Exhibit A. . . both what you see and what you read

A 14-year-old has me thinking about body image today. As far back as I can remember, any and every youth culture seminar I’ve presented has included at least a mention of the powerful and pervasive youth culture trend we call “body image pressure.” I mention it. I talk about the rapid evolution of disordered eating. And, we look at a series of marketing images that prove the point. I might show 10 images featuring females. That’s 10 images out of thousands upon thousands (more likely millions) from which to choose. Those images have been pounding us for almost fifty years now in an ongoing storm that’s become so familiar that we don’t even notice that we’re getting pounded anymore. I show the images and say, “This is the stuff that tells my daughters who they are supposed to be. This is the stuff that defines for my sons what makes a woman valuable, likable, and worthy of their attention.” In recent years, our kids have been hammered by a growing number of images that define the idealized male body. Yep, it’s going both ways.

When are we going to realize that 1) this stuff is killing us, and 2) nobody really looks like that? When are we going to realize that buying into this garbage brings honor and glory to the world, the flesh, the devil rather than giving glory to the Kingdom of God?

We could fill page after page with statistics, research, visual examples, and anecdotal evidence that points to our unhealthy obsession with outward appearance, anti-aging, shape, and texture. That would take too much time. All we really have to do is think about what it is we think about when we look at the image in the mirror. I think you know what I’m talking about.

There’s a little 14-year-old eighth-grader from Maine who’s doing something. Julia Bluhm is taking on Seventeen magazine. Have you heard her story. She reads the magazines. She sees the ads and images. She lives in the world of adolescent girls. She also knows that those images that are hammering her and her friends aren’t real. They’re airbrushed. Photo-shopped. Fake. And she’s asking Seventeen to take one little step in the right direction. She’s posted a petition to change.org that’s asking Seventeen to include one photo shoot per month that shows normal, everyday girls without any digital manipulation or touch-up.

Julia (in the middle) and friends.

Last week, she took her campaign to the sidewalk outside of Seventeen’s Manhattan headquarters. From the reports I’ve read and heard, Julia got the cold shoulder. Surprising? No.

I think Julia’s petition is worth looking at, talking about, and signing. I think we should use her story as a springboard to discuss society’s crazy and unrealistic standards. I believe we can spring off into a look at the Scriptures and the things that really matter. . . like inward character.

We’re obsessed and we don’t even know it. Our obsession is killing us. . . in more ways than we can even begin to imagine.

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