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Let them buy bras

Biola’s Internet filtering borders on sexism when it stops women from shopping for necessary clothing items. | Photo llustration by Marika Adamopoulos/THE CHIMES  | courtesy: creativecommons

 

Men are animals. They cannot control themselves around the opposite sex and should not be held responsible for their own decisions.

At least, that is what society tells us females. Ever since we were children, society has told us: “Don’t show your bra strap, it distracts the boys,” and “You were asking for rape because of what you were wearing.” As extreme as this sounds, it is how I as a woman have been trained to think: that it is us as females who should be held responsible for men’s actions, which is why women we are oppressed in order to prevent men’s poor decisions. This way of thinking hurts the mentality of women while also doing a disservice to men, who begin to believe they are incapable of acting beyond such barbaric behavioral standards.

It happens here at Biola, even in small ways.

Biola blocks many undergarment sites through an Internet filtering service. Victoria’s Secret, Frederick’s of Hollywood and Yandy are among the several popular sites that cannot be accessed from Biola’s wi-fi. Why?

“The reason [lingerie sites] are blocked is because those sites have very sensual images in them,” said Matthew Hooper, associate dean of students. “It fits into a gray-space category, so we have erred on the side of blocking things more male students would potentially access for unhealthy reasons.”

Although there are students who will decide to seek out pornography in spite of Internet filtering, this is not a reason to take extra precautions against clothing stores that, while potentially sensual, are not actually pornographic in nature. While it is understandable that Biola seeks to protect students from explicit sexual material and prevent enabling addictions to pornography through the Internet access they provide, there is a certain point where students must be held responsible instead of having their hands held.

“Ultimately any kind of web connection is on the responsibility of the user to ultimately be the one acting as the filter, me or you accessing the web,” Hooper said.

As a female, I suppose I cannot fully comprehend the challenges males face when it comes to viewing these “sensual images.” However, adult males have the responsibility to exercise self-control. Those, both male and female, who struggle daily with an addiction to pornography and do not have self control will not stop simply because Victoria’s Secret or Frederick’s is blocked from their laptop’s browser while on campus. Those who go onto a lingerie website made for women with the intent to consume these images in a sexual manner have a problem. But this should not cause Biola to block women who simply wish to purchase necessities in a more convenient way than driving to Brea mall, especially for those without cars.

Women, especially at Biola, must wear bras and underwear on a daily basis, or else risk being labelled as immodest by their community. But then that very community limits their access to these necessary undergarments. This absurd double-standard exists not because Biola objects to women wearing bras from these stores, but because they fear men browsing the sites. Because lingerie sites are companies that sell undergarments to women, they should be understood as a website no different from one that sells shoes or shirts, instead of being viewed as pornographic images from which to shield young men.

“I think [the block on Victoria’s Secret] can be challenged,” Hooper said.

I agree. I am challenging this block and implore others to join me. Students who have problems with a website being blocked can visit the IT website and contact the IT Helpdesk to have the website evaluated.

Unblocking these sites would be a small step towards diminishing the subtle ways society oppresses and shames women. By technologically covering men’s eyes for them, the community actually further objectifies women by saying that all depictions of the female body, even when modelling clothing for sale, is inherently sexual, shameful and wrong. Furthermore, inconveniencing females, even in seemingly insignificant ways, for reasons that are equally belittling to men is discrimination and a step backwards for the movement towards equality.

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. jerry lewis

    biola is a joke March 11, 2015

  2. Darla Horton

    #killinit March 11, 2015

  3. Charlie Brown

    Catherine you are incredible I love you <3 March 11, 2015

  4. Papi

    Eso,linda. Muy bien escrito. March 11, 2015

  5. Sarah

    Thank you for sharing, Catherine.

    As women, I think we can sacrifice sights like these to be blocked by Biola. Although it may seem like an inconvenience in the moment we want to purchase something, it may be more of a selfish motive to demand access than to think of the bigger picture that Biola is trying to pursue here. This is the choice of an institution that wants to push and challenge the men of their school to step up spiritually and be kept accountable to their God. It is helpful to keep it blocked for those boys who are tempted to access it for lustful and sinful reasons. Why would they access it otherwise...

