Healthy Truth #10 – Popular Culture

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Truth #10 – Popular culture is a fickle bitch.

I apologize if my word choice offends you, but frankly the subject matter offends me. I don’t generally use such language often; I consider its frequent employment to be a sign of a limited vocabulary. However, I never hesitate to use any word if it’s the best tool for the job.

Merriam Webster’s describes this colloquial (as opposed to clinical) bitch as “malicious, spiteful, and domineering”, and this rather appropriately depicts popular culture. No wonder Paul tells us in Romans 12:2a (NIV)…

Do not conform to the pattern of this world.

Popular culture sees value in conformity over individualism (see Truth #1). Popular culture lies to us about the origin of contentment (see Truth #3). Popular culture doesn’t hold us to be image-bearers of God (see Truth #4). Popular culture doesn’t care about what’s actually a healthy lifestyle (see Truth #5). Popular culture sees itself (instead of our health) as the final arbiter of our success (see Truth #6). Popular culture says the most important thing about your body is your weight no matter what science says (see Truth #7). What a bitch!

And it’s not like the opinion of popular culture is stable anyway. We’ve seen the “ideal” of feminine beauty shift even in recent memory. In her insightful book The Body Project, Joan Jacobs Brumberg writes, “Americans have talked about glamorous ‘gams’ ever since the Rockettes made good legs a requirement back in the 1930s. But American taste in legs has changed considerably in the past half-century: the Rockettes of yesteryear had shorter, chunkier limbs than today’s long-stemmed, lean favorites.”

The praiseworthy nonconformists with curves depicted in the media are simply figured — not full-figured — as opposed to their typical palette of figureless women.

Brumberg also points out that today “the traditional softness of the female body is devalued in favor of toning, muscles, and strength. Instead of poetic tributes to the velvet breast or the silken thigh, we give our highest praise to body parts whose textures suggest metal and building materials.”

Popular culture can’t make up its mind, and it castigates any who fall short of its ever-changing whims. What a bitch!

That’s what popular culture and the media loves to do most, you’ll note: tear people down. Next time you’re at the checkout lane, flip through one of the tabloids on the rack next to all the candy and beef jerky. Inside you’ll find story after story about how so-and-so is putting on weight and how someone’s really letting themselves go.

They praise the airbrushed toothpick or dehydrated muscle man, then berate the man with a bit of belly or the woman with a bit of curve. These features used to be praiseworthy and popular, indicating the sufficient nutrition available to the upper classes. Now, they’re to be scorned, indicating lazy slobs that eat nothing but junk food. Says the magazine strategically positioned amid calorie-rich snacks. What a bitch!

Sure, occasionally they’ll praise a “full-figured” or “plus-sized” woman for being comfortable in her “curves” despite “public pressure” (i.e. them), but usually these women are anything but full-figured. I live in the real world, which is full of beautiful full-figured women. I know what these women look like, and it’s not what’s depicted as “curvy” in these magazines and television shows. Instead, the praiseworthy nonconformists with curves depicted in the media are simply figured—not full-figured— as opposed to their typical palette of figureless women.

Real women with real curves hold a definition of “plus-sized” that is not merely a size 10 or 12, which is “plus” compared to the sub-10s popular culture usually favors these days. The false “plus-sized” women that are portrayed in the media have never even considered shopping at Lane Bryant.

Let popular culture see a truly full-figured woman, particularly one who is confident in her body image and doesn’t care what they think about it, and they pounce. They spit venom. They spew hate. They launch an all-out nuclear war, seeking to utterly destroy this one who would resist them. What a bitch!

“The traditional softness of the female body is devalued in favor of toning, muscles, and strength. Instead of poetic tributes to the velvet breast or the silken thigh, we give our highest praise to body parts whose textures suggest metal and building materials.”
—Joan Jacobs Brumberg

I don’t seek nonconformity for nonconformity’s sake, and the voice of culture has its value in certain situations such as assessing modesty. However, I should never permit something so variable, much less something so cruelly vindictive to ever wield influence on my identity, self-worth, or body image. Popular culture has never earned that privilege, and I have a God whose voice of approval is much louder than their most violent disapproval.

It’s not easy because it doesn’t come naturally. We naturally seek the approval of others unless we discipline ourselves to do otherwise. However, it does simplify over time, as I build up the habit of striving to never let them phase me. And it helps to regularly remember: Popular culture is a fickle bitch.

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Originally posted 2016-03-04 08:00:26.

Photo credit: Mannobhai / Foter / CC BY-SA
About Phil (251 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.