“What better way is there to celebrate my son’s 4th birthday than to write a blog post about the objectification of women in a post-feminist society?” I thought. It’s the cry of every mother’s heart, naturally! Happy Birthday, Ezra.
I grew up to the sound of The Backstreet Boys singing “As long as you love me.” Even Brit Pop bad boys like Jarvis Cocker were singing about their childhood sweethearts “I used to walk you home sometimes but it meant nothing to you.”
Let’s not be naïve. Our children live in a different world. We thought Sisqo’s Thong Song was controversial in the ‘90’s. The women from that video will be turning their blushing faces away from the Blurred Lines video now.
I have two very young sons. Here is a conversation I do not want to have with either of them in a few years’ time.
Mum, I want to be a CEO when I’m older.
Well I’m sure you can be whatever you want to be, darling.
Yeah I want to be rich, because when you’re rich you can do what you like.
That’s not true!
But Mum, the girls at school all love Christian Grey and he gets to do loads of horrible stuff to girls because he’s rich.
No, even if you’re rich you must still respect women. That film is unrealistic and immoral.
Oh. But the kids at school don’t seem to think that. Are you sure?
Yes I’m sure. Mistreating women is wrong, it’s not godly and besides it can get you into lots of trouble too.
OK but what about if I become a footballer? Then can I do what I want?
No! Of course not! Why would you think that?
Because my mate said that his team’s top goal-scorer once raped someone and now he earns loads of money playing football.
Well, that’s true but he went to prison for that. Rape is a terrible crime.
But now everyone loves him and he gets paid loads of money. And he said he did nothing wrong.
Well, yes that’s true but rape is still really, truly terrible. Why would you want to use women like that? Women are precious.
But sometimes women ask for it, don’t they? That’s what songs on Youtube say. Maybe I’ll become a musician because they get lots of sexy girls to dance with them and do whatever they want.
No, that’s not always true and that’s not a good reason to become a musician.. Also, there’s a lot more to women than how they look.
Of course! How can you not know that?
Well the girls on TV and on the sides of buses and bus stops and the big pictures of girls in the shops, they all look amazing. Isn’t that why they’re in the pictures?
Yes they do but those pictures are changed to make those women look better.
Because they need to look amazing?
Well, no, they don’t need to but I suppose advertisers think it’s better if they do.
So what else is there about women? I don’t want to marry an angry, ugly woman who complains about everything. I want to marry a gorgeous woman who wears what looks good and does what I want and who’d do anything for me.
No, no, no. When you find the right woman for you, you treat her with respect, you love her and when the time is right you ask her to marry you and commit to her for better, for worse, for the rest of you lives.
Oh yeah, put a ring on it you mean?
No, not “on it”, you ask her to do you the honour of marrying you. Women are not objects!
OK Mum, I think times have changed since you were young. We’ve progressed.
This is obviously a caricature. But is it so unlikely? Which voices are shouting the loudest to my sons? As a child in the 80s and a 90s teen, the messages I was bombarded with about gender and sexuality were far from ideal, but I was at least taught that women should be respected and valued. The same cannot be said about my own children, growing up today.
I want to make sure I’m teaching my boys God’s view of women today so that in five or ten years’ time we are not having this conversation.
Let’s not assume our children will see that women are valuable by what they learn from films, songs, books, department stores, computer games or even their female peers.
Let’s get talking to our children now, helping them to process what they’re inevitably seeing and learning from the world around them. Don’t be coy, you can’t afford to be.