Jon Jorgensen and Repackaged Patriarchy

In the last week, I got my first introduction to Jon Jorgenson after stumbling across his video “Who You Are: A Message to all Women” after it found its way into my Twitter feed.  The video is well on its way to having 6 million views.  Jorgenson is a Christian spoken word poet and although this video’s title is aimed at women, the video is set in a lecture hall and seems to be seeking an audience of younger women and girls.

 

A white man telling girls who they are didn’t seem like a particularly liberatory model.  So I decided to have a watch.  With emotive music and short dramatic sentences, the video is designed to create a specific emotional response.  He tells girls they’re smart and precious and funny and insists we have a responsibility to set free the “world changing woman” within ourselves.  Incidentally the video is entirely produced by men.  So he doesn’t think women are actually smart enough to be involved in creating his videos with him.

 

After moaning about the video on Twitter, I was informed that he has also created one for men.  So I had a watch of “Who You Are: A Message to all Men”, it has close to 2 million views.  The thing that is MOST fascinating is comparing the words of the videos (and though I don’t have time to delve into them, also the tone and body language within them and soundtrack lyrics behind them).  The subtly (or not so subtly) different language devices within stories that are broadly the same.  The overarching narrative of both videos are:

 

  1. You Are Awesome
  2. Things get in the way of you feeling amazing
  3. You have the capacity to change the world
  4. Jesus died for you
  5. The devil will tell you you’re not amazing
  6. Reject the devil
  7. You Are Awesome

 

The image below has the words typed up in two columns in order for you to compare them.  I’m hoping you can zoom in and read it…

 

Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 21.15.13.png

Here’s some of the issues when the videos are compared:

 

Women are passive: Beautiful, smart, funny, kind, unique, precious

Men are active: Strong, brave, capable,

 

Women receive: they “are worthy of love and affection”

Men give: they have ability, potential, gifts, talents, kind words, wisdom, jokes, joy to spread, they are full of qualities, traits and virtues

 

Women are “the most stunning of all God’s creation”

Men are “the Lord’s most valuable creation”

 

Women are objects: a diamond, rose, pearl, “the most

Men are subjects: writers, athletes, inventors, artists, musicians, technicians

 

The things that get in the way of women knowing their worth are all related to how they look (except maths test scores and pottery modelling): weight, hair, shoes, whether girls envy them or boys want to “have” them, clothes, modelling, hot list or not list (yes it says that), cheerleader, can’t stand to look in the mirror,

 

The things that get in the way of men knowing they are loved by God are related to activities and physical size: being muscly, being small (and in the library), baseball, swing dancing, fastest, slowest, tallest, smallest, skinniest, fattest, captain of the team or last one picked,

 

For women it doesn’t matter whether “you’re Miss Popular or never really had someone you could call a friend”.

For men it’s doesn’t matter whether “your dad could beat up his dad or you never had anyone in your life who could fill that role”.

 

Women “deserve someone who would give their life up for you because you are powerful and strong, capable”

Men “have a power inside you that was formed before the beginning of time in a secret place by the God of the universe”

 

Women get to change the world, but he gives no examples of what they do.  Just to read about women ing the Bible: Esther, Ruth, Mary, Martha.

Men get to change the world with their gifts, talent, courage, ability, and joy

 

Women are cherished, loved, adored by God

Men are treasured, entrusted and love by God

 

This videos are seeking to change the world, to change how women and men perceive themselves.  But particularly the messages Jorgenson sends to women are regressive and reinforce women as objects and ornaments.  It’s all very well wanting to challenge the cultural messages that women and girls are oppressed by.  But you cannot dismantle the devil’s house with the devil’s tools.

 

As well intentioned as these videos are, they continue to perpetuate the same models for women and girls that exist across society.  Perhaps that’s why the one for women has so many views.  It isn’t enabling women to reject the messages that oppress them, but rather to hear God tell them those same messages in a nicer voice.

 

The messages given to men are slightly more benign, there’s less about aggression and redemptive violence.  However, the comparative messages in the videos still leave men to conclude they are the actors (reinforced by a man performing both videos), the agents and that women are put on earth by God to be attractive and passive.

 

We must challenge these messages wherever we find them and remain steadfast in recognising that girls and women deserve better than repackaged patriarchy to empower and inspire them.

 

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7 thoughts on “Jon Jorgensen and Repackaged Patriarchy

  1. Thanks for this GLWCW. I got as far as “you are the Lord’s most valuable creation” and snorted so hard that stuff came out of my nose. You don’t need me to tell you this , but don’t give up.

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  2. M says:

    I believe Jon was trying to reach out to a bigger audience, he was trying to relate to the MOST COMMON problems that girls and boys have, in a very short video so that people wouldn’t get bored and stop watching. Of course not all woman have self confidence issues, but most do. Of course not all men have issues about what is expected of them, but most do. He was trying to generalize in his videos in order to reach and relate to a bigger audience and instead of seeing that I believe and feel that you are judging him. And Jon emphasized a lot of things that are in the beginning and through the whole Bible, you could check that out sometime. As christians, we shouldn’t try to bring each other down but to advice and give our own point of view to the other person and this is what I’m trying to do in this comment. You should also consider that those videos are years old and maybe he’s changed some of his views since then? I see you’re trying to do something good with this, you’re trying to empower. But empowering some by making others feel smaller is not the way. Lots of love and blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Thanks for your comment and thoughts. I appreciate you offering a different perspective and the challenge about the way I have communicated my critique. Thanks also for your recognition that my intentions are positive. I regularly read through the whole Bible, so am aware that what Jon was saying is Biblically based, however the messages are gendered in a way that the Bible doesn’t make them. To declare women as the most stunning and men as the most valuable is a big concern in terms of what it declares about our value as God’s children. I wouldn’t describe my son and daughter in those terms, and was deeply concerned that people are being told that’s how God sees men and women.

      I would say that there is a power analysis that needs to be attended to. These two videos have been viewed over 6 million times and he has a much bigger platform than I do. We do need to take responsibility for the messages that we put out there, especially messages that will influence young people. I understand that when we direct messages at male or female people, there is a tendency to generalise and stereotype, however, we reduce the awesomeness of who God made us to be by resorting to stereotypes, which is sad given that’s the exact opposite of what Jon is trying to do with the videos. He exists within a Christian culture where the messages he gave in the videos are the dominant ones given to men and women, so it’s not surprising that’s what he says. The main platform I have is to write on my blog and when I tweet about stuff. I appreciate that may feel intimidating to him, but I think that given the views Jon is getting on his videos and the work he does, it’s likely his platform is greater than mine, and as such I was responding to the videos in the way I am most able to ensure he hears what I’m saying. Also, one of the reasons I write critiques of content is in order to enable others to critically think about the messages they hear. I came across the women video because it was recommended by someone who thought it was amazing, and so by laying out concerns with it, hopefully it will enable others to think more carefully before taking stuff on wholesale, something we could all do with doing more of. It’s great if he has changed his views since these videos and it would be great to see content or blogs from him about the different perspective he now has! Thanks for being willing to engage! Appreciate you taking the time to share your views.

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      • M says:

        Thank you for taking the time to reply and the only other comment I have is that as he referred to woman as stunning and to men as valuable, the way I see it, he never said that men aren’t stunning and woman aren’t valuable. They are two separate videos and he just chose to emphasize the characteristics that would be easier to engage people with and to get the word out. Thanks for understanding!

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