Lambchop found this post from last year from a Christian blog that regularly tackles topics of interest to Christian women–like this GIF post about “struggles every single Christian woman will understand” that is largely about all the tropes we’ve talked about for ages around here, and this other post that’s just a collection of Christian memes. It’s all that kind of hip and boppy megachurch-fundagelicalism kind of Christianity, and its target audience is exactly the kind of talking-point-loving Christian we saw in yesterday’s movie A Matter of Faith.
The particular post Lambchop found claims to be a response to a letter from a reader asking if Christian men actually care about anything but appearance in their future wives.
And the blogger’s response to that plaintive question is everything we could ever possibly expect from a site aimed at young Christian women.
The first indication that we’re going to have a problem with this post is that its writer, Phylicia Masonheimer, makes this immediate assertion that TRUE CHRISTIAN™ men shouldn’t caaaaare about a woman’s appearance because only worldly men care about that (worldly is Christianese for something that’s not 100% all-in for Christianity–and it’s consequently one of the worst insults someone can fling at a fundagelical). And that’s a common talking point for Christians, as we’ll see in a minute. But when I put that up against the site’s only three content categories, which are “Christian Life,” “Relationships,” and “Beauty and Fashion,” this insistence seems, shall we say, disingenuous at best. The site takes for granted that of course Christian women will value and seek out posts about relationships and beauty–and I’ve no reason to suspect that they won’t, since I know there’s no “Jesus” making them any different from any other women in their age group and those topics tend to be winners anywhere.
It’s just noteworthy that this site’s editors fully understand how important all of those topics are to their target audience. And here’s a Christian blogger tackling one of the biggest problems facing those TRUE CHRISTIAN™ women: they want relationships with fervent Christian men so they can continue along their scripted life path, but they’re having a lot of trouble finding a suitable partner.
I’ll Take “That Totally Happened” for $100, Alex.
Phylicia Masonheimer, the post’s writer, says she is responding to an email she received. In the email, her anonymous reader tells her that she doesn’t think she’ll ever get a date because she’s just not “pretty enough.” She’s noticed that the men in her group prefer women who look a particular way, and she doesn’t look like that–so she’s not getting asked out.
The reader who totally and for sure exists somewhere besides in the blogger’s own mind isn’t actually asking anything specific, it seems, only complaining generally, but the blogger decides to embark on a quest to find out What Christian Men Really Think About a Potential Wife’s Appearance.
Now, the totally for sure real letter-writer didn’t actually ask the blogger to tell her what men really want in women. She’s already figured that out for herself. She hedges a little, but there’s no reason to think that her failure to find a date has any other cause than what she’s already diagnosed. But the blogger wants to prove her wrong and blow some sunshine up her skirt so she can stride out there into the dating game feeling confident.
Unfortunately, she tries to do that with evo-psych bullshit.
Brandi: Suitor number three: Is your kiss like a soft breeze, a firm handshake, or a jackhammer?
Gil Hicks: Definitely a jackhammer. I’m in there with some pressure, and when I’m done, you’re not the same as before. You’re changed.
Brodie: Where do you come up with this shit ? That is the cheesiest response to an honest question I’ve ever
Evo-Psych Bullshit Strikes Again.
Phylicia Masonheimer falls into that “Men are from Mars” thinking that is all too common in Christianity. This idea is largely what drives the complementarian worldview–which tells Christians that their god designed men and women to be certain ways, to want certain things, and to be happiest in certain roles.
In this mindset, men are “wired” to find thin, conventionally-attractive women sexy and desirable. Women, in turn, are “wired” to seek out wealthy, powerful men (to support their children). Further, men will be very driven to seek sex from as many women as possible–while women will be driven to be coy, avoid sex, and dole it out very sparingly in order to get the love and devotion that they really want. Men will be happiest in a dominant leader role in relationships, while women will be happiest in submissive servant roles.
In feminist circles, this thinking is called gender-essentialist, meaning roughly that it stereotypes men and women. And this kind of gender-essentialism has come under serious fire in recent years because it really doesn’t fit well into reality or explain our experiences or observations.
For example, the reason you almost never seen Christian diatribes against pornography and masturbation aimed at women is because men are the ones in that culture who are thought to have such strong desires for sex that they’ll seek it with or without partners. Women are not thought to be so driven to seek sex, so it’s usually big news to Christian leaders that women masturbate and look at porn too. Another example is that evo-psych proponents kinda forget about gay people, aces, and all kinds of sexual expressions and orientations in their rush to push men and women into the painfully-specific roles they imagine for us all.
When you hear one of them chirp about men being “biologically wired to be drawn to feminine beauty,” as this blogger puts it, perk your ears up for a lot of ad hoc reasoning and just-so stories to justify Christian sexism.
To Phylicia Masonheimer, her god personally designed men to respond to physical beauty in women so they could enjoy sex with their wives and be good lovers to their wives. But the mean ole nasty sinful world warped that desire for total monogamous heterosexual desire between spouses into a desire to have sex with all women everywhere.
Further, in her world TRUE CHRISTIAN™ men can and must resist their sexual desires, expressing them only in the presence of a female spouse who has a beautiful personality–regardless of whether or not she’s outwardly beautiful as well. Only that inner beauty is worthy of respect, and it’s worthy because it’s cultivated by being a TRUE CHRISTIAN™.
Then, when those expectations and delusional beliefs get challenged by reality, these same Christians retreat into any number of rationalizations–like Phylicia Masonheimer does by lamenting that despite being inhabited by a real live god who really and truly changes his followers for the better, Christian men “are still human” and sometimes fall into the bad mental habits of their worldly peers.
I’m guessing that Phylicia Masonheimer has not yet learned that boners do not actually spring forth upon command.
And yet Christian men tend to swarm around conventionally-attractive young women and ignore the ones who do not fit into those standards. For all Phylicia Masonheimer’s pontificating, at the end of the day it’s very clear that what her religion’s menfolk do bears no relation at all to what she says they should be doing.
The Dance Around Appearance.
Christians know what they’re supposed to value and seek. They know that they’re not supposed to care about outward appearance, only the person’s inner beauty and level of fervor about the religion. Men especially are not allowed to have a preference about what they’re looking for physically in a future wife. The only preferences they’re allowed to have relate to personality traits, particularly ones related to religious fervor. And even then, Christians must allow for their god to have a laugh at their expense by pairing them with someone they are not attracted to on any level at all. (HAW HAW! Quite a kidder, that godling!)
Once married, Christians are not ever supposed to lose their attraction to their spouse. If someone’s love falters or fades after a partner changes their appearance significantly, then that love was insincere, shallow, or superficial.
That’s the expectation, anyway.
In reality, we can see that Christian men–and women–tend to prize attractiveness in each other just like people anywhere else do, maybe even more. So they need to come up with ways to excuse their very natural physical preferences. When some chirpy Christian blogger asks men how much they prioritize appearance in a future mate, they need to be able to say they prioritize it heavily while also remaining above reproach.
And here we must give the men of Christianity credit: when they’re put into that impossible bind, when Phylicia Masonheimer comes up to ask them about what they think about Christian men wanting physically attractive wives, they in turn come up with a lot of really creative ways to say “I want to marry someone who really gets my motor running” without getting in trouble for it.
Phylicia Masonheimer says she talked to some Christian men she knew, and from that extensive scientific sample and carefully-designed double-blind survey she came up with these responses from those men about how they correlate a woman’s size and her worthiness as a future partner.
- They want a woman who “takes care of [her] temple.” (Temple is Christianese for a Christian’s body; this phrase can indicate anything from maintaining a healthy weight to regularly engaging in exercise to wearing makeup, fashionable clothes, and a flattering haircut.)
