The Myth of Ownership

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Recently there has been an onslaught of social media messages about women’s rights, many led by the hash tag, #yesallwomen. While the campaign was started to end violence against women, it has quickly grown into something larger – a campaign of female superiority and deservedness. I’ll be honest; the sentiment bothers me. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for women’s rights (I am a woman, after all). I support equal pay, equal privileges, and equal opportunity. I support the concept of feminism, but I do not support the feminist movement. The truth is that God created men and women differently. We were created uniquely to compliment each other.

But the real thing that bothers me about the feminist movement, and the thing that I want to discuss here, is the misconception of ownership. Every week I meet with a small group of high school ladies, led by two wise women, to discuss spiritual truths. Currently we have been reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. One of the chapters we discussed this past week talked about how Satan uses the idea of ownership to twist our thinking. The #yesallwomen campaign came to mind during our discussion. Some pictures show topless women with the caption “still not asking for it.” Another image going around is a paper taped up in a school with the typed words, “I don’t think my shoulder, bra strap, belly-button, legs, or back are going to distract any male students or faculty. This dress code is telling girls to cover up so that they don’t distract males because ‘boys will be boys’. It’s hot. Girls are going to wear shorts and tank tops. We should stop teaching women to change so they don’t have to fear men, and start teaching men to respect women. This is simply perpetuating rape culture.” What’s wrong with these images and captions? They put all the responsibility on men, and none on women.

Women call modesty confining, because they just want to be confident in their bodies. (There is nothing more impressive than a woman who is confident in how she acts and does not rely on how she looks.) But with the idea of wearing whatever we want comes the idea that we own our bodies. We start thinking, “Don’t tell me what I can or cannot wear,it’s my body.” And the concept doesn’t only apply only to women and modesty either. The idea of ownership permeates everything we say and do as a modern culture. It leads to drunkenness, drug use, and promiscuity. C.S. Lewis, in the persona of Screwtape the demon, writes about this topic.

The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged. The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell and we must keep them doing so. Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men’s belief that they ‘own’ their bodies… (p. 113)

If we own our bodies, then we can do whatever we want to our bodies. Right? Yet when we say “my body” the true sense of the possessive pronoun becomes ambiguous. The definition of “my” becomes blurred. C.S. Lewis also writes about how Satan twists the definition of ownership in our minds.

Even in the nursery a child can be taught to mean by ‘my teddy bear’ not the old imagined recipient of affection to whom it stands in a special relation (for that is what the Enemy will teach them to mean if we are not careful) but ‘the bear I can pull to pieces if I like.’ (p. 114)

If we believe that we own our bodies, anything goes. We can wear whatever we want. We can drink whatever we want. We can do whatever we want. There are no limits.

But we don’t own our bodies. Actually, we don’t own anything. God created us, and we are His. He is our Designer and our Owner.

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

If everything is all His, then it stands to reason that we are His! Therefore, we can let go of this belief that we can do whatever we want; instead, we are accountable to Him who made us. We don’t have the right to anything, because everything we have belongs to God. And the most important thing that belongs to God is our body. We are not only God’s creation, but He also gave up His son for our lives. He paid the price for our bodies.

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We have a responsibility to care for our bodies—in the way we dress, in the things we ingest, and in what we do. And if men and women are equal, then we should equally help each other out.

We have the same responsibility not only to our bodies, but also to everything that we are given. As I thought about the myth of ownership, I realized how much this thinking infiltrates our actions. For me, the most common area is in regard to time. I feel as though each minute is my time. Each morning, I am the possessor of twenty-four hours to do what I want, when I want, and how I want. Those are lies that only end up causing me irritation and frustration. My time is God’s. I don’t deserve anything. Well, I take that back—I deserve death (Romans 6:23). But Jesus gave His life for me. The least I can do is give Him my time and my body.

In the long run either Our Father or the Enemy will say ‘Mine’ of each thing that exists, and specially of each man. They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong—certainly not to them, whatever happens. (pp. 114-115)

For those who don’t believe the words of the Bible, my thoughts will probably hold little credibility. But those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ are equally as guilty of buying into the lie of ownership and deservedness. May these words encourage and motivate us to live selflessly in a world dominated by selfishness. This was a reminder for me personally of Whom I owe my life. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

– – Phebe

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2 thoughts on “The Myth of Ownership

  1. I really enjoyed reading this! I’ve been thinking a lot about the modesty debate lately and couldn’t quite pin down my thoughts. This post is very helpful in rounding out the opinion-sphere 🙂

    And since you asked for thoughts… 😉

    I agree with you wholeheartedly – our bodies are not our own and so we need to treat them with care and gentleness, just as if we were “borrowing” a friend’s book or toy.

    I think, though, that the movement you discuss (to allow women to wear what they want) holds some degree of merit. In the past, cultures have placed the blame on women for being “immodest” (what they call the “rape culture”) – it’s true of many cultures around the world (and Shariah law, which is practiced and “observed” in many ME nations even today, has many, many disgusting rules which promote similar ideas). I think the movement has gone to an extreme and therefore lost some of its credibility, but I do think the movement started out with a good concept: men do need to start taking more *public* responsibility for their actions. They certainly go to jail and are considered evil criminals, but, before the past decade brought about this movement, much of the blame in the public/cultural sphere was placed (perhaps even inadvertently) on women who weren’t modest enough, went out by themselves, or didn’t pay attention to their surroundings. Think about it: there is a lot more information and warnings for women on protecting themselves from dangerous and inappropriate situations (not just rapes – teacher relationships or molestation, etc.) than information and warnings directed toward men on how to properly treat women and their bodies. That’s where I think the movement has merit – we need prevention as well as protection.

    I do think women can help men protect their thoughts (and actions) by dressing modestly, but ultimately, men are responsible for their own actions. Basically I’m in the middle: I think girls and boys alike need to be more educated on respect for the human body – respect for yourself (i.e., dressing modestly) and respect for others (i.e., acting in a conservative manner towards others).

    And since this comment is practically a blog post by itself, I’m going to stop now. 🙂 Great post!

  2. I liked this article. I think you bring up a good point about not being selfish in how we use our bodies. And especially, I think you bring up a good point in saying that our bodies are not our own, they are God’s. Secular feminists do think of their bodies as their own, so as a Christian feminist, this is an important distinction.

    However, to play devil’s advocate, I would argue that the part of feminism that Christians can and should agree with and advocate, is that women’s bodies do NOT belong to men or the general public. They belong to God. So, yes women should use their bodies to glorify God, but it is not up to men to decide whether they are modest enough to deserve respect. Women and women’s bodies ought to be respected no matter what, and all the more so because they are God’s handiwork.

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