I stumbled across Whitney Woerz and her song “The Idea of Her” while I was on a random youtube loop (I know, not my best) but I was struck by the depth of this catchy pop-song. I have to admit that I am usually out of the loop when it comes to pop or rap music or teen-driven tv-shows or movies.
It’s not my niche but I will say it’s refreshing when I can find something in modern culture with depth and meaning.
The song starts like any other pop single with fabricated beats and repetitive chorus; however, I was struck by the words of the lyrics and soon found them to have a depth that is often lacking in popular culture.
Woerz croons of ‘The idea of Her”, exemplifying the concept of women as ideas rather than human beings with personalities, identities, and desires of their own.
As she sings about the “thought of beauty in your mind” mixed up with refrain of “rip away the skin” we can see the true tension in the song- The idea that projected female beauty is an impediment for understanding the depth of the person. In this scenario, women are prized solely by their outward appearance, as if their beauty is synonymous for the entirety of their being.
This we know, though, is a faulty premise. Women are complex, multifaceted, and much more interesting then “just” their beauty.
The droning “rip away the skin” refrain is repeated multiple times throughout the song symbolizing a conflict that she feels even with her own body. The repetition seems more like pleading- a pleading to be seen and understood through her soul and heart and not only by her outward appearance.
Woerz’s critique is further solidified when her admirer only likes the “idea of her” rather than her true self. Women are often lauded for accidents of their person (their looks, voice, charm etc.) rather than acclaimed for their actual accomplishments. This is a terrible problem, especially in a supposedly egalitarian world.
How can we create a world of opportunity for both genders when the world wants to fixate on beauty alone?
This, unfortunately, is a common enough ill for our society at large. Women are often forced to deal with the projections made about them either by men or women. This projection often leaves women feeling vulnerable and trapped in living up to the standards created by others. This deep sense of alienation is seen in the music video when the chanteuse is framed within a glass box, trapped behind the mold that she is dealt.
The glass box signifies her own insecurities and fears, placed there by the assumptions of others, as her own jail cell. This further solidifies our cultural understanding of female artists as objects to be consumed rather than human women with their own desires and agency. The constant fabrication of women, based on her appearance and forced into an idolized version of herself ends up destroying her.
In my opinion, the most evocative line in the song comes towards the middle where she claims that “…[you] hate it when someone tells you that you are loved”. Being forced into a box starts to denigrate a person’s sense of self worth. If we believe ourselves to be only good or useful due to “ideas” of who we are or fixations on our beauty, then there is no reason to believe that we are whole independent of another’s gaze. Therefore, from this perspective, every claim towards love will be seen as a lie rather than a truth. How can someone love you if you are just an image or mirage? It must be that they really don’t, which in turn continues the cycle of self-defeat.
I have not met one women that doesn’t grapple with these fears and questions on a seemingly daily basis. How are we, as followers of Christ, supposed to stand up against a culture that dictates that our value is based on our appearance? Or more egregiously, our identities being contingent upon eliciting emotional responses from those around us?
This concept, of human beings being reduced down to impressions based upon the basis of appearance, is contrary to the dignity of the human person. John Paul II stated in Love and Responsibility that, “a person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of Love, rather than an object for use”. When we accept the idealization of our person by another we are hiding ourselves away from truth. We are allowing ourselves to be treated as objects and projections. By being idealized, we refuse the risk of being seen totally and fully for who we are. To be loved is to be seen as we are, without pretenses.
This is a particular qualm for women in a society where looks, age, and status are favored over humility, servitude, and grace. However, we must remember that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that the Lord knows “every strand on our heads”. We are perfectly and infinitely loved. If we believe that to be true then we need to start questioning how the world treats women. Women are not objects and should not be projections for idealization.
As Christians, we must be fully critical of the popular media around us and what that means about the eternal things: Eternity, Love, Hope, and God. This music video, I hope, is able to teach just a few women about their inherent dignity as made in the image of God.
What do you think? Is there a misunderstanding of female beauty and objectification in our society. What do you think we could do? How does this relate to the image of God our interaction between the sexes?
While you ponder those ideasI hope you enjoy the song and video, I know I did!