Feminism

Christian girls on instagram don’t deserve this

So you might have seen a video floating around Facebook recently– and, honestly, I get why it’s so popular. The first time I saw it, I found it amusing enough to make me chuckle. But, after a minute or so, I grew a little annoyed with it, so I didn’t watch it all the way through, and every single time I saw it pop up in my feed I grew somewhat frustrated because I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why it was bothering me. But then Elizabeth Esther mentioned that she was bothered by how it targeted women, and a lightbulb went off.

Oh.

So I went and watched it again, and then I watched it a few more times today and I think she’s right: it’s sexist.

When I first saw it, I recognized that the video seems intended to lampoon a pretty common lack of authenticity in the way Christians can behave on social media– and, being a person with Christian friends who use social media, I get it. I scroll past a lot of inspirational quotes on Pinterest and the devotional pictures on Instagram, the out-of-context Bible verses posted as Facebook statuses, and I feel the temptation to roll my eyes. Because of that, I understand why so many people found this video entertaining, and I’m not telling any of you that you’re horrible sexist people for thinking it’s funny.

However, there’s a few problems with the video– namely, it doesn’t really have “Christians can be so fake, amiright?” as its main message, but “Women are just so shallow, can I get an Amen?”

First of all, this isn’t the video’s creator first rodeo. Back in April 2013 John Crist— the creator– wrote a post for Prodigal that was supposed to be “satire” but fell completely flat on its face because he did nothing except mock women in extremely sexist ways. I would link to the post so you could see for yourself, but Prodigal (now branded as Common Oath) took it down. Crist cried “persecution” and claimed that feminists got upset because he was just “speaking truth” (sound familiar?).

So, the man responsible has a history of being sexist and then ignoring criticisms for his sexism, and then he makes this video. Already not impressed.

But, it’s important to treat the work standing on its own, because I think the video would still be sexist even if he hadn’t been the one to make it: it would still be sexist because isn’t not really poking fun at Christian-ese inauthenticity, but the way women in particular are supposedly inauthentic, and a part of what is happening is that Crist presents to us some things that aren’t necessarily inauthentic, but take on that feeling because it’s a woman doing it. There’s already a general feeling in our culture that women are “shallow” and “fake,” and that traditionally feminine interests are not valuable contributions like manly interests are.

Take fashion, as an example. For most of fashion’s history men were the ones who seemed primarily interested in fashion, but at some point that shifted, and it became an industry targeted mainly toward women, and that’s when it became perceived as inconsequential and a little silly. Because it’s supposed to be “for women,” it’s not regarded as serious art. Like “chick flicks” and “chick lit” and any number of other examples. The same thing happens with women-dominated career fields, like teaching— or even being a doctor in Russia.

That is part of what is happening in this video. For example, he says that “girls” (even though the person featured in the video is a grown-ass woman, thank you) should always wear their purity rings. Wearing “purity rings” isn’t something that only women do, but it’s somewhat unusual for men to wear them. However, the entire time I was wearing my purity ring and had it on in pictures, I wasn’t being “fake”– and I’d argue that most of the women who happen to include that feature– regardless of how intentional/obvious they’re being about it– aren’t doing it because they’re begging for attention. If they’re anything like me and the countless women I knew who wore one, it was simply a natural part of their lives. They might never even take it off.

But he’s playing on that stereotype: women supposedly spend their entire lives dying for attention.

There’s an additional problem with this video, because it engages in something that happens way too often in American culture: hating teenage girls. They’re viciously attacked from so many corners when the reality is that teenage girls are awesome and spectacular and wonderful and I love them. It seems like every day I read or notice something about another teenage girl doing something fantastic, like taking on slut-shaming at their school or, I dunno, winning a freaking Nobel Prize.

And, let’s just be honest: we mostly associate the things shown in this video with teenage girls– things our culture paints as insipid. But, instead of even attempting to see the best in this, we assume the absolute worst: she’s not sharing that verse because she genuinely got something out of it, but because she’s shallow and vapid and is only posting it for the likes.

