September 16, 2010

Not So Loveable? Sisters aint doin’ it for themselves!

‘What’s your body for? What’s it supposed to look like? Is it for other people to look at and use?...for millions of young women all over the world, these questions are answered by glossy fashion and lifestyle magazines…such magazines are mostly written and produced by women, for women”. #(Faking It Project)
It’s sad to say that the very women who have claimed to uphold feminist rights, who have seemingly championed the cause for ‘girl power’, who purport to stand against the oppression, subjugation and objectification of women are increasingly becoming its perpetrators.
It’s no longer the faceless male dominated marketing industry who continue to do significant damage to the self-image, self-esteem and self-worth of women by the way women have consistently been sexualized and objectified in their advertising. It’s now the women’s magazines, the female advertising executives, the women’s brand marketers who are cashing in on their female counterparts vulnerabilities, using their ‘inside knowledge’ as women to generate dysfunctional and distorted images, not only of what women want’, or even what women ‘need’but more insidiously ‘what women CAN and SHOULD be’.
And the impact, of what should rightly be called ‘sisterly abuse,' extends far beyond the reach of adult women alone. These women’s magazines & female advertising executives have successfully managed to imprison and paralyze a whole generation of young women and teenage girls in the wake of its legacy.
A disturbing truth expressed in this telling comment by one young teenager in Melinda Tankard Reist’s book- Getting Real’:
So I’m not the only teenager who detests her own body? What is it about fashion and beauty advertisements that somehow make me feel fat and ugly?
Why do I feel depressed after reading a girls’ or woman’s magazine that I chose to purchase and read?”
Nowhere has the complicit nature of women’s role in this been made more clear than by the extraordinary response by one female marketing executive to one man’s protest at the recent release by Lovable’  of its lingerie range, underwear supposedly designed for the ‘ordinary woman’.
As you will see, not least disturbing is its claim to support the Butterfly Foundation’an organization who’s stated mission is to change the culture, policy and 
practice in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders’.

A FEW GOOD MEN: A Christian Brother Speaks Out:
Dear Lovable,
I’m a married man (almost 10 years) and father of 3 children (including a 6 year old girl who takes in everything she sees around her). I wanted to write to you today about your current advertising campaign featuring Jennifer Hawkins which, I would strongly suggest to you, runs entirely contrary to your stated claim on yourwebsite  that you are “dedicated to changing the culture surrounding eating disorders and body image … by using happy, healthy models in our campaigns and promotional activities and by continuing to design intimates that are not created to objectify women’s bodies…”
I’ve got to be honest with you. I perceive a complete disconnect between those stated claims and the images of Hawkins that you are using. Specifically you should be aware that use of such images, which portray an almost impossibly “perfect” paradigm of the female body, do damage to three things that I, and I think many other men, hold very dear.
They communicate to my wife that her body is not good enough. By plastering Jennifer’s (no-doubt airbrushed) figure in front of her you’re not giving her something to aspire to but, rather, are telling her with almost sledgehammer subtlety that her body is not what it should be. Let’s be honest, she’s never going to look like Jennifer (which is ok in my book) but does terrible damage to her self-esteem and to that of countless women like her. The irony, of course, is that my wife is actually a beautiful women – its just that the brand values embedded in your images communicate the exact opposite. They hardly “support … the emotional needs of women” – quite the contrary.
They communicate to my daughter the very same message. But more than that, they are very overt in sexualising the issue of underwear. Now, I appreciate that some lingerie is intended for exactly this purpose but that’s not what you yourselves claim for this product line, is it? Rather, you state that you do not intend to “objectify women’s bodies”. Frankly, I have to ask, how does a picture of Jennifer with ice-cream or watermelon juice dripping down her (airbrushed) torso do anything but objectify her? And yet this is the message that you are sending to my daughter and countless other girls growing up in our culture: underwear = sex.
You are communicating to me, and so many other men like me, a completely unrealistic view of women. The images that you use set up a completely false expectation for us and, as a result, do great damage not only to ourselves but also to the women that we love. Sexual intimacy in such relationships is, all the psychologists will tell you, a key component of health and stability and is grounded, not least, in acceptance of one another as we are. But your images drive a wedge right in the middle of such relationships. They make women doubt themselves and, even worse, make men expect something that looks more like Barbie than any real woman. How can this possibly be a positive step towards good body image and related mental wellbeing for either party?
I trust you will take these comments on board as you review your current campaign. I look forward to your response to my specific points.
-The Ould Family-
With kind regards
David Ould

