Hoping daughters judge man's characterThe recent outrage over the super-skinny Ralph Lauren model caught my attention.
By: Betsy Hart, The Dickinson Press
The recent outrage over the super-skinny Ralph Lauren model caught my attention. You know, the model whose photo was altered in an ad so much that her waist was as skinny as her neck. And then she was fired.
The whole thing caused an uproar for creating false standards of beauty among young women, encouraging eating disorders. Frankly, I thought it was all a little over the top. Today’s young women in the Western world are far more at risk from obesity than anorexia.
I’m much more concerned about the damage done by false images of women in pornography. There, the widespread and easily available portrayal of women as physically perfect and infinitely sexually available and adventurous on a man’s terms can create false expectations for a man. And so they can easily damage his relationships with real, multidimensional women.
Ironically, I think we hear less about that in a year than we did about the Ralph Lauren model for the days she was in the news.
But what we hear about least of all is what I now call “romantic pornography” — false romantic portrayals of men in the popular media that no man can really live up to, and which may be so damaging to women’s expectations of men and relationships.
I first wrote about this phenomenon years ago when the movie “Titanic” was released. The aristocratic heroine ditches her fiance because she “falls in love” with the poor but perfect man of her dreams. He captures her heart in a few days, just before he dies a cold watery death. But she loves him forever.
“Titanic” had young girls swooning about “true love.” Ridiculous. One can pretty easily imagine what might have happened if that relationship had hit the real world instead of an iceberg.
Hollywood has turned out a bonanza of romantic-comedy chick flicks in particular in recent years, and it’s always the same:
1. Some level of confusion or complication between fabulous romantic man and woman knowingly or otherwise desperately looking for love. Note man’s fabulous sensitivity may not be obvious until “the right” woman reveals it.
2) Fabulous man finally realizes he cannot live without said woman, and pursues her in a romantic, ever-so-sensitive but oh-so-manly way. Voila! It’s happily ever after.
Hey, I love such chick flicks as much as the next girl. But these are different from the romantic movies of old, where the leading characters of both genders were typically more multidimensional. Now, whether it’s “Enchanted,” “The Proposal,” “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” “He’s Just Not That Into You” or one of so many others, they are routinely delightful, unrealistic “romantic pornography.”
I’m far more concerned about my daughters being misled by these portrayals of what men “should” be — and the consistent portrayals of one-dimensional women as romance chasers — than I am by the artificial super-slim models.
Sure, I love romantic gestures like receiving a bouquet of flowers. What woman doesn’t? But real “romance” is loving another over the long term, especially when it’s difficult. And in marriage, it is maintaining the commitment even when we might not “feel” like it in the moment.
So I want my three young daughters to someday judge a man by his strength of character and commitment to them in the ups and downs of real life. Even if he doesn’t wear his feelings on his sleeve, or always understand hers.
Yes, I will sometimes watch and enjoy chick flicks with my girls. We love “Enchanted,” in particular. But I hope I’m raising my daughters in such a way that they don’t pass up a real-life prince of a man because they are foolishly waiting for today’s one-dimensional movie version.
— Hart hosts the “It Takes a Parent” radio show in Chicago. E-mail her at