I’m just as guilty of judging them for this as anyone else.

However, one of the things that has become so valuable to me is that my feminism means having their back. I’m not here for us to make fun of them, to mock them, to belittle their interests or hobbies or likes just because society has taught us to see that as inconsequential and stupid.

Screen capture belongs to John Crist
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  • I’ve no doubt, based on what’s posted, that John Crist has sexism problems. However, standing on its own, I guess I just don’t see the sexist messages in that video. That’s not to say it’s not there (maybe I’m just not seeing it) but at the very least, it’s certainly not obvious to me. For example, I didn’t see the point about the purity ring as meaning that women that wear them are seeking attention, but rather pointing out the Christian pressure on women to always project a certain “good girl” image, even in innocuous situations. In addition, calling it “Christian girl” as opposed to “woman” also felt to me like a satire of how both women and online Christiany devotional stuff are often artificially encouraged to be sweet, cutesy, and innocent, especially when the target audience is intended to be women.

    Now, just because that’s how I saw it doesn’t mean it couldn’t still have problems. If other people are seeing it other ways, then at least there is definitely some poor framing of the message here, and it could be that his intentions were indeed downright sexist and I just missed it. But then I’m curious if you have any suggestions for figuring out that line, especially when it comes to things like satire, because I like to be able to distinguish the difference!

    • daydreamer42

      This was my reaction as well.

    • Satire should always punch *up*, not down.

    • It doesn’t really matter if his intentions were sexist or not. What matters is the message they project, whether intentional or not.

  • One of my personal “stumbling blocks,” right here. I didn’t like teenage girls even when I was a teenage girl, and a large part of that is that internalized sexism that says girl things are dumb and dumb things are girly. And another part of it is pretty much because I’m a snob, so I react to their fledgling Facebook philosophy with a “bless their heart” that is condescending as hell.

    • I’m impressed by this level of introspection and upon reading this comment I realize that the same has been true for me, especially in the moments when I have felt proud that I am not like “other girls”. I wonder what I thought was so wrong with “other girls” to begin with. Of course even in being “not like the other girls” the pressure to be a pretty, skinny and feminine version of a man was nothing less than the pressure put on any girl lest I be *gasp* unattractive.

  • YES. THIS. 1000x THIS.
    “They’re viciously attacked from so many corners when the reality is that teenage girls are AWESOME and SPECTACULAR and WONDERFUL and I love them.”

  • Abby Normal

    What really grinds my gears about this is the fact that it’s white evangelical “Christian culture”– that this guy directly benefits from–that is responsible for hammering into girls’ heads that a purity ring is the height of accomplishment and that the only way they can participate in the faith is through “women’s ministry”–with all the Papyrus font and fuzzy Instagram pictures that implies. And now he thinks it’s cute to make fun of women who express their faith in exactly the same way they’ve been expected to for years? Color me unimpressed.

  • “For most of fashion’s history men were the ones who seemed primarily interested in fashion, but at some point that shifted, and it became an industry targeted mainly toward women, and that’s when it became perceived as inconsequential and a little silly.”
    In late medieval and Renaissance England, the younger attention seeking males (the cultural equivalent to today’s hipsters) were indeed into the latest fashions. They were also excoriated as ridiculous and vain pretty much constantly, especially in plays.

  • Tombombadil

    John Crist never made public statements regarding this stuff, much less “cry persecution.” I don’t follow a single teenage girl on IG, and see plenty of adults (male and female) do what his comedy video makes fun of. I doubt he’s targeting teenagers with the video since he’s a comedian for a living and teens can’t get into clubs. Sometimes things aren’t as serious as we think we should make them. I would guess bloggers put way more thought into the deeper meanings and consequences of things that truly are funny in Christian culture than the people (men and women) writing these jokes. Comedians get paid to make people laugh. And go to the edge of what’s comfortable. Sometimes the line gets crossed. If you don’t think it’s funny, that’s cool. But the worst thing a comedian can be is “vanilla.” And thanks to blogs like this and others, it’s keeping John Crist far from vanilla.