NOT SO LOVABLE: A Female Marketing Executive’s Response:
Dear David and Jacquie
Thank you for contacting us at Lovable. 
In regards to your specific points, 1 and 2:
We take a serious view of the way women are portrayed in the media and in particular in our campaigns. We are very aware of the impact the type of images and messages can have on people. We strive to represent happy, healthy and realistic body images that capture the essence of Lovable’s brand values of being confident and comfortable. We do not deny that the image has been slightly retouched for colour correction purposes, as is done by most advertisers.
We believe that a healthy body on the inside is the most important priority for all women. That includes your wife and daughter’s happiness, their comfort and the pride they take in who they are. We have put this into practice by ensuring that our Lovable range is available in a size range from 8–18 and it remains affordable for all Australian women. We have also purposefully chosen a range of women of different sizes to reflect this on our website, including our maternity models (size 14) and DD cup model (size 12). We will take on board your comments to reflect more body shapes in forthcoming online store activities. 
Point 2
The creative was not developed to offend or to “objectify women’s bodies”, but use Lovable’s cheeky tone of voice to demonstrate the new Colour names for our advertised product via fun Props that remind the viewer of Summer, Lemon sorbet, Blueberry milkshake etc.
This was the intention of the creative agency, the Lovable team and our brand ambassador. Lovable sells products to Women only and hence the advertisement has been placed in shows and Magazines targeting women.
The Campaign has been received well in general by our consumers, but we understand that lingerie advertising does indeed cause issues, whether viewed on Billboards or Television. The Rating that Lovable was given by Commercials Advice Pty Ltd (CAD) commonly used for rating Television commercials was a G Rating. 
Point 3:
Lovable are proud of The Butterfly Foundation‘s fantastic work in eating disorder research, awareness and prevention programs.
During September, 25% of profits from our online store will be donated directly to The Butterfly Foundation. 
Kind regards, 

I would like to uphold and applaud my Christian brother David for his efforts (in fact his correspondence with Lovable continued on after this letter was released).Because the voices of men like David, of men, of fathers, of brothers and uncles is never more necessary to be heard by women, sisters, mothers and daughters than it is right now.
More than they may realize, men (and Christian men in particular) have a necessary and significant role in this fight against the objectification of women and young girls in society today. But sadly it seems, their voice has long since been lost.

Steve Biddulph in his article How girlhood was trashed and what we can do to get it back’, puts it this way:
The important place of men has diminished…fathers, uncles and grandfathers who ideally provided affirmation and thoughtful conversation free of sexual pressure, once made it possible for a girl to see herself as intelligent, interesting, capable, strong and fun to be with, independently of any physical attributes.
Most daughters wait in despair. A generation of adult women carry the wounds of this absence”. *
What men may not realize, is the incredible vacuum this silence creates in the hearts and minds of women, women who rightly or wrongly, are desperately seeking to understand what it is that attracts, pleases and earns the love and respect of men. This gaping hole of clarity and affirmation then becomes abandoned to the prey of willing marketers eagerly clamoring to fill that void with whatever sells.

Again Biddulph hits the nail on the head here:

“If no-one is helping a girl to appreciate her inner qualities, and she is bombarded with images of womanhood based merely on appearance, something unbalanced begins to happen. 

A girl’s sense of herself becomes more and more external, more and more visual. How she appears to others becomes everything”.

I for one am thankful to be part of a Christian community where women know they are valued, loved and respected by their husbands, fathers and brothers in the faith, for who they are in Christ and not by any other standard.

I am also thankful for Christian men like David, men who demonstrate by their words and by their actions what it means to “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (To) be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honoring one another above yourselves” (Rom 12:9-10)

*(For those of you who might like to hear more inspiring thoughts from David Ould, can I highly recommend reading his blog:

Or-why not join Collective shout!

# Selena Ewing: Getting Real: Challenging The Sexualisation of Girls.
Steve Biddulph: ‘How girlhood was trashed and what we can do to get it back’: Getting Real.

