Archive for August, 2012

A group of teenage boys were shocked when they viewed the before and after shot of the girl at the top of this post – they couldn’t believe the impact that some make-up and hair straighteners could have on someone!

It is encouraging that young girls are increasingly becoming aware that the images they see on billboards, in newspapers or on magazine covers are vastly different from how the subjects look when they get out of bed in the morning, but I am concerned that the focus of our attention has been exclusively on girls to the neglect of how our airbrushing culture is impacting young men.  Youth-workers, teachers, parents and campaigners on self esteem issues are to be applauded for the roles they have all played in getting the message of body image out into the public arena but I believe another step needs to be taken.

Not all the young men growing up in today’s world are ignorant of the transformation tools available to women, but I think we owe it to them to ensure that these husbands and fathers of the future are made aware that the models they see (or avert their eyes from) on the side of buses are largely computer generated.  Why?  a) so that when a wife begins to sag, increase in wrinkles and lose her natural hair colour the husband is still content in his marriage because he loves his wife for who she is inside, b) so that when a man is looking for a wife he doesn’t have the unrealistic physical expectations of an airbrushed woman and c) finally, because a woman wants to be loved for who she is when she gets out of bed in the morning, not just for who she can become after a highly skilled make-up artist has done their work or the computer has airbrushed out any perceived ‘imperfections’.

The Dove Campaign* went a long way to explain the message of how a woman can be turned into a supermodel with a few studio lights, some foundation, blusher and eye shadow, thrown in with a bit of airbrushing, but once again the target audience was predominantly women.  Whilst the slogans such as, ‘talk to your daughter before the beauty industy does’ are important, where are the campaigns which say ‘a woman is for life not just for the Christmas party’ or ‘a woman is beautiful even when she wears no make up’ which are targeted at boys?

If we care about the next generation of men let’s inform them that while a girl may look beautiful on the outside, if you marry her she won’t always look glamourous.  While physical attraction is important, what will last for a lifetime is a woman’s character.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised..” -Proverbs 31:30

p.s. A mother contacted me after reading this to share that she has now shown the image at the top of this post to her sons who are 12 yrs and 15 yrs old.  They have chatted about the two photographs, serving as a reminder that education begins in the home. Thank you for reading.

©Maria Rodrigues-Toth

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If you watched television footage around the time of Gadaafi’s death you would no doubt have noticed an incredibly brave woman in the thick of the Libyan civil war. While many journalists maintained a safe distance from the fighting we saw reporter Alex Crawford in a bullet proof vest and helmet keeping us up to date with the story as it unfolded. Afterwards we learned that her children sat at home watching on TV, texting her throughout the story and making fun of how grubby she looked due to lack of showering! Alex went on to win awards for being a voice back to Britain. However few realise that this multi-award winning foreign correspondent, who this year was awarded an OBE by the Queen, only landed her dream job in recent years. After applying for numerous posts around the world and not securing any of them apparently a close friend suggested she get the hint and abandon all pursuit of her dream job.

As many young people this summer receive their A, A-S level or GCSE results, not forgetting degree grading, it can be encouraging to hear stories of how people made it in spite of their failures. Winston Churchill failed at school yet went on to become Prime Minister and I have a friend who didn’t get high enough grades to study Medicine so took a year out to retake but has gone on to work as a surgeon. Peter messed up when he denied any affiliation with Christ three times, but in spite of this still went on to lead the Church of his time. The question is not whether we fail but how we respond to it.  Will we let it make us or break us?

Don’t give up because you could be one step away from your breakthrough!

©Maria Rodrigues-Toth

Rebecca’s* parents tried to drown her in the bath when she refused to marry the man they had lined up for her.  She was grabbed by the hair and had her head dunked below water, leaving her gasping for breath. A violent wrestle saw her set free but she knew she had to escape her childhood home, so Rebecca ran away. She could have ended up in the hands of traffickers, pimps, paedophiles or drug dealers but angels must have been guiding her because she ran into the hands of local police officers who offered her protection from the family members who were trying to track her down.  When I heard what had happened I was surprised to learn that this had taken place in the UK.

The conflict all began when Rebecca had refused to marry a man she didn’t really know and certainly didn’t love. She explained that forced marriages are happening regularly in this country but that many of us British citizens are oblivious to it. Recently news of a young girl being forced into marriage hit headlines, highlighting that many minors are being paired up with men much older than them whilst they are still of school age.  It is estimated that around 8,000 women a year are forced into a marriage against their will in Great Britain, but if they rebel the consequences can be disasterous.

Rebecca recounted how at a young age she was taken on holiday and introduced to a man old enough to be her grandfather, who barely spoke English.  He was considered to be a potential suitor but much to Rebecca’s relief the match did not go ahead. It was when her parents made a second attempt at finding her a husband that she found herself threatened with death for refusing to consent.  The man in question was the same age as Rebecca and living in the same country, but she didn’t want to marry him. The words ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ littered our conversation as she tried to explain how a child’s failure to comply with their parents wishes results in the family being shunned by other members of their Community.

David Cameron made a bold move recently when he spoke out about this issue saying, “Forced marriage is abhorrent and is little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal”. It is a pivotal moment in history when our Prime Minister announces his desire to criminalise the practice of forced marriage in England & Wales, following Scotland’s lead.  2012 will be an historic year if the plans go ahead.  The goal is to protect ‘victims’ of the practice and could see some parents imprisoned for making their children enter wedlock with consent.

Freedom to choose who you want to marry is a beautiful gift, but sadly one that many people don’t have. It is universally accepted, regardless of race, culture and religion, that it is wrong is to force any human being to do something against their will, so may we care enough to be moved to spread the word about the proposed new legislation (to ensure that it becomes a reality) and pray:

Lord, we pray for an end to the violation of the human rights of all people. We pray for all those involved in the process of making forced marriage illegal – grant them wisdom as they implement new laws to protect the vulnerable.  May all men and women have the freedom to choose who they marry. Amen.

Today Rebecca is a radiant, smiley woman, so until she opens her mouth to share her story you have no idea of the trauma she has been through.  Her difficult background is now bearing fruit as she uses her new found Christian faith to support other girls who have disobeyed a family call to marry someone, sharing with them the power and healing in forgiveness. Whilst most of the focus on forced marriages is on the plight of the women who are subjected to it, Rebcecca is keen for us to acknowledge that many of the men involved are also in a vulnerable situation.

If you or someone you know needs help please visit this Government page: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/when-things-go-wrong/forced-marriage/information-for-victims

*name changed

©Maria Rodrigues-Toth