In the News
group magazine: November-December, 2005
by Stephanie Martin
Ads Spark 'Real Beauty' Debate
NEW YORK—A marketing campaign with “real” women has people buzzing about body image and beauty. The ads, featuring six curvy non-models in underwear, are for Dove’s new skin-firming products.
Dove marketing director Kathy O’Brien says the ads are intended to “change the way society views beauty” and “provoke discussion and debate.”
But the exchange of words often has been harsh. People have defaced ads by writing “Fat Isn’t Glamorous” and “Type II Diabetes.” Some female writers have expressed indignation about Dove marketing anti-cellulite products while saying that women are beautiful just as they are.
Dove’s campaign was sparked by results of a 2004 study of 3,200 women in 10 countries. Only 2 percent considered themselves “beautiful,” and only 13 percent were “very satisfied” with their body weight and shape.
Reviving Ophelia author Mary Pipher says despite the contradictory message that “you have to use this product to be beautiful,” the ads are an improvement over rail-thin models.
The Dove women, in their 20s, range from size 6 to 12. According to a recent SizeUSA survey, the average American woman is between a size 12 and 14.
Seventeen magazine editor Atoosa Rubenstein, who’s been featuring “average” teenagers, says, “Everyone is beautiful; it’s just a matter of confidence.”
Sources: USA Today, Newsweek.com, Chicago Sun-Times, Associated Press
What’s your reaction to this campaign? to the controversy it’s generating? How do these ads make you feel about your own body, and why? Would you say the women in these ads are beautiful? average? fat? Explain. Do you relate to these people more than you do to models typically shown in the media? Why or why not?
Why do you think people often comment freely—and negatively—about other people’s weight and looks? Do you think they’re doing it to be cruel? to feel better about their own bodies? other? What will it take to change society’s views of beauty? Will individual marketing campaigns have much impact, in your opinion? Why or why not? Do these ads imply that average-looking women are beautiful “as is”? that they need to better themselves with Dove products? Explain. Are you drawn to products that promise to improve your appearance? Why or why not?
Is it wrong to try to conform to the world’s beauty standards? Why or why not? What makes someone beautiful on the inside? Do you agree that “everyone is beautiful”? How does one acquire self-confidence? What’s the difference between being confident and being conceited? Are you satisfied with your body? Why or why not? If you could change one thing about it, what would it be, and why?
Scripture links: Genesis 29:15-30; 1 Samuel 16:6-13; Esther 2:1-18; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 10:35; and 1 Peter 3:3-4.
Divorce Looms Over Wedding Decisions
LAS VEGAS—Young people who grew up with high divorce rates are leaving their mark on marriage vows—if indeed they ever take them—replacing “ ‘til death do us part” with nontraditional, less binding vows.
Ceremonies now include phrases such as “for as long as our love shall last” and “until our time together is over.”
Sharon Naylor, author of Your Special Wedding Vows, says, “People understand that anything can happen in life, and you don’t make a promise you can’t keep.”
Pastor Bonnie Nixon says today’s young people are very familiar with broken families. “They have divorce in mind—they’re wary,” she says. “It’s just realism.” Nixon adds, “I think a lot of people feel, ‘We’ll probably get 10 years out of [a marriage].’ ”
Others believe noncommittal wording and lowered expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. Psychologist Diana Kirschner says, “Over time, your mate brings out the best in you, but also the worst in you. You have to have a contract that you’ll work together to help each other grow.”
Another trend is to bypass marriage altogether, with 8 percent of U.S. households consisting of unmarried heterosexual partners. Forty percent of cohabiting couples have children.
“Cohabitation is here to stay,” says sociology professor David Popenoe. “I don’t think it’s good news, especially for children.”
Sources: foxnews.com, USA Today
Are you surprised by the latest trend in wedding vows? by the rise in cohabitation? Explain. When couples use these new phrases, are they just being realistic? setting themselves up for failure? Explain. Do the new vows mean couples don’t want to make promises they can’t keep? aren’t willing to work hard at marriage? Explain. Is vowing to stay married for life old-fashioned? still possible? Explain. Should couples stay aware of the divorce risk when they’re courting? when they’re planning their nuptials? Explain.
In what ways has divorce impacted young people? society as a whole? you personally? Do you think kids from broken families are more or less likely to get divorced themselves, and why? Why do you think spouses tend to bring out the best and worst in each other? Do you think it’s possible to fall out of love? Why or why not? Are there any marital problems that you’d consider truly irreconcilable? Explain.
What makes cohabitation so appealing to young people today? Is it okay to live together in a “trial marriage” to ensure compatibility and avoid potential divorce? Why or why not? Does living together have any benefits? If so, explain. What messages does this lifestyle send to children? What dreams and expectations do you have about marriage? What types of vows do you envision exchanging with a future spouse, and why?
Scripture links: Proverbs 20:25; Ecclesiastes 5:4-7; Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 19:1-12; 1 Corinthians 7:1-11; and Hebrews 13:4.
Cities Crack Down on Panhandling
ATLANTA—Despite protests from homeless people, Atlanta has become the latest city to ban panhandling downtown. Advocates of the ban say aggressive beggars scare people away, harming businesses and tourism.
Others say the ban is uncompassionate, discriminatory, and too harsh, with a $1,000 fine for a third offense. They contend that the city should address homelessness by offering affordable housing and a living wage.
Clarence Davis, a homeless man, told the Atlanta City Council, “You need to get out of your comfort zone. The Bible says if you see your brother in need you help him.” He added that “people were begging way back in the Bible days.”
Bobby James, formerly homeless, supports the ban. “A lot of times, tourists give money to [panhandlers], and they go to the liquor store. They buy a crack rock. You just enable them.”
According to a recent study, Denver residents give $4.6 million annually to panhandlers, most of whom aren’t homeless. The Downtown Denver Partnership, which commissioned the research, encourages donations to charitable agencies, not temporary handouts on the streets.
Panhandling is “far from out of control,” says Ronald Lee, a homeless man in Atlanta. “If someone wants to assist you, I don’t see a problem with it.”
Sources: Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post
How do you feel about panhandling bans? Do you think they’re necessary? fair? Explain. Do panhandlers have a right to beg? Why or why not? Are you frightened by panhandlers? embarrassed for them? Explain. Do you want to give them money? food? Explain. Do governments have a responsibility to show compassion to those who are homeless and poor? to make cities appealing to shoppers and tourists? Is there a way to accomplish both objectives simultaneously? Explain.
Do you think some people choose homelessness and panhandling over employment? Explain. Do you agree that giving panhandlers money just enables their lifestyle? Why or why not? If everybody started donating to charities instead of to beggars, would panhandling stop? Why or why not? Does the fact that begging took place during biblical times justify it? Why or why not? How did Jesus respond to those who were poor? How do you think he’d respond if he walked the streets of Atlanta today? Explain.
Can you imagine what life on the streets would be like? If you had to, could you bring yourself to beg for money? Why or why not? Do you help people who are less fortunate than you? If so, what’s your motivation? your preferred method of helping? Have you ever gone outside your comfort zone to assist someone in need? If so, what did you do, and how did you feel afterward?
Scripture links: Psalm 37:25-26; Matthew 5:42, 26:6-13; Mark 10:46-52; Acts 3:1-10; and James 2:14-17.
Stephanie Martin is a contributing editor for group and writes weekly Breaking News discussion starters for group’s online resource MinistryandMedia.com. She’s a freelance writer and editor in Colorado.