Today, in the field of psychology, we know that what we believe, shapes how we feel, which in turn influences how we act. In other words, our perceptions matter. This applies to the pervasive nature of common symptoms common in our society including depression, anxiety and stress. But it also applies to larger cultural issues that I want to focus on with you. The first of these relates to sexism, women and pornography in America.
Sexism, Women and Pornography in America.
We live in a country where sexism is still present. Our prior perceptions of women have been challenged, but the effects are still with us. We see it in the job market, but it is blatant in the way we treat the sexuality of women in pornography.
- Hugh Hefner (Playboy, 1953, 1st Issue): "If you're a man between the ages of 18 and 80, Playboy is meant for you... We want to make it clear from the start, we aren't a family magazine. If you are somebody's sister, wife or mother-in-law and picked us up by mistake, please pass us along to the man in your life and get back to the Ladies Home Companion."¹
With this condescending and sexist statement he starts a porn revolution, where the sexuality of untold numbers of women is exploited. This revolution is now a phenomenon, but is darker than it was before. Women are perpetually abused, raped, drugged and traumatized to sell sex and make a profit.
"What does our allowance of this say about our view of women in this country?"
- The sexism rampant in porn is reaching and influencing the perceptions of children, men and women. These perceptions are in turn destroying marriages, hearts and minds.
- We're lost in a sexualized culture where we are adept at looking at a woman's body, but we fail to recognize them for who they really are and to treat them as people with great value.
- For example, Pamela Anderson joins the fight against porn, but having been in the porn industry herself she is demonized and deemed irrelevant, as if her womanhood and true value as a person is invalid based on that history.² That is a gross disservice to who she is as a woman. But this is only the beginning of how our perceptions have led to endemic issues in our nation.
As a student of American history, it's impossible to ignore the influence of racism in shaping the fabric of our nation's past and present.
In westward expansion, many American southerners brought with them a perception that the white race was superior to people of other races. This notion was already prevalent in the southern portions of the nation with the enslavement of African Americans. Yet, with the nation's drive for expansionism, came the need to explore adjacent western territories. The fallacy was that these lands were uninhabited, but they clearly were with Native Americans, Spaniards and Mexicans.³
In only a short time these peoples were displaced, removed from their homes and property, and treated as inferior while being denied justice by the government. The entrenched segregation that continued thereafter, even after WWI, when Mexican soldiers risked their lives, performed valiantly and won numerous medals of honor.⁴
A FIGHT FOR EQUALITY
You may be asking, why is any of this important? It matters because of the racial tensions still confronting us today, which tie back to this unfortunate part of our history.
- The Civil War (1861-1865) is largely a clash of perspectives where countless lives were lost, not just on the basis of preserving the union, but on the basis of ending the bane of slavery.
- The Civil Rights Movement (1950's - 1960's): The effects of racism remained acute during this time. Blacks were still being lynched, mutilated, living in the utmost fear, and are largely denied suffrage. They rose up in protest as a community, and fought for a sense of equality against the errant view that whites were superior to blacks.
- Today (2016): The rumblings of racism continue. The deaths of Michael Brown, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner and multiple police officers in Dallas, and more tap into the heart of a greater traumatic narrative. These deaths have spurred the Black Lives Matter movement, which is "committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people."⁵
There is something I want us to recognize here. The perceptions, values and beliefs you and I hold are those which influence our present and future. This brings me to the political situation of our day.
The ongoing presidential campaign is challenging our underlying assumptions, not just about our political system, but about our greater perspectives on women, race, and the value of human life. This statement has nothing to do with voting, or which candidate should support; but it has everything to do with these very real issues which are not going away.
A Deeply Rooted Love
There is one perception, one value, that I pray is firmly rooted in each of our hearts: that every life matters and contains immeasurable value.
- The pinnacle of this is love, which affects everything we do and say in how we treat our spouse and children, our coworkers, and those who disagree and have different values than those we hold.
- Furthermore, to what degree is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) evident in our day to day lives, and how do our perceptions influence whether we allow them to flourish or be kept at bay?
I make all of these points about ourselves and our history, because at the end of the day our faith as Christians is more than just about having another worldview. It's about how the love of God, shed in our hearts, drives us to love our fellow man and to engage our culture in ways that allow this love to be felt.
When all is said and done, our life matters, our sexuality matters, our families matters, our country matters and our perceptions matter. We can preserve these central domains in life if we will always remember that what we believe, and the things we say, literally shape the world around us.
"Our Perceptions Matter"
1. Latino Americans: Foreigners in Their Own Land.
2. Saner, E. (2016). The playmate and the rabbi: unlikely bedfellows fighting internet porn. The Guardian.
3. Latino Americans: War and Peace.
4. Dines, G. (2010). Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality. Beacon Press. Chicago.
5. Black Lives Matter. Guiding principles.
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Eric Gomez, MS LMFT MHP
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling