Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Really? That's What Makes You Beautiful?

Today I heard this song that I hated. The lyrics went like this: "You don't know you're beautiful. That's what makes you beautiful". Over and over again. I'm not sure who the recording artist is or what the name of the song is (I'm guessing it's "That's What Makes You Beautiful" or something equally inane), but if I find out I will make a conscious effort to never buy any music by that person/group. Because those lyrics disgust me. Here's why.

First of all, beautiful girls know that they're beautiful. Because contrary to popular opinion, beautiful girls are not all idiots.  They know that they are beautiful because they can tell by how they are treated by the world, and they have eyes in their heads and are surrounded by mirrors and cameras and the like, just like everybody else. Now, they may not ADMIT to knowing that they are beautiful. But that's a societal constraint, and has nothing to do with the reality of the situation. Our society expects women to be modest and self deprecating, and encourages women to view themselves with a certain amount of self loathing, so it would be social suicide in many circles for a woman to readily declare herself to be knowingly beautiful, on the outside. For crying out loud, you even hear supermodels complain about how "gangly" and "awkward" they are, when you know, they're obviously supermodels. It's not a job you go into if you actually are or think you are ugly.

The only exception I can think of is female R&B recording artists, many of whom have managed to step outside this societal constraint. There may be other pockets of resistance, but I'm not aware of them

But let's say that the woman in this song is some kind of rare mutation. Maybe she's blind, so she really doesn't know for sure if she's beautiful. Or maybe she has body dysmorphic disorder or something. WHY IS THE "NOT KNOWING" THE IMPORTANT FACTOR HERE? WHY IS THAT WHAT MAKES HER BEAUTIFUL?

Is the recording artist saying that a woman who acknowledges and celebrates her beauty is somehow less beautiful than the one who despises herself like a good girl? Why is being unaware of reality, and ignorant of your appearance appealing? Does this man perhaps want a woman with low self esteem, so he can be assured that she will never leave him for a man who writes better music? Does he feel intimidated by a woman who loves herself and is confident?

I think a lot of this mentality hearkens back to the notion that spending time on your looks, or caring about how you look somehow makes you shallow and stupid. Therefore the ideal woman is so pure and modest and self-effacing that she will literally have no idea that she is beautiful, because her mind and spirit are above such trivial things as "appearance" and "looks" and "beauty".

But guess what? No one is above it. No one is immune to beauty. As Palaniuk says "Beauty is power like money is power like a gun is power". Expecting women to be above and outside the influence of beauty is unrealistic and stupid. And trying to put women in these little boxes of false modesty - or perhaps real self hatred - is unhealty and wrong.

And so I say to you, Mr. Recording Artist - Grow a pair. If you can't handle a strong woman who is aware of her power and comfortable in her own skin, and you prefer a shrinking violet who needs YOU to tell her she's pretty, then you will get EXACTLY what you ask for. Which is a woman who needs you to tell her she's pretty - a lot. She will get clingy, and need reassurance from you - a lot. She will get jealous if you smile too much at the waitress. She will follow you home from work to make sure you're not stopping off at some other chick's house. She will cry and be insecure and needy - all the days of your life together. And you will get tired of her and dump her, and then bitch about how all women are crazy and psycho. And that will be the story of your love life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

LDS Poshumous Baptisms - Wait! Just Hear Me Out, OK?

Recently I was reading an article about Elie Weisel, the author of "Night". He is a writer who I greatly admire. In this article, he was upset because the LDS church engages in posthumous baptisms of Holocaust survivors. And I have trouble understanding why this upsets him so much.

But before I start, let me tell you where I stand on the LDS church, so you know I'm not coming from a place of overt bias.

I am not a member of the LDS church. I know quite a bit about them however, both because that's the kind of stuff I like to research because I'm a giant nerd, and because in high school I considered dumping my boyfriend to go out with a LDS boy I had a crush on named Andy. I started learning a little about his religion so I knew what I was getting myself into, but then he told me I looked like a whore in my shiny white boots and my crush abruptly ended.