September 14, 2010

Complementarity and Team Partnerships (pt5)

This is now the 5th post in my series ‘Complementarity and Partnership. Starting with the initial introductory post , the series then follows a sequence of proposals aimed at exploring how our theology of complementarity may be expressed in teams, with men and women in relationship together in servant ministry.

Here is proposal 4….

Proposal 4: Partnership means, not only ministering together but also training, strategizing and thinking theologically together:

Employing women onto ministry teams is the first step in the process of building true partnership in gospel ministry. Thinking through how that team might then function in a complementarian way (both with men and women on staff teams as well as with lay men and women ministering alongside each other in the church) is where the heart of complementarity begins to take shape, where it is made concrete in our day-to-day relationships.

In previous posts (1 ,2 ,3 and 4 ) we’ve already begun to unpack something of the ‘how’ of complementarity in team partnerships. 

In this post I’d like to propose that true complementary partnership takes place when we intentionally provide women with appropriate avenues to lead, teach & train other women, when we consciously model complementarity throughout the church, and when we encourage and foster opportunities for men and women to engage together in robust theological discussion, ministry practice and mission strategy.

a: Partnership means modeling complementarity throughout the church:

It’s one thing to subscribe to a theology of complementarity, to give token lip service to the belief that men and women ought to partner together in a complementary way, it’s a whole other thing to thoughtfully implement that belief and to carefully consider how that theological conviction translates in the way we develop and deploy our ministry teams.

Whether done formally or informally, it’s imperative that we begin to put our belief into practice, to begin to consciously and purposefully model throughout each layer of church life what it might mean for our team, our church ministries, our marriage’s to be complementarian.

We must begin to actuate and demonstrate what we understand of complementarian partnership. 

Whether that be in the selection of staff leadership positions, the way we allocate oversight of appropriate ministries, through to how we encourage the men and women in our congregations, our bible studies, our pastoral ministries, to serve and minister together in a ‘complementary way,’ that is- together and differently.

Therefore if we want to truly demonstrate the courage of our convictions we need to have thought through the relational and ministry implications of complementarity. We need to model that belief and practice in our leadership teams, and to begin to unpack how these principles are to be modelled and practised in the various contexts of life and ministry in the church.

b: Partnership means training, strategizing, and thinking theologically together:

Sometimes we can expect too little of women theologically or in ministry strategy and methodology (sometimes women expect too little of themselves in this regard too). But lowering the bar of expectation is not only unhelpful but also extremely short sighted. If we’re serious about expanding the mission of the church and growing those who serve in it, then we need to become serious about broadening out those whom we include in our ministry training and our theological equipping.

In this regard it is critical that we include both female staff members and key lay leaders in our think-tanking, our strategizing, and in our theological discussions, even if initially some of the lay women in particular may not have much to say.

Bob Johnson, in his 9Marks article, reflects on the importance of this inclusion this way:
“The ministry of our churches is woefully incomplete without women. 
Our churches need women who love gutsy theology, gritty service, and the rigors of gospel counseling. This is especially so because there are some situations, particularly in ministering to other women, in which women will generally be far more effective than men…
As pastors, we are right to insist on the biblical guidelines that reserve the office of elder for men, and we should therefore be concerned about the character and theological acumen of our men. However, we must also intentionally minister to the women so they can mature and provide gospel help to the body in order to present every man and woman complete in Christ”.
Equally, our female leaders need to be encouraged and challenged to pursue the same practical and personal training and accountability as are men. 
Like the Apostle Paul, and our Lord Jesus before him, genuine ministry partnership meant preparing and equipping men and women for the kind of rigours, realities, disappointments, and heartaches they were likely to face in ministry and mission at the coalface (2Tim 1&2,Jn 15:18-16:4).

-image care of LIFE-

Likewise, as we seek to pursue our Diocesan mission, it’s important to include women leaders in the broader planning of the church and to train them, alongside the men, in the art of mission and church growth strategies. 

