A friend who heads up a Contemporary Christian Record Label tweeted this Saturday: “@RandyElrod You may have seen this article. Couldn’t help but think about your book Sex, Lies & Religion.”
Upon reading the very intriguing Christianity Today article, I was thankful I had included (and thoroughly researched) Chapter 6 in my book, “The Lie About Sexual Equality.”
Here are the startling facts:
- – Of Billboard’s top ten Christian artists of the past decade zero were female.
- – In the top ten Christian songs of the past decade zero were performed by females.
- – Out of a full ten years of songs, 48 of the top 50 Christian songs (96 percent) were performed by males.
A Fear of Sensuality?
Jenny Simmons, the female lead singer for Addison Road has a theory: Worship music is hugely popular today, and most worship leaders are men. Simmons thinks many listeners see female worship leaders as some sort of threat.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people come up to me after a performance and say, ‘I was very, very uncomfortable having a female onstage when we worshiped. I’ve never seen that before.’
“There is a fear of sensuality and sexuality within the church,” Simmons continues. “We don’t know how to handle it. I don’t think there is any way to extricate what is raw and passionate about creating music and being on stage. At least for me, there’s a huge vulnerability being up there.”
Simmons notes that many secular female artists use their sexuality onstage, and fears that passion about music in a Christian female performer might be misinterpreted. She also notes a double standard when it comes to fashion. “I’m a very modest dresser, but I hear people all the time say, ‘That’s an inappropriate outfit.’” She wonders how often people complain to male artists about their attire?
A program director at a large Christian radio station thinks that the implied role of artist as spiritual leader creates a gender difference. He suggests that women want to be spiritually led by men, so they are more receptive to male artists.
Another popular female artist takes the thought a step further. “I have been on tour with some of CCM’s most sought-after bachelors, and there is a lot of pent-up longing out there,” she notes, speaking of females in concert and radio audiences. “The single, tender-hearted songwriter boy represents something that is very hard to find.”
“When it comes to promoting full equality of the sexes, religion has a decidedly mixed reputation. Organized religion’s treatment of women throughout the ages has been little different than secular culture. In general, religious women have derived their identity through males and are most often prized for their reproductive capabilities.
A study of Mary, the mother of Jesus, reveals a figure that has been socially and sexually constructed (primarily by men) in such a way that her traditional titles of handmaid of the Lord, virgin, and mother have come to be controlling images in the Christian feminine ideal.
Granted, I understand religion is only one of the vehicles of sexual inequality. The true origin of inequality is sin. The sad reality is that at some levels of consciousness, most religions and men view women as objects to be repressed and controlled. Unfortunately, its not just religion.
The media have played a particularly insidious role in promoting sexual inequality. The general conclusion of myriad studies is that the media often focus on the body and appearance as the most important components of sexual distinction. Throughout U.S. culture, and particularly in mainstream media, women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner.
The lyrics of many recent popular songs sexually objectify women or refer to them in highly degrading ways, or both. Some examples include the following:
• “So blow me bitch I don’t rock for cancer/I rock for the cash and the topless dancers.” (Kid Rock, 1998)
• “Don’tcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” (Pussycat Dolls, 2005)
• “That’s the way you like to f*** . . . rough sex make it hurt, in the garden all in the dirt.” (Ludacris, 2000)
• “I tell the hos all the time, Bitch get in my car.” (50 Cent, 2005)
• “Ho shake your ass.” (Ying Yang Twins, 2003)
Both religious objectification and sexual objectification of women seem to be two threads in the same strand. That strand leads back to the three major Western religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. As the thread unravels, there seems to be a direct correlation: The more conservative the sect or branch, the less equality for women.
These threads of objectification have turned women into a religious thing. Remember that one may define “thing” as one dimensional, incapable of independent thought, autonomous decision-making and self-sufficiency. Religious objectification is a consequence of the need for alpha male leadership to demonize and marginalize women to solidify the controlling power of the religious hierarchy.
Now, that’s a lot of fancy words to say basically that the preachers and other religious heads got together and said, “Let’s eliminate the competition (read: women) by convincing everyone that women are inferior, subservient and useful only for beauty, labor, and reproduction.” The post-modern version of this imperative is “keep all women in their place by grouping them with other sexualized women in Bible Study cliques, as makers and teachers of children, and as pretty singers since they have nothing of value to offer religious male leadership who have been appointed as God’s intermediaries.”
When women are seen exclusively as sexualized beings rather than multi-dimensional persons with many interests, talents, and identities, men have difficulty relating to them on any other than surface level. This dramatically limits the opportunities men have to interact spiritually and intellectually with women, to create with them, to work together for higher causes (e.g., leadership), or to enjoy their company as equals. It also promotes unhealthy sexual relationships.
Only by understanding the unity and diversity of the sexes do we begin to fathom male and female distinctions and the mystery inherent in sexual equality and communion. Dr. Louis Markos describes this paradox of unity and diversity as, “a fittedness of the sexes; both are distinct, both are equally created in the image of God, and yet both belong together.”
There is danger in viewing a human being as a thing, rather than the miraculous interrelation of body and soul that God originally created. Unfortunately, it is the female sex that has suffered the majority of harm from sexual, self, and religious inequality.