I love to read. Sometimes I read out loud to my husband. We have read quite a few books together on road trips or even just at night after the girls are in bed. We most often read fiction. When you read something out loud to another person some things tend to stand out more. Like the parts that are just a little awkward to read out loud to your husband. I remember one night I was reading and it dawned on me that I was seeing a pattern here, in every book we read. We were deep into a book, and they finally introduced the female main character (who would undoubtedly at some point fall madly in love with the male character). We will call her Beth. I turned to Eric and said, “Eric, what does “George” (the main male character) look like?” He said he didn’t know. Interesting. We were halfway through a book and we have no idea what this guy looks like. But we know who he is. We know his character. We know what motivates him. We know what he is good at. We know what he does. It does not matter what he looks like. Yet, the moment our leading lady appears in the book, literally, the moment she appears…. we get a detailed description of her physique. From her hair to her glorious eyes to her full red lips to her flawless skin to her “slender waist” to her silk blouse (apparently all women must wander around in silk blouses at all times) to her “proportions that would make any woman jealous” (really??) to that stray tendril of hair that George just can’t help but brush back off her flawless cheek… (somebody find a scrunchie….puh-lease!), Beth is a body. We never know what she loves (other than George of course). We never know what she believes in enough to fight for. We don’t see her sacrifices or her fears or her pain. We see her flawless skin, slender waist, glorious eyes, full red lips, and perfect proportions.
Whenever you are reading and it dawns on you that the female character in the book is just a body and may not even have a soul… feel free to hurl the book across the room. Why? Because our daughters are watching.
They get enough of that message from magazines and movies and the world. Our little ladies are more than the collection of their physical parts. I have three daughters. I don’t want them to ever see themselves as just a body.
What we read influences that. What we watch influences that.
Jane Eyre is one of the most enduring love stories of all time. Jane was flat out unattractive. No one found her beautiful…that is until Rochester fell in love with her soul. The book does an amazing job of telling us who she is. We know her character deeply. We know her heart. So when Rochester finally declares that he wants to marry her, we get it. No red lips or silk blouse needed. Jane is beyond beautiful because she has a beautiful heart, and no one else will do for Rochester. It has to be her.
Anna Karenina. What a book. By the time you finish that book you want to throw it across the room for different reasons. (spoiler alert) Anna makes horrible decisions. She goes through an absolute torturous life, and you see her become more and more hopeless until at the end she gives in to despair and throws herself under a train. It is not pleasant or easy reading, but it is unforgettable. And you know Anna. You have seen her soul, anguish and all.
I could go on and on, but my point is….what women read really does matter. The characters we and our girls read have to have hearts and souls! Like we do. They need to live and breathe and make mistakes and find redemption and do great things. They need to know that regardless of the proportions of their bodies, they have magnificent souls, made in the very image and likeness of God, and that is an infinitely beautiful thing.
Now I’d better go and get ready for the day…where is that silk blouse of mine? And what to do about this stray tendril….