    I did not understand the struggle men have with sensual images of women until my husband explained this to me. To be honest, these companies such as VS shouldn't even be displaying women in the way they do. Women are truly oppressed by being displayed in such a way, that is a huge root of the problem. But yes, men of the faith do have a responsibility in being self-controled. But let's help them out by letting Biola do what they feel called to do in order to help boys abstain from viewing what many would call "soft pornography". March 11, 2015

  6. Alfred

    Hi Catherine, thanks for this! This is a very thoughtful and well-articulated piece.

    I'm hoping that you can answer one question that is still lingering for me:

    Why is the photo displayed at the top of this article NOT pornography?

    I don't make a habit of browsing women's underwear sites, but I assume that the photo featured here is meant to be an example of the sort of photo that I would find if I did access one. However, I can (unfortunately) say from first-hand experience that the photo here does not, as far as I can tell, differ in any way whatsoever from the sorts of photos that you would find on an explicitly pornographic website.

    Is it just a matter of context? Could the same photo of a woman posing provocatively in her underwear be porn on one website, and a harmless clothing ad on another? I'm not sure. I'd love to hear your thoughts. March 11, 2015

  7. Hannah Hughes

    Okay this Article is amazing! I hope biola listens to us finally!!

    On another note though, who did this artwork? Why are there monkey emojis? Chimes, you are better than bad stock photos. Make work that takes more skill than adjusting opacity. March 11, 2015

  8. Elana B.

    Heck yeah! Great article! :) March 11, 2015

  9. TJ

    Catherine,
    I wrote much more in response to your article but I'm going to cut it to a few main points for times sake:
    1) your comparing your inconvenience of not being able to buy some clothes online to the struggle, sometimes obsessive, of your fellow brothers in Christ, some of which will be plagued with their entire lives
    2) your depiction of men is demeaning to say the least, which is ironic because you seem to be fighting against the same kind of view of women
    3) allowing those who struggle with this sexual issue to continue to observe these images will only perpetuate men to view women as they are depicted on these websites and in these demeaning images, not the opposite
    I hope you can see the anticipated intention of the blocking and pray for your brothers in Christ. You yourself even wrote, "I suppose I cannot fully comprehend the challenges males face when it comes to viewing these 'sensual images'". March 11, 2015

  10. Heather

    Catherine, I applaud this article and support your overall goal. The promotion of rape culture through the old standby of "boys will be boys" needs to be challenged and resolved overall. And while I agree that sites like these should not be blocked from Biola students under this premise, I disagree with the basic reason.

    While it's perfectly fine that women buy underwear (and lingerie) from sites like Victoria's Secret, the argument that this is discriminatory to women who simply want to buy underwear has too many holes. The biggest one is that there is nothing wrong with a woman who wants to buy lingerie. Woman have been told that their sexuality is a sin while men are told to embrace theirs. Secondly, though the over-sexualization of women in the media is a huge problem, the blocking of perfectly legal media is really just censorship.

    Lastly, by placing this ban on lingerie websites, Biola is basically condoning victim blaming, in which women are blamed for enticing men RATHER than guilty men being blamed for assuming authority over women's bodies. We cannot fix rape culture by applying a band-aid to a single symptom rather than applying the fix to the whole system. This ban is a cheap band-aid. March 11, 2015

  11. Anna Frost | Editor-in-Chief

    Alfred:
    I wanted to respond to your question about the photo used on this article, as it was chosen/created by one of our photo editors and approved by me.

    This photo is not pornography, not even "soft pornography" as many call ads from businesses like Victoria's Secret, because not every depiction of the female or male body that shows skin is pornography.

    The legal definition of pornography is as follows: "The representation in books, magazines, photographs, films, and other media of scenes of sexual behavior that are erotic or lewd and are designed to arouse sexual interest; or, "The portrayal of sexual acts solely for the purpose of sexual arousal."

    To start, the photo is a photo from a Victoria's Secret advertisement campaign, so it was created for the purpose of advertising clothing items. As such, it was not created for the sole purpose of sexual arousal and therefore cannot be pornography.

    Additionally, the photo does not portray "scenes of sexual behavior" or "portrayal of sexual acts." The woman is sitting — albeit in a pose meant to make her look attractive — but that does not equate to lewd or erotic sexual behavior or a sexual act. Therefore, this photo, or others like it that are on underwear store websites, cannot be pornography.

    The point of Catherine's article is similar to the discussion surrounding this photo. People, especially in Christian culture, have decided that the female body is inherently sexual and therefore pornographic — regardless of what that woman is doing with her body and especially if she is not wearing enough clothing to be considered "modest."

    This is simply not true and is clearly a double standard. Rarely do we hear people call a male underwear or swimsuit model's photos "pornographic" or unfit for women to view because it might make them stumble. No, it is only the female form that is condemned as shameful and blame-worthy, something to be hidden in order to avoid sin in others.

    I hope this helps clarify your question. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    March 11, 2015

  12. Caitlin

    I wholeheartedly applaud this article. Some thoughts:

    First off: I hate that men are bombarded with images and videos objectifying women and inciting desire. I know that nearly 100% of male 16-year-olds have encountered serious pornography. It horrifies me. I don't shrug off the temptations the internet poses for men (and women). However, blocking lingerie stores seems a ridiculous response to a legitimate problem.

    First, a website block will not stop anyone for long. There are plenty of ways to get around it. So those who don't need the block will get frustrated with it, and many who do need the block will get around it. It doesn't solve anything.

    Second, considering Victoria's Secret pictures pornography is rather ridiculous. Plenty of Californian beachgoers wear significantly less than Victoria's Secret models... and if people want porn, they're not going to head to Victoria's Secret's website. If you're going to block websites, Victoria's Secret should not be a primary target.

    Third... When will we train students to act like adults? Being an adult--being HUMAN--is filled with encountering and struggling against temptation. Stop shielding students from temptation. Rather, call them to be strong enough to fight it--and strong enough to take responsibility for their own temptations rather than blaming others. Who, ultimately, is responsible for my actions? Me. And if I am not able to control myself, it is my responsibility to acknowledge my problem and get help.

    Which brings me to my final thought: there are resources for men and women who struggle with pornography. Rather than depending on a cross-the-board website block, perhaps Biola should work on getting those resources to students who need and want them. There are accountability programs students can run on their own computers to protect themselves from unwanted images/videos/websites. There are support groups for people with sexual addiction. There are supportive, wise, compassionate campus leaders who offer love and encouragement.

    Make space for students to acknowledge and fight their temptations in humility... rather than using a website ban to pretend the problem doesn't exist. March 11, 2015

  13. Nicole Foy

    Great job, Catherine. Thanks for a wise and cautious treatment of a sensitive subject.

    I hope readers understand that you (and others like you) aren't protesting the small inconveniences created by these internet blocks, but the "subtle ways society oppresses and shames women." This is a problem that Christian communities like Biola must address.
    March 11, 2015

  14. Spencer Camp

    Thanks for expressing you're opinion!
    If have to say I think it's wrong, because you'd have to reconcile your idea with what the Bible says,

    "Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (‭Romans‬ ‭14‬:‭13-23‬ ESV)

    At Biola we're not islands. We exist for the "mutual building up" of the body of Christ. That's why Biola is awesome! March 11, 2015

  15. Alfred

    Hi Anna,

    First of all, thanks so much for your thorough response! It's so awesome that you (and the rest of the Chimes staff, I'm sure) have taken the time to think through these issues and wrestle with these questions. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to weigh in on this particular conversation as well.

    I now realize I should have been more clear with my earlier comment. I wasn't intending to spark an argument about the legal definition of pornography. Certainly, pornography is a broad enough concept that a single definition given within a single cultural context cannot sufficiently capture it. Even if it could, it would be beside my point.

    Even more importantly, I was not in any way intending to suggest that "the female body is inherently sexual and therefore pornographic." As someone who has spent time studying art, I understand that a depiction of even the fully nude human body is by no means necessarily sexual. It's an unfortunate and disturbing fact that our society often has such difficulty understanding this.

    What I'm ultimately trying to convey is this:

    Victoria's Secret (and other similar brands) capitalize on the objectification and sexualization of women in order to sell their products.

    The myth perpetuated by VS advertising campaigns (along with Abercrombie, American Apparel, etc.) is that women should look a certain way and should have certain attitudes towards sexuality if they are to be approved and accepted by society. These ads are not innocent. They reduce women to mere bodies, and bodies to mere sexual objects. This is the same exact myth perpetuated by pornography.

    I'm not writing all this just to be argumentative. I'm writing this because I think it's important that we take a step back and consider that these advertisements may not just be innocently trying to sell a harmless product. These ads may well have an ulterior motive. If our world had a healthy understanding of sexuality (and a biblical view of women), then Victoria's Secret wouldn't be the empire that it is today.