- They regard a woman’s body shape and size as reflective of her pursuit of healthy habits rather than unhealthy ones.
- They want a woman who enjoys the same activities that they do.
- They’re scared that their future wives will lose their dedication to healthy eating and exercise after nailing down a husband.
These euphemisms are presented to Phylicia Masonheimer as the definition of “godly beauty” and contrasted against standards of cultural beauty as if those are two totally separate things.
But they’re not.
I’ve heard lots of men who aren’t Christian say much the same things. And I’ve heard lots of women in and out of Christianity talk about their own future partners in the same terms. It isn’t a Christianity-specific line of thinking at all, nor is it male-specific or even hetero-specific.
Nor is it even bad. People are allowed to want what they want, and to feel the way they feel. Okay, so Christian men do not want to marry women who are not taking care of their temples, who clearly don’t pursue the healthy habits that these men want in a spouse, probably don’t enjoy the same activities they do, and will probably only lose her desire to stay healthy after her wedding day. To me, it sure sounds a lot like those men are saying that they don’t want to date or marry a person who is overweight, but that’s a problem for Christians because it makes their group’s men sound way too similar to worldly men! That can’t stand!
What’s hilarious is that when those Christians word their preferences in the proper Christianese, suddenly Phylicia Masonheimer is totally on board with the idea. It wasn’t okay for Christian men to care about a woman’s appearance until then–but now it’s not only totally okay, but it’s divinely-mandated! She ends that section thusly: “Godly men appreciate beauty as God defines it: the beauty of individuality and the faithful stewardship of physique.”
She’s already said that Christian men can somehow deliberately choose who to love or not love, so all she’s doing now is establishing the baseline for how men make that choice and what factors go into that choice.
But how, precisely, is that information going to help the letter-writer?
The letter-writer didn’t tell her anything about her physique or how beautiful her individuality is. What she said was that she didn’t think she was very pretty, and figured that was why nobody was asking her for dates. If there was more there than what I’ve listed, then it’s on the blogger to make that clear–and she didn’t.
We’ve been talking lately in comments about gaslighting, and this post may well be another example of that form of emotional abuse in Christianity. This young woman, if she exists, wrote a heartfelt and sincere letter to the blogger about a difficulty she’s having, and the blogger decides to tell her that she’s not having a difficulty at all–in fact, she’s doing great! Except at the end of the day, the rah-rah speech isn’t going to get that girl a date. It’s going to give her free license to blame everyone else in the world for her singlehood except herself, but it won’t actually help her resolve a growing problem in Christian groups. In fact, it’ll just make her husband-hunting harder by giving her a shakier foundation from which to conduct that search.
The advice she got from Phylicia Masonheimer is, in short, the cheesiest response to an honest question that I’ve heard this week.
One of the tropes in Christian relationship advice glurge is that the people who give that advice tend not to need it themselves. They tend to be very young, to be newlyweds if they’re married at all, and to be conventionally-attractive with conventionally-attractive spouses. And Phylicia Masonheimer fits into that trope very well. As her personal site reveals, she has barely even started along the road of marriage and family–yet she has taken it upon herself to “teach” other Christian women how to gain the happiness she thinks she’s gained entirely through her Jesus aura.
I really hope that Christian women one day discover just how deceived they’ve been by bloggers like Phylicia Masonheimer. She’s doing her sisters no favors at all, and some of her ideas are simply breathtaking in their errors. It’s just so strange that a real live god’s followers would come out with bullshit like this so frequently.
* Fisking is the art of critiquing someone’s writing line-by-line. The practice is associated with Robert Fisk, whose writing often receive that kind of treatment. Steve Shives’ various apologetics reviews are good examples of fisking; the definitive written form of it is, of course and always, Slacktivist’s extensive and ongoing review of Left Behind.
** TRUFAX: Gil Hicks is played by Brian O’Halloran, who you might remember better as Dante Hicks from Clerks!