This is especially important for the lay women we appoint to leadership. Often we delegate to these women the key responsibilities of leading and teaching the women under their care, and therefore it is our negligence and to their detriment to leave them ill equipped, unguided and unsupported in the task.

c: Partnership means serving together in an attitude of trust and affirmation not micromanagement:

Confidence, affirmation and trust are critical to any workable partnership, and ministry teams are no different. This is especially necessary in women’s ministry where so much of what the woman on team does doesn’t take place on the public platform nor is it often as observable to the men on team.

Bruce Hall in his recent #Briefing article makes this comment: 
“My observation is that women feel confident to work in these sorts of teams because of the displayed confidence in them, even though the Senior Minister may not see what they do in detail. He trusts them to get on with the ministry”.
The lack of readily accessible public awareness and recognition of her role, can mean women staff can sometimes feel less valued in the team task.

Lack of clear role definition can also mean, that rather than being able to vision, grow and self-manage the ministry she’s been given, she becomes vulnerable to that ministry being directed, managed or even micromanaged by each team member she works alongside.  

So, rather than building vision, confidence and competence in her sphere of ministry, as Bruce Hall rightly observes, often the exact opposite can result:  
“The Senior Minister will not be able to control the quality of the ministry by micromanagement...micromanagement is the death of growth, it does not produce unity or quality”.
Research shows that once team members have developed a certain level of competence and confidence, those who are given autonomy and responsibility within their team feel valued and are more willing to take on new challenges and learn new skills. 

Therefore to help team members, both male and female, feel trusted and affirmed in ministry together, and to grow in confidence and competence will require entirely different attitudes, skills and oversight from leaders.

A good team is one in which men and women will not only have opportunities to increase their areas of competence, but are also acknowledged and engaged for the experience and competencies they’ve already mastered. And, this is especially important when women often work long term on teams under the perpetual leadership of others.

d: Partnership means intentionally providing women with appropriate avenues to lead, teach and train other women:

J.Ligon Duncan in the book ‘Women’s Ministry in the Local Church’ lists 5 reasons why it’s imperative that every church has a women’s ministry.

Not the least of these is that such ministries provide appropriate opportunities and avenues in which women are given responsibility to fulfil the Titus 2 mandate to teach, train and disciple other women.
…“such ministries help Christian women appreciate the manifold areas of service that are open to them in the church and to equip them distinctively as women to fulfil their ministry. But this will never happen if our approach to discipleship in the church is androgynous-that is, if it refuses to take into account the gender distinctives of the disciple”.
Whilst we would never affirm that any women’s ministry operate independently of the ethos, mission and integrated ministries of the church (see my previous post), we must never overturn our commitment to engage women to take up their rightful place in God’s purposes.

Ligon:  “It is not sufficient for churches that hold male headship simply to compile a list of things that are permissible for women to do. 
We must go to the Scriptures and determine what is needful for women to do. 
God pronounced gender-aloneness “not good” in the garden. He did not give his benediction of “it is very good” until man and woman stood side by side, equal but different”.

e: Partnership means thinking through staff ministry models:

Lastly, as churches explore the current trend towards restructuring staff teams away from a traditional ‘generalist ministry model’ to that of ‘staff specialization’ model (a trend I support, having worked on the strategic planning team developing just such a model at St Ives) we must make sure that we do so in a way that continues to maintain and promote biblical complementarity on our teams and within our leadership.

The strength of the specialization model is that theologically trained women, rather than being deployed as a women’s generalist, often just filling the gaps in pastoral care or other sundry areas of need, is much more strategically deployed. Particularly if her role, as mine was at St Ives, is geared towards the equipping, mentoring and mobilization of women for ministry and mission in the church.

Depending on how these ministry portfolios are structured, this new model could also potentially become a hindrance to complementary partnerships being a practical reality within our teams. Under some variations of this model, it would be entirely possible that a church would never employ a woman on their staff team, except perhaps as the children’s specialist or, if financially affluent enough, in the role of assistant youth or co-small groups leader. Especially as most specialization roles by necessity require male leadership (eg.a preaching pastor, small groups pastor, services pastor, youth pastor etc). 

If this particular type of specialization model were to become normative in our churches it would certainly have significant implications, not only for the future training and employment of women, but also implications for how we most helpfully express complementarity on our ministry teams and within our ministry partnerships.

* Bob Johnson- 9Marks website
Bruce Hall-Some Reflections on Team Leadership’ The Briefing,  #381 (June 2010)

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