Ladies: Are You a Gift or an Object?
[Note: This is a revised version of my original blog, so there are changes from when it was first published. I didn't have peace about the first one and I wanted to display more compassion.]
AMC's television drama Mad Men was one of my favorite shows at one time. I love how it captured America in the 1960's and 1970's with great storylines, casting, and acting. So, it's no surprise that an article about actress Christina Hendricks caught my attention which discussed her speaking out about her experiences during the show. Hendricks played Joan Holloway, the voluptuous, green-eyed redhead secretary, who had an instrumental role in keeping the Sterling Cooper advertising company up and running. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Hendricks discussed how Mad Men was experiencing critically acclaimed success, yet in the midst of all this success, she was constantly being asked about her bra. Her interview touched on issues like sexism, sexual harassment, and objectification in Hollywood, but is there more to this than that? Let's explore.
Let's start by noting that whoever asked her about her bra was probably a woman or a gay man because no straight man could publicly ask a woman that today and come out unscathed. Oftentimes, when topics like sexism and objectification come up, our minds automatically default to men being the culprit. However, objectification is something that lies with men and women, and that's one thing I want to discuss.
I understand why Hendricks would feel marginalized after working hard on a show, like everyone else, only to be asked about her bra. She's an excellent actress who appears to take her craft very seriously. However, it seems as thought she is overlooking her role in contributing to the very same objection that she is complaining about. Hendricks, who's career started as a model, has been the benefactor of the objectification that fuels the modeling industry and Hollywood. Now, Hendricks is obviously aware of her sex appeal, so I'm sure she would not deny her sex appeal. She seems to be making the point that just because her sexuality is the most prominent aspect of her doesn't mean that it's the only aspect of her. I'm sure that's true. I'm sure she has hobbies, likes, dislikes, and quirks like everyone else. However, this should serve as a cautionary tale for women who choose to lead with sexuality.
Here is the lesson that should learned. As a woman, if you lead with your sexuality, that is how people will see you. I understand that it may feel like it shouldn't be that way. Today's culture will even try to reinforce the idea that how you dress and carry yourself doesn't define you. Sure, it doesn't totally define you, but it is the first thing that people see. And this is especially true with women because a woman's seduction is very powerful. Seduction has a way of intoxicating people out of their normal reasoning and concentrating all of their attention on the seductive qualities. One of the consequences of leading with seduction is that people are so captivated by that quality that they don't take you seriously. This is why so many relationships that are driven by lust don't last because once the lust factor goes away, there's no more substance.
This topic is larger than Christina Hendricks, and she is a just one example of the bigger issue. The real issue is that [some] women often complain about being objectified when they are the ones who present themselves as sex objects. To objectify means to degrade to the status of a mere object. The sexiest woman in the room has all eyes on her when she walks in and she does this by putting her looks and body parts (objects) on display. She is the envy of other women and the fantasy of most men. She gets many opportunities in life by leveraging her sensuality.
These women thrive off of this attention, and if a woman chooses to live that way, more power to her. The problem arises when these women want the fame and attention of being a seductress, but complain when it brings negative attention. The truth is that most people will see you how you see yourself, or at least how you present yourself, and give you back that same energy. In America, every woman has the freedom to choose if she wants to be an object or a gift. Let's examine the difference between the two.
A Gift Has to Be Unwrapped / An Object Is Bare
Gifts are meant to be unwrapped, not exposed. Usually, any gift you receive will come in wrapping paper or at least a nice bag. It leaves so much to the imagination and makes you curious about what's contained on the inside. It makes you think about all the thought and care that went into it. A gift is something that is unveiled and it brings joy when it's revealed (...hopefully).
An object, on the other hand, leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. You've seen everything that it has to offer and everyone else has too. You can pretty much find it anywhere and they usually come a dime a dozen. You may enjoy it and have fun with it, but it certainly doesn't feel exclusive.
