(Warning: All of the following commentary is meant to provoke discussion and thought rather than pass judgment. You do not have to agree with me. I am merely presenting my opinions about something that matters to me.)
By now, you’ve probably encountered the “Hey, Girl” meme at some point in the past several months. If you’re not familiar with this, the idea is simple. One takes a picture of Ryan Gosling and inserts a brief, witty message that intends to make a young woman feel strong and supported. More or less, all of these memes can be summed up in a simple idea. “This is Ryan Gosling. He is attractive both inside and outside. He will support the liberated woman of the 21st century.” Click here if you want a more detailed explanation.
Then “Handmade Ryan Gosling” came along. Now, this meme I find entertaining, although I don’t find Ryan Gosling attractive physically but that’s neither here nor there. This meme took a picture of Ryan Gosling and showed him as supportive of a female crafter, giving her all the support that most crafters wish their significant others (as well as family and friends) would give them. This meme I found entertaining…and maybe even pinned a couple of them on Pinterest back when they were new and exciting and I really wanted someone to support my knitting habit.
Now, from my personal perspective, there is nothing really wrong with these memes. I’m not really into Ryan Gosling, but that’s just me. They might objectify Ryan Gosling a little bit, but I think they’re meant in good fun and Mr. Gosling himself seems to be amused by them.
And then I came across Hey Christian Girl. This meme takes various actors ranging from Ryan Gosling (of course) to Hugh Jackman and give them cute, witty Christian things to say. They say the sorts of things that Christian women would love to hear from Christian men. Some of them are funny to me. And I fully understand that the spirit behind them is meant to be encouraging and entertaining.
But here’s my issue with this particular meme. They take men who are not Christian (to the best of my knowledge) and give them Christian things to say. What’s more, they give them things to say that, as a single young Christian woman myself, I would love to hear coming out of the mouth of a single young Christian man.
But they aren’t attached to images of single young Christian men. They aren’t necessarily attached to images of men who support and uphold the Christian faith. In fact, some are attached to the images of men who I know to support things that are contrary to the teachings of at least some denominations of Christianity, including my own. Others are attached to images of men who are engaged or married, men who are fathers. Yes, these men are physically attractive, but they are not available. And on both counts, they aren’t necessarily the kinds of men who would say those sorts of things in real life.
Now, maybe I’m overanalyzing this here, but I would like to get this off my chest, so bear with me. Unlike Ryan Gosling, I find some of these men to be very attractive physically. For example, there’s Hugh Jackman. I do not need to be encouraged to think about Hugh Jackman as anything other than a talented actor and singer who happens to be physically blessed.
But when I’m presented with an image of Hugh Jackman with the caption “Hey, girl, how’s your walk with the Lord? Let’s share our hearts,” I have to take a breath and remember that Hugh Jackman would never actually say that to me. He’s married. He has kids. He’s not, to the best of my knowledge, a Christian. He is never going to say that to me. And while I’m fine with that, I don’t need to be encouraged to think about him saying those things.
And while that might not matter to some people, I’m saying this with the knowledge that I need to guard my heart. I need to protect myself from developing crushes on men-including unattainable men. I need to protect myself from lusting after men. It isn’t right. It does not benefit my relationship with the Lord or with the men in my life.
And, as a friend of mine pointed out while we were discussing this yesterday, these are false images. Yes, these are real images of these men-albeit generally posed photographs pulled from photo-shoots. But in the context of this meme, these images present lies. These men do not endorse the sayings and the sayings do not agree with the ideology of the men. And while I understand that the meme is intended in good fun, this makes me uncomfortable.
I am all for dressing modestly and living modestly. I believe in guarding your heart. I believe in encouraging my sisters in the Lord to dress modestly, guard their hearts, take prayer times, support one another, etc. I believe in encouraging my brothers in the Lord to do the same-and I try to actively encourage them in those areas.
But I don’t like the idea of false images. I don’t like the idea of presenting Patrick Dempsey or Justin Timberlake as a Christian man who can support me in my walk with the Lord. I also don’t like the idea of encouraging women to develop crushes on these men or to lust after them. I’m sure that the creator of the meme never intended to do any of those things, but they can be unintended consequences.
What do I propose as a solution to the problem? I’m not suggesting that the tumblr be taken down. I am, however, suggesting that it be used to encourage and strengthen young Christians-both male and female. I’m not entirely sure how this could be done. But I think that it’s important to encourage one another and to call one another on in holiness. We should emphasize right-relating and deemphasize the physical side of things.
Above all else, these two passages should be our model in relating to one another.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.