and ubiquitous traps laid by marketers and pornographers. ... Good stuff. Thanks.


    Speaking of which, your blog reminded me of another, a HuffPost piece I wrote long ago critical of the easy access our kids have to porn and how this could (mis)shape their understanding of sex. Look at the comments. Some readers were outraged that I wanted to do something, anything to filter out this stuff and keep it arms-length removed from formative young minds.