This speaks to a woman's modesty. One way that a woman decides if she is a gift or an object by how she presents herself. She has the choice of if she wants to leave things to the imagination or if she wants to let it all hang out for everyone to see. The Bible makes it clear that Godly women are expected to dress modestly:
1 Timothy 2:9 - In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
This scripture is not micromanaging what a woman can or can't wear, but it is speaking about what a woman chooses to lead with. She can choose to lead with modesty. Or, she can choose to lead with her appearance, status, booty, breasts, thighs, etc.
A Gift Belongs to Someone / An Object Can Be Used by Anyone
Have you ever thought about the language and passion that's used when something belongs to you? You're arguing with your sibling and yell out, "Give me back my game or you're gonna be toast!!" Compare that with, "Eh, the copier machine is broken. I guess someone better go fix it." When something belongs to you, you're passionate about it. You fight for it. When something is simply an object, you couldn't care less what happens to it.
A woman who sees herself as a gift does not make herself available for public consumption. She sees herself as a prized possession that is reserved for her husband. She understand that she is a gift from God and expects to be cherished and protected in that way. Just look at what Adam said after Eve was created:
Genesis 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Look at how Adam called Eve bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. He knew that she belonged to him and saw her as a beautiful gift from God. However, a woman who sees herself as an object doesn't belong to anyone but the streets. She allows multiple people to have access to her and people don't value her as highly (if at all) because she's not exclusive.
If you want insight into if a man sees you as a gift or an object, just listen to how he speaks. "Let me hit that?" "What's it hittin' for?" "What you doing, girl with all that?" Do you see how all of those phrases reference the woman as a that or an it and not a person? That's the giveaway.
A Gift Has Sentimental Value / Objects Can Be Replaced
I once heard someone say that anything that is valuable is stored away. Think about it. Some of your most precious and valuable possessions are not left out in the open, but rather locked up in a safe. You don't show them to everyone. You don't handle them frivolously. This is because they are valuable. A woman who sees herself as a valuable gift will not put herself out there for public display. She will reserve herself for the person who is worthy of having all of her.
Gifts also have sentimental value for the person receiving the gift. Often times, you remember where you were, who gave it to you, or how you felt when you first laid eyes on it. It's not something that can simply be replaced if you lose it because it just won't be the same. Consider how Jacob felt about Rachel.
Genesis 29:20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
Jacob actually ended up working 14 years for Rachel, but to him, it was worth it. Laban, Rachel's dad, initially swindled Jacob into marrying Leah after the first 7 years of labor, but Jacob worked another 7 years because Rachel was irreplaceable. People will put forth effort for what they value.
A Gift is Given / An Object is Bought
One commonality with the marriage stories in the Bible is that the bride is always given away. Even in today's culture, we still carry the tradition of the father giving away the bride. That father is not giving away an object. He's giving away his beloved daughter. If he were giving away an object, he would simply sell her to the highest bidder. However, that father will only give away his daughter to someone he can trust.
If a woman really wants to be seen as a gift and not an object, the best way is to get to the Father in heaven, through Christ, and be made into a gift. He will prepare her and teach her to lead with her character and beauty (inner and outer) and not her sexuality.
There will definitely be people who will objectify women regardless of how they dress and act. However, we can't ignore the role and power that women play when it comes leveraging their sexuality. There is a reason why the Bible instructs women to dress modestly. There are consequences that come with sin, and immodesty is a sin. The problem is that many women in today's culture want the luxury and perks of being a sex vixen, but act outraged when others acknowledge it. They believe that they can present themselves however they want (sinfully), but everyone else needs to police themselves accordingly. They completely ignore cause and effect (sowing and reaping, accountability, and responsibility) and don't look inwardly at their contribution.
My advice to women is to consider what you choose to lead with. You can't be a Proverbs 7 woman and expect Proverbs 31 results. A woman's seduction is a very powerful weapon and comes with great responsibility. Exercise your freedom to make yourself a gift or an object.
Proverbs 31:30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.