    Or, as Sarah so simply put it above me: "Companies such as VS shouldn't even be displaying women in the way they do. Women are truly oppressed by being displayed in such a way, that is a huge root of the problem." March 11, 2015

  16. Spencer Camp

    Even the famous 1 Corinthians 10:31 is about glorifying God by not eating food, looking at things, or participating in activities that would violate the conscience of a fellow brother or sister in Christ. :) The essence of Gospel freedom is being free Not to do and see certain things that would give offense to another's conscience. I really encourage you to read this passage. :)

    “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved." (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10‬:‭23-33‬ ESV)

    We go to a Christian University, one that desires to build up the body of Christ, by not doing things that tear other's consciences down. That's not just Biola, it's the Gospel. :) We sacrifice our own activities, whether it's eating meat or Victoria's Secret, or for me wearing inappropriate clothing, for the Salvation and Sanctification of many, to the glory of God, Amen! March 11, 2015

  17. student

    "Companies such as VS shouldn't even be displaying women in the way they do. Women are truly oppressed by being displayed in such a way, that is a huge root of the problem."


    I disagree. As a woman, when I see VS models, I think they are beautiful and represent how the linegerie is designed to make you feel.

    The brand is the way it is so that WOMEN can feel beautiful and sexy. Sorry, but that is not oppresive. Your argument would make more sense for a Carl's Jr ad.


    As to the comments about causing others to stumble: It is not necessary to block a website for that. It would be one thing if VS was the Biola homepage. But it's not, therefore if you type in that URL no one is causing you to stumble but yourself.

    Take some personal responsibility, people! March 11, 2015

  18. Dereck May

    There's a thing called cell service data... use that if the wifi is a problem. You can even hook your phone's connection to your computer. ALSO, you could actually just visit the store. It's usually better to see what you buy in person to get the right size. The only major problem with Biola wifi right now is that it's becomes slow and unreliable. (Starbucks is also 1 minute away if you have a Nokia phone or Sprint) Lastly, why is a simple website block somehow aimed towards the "oppression of women"? Not everything has the intent to "shame" females. Some things don't need to be made into big issues. If Biola really wanted to oppress women, they'd block Pintrest, not a risqué lingerie site. March 12, 2015

  19. Donna

    While I understand and agree with much of what you are saying, I do not agree fully with your challenge. The problem with Victoria Secret (and I am not as familiar with the others mentioned) is that they are using 'sex' to sell their products. It is not like the department store catalog pictures selling a bra of just the waist up picture in a bra. Victoria Secret is girls posing very sensually in her high heals long hair all flowing around her, etc. There is a BIG difference between Victoria Secret's site and plenty of others that sell bras and underwear. Try Target, Macy's, even Aerie! March 12, 2015

  20. Jade

    Dear Catherine,

    Thank you for your desire to defend the value and honor of women. I would like to ask for clarification on a few points. Towards the end of your article you said “By technologically covering men’s eyes for them, the community actually further objectifies women by saying that all depictions of the female body, even when modeling clothing for sale, is inherently sexual, shameful and wrong.” While my body is not inherently shameful or wrong, it is inherently sexual. I am a beautiful woman, and I find freedom in taking ownership of my own sexiness and deeper sexuality.

    In your article, you make the claim that modeling lingerie is not inherently sexual because its no different than modeling shoes or shirts. For the sake of my own sexuality and dignity, I must ask for clarification. VS's lingerie modeling is sexualization of the woman’s body, and is therefore an inherently sexual image. Isn’t that the point of lingerie – to be sexy? You want to feel sexy in lingerie, regardless of your audience. I’m getting married soon, and I will almost definitely be wearing something from VS on my honeymoon. I also use their products in everyday life because they are flattering and I enjoy wearing flattering things, although for now, nobody sees it except me.

    Sexualization of a woman’s body is not the problem. We have been created to be sexual beings and its good to be seen sexually by yourself and your spouse. The problem, really, is objectification. This is what happens when a woman is seen as a sexual object, not a sexual being. My body is beautiful, but so is my mind, my heart, and my other qualities that are intertwined with my sexuality. When I wear lingerie for my husband, I am displaying a very intimate part of my own confident sexuality. When the VS advertising department poses models in lingerie for their ads, they turn those women’s bodies into objects, displayed for the sake of making a profit from sex appeal.

