By Rosanna Emenusiobi
(continued from the last edition)
On the other hand, some questions bother me. Why do men allow themselves to be trapped by women’s physical beauty? Do women really understand what beauty is? Is some women’s flaunting of their body a sign of beauty? The response to these and similar questions will form the crux of the present article in these series.
4. LUSTFUL FASCINATION WITH THE FEMININE BODY
While attraction towards the body is meant to generate genuine love; tragically, the experience of fallen men and women (original sin) attests that the human body often generates lust. Lust is inverted sexual desire, sexual desire turned in on itself. When lust flares up and is given sway it overtakes the mind and the body with adamant demands for an outlet. When that “outlet” becomes another person, we are not loving that person. Rather, as Pope John Paul II teaches, we are using that person as a means of selfish gratification. This is an experience very different from the one celebrated in the Songs of Songs and other biblical passages we analysed in the last edition. Lust, is therefore, eros cut off from agape – true Godly love.
In agape, men and women not only look at each other’s bodies, but they see other’s bodies as the revelation of a human person seen in the image of God and called to love as God loves. The attraction towards the other’s body should be an attraction toward the other person as a person, not as an object to be consumed or appropriated. And seeing the other person, they do not use the person as an object of selfish gratification. Rather, as J Paul II says, this attraction which lingers directly and immediately on the body generates love in the inner impulse of their hearts. So, there is a great difference between “looking with lust” and seeing with love. The former generates lust, while the later generates agape – true love: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:28).
The modern cult of the perfect body with its endless rituals, is really a substitute for a living faith in the resurrection of our bodies. We are constantly fighting the inevitable prospect of death and decay not with faith in Christ and his resurrection hut with faith in “Oil-of-Olay”, “Fair Lady”, “Clear Essence”, etc and cosmetic surgery. The modern world has substituted the unfading and fabulous beauty of a “grace lift” with the fading and fabricated “beauty” of a facelift.
Authentic sexual attraction is always an attraction to the beauty of the other as a person, not merely as an object of selfish consumption. This helps us to understand who the man is for the woman and who she is for him. They are not merely sexual objects for each other, but sexual subjects – they are sexual persons reflecting a divine mystery towards which each is filled with awe and wonder. And this awe and wonder, John Paul II tells us, is nothing other than a spiritually mature experience of sexual attraction.
In Matt 5:28, Jesus does, however, go beyond his contemporaries’ customary views on lust. Jewish men expected married Jewish women to wear head coverings to prevent lust. The writers often warned of women as dangerous because they could invite lust (as in Sirach 25:21; Ps. Sol. 16:7-8), but Jesus placed the responsibility for lust on the person doing the lusting (Mt 5:28: Jesus does, however, go beyond his contemporaries’ customary views on lust. Jewish men expected married Jewish women to wear head coverings to prevent lust. Jewish writers often warned of women as dangerous because they could invite lust (as in Sirach 25:21; Ps. Sol. 16:7-8), but Jesus placed the responsibility for lust on the person doing the lusting: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his hear” (Matt. 5:28). Lust and anger are sins of the heart, and rapists who protest in earthly courts, “She asked for it!” have no defense before God’s court. Jesus says that it is better to suffer corporal punishment in the present – amputating one’s lustful eye than to spend eternity in hell after the resurrection of the damned (5:29-30; 18:8-9). Lust and anger are sins of the heart, and rapists who protest in earthly courts, “She asked for it!” have no defense before God’s court. They will always blame women for luring them into this grave assault.
5. ARTFICIAL OR DISTORTION OF FEMININE PHYSICAL BEAUTY
Just go to Google, MSN, Bing, Yahoo, etc. Cue in “cosmetics”, and hundreds of websites instantly stare at you. Cosmetics are substances or products used to enhance or alter the appearance of the face or fragrance and texture of the body. Many of these products are designed for applying to the face, hair, and body. They are generally mixtures of chemical compounds; some being derived from natural sources, and some being synthetics or artificial. Cosmetics applied to the face to enhance its appearance are often called make-ups. Common make-up items include: lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, and bleaching creams. The appeal of lighter skin may seem irresistible but here are the hidden dangers of bleaching creams and why they are more harmful than good. According Ntianu Obiora, the psychological effects behind bleaching cannot be overstated: from lack of self-esteem to the idea that lighter skin makes one more beautiful. Between colourism and lack of confidence, women are buying into the skin bleaching industry at an alarming rate. However, do they really know what goes into those products, she asks. On account of the warnings, companies have become cleverer with the language they use, employing less problematic words like lightening and brightening, but the devastating effects remain the same.
Among the blacks, Obiora continues, fair skin is linked with beauty and success, despite its harmful effects. Do you know that several African countries, including Rwanda and Ghana, recently banned the use of skin bleaching products because they are dangerous? Although safer alternatives exist, many of the bleaching and lightening products used in Africa contain harmful ingredients such as mercury and high-dose steroids, writes Dr. Ola Brown, an African healthcare advocate. According to her, these ingredients can cause kidney failure and other illnesses, making skin bleaching a public health problem that governments need to address. The World Health Organization (WHO) says Nigeria has the world’s highest percentage of women using skin lightening agents in the quest for “beauty”. What a disaster, considering the side effects these chemicals. Will Nigerian women listen and appreciate their God-given complexion?
To defend fair skin as a source of beauty and success is highly disputable. Some of our highly successful women both in the business world and entertainment industry do not bleach their skins. For instance, beautiful Genevieve Nnaji and Mercy Johnson Okojie – grade A Nigerian Actresses and millionaires (if not billionaires) do not apply bleaching creams. Check them out. They are not successful or accepted in the society on account of their bleached faces or bodies. It is consoling that overseas, some successful business women are now up against airbrushed beauty.
5.2 Re-structured ‘Beauty’: Photoshopping
Again, cue in “Photoshop” or Photoshopping”, and hundreds of websites appear: directing you to where you can get “beautified” using beauty technology. Hence, everywhere we look, we are bombarded with images of tall, thin, and purported beautiful women, selling us makeup, cars, jewelry, music, movies, virtually anything you can think of. Magazines sell the latest fashion trends with beautifully constructed images in adobe photoshop, leaving little trace of the women whose photo is actually being taken. Prior to the re-structuring, the photos are taken with high definition cameras, lights and shadows of all colors, and hours of hair, makeup, and costume. Even models themselves will tell you that the photos are so different than real life.
Lindsay and Lexie Kite Ph.D, say it all in their website – BEAUTY REDIFINED! I bumped in on this website and was moved by all they have to say about artificial beauty. In the following sections, I represented their ideas, and sometimes verbatim. According to these ladies, Photoshopping, digital alteration, or image manipulation are familiar terminologies describing this ‘beauty’ madness. Everyone talks about the fact that so many images of women are “perfected” with the help of technology, but we can’t just toss it aside as a non-issue everyone already knows about. Whether or not a person is aware of the possibility of image alterations, not everyone realizes exactly HOW MUCH these images are changed to fit some seriously unhuman and unrealistic ideals that we view over and over. And not everyone understands that it isn’t just fashion magazine covers that feature drastically Photoshopped images. It’s TV. It’s video. It’s your favorite brand online. It’s everywhere. While the vast majority of images of women are being digitally altered, so are our perceptions of normal, healthy, beautiful and the attainable. (to be continued)