    • I linked to photographic evidence that shows Crist did exactly what I said he did.

      • Tombombadil

        If you’re talking about the prodigal post, that author says Crist’s actual comments imply he feels persecuted. Not that he’s making those cries himself. If you’re talking about something else, then I’m not seeing it. I could have left that part out since it’s a distraction from my main point.

        • And your main point would be, what? That you believe comedians should be above criticism for being sexist?

          • Tombombadil

            That’s a straw man comment if I’ve ever seen one. I didn’t say that. Read what I actually said if you’re interested in my point.

          • There really was no point to the original comment which I guess would put him in a pretty good position to yell straw man at anyone who disagrees with him.

          • Tombombadil

            Yelling?
            1) he’s not targeting teenage girls with his content. They can’t get into the clubs he makes his living in.
            2) bloggers put a lot more thought into the repercussions of a joke than the people writing the jokes. Their job is to make people laugh.
            3) funny or not, comedians have to avoid being called vanilla or irrelevant . Because of the content of the video and the reaction in this piece, he’s accomplishing what he needs to do as a person who gets paid to tell jokes.
            All of those were made in the original comment. I said nothing about comedians being exempt from criticism of sexism. By all means, criticize. But the criticism in and of itself only affirms what a comedian sets out to do.

          • 1) He is absolutely targeting teenage girls with this content. Also, comedians target people who aren’t necessarily in the clubs they are in all of the time, so this doesn’t even make sense.

            2) You can make people laugh and not be sexist. If you’re not thinking about what you’re writing, you are an awful writer and a worse comedian. The best comedians are good writers, and saying they don’t put as much effort into writing something as another person does critiquing it is insulting to comedy writing.

            3) You do not have to be sexist in order to be “relevant.” Also, equating being sexist with being “relevant” says a lot about what you personally believe about sexism. You should think on that.

            4) You entire argument is based on the premise that comedians have to be sexist in order to be considered “funny” or “edgy”– that their livelihoods are in some way at least partially based on “getting a rise out of people” by being offensive. That is blatantly false. See: all of the amazing comedians who don’t routinely rely on sexism and are incredibly successful.

            Your comment is bad and you should feel bad.

          • tombombadill

            Ok you win. I do feel bad that I am unable to communicate in a way that prevents you and your audience from twisting my words over and over again. You’re a hero.

          • No twisting is happening. We’re just disagreeing with you.

          • I see, so it’s not that comedians are above criticism for being sexist–it’s that being sexist is somehow a positive thing for a comedian.

            Wow, you know some terrible comedians (in the sense both of being bad at being comedians, and in the sense of being rotten people). (Even without getting into the fact that your “point 2” seems to be an assertion that all comedians are stupid and should be expected to be stupid because thought is actively antithetical to making people laugh, which just…huh?)

  • Lis

    “And now he thinks it’s cute to make fun of women who express their faith in exactly the same way they’ve been expected to for years? Color me unimpressed.” – THIS. EXACTLY.

  • Teenage girls are totally awesome. Some of the most interesting and heartening company due to their vivacity and idealism.

  • If you have the original, broken link, you may be able to find the now-removed text on the Internet Archive (http://archive.org/web/).

  • K

    I am a Christian women. I work at a church. I volunteer with teenage girls every week. Did I also mention that I am a breastfeeding mom? So, all that to say, I am a strong woman, who does not agree that this is sexist in any way. This video in no way offends me, nor do I think it is targeted at teenage girls. I am pretty certain it is just a video poking fun at what some people do on social media. People like to brag about everything on social media, and that includes their religion. I am personally one of those people that gets annoyed with people “showing off” their religion on their social media outlets. All that to say, it’s a funny video and I think people are taking it way too seriously.