    I want to defend woman’s freedom with you, but it seems that you are trying to defend the wrong thing. Why justify the objectification of the body, whether male or female? Lets learn to be confident in being sexy, but let’s also cultivate a free and wonderful womanhood that is centered around elegance, honor, and fun. The VS posters are not our feminist friends, they are advertisements manufactured by people who look at women for their sex appeal, and know how to sell to an audience who has bought in to a twisted and harmful definition of beauty and sexuality. I believe that trying to convince the public that we are not sexual when dressed in lingerie is really another step towards surrendering our freedom and identity. Let’s encourage one another to present ourselves in dignity, holding full confidence of our own sexuality with discretion and poise, and calling those who see us to honor the freedom and beauty that they see.

    Sincerely,

    Jade
    March 12, 2015

  21. Catherine

    Buy underwear from the store... March 13, 2015

  22. Anonymous

    To Anna Frost:

    It seems as though you do not have an accurate view of the breadth of what constitutes pornography. To put it more fully, it seems that your perspective does not coincide with biblical teaching, in that your depiction of it ('it was not created for the sole purpose of sexual arousal and therefore cannot be pornography') takes an overly lenient stance towards sin.

    We are in great danger when we assume that sin is only committed when it is intended to be. March 13, 2015

  23. Leeloo

    People seem to forget that women objectify and lustfully look at men too, or even at other women, we all have different struggles. Women are not the only ones victimized by acts of sexual lust. The one we should be upset at is the companies who feel that they need to sexualize these models in their lingerie in order to make a sale. And guess what? It works. Women buy the lingerie so that they can look like the models. Otherwise couldn't they just model the underwear on mannequins? It's way cheaper than paying extremely attractive unrealistic-looking (photoshopped) models.

    As for the "you can control yourself" mentality, if you make that argument then you must be also advocating for all websites to be unblocked, even the pornographic ones. You must be fighting for alcohol to be available in dining areas and dorms, since those prone to alcoholism should of course be strong enough to resist the temptation. And they should unblock any gambling websites too, so we can see how much will-power those with gambling addictions have. It's only fair, right?

    If you wanted the full "adult" experience that a twenty-something-year-old is entitled to, then maybe attending a Christian school wasn't the best choice. March 13, 2015

  24. Steve Smith

    Spencer Camp,

    Thank you for lifting up God's word, rather than just address all of the emotional appeal for change that came before you. You are correct in that we as Christians are not to do anything that would cause our fellow Christian to stumble. It should not have to be the selfish desires of a few to seek out a particular name brand undergarment, that would make it possible to stumble a possible struggling few, who might never recover.

    When we come to Christ we need to check our selfishness at the door when we are in the company of our fellow brothers and sisters.

    Thank you again Spencer for illuminating God's word for us all, because it is God who has true concern for the weak.

    God bless you brother. March 15, 2015

  25. Erston Langley

    honestly, i am getting tired of these people figuring that we should keep our spiritual lives in control. as a matter a fact, once were out of this pious - consverative bubble there will be no one else to babysit us from things like these. biola needs to be real with its people, and doing that requires to make the university environment more "worldly" rather than holy.
    not saying we should drop the whole christian atmosphere, but rather, tone it down a bit. March 17, 2015

  26. Kursi Minimalis

    Thanks for sharing here, And please visit Kursi Minimalis http://www.kursitamuminimalis.net/
    March 18, 2015

  27. Suzy

    Really Erston, did you really just say that a Christian university needs to be more worldly? Wow. Does that mean churches should be more worldly too then? March 18, 2015

  28. Steve Smith

    Sure Erston,

    Maybe Biola should "drop the whole Christian atmosphere" if they want it <more "worldly">. Are you kidding me? Do you attend this school, or do you go to a "more worldly" college, and want to spread that culture into a Christian school. The whole idea of being Christian is to die to this world, and self, and live for God and others. If you are unsure of this, then I encourage you to spend some time in God's Word to enlighten yourself.

    Spencer Camp has it right. March 22, 2015

  29. Andrew

    Thank you so much for this article! On Biola's campus we severely lack a strong feminist backbone. It's so nice to see people such as yourself standing up for an issue like this! And I am often shocked and disgusted with the misogyny found on our campus June 7, 2015

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