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:
- You Are Awesome
- Things get in the way of you feeling amazing
- You have the capacity to change the world
- Jesus died for you
- The devil will tell you you’re not amazing
- Reject the devil
- 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…
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.