Marketing is everywhere. Before my daughters could read well, I’d point at signs as we drove through town and ask what they were selling at that store. A giant burger in the fast food window, an inflatable milkshake on the roof of an ice cream shop, and our favorite, the giant plaster donut, brought squeals and giggles as we completed our errands. One day we saw three shapely young teens walking down a busy street in outfits which left little to the imagination. I asked the girls, “what do you think they’re selling?” After a moment, a little voice came from the back seat. “Their bodies?” Luna was about six at the time, and even she could see the connection.
I’m glad to see that we are moving away from shaming women for the lust of men. It’s been a long time coming. But once we get past the blame shifting, let’s just talk about motivation for a moment. The apostle Paul said, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NAS).
Marketing consultants get paid enormous sums to advise individuals and corporations on how to positively impact the opinions of total strangers. Something as simple as the tie a presidential candidate wears in a debate may impact his success in the polls. The difference between fonts of the lettering on a new product’s label may make or break its future.
As angry as it may make some of us, the reality is that humans really do judge a book by its cover. We can’t help it. All sorts of psychological and sociological studies have shown that our minds are constantly at work to keep us safe and make sense of our world. Often our actions are based on this instantaneous internal processing of which we aren’t even aware. At a base level, we are all advertising ourselves by means of our external packaging whether we want to or not.
Ineffective question: “Who’s at fault for the lust of men?”
Effective question: “How do I want to be treated by others in my world?”
In my twenties I was friends with a woman who dressed like she was just leaving the set of a heavy metal music video. She totally loved Jesus and she was incredibly kind and loving, but her “packaging” was incongruent with her inner self. I soon discovered that my current boyfriend had “dated” her in the very recent past. David was a perfect gentleman. He had not even tried to kiss me on our first date and now wanted me to fly to Maine to meet his parents. Yet he had treated her like a late-night booty call. He never took her out, didn’t introduce her to his friends, and really never treated her with any respect. He had no remorse. He didn’t know he had done anything wrong.
In the business world, the same rules apply. There was a study done a while back showing that when watching a business presentation, if the woman was wearing a suit which revealed cleavage and had a mid-thigh skirt, the men did not have as favorable a reaction to her presentation as the men who were shown the exact same presentation by a woman dressed in less sexy attire. The respondents seemed unable able to focus on the presentation nor take the presenter seriously when she was dressed like “actresses” they had seen in pornography videos with “boss/secretary” themes. Astounding, I know.
Women often get offended at this idea. We want to wear whatever we want and yet be treated with the same level of respect regardless of our external image. This is childish. If you were alone in the city at night and you saw a man dressed like a gangster approaching you with narrow, darting eyes and a swagger, you would be a fool to not be concerned of the potential for danger. This is not to say you should spray him with mace, but it would be wise to let him know that you had mace pointed at him. We all judge others on outward appearances, at least at first. We have no other means by which we can determine our odds for safety.
However we present ourselves in the world has a direct impact on how we will be treated by others. This has nothing to do with right or wrong, Christian or secular. It is just logic. If we want to be treated with respect and honor, we should dress and carry ourselves in a respectable way which lets everyone know our expectations. Whatever packaging we choose, we are marketing ourselves. Sexy dress and behaviors sell us as sexual objects; everything else about us is considered secondary. Modesty in dress, language and behavior sells us as so much more than just sexual objects.
What are you selling?