Sunday, 23 November 2014

Kim Kardashians behind

I know I am a bit late to this party, but I do like to consider matters, and not just give knee-jerk reactions (at least on the blog - I know I do on twitter sometimes). Kim Kardashian - the epitome of being famous for being famous - appeared on the cover of Paper magazine showing her naked - and voluminous - behind.

Some people have commented that it is good to see someone with a larger behind getting publicity, because it serves as a role model for ordinary women who may not be the super-skinny size of supermodels. Others have said that her lack of any apparent skills and talents is a reflecting of the degradation of the idea of celebrity.

All of which is rubbish.The reality is that she is just another version of the "ideal woman" model that is constantly pushed by the media (and the rest of the celebrity publicity machine). She is not a reflection of a less restrictive ideal, it is just a new ideal, just as unreachable, just as demeaning to all women, both those who cannot achieve this alternative version of "ideal woman" and of Kim herself, whose image has undoubtedly been touched up and tweaked before publication.

The thing is, whatever shape of woman is presented, she is still presented as a sexually alluring being. Irrespective of the latest style, women are still sold as sex objects. To simply say "even with a large behind, you can be a sexual being" is not liberating for women - it is still saying that they need to be sexual objects. It is saying that, even if you cannot fit one idea to conform to, we will define another ideas to conform to.

The problem is that women with behinds as large as Kim's are now pressured to looking as glamorous as she can - an impossible requirement. It means women who might have excused themselves from the glamour look are now told that "Kim can do it - so can you!" which is as bad as Katie Hopkins arguments that "it's easy to lose weight".

It would be great to say that this doesn't occur in the church, within Christianity, but of course it does. From the monastic ideal to the "wife and mother" image, the church promotes a set of images, a set of models for how we should be, how we should live. For some people, a monastic style of living is helpful, positive, and supports their spiritual growth. For some people, a Joyce Huggett life works and is helpful. Fantastic! But don't impose this on others. Just because it works for you doesn't mean that it is right for anyone else.

The message I get from the gospels is not this one of a set of models to which we should conform to. Jesus would challenge people about specific issues that impacted them, and we so often take these as normative. In fact, Jesus accepted people as they were, who they were, and them pinpointed areas that they needed to resolve. I believe he still does this today - accepts people as they are, and maybe points out something they need to change. I know when I became a Christian, I was very challenged to stop swearing (I know it is hard to believe, but I was developing a rather strong vocabulary), something that I did, and I continue to avoid swearing in my speech. He has challenged me in all sorts of ways since, and I have changed position and views in a range of areas, and actions in areas - I continue to change, to develop, to mature spiritually. I also refuse to and fail to match anyone's model or image of what and who I should be.

In the end, Kim simply provides another model. The problem is not with this model, or any other. My problem is simply that models are dangerous and mistaken. Trying to fit into them - however worthy they might be - is to reject who we are, and who we should be growing into. That is not a model, that is an individual. That is us as God sees us.

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