Anyway, after learning about the religion, I have to say that I disagree with many of the conclusions to which they have come. But, I think they also do a lot of things right. Most of the LDS members I have met have been extremely good, kind people. Some of them take the whole "wholesome-good-cheer" thing to excess, and it can be a bit....unsettling...but I believe that no religion that is wrong through and through could produce so many genuinely nice people. Like most religions, they've got some things right, and they've got some things wrong. That is what I'm saying here.

OK, back to the point. The way the posthumous baptism works is this:

A person dies who is not a member of the LDS church. However, this was a good person - someone who the LDS church would not like to see burn in Hell. Like most religious sects, the LDS church believes that if you are not a member of their church, you will go to Hell. So to remedy this situation, the LDS church will baptise the unsaved soul AFTER she has died. I don't know the specifics of the ritual, but basically they pray to God asking him to give Dead Person X the option to claim herself to be a member of the LDS church when she gets to the afterlife reckoning. It's the LDS equivalent of a Get Out Of Jail Free card. For instance, if I died, and LDS did a posthumous baptism on me, and God was about to send me to Hell for being Episcopalian, I could say "WAIT! The LDS church prayed for me! Let me into Heaven!" and God would be cool with that.

Why would anyone object to such a thing? Here are the reasons I can think of:

1)People believe that the LDS church is evil, wrong, and a morally corrupt cult. Therefore baptising someone into that church against her will is also morally corrupt.

My response:
The LDS church doing a baptism on you without your knowledge, after you're dead, has absolutely no affect on how you lived your life; nor does it actually change your religious affiliation. It's really not any different than Catholics who pray for the souls in Purgatory.

Perhaps people are concerned that being baptised LDS after they are dead would affect their chances of receiving salvation in the afterlife. But seriously? Can you imagine if God were like that?

"Well, human. I see you lived your life according to Correct Religious Sect, and were a morally upstanding, kind person in life. However, the LDS church baptised you without your knowledge, after you were dead. And as you know the LDS church is an evil cult. So, to Hell you go."

If God were like that I would immediately convert to Satanism, because let's face it. If I were to get into Heaven and meet God face to face, and he pulled that shenanigans, I would argue with him. Yes. God and I would have words. And then I would be sent to Hell anyway, so I might as well get in good with Satan as soon as possible to ensure a better Hellacious spot.

2)People are atheists and would not like to be affiliated with any religious organization.

My response:
Again, their baptising you after you are dead makes no obligation upon you. You don't have to start attending church services or anything like that. You will know, and everyone who knew you will know, that you were not a member of the LDS church. And since you're an atheist, you aren't concerned with the baptism affecting your chances of getting into Heaven anyway, so just suck it up. Remember Christopher Hitchens? You know, the guy who wrote "GOD IS NOT GREAT"? Even he, when dying of cancer, stated that he didn't mind if religious people prayed for him in his time of need, because he didn't wish to be "churlish about it", and he accepted with placidity their good wishes and good intentions.

3) People believe it is disrespectful to baptise someone into a religion that they did not subscribe to; particularly in the case of Holocaust victims who died specifically for their practiced religion.

My response:
This is slightly more understandable. But only slightly. Again, posthumous baptisms do not change history. They do not actually alter the religious preference of the person being baptised. All it is supposed to do is give the dead person the OPTION of changing their religious preference after they die, if they want to. Again, think of the Catholics praying for the souls in Purgatory.

I think in this case, the worst LDS could be accused of is like, name calling. "The LDS church called me an LDS member! But I wasn't! I was a Buddhist! Those bastards!" Calm down, OK? They're trying to do nice thing. Yeah, it might be a little weird, and maybe not 100% logical, but it's not hurting you, you know? It doesn't take away from the life you lived, or change the person you were, or alter anything about you in any way.

Let's say I were to be burned at the stake for being an Episcopalian. I don't know why that would happen, but let's just say it did. I died for my religion, a beautiful fiery martyr singing praises to the Lord, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Now let's say that the LDS church baptised me after my death, so I could choose LDS as my religion if I chose to do so. That wouldn't bother me in the slightest. Though I may not agree with all of their religious tenets, and I am perfectly content with my own religious preference, I certainly wouldn't spurn their goodwill toward me. If anything I would be touched that they cared.

So anyway, that's my take on the subject. Please don't set my house on fire.