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FIRST-PERSON: Guessing Victoria’s Secret


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–It is a time for unusual alliances. This time, it is Mickey Mouse and Victoria’s Secret against conservative evangelicals and activist feminists. At least on one particularly revolting television program, that is.

At issue is the Disney-owned ABC broadcasting network’s airing of “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” as part of its November 15 prime time schedule. The National Organization for Women (NOW) immediately condemned the program as “exploitative and downright cheesy.” The feminist group counted the ways in which the television network had objectified women in this broadcast, although these were so many that it is easy to lose count.

The “fashion show,” NOW charged, featured “virtually interchangeable” super-models, all of whom were “incredibly tall with the longest, skinniest legs around, prominent hipbones and unnaturally full breasts.” Furthermore, the commodity being hawked on this “infomercial,” NOW rightly noted, was something other than underwear.

“The show strolled right across the line from ‘sex sells’ to selling sex,” NOW commented. “ABC and its parent company Disney should be embarrassed. Not only did they provide an hour of free air time to a commercial venture, they also ventured into the world of broadcast strip shows.”

According to Fox News, NOW president Kim Gandy joined with some members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in chiding ABC for “a sad attempt to lift its ratings with Miracle Bras.”

There’s no doubt that the corporate executives at Disney/ABC will chalk up NOW’s protests to one more example of humorless feminism. Such a dismissal is easy to muster, I suppose. After all, when a group protests everything as exploitative of women, it is a bit difficult to pay attention when they actually manage to point out something particularly grievous.

On this issue, however, conservative evangelicals should send up two cheers for the feminists. They have, as commentator John McLaughlin likes to put it, stumbled uncontrollably into the truth. Evangelicals should be alarmed by our increasingly pornographic culture because it is contrary to God’s good purposes for sexuality. But we must also maintain, right along with the feminists, that pornography (however “soft”) is also wrong precisely because it degrades and objectifies women.

As Read Mercer Schuchardt notes in the most recent issue of re:generation quarterly, it is no accident that Playboy executive Hugh Hefner has devoted his life to the legalization of abortion and to the “mainstreaming” of pornography into American culture.

“What could be better for an irresponsible and sexually aggressive male than an entire culture that views women as sex objects, views pregnancy as a disease, and offers abortion as its cure?” Schuchardt asks. “Porn culture demands of women precisely what real women don’t need or want: skinny bodies, huge fake breasts, no babies and men who are unwilling to commit to anything more than [casual sex].”

This is, after all, Victoria’s dirty little secret. In portraying women as just so many walking sex toys for leering men, our culture has done away with what it means to be a woman in the first place. Our culture laughs at the biblical admonition for wives to submit themselves to their husbands and for husbands to love their wives (Eph 5). Instead, the culture asks our daughters to be silent and submit themselves to the sexual appetites of men in general. The woman is simply there to meet the needs of predatory males, and she should pretend to like it. Only the most twisted of cultures could call that “feminist.”

Evangelicals should join with feminists in decrying the Disney Company’s shocking degradation of women. But, unlike NOW, we can’t stop there. The evolutionary assumption, bellowed by feminists on a thousand picket lines, that men and women are identical seems always to lead to this. When it is survival of the fittest, brute strength always wins. The NOW crowd is justly revolted by the “Victoria’s Secret” cattle show, but it can’t seem to offer an alternative. We can.

After all, we have a strikingly counter-cultural Scripture, in which women are not created to be consumed by the predatory appetite of the Playboy philosophy. Men and women are created in the image of God, each with distinct roles and responsibilities, but with equal value before their Creator (Gen 1:27). With such the case, let’s call for our husbands to resist the siren song of the super-models. Let’s remind one another of the joyfulness of loving and honoring our wives. Let’s train up our daughters to resist the empty promises of the Playboy bunny, teaching them from childhood their dignity and worth as women. Let’s empower men and women to live out their complementary callings in the church and the home.

In short, let’s say to this Queen Victoria and to the entire entertainment industry that props her up: “We are not amused.”
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Russell D. Moore teaches Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. His commentary appears here on the CBMW web site (www.cbmw.org) each week.

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  • Russell D. Moore