Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Teaching Children about Objectification
I’ve been thinking for a while about how I can teach my teens what it means to objectify someone and why I feel it is so dangerous. I wanted to teach it to them simply so that they wouldn’t tune out within 3.5 seconds. I want them to feel empowered in their thoughts. I want them to understand their value and the value of others.
I prayed and asked God how I could teach this to my kiddos. Here’s what I came up with:
I have this beautiful blue vase in my house. I can look at it, criticize it, and decide if it has any value. Do I like the color or the curves of the blown glass? Does it make me happy to look at it? Does it please me? Is the glass too wavy? I can criticize its parts because it’s just a thing, it’s an object. I decide whether it has any value to me.
But we can’t do that with human beings. We can’t take them apart with our eyes or thoughts and decide if they have any value. We can’t do this because everyone is divine. And because we each have a divine nature, we are all valuable. Infinitely valuable in God’s eyes. I love what Tad R. Callister has to say in this speech:
“There is a sentiment among many in the world that we are spirit creations of God, just as a building is the creation of its architect or a painting the creation of its painter or an invention the creation of its inventor. We are more than creations of God; we are literal spirit offspring or children of God our Father. What difference does this distinction make? The difference is monumental in its consequence because our identity determines in large measure our destiny. For example, can a mere creation ever become like it creator? Can a building ever become an architect? A painting a painter? We are the spirit offspring of God with inherited spiritual traits that give us the divine potential to become like our parent, God the Father.”
We can’t use a person (ogling, lusting, fantasizing, judging) for our own pleasure because the instant we do this we remove their humanity. And ours. We turn them into an object like my blue vase, something to be discarded in our thoughts when we’re tired of looking at it.
As I taught this to my children (ages 17, 14, and 11) I made sure I used examples so they could understand that this is something we all do yet we all have the power to stop it. If a man sees a women in a tiny tank top with large breasts (yes the kids giggle when I said breasts—we have some work to do!) he can choose to look at her breasts and have sexual thoughts. He can blame her for his thoughts because she chose to wear such a skimpy top. Or he can choose to see her as Divine. He can look at her face instead and wonder, “Is she happy today? What are her struggles? Is she worried about paying her bills? Does she know God is her Father? Has her heart been broken? Is she safe?”
Likewise, a woman can look at another woman in the Wal Mart line in front of her who is overweight and make judgments about how large her butt is or how ridiculous she looks in those tight pants. Doesn’t she know everyone can see her cellulite? Why doesn’t she just go to the gym? Or she could choose to humanize this woman and proclaim to her brain that her value is just as valuable as her own.
There are infinite ways we objectify others and ourselves but I wanted to keep it simple for my kids. I told my children that I am trying to work on ridding my mind of objectification as well. I want to look at each person (including myself) and see value, to see sorrow, to see happiness, to see anguish, and worry and joy. Society will teach them otherwise. It will teach men that they are not responsible for their thoughts because they are wired this way. To that I say, horse manure. I teach my son that he has the power to control his thoughts, to see a woman as a daughter of God, literal offspring of Deity. He is not an animal—he has self-awareness and that’s what sets him apart from the animals. I love this Father’s take on teaching objectification to his son. Brilliant.
The lesson was just a few minutes long, and my examples were a little humorous to them, but serious in intent. I hope to have talks like this again and again with my kids. In the weeks since I taught this to my kiddos they have even said things to me like “Mom don’t objectify!” in reply to comments I would make. Hooray for them! I’d love to hear your ideas on this subject as well. Life was sure a lot easier when I simply had to teach them to not throw their food on the floor and to say please and thank you. But I’m up to the challenge. I have to be.