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October 15, 2007
Out of the corner of my eye, I detect a persistent and annoying blinking motion at the bottom of my email screen, apparently a prime space for Internet advertising. This one is for Nutrisystem diet products, and it shows an slim, attractive woman about my age, clearly a Nutrisystem user, who smilingly tells us, "My little grandson said, 'Grandma Mary Ann, you look hot!'"

Isn't that adorable.

Use our product and your grandchildren will view you in an inappropriately sexual way. Use our product and people will want to commit adultery with you. Use our product and strangers will proposition you. I mean, who wouldn't want that?

Americans often contrast women's freedom here with the oppression of women in Muslim countries. They have to wear the hijab. They have to wear the burka. They can't go out without a male relative as a chaperone; they can't go to school, they can't drive a car. Many people smart enough to know better think that these things are true in all Muslim communities, although they are not.

But I am not sure all of us understand that we have our own forms of bondage. Is it really freedom, constantly to be reduced in one's significance to one's sexual function? To acquiesce in the elevation of a certain body type as the summation of one's worth, and to be willing to risk injury or even death to achieve it? To encourage the sexualization of the experience of small children? One need not endorse the Taliban's narrow view of life to admit that not everything in our own has worked for our betterment.

While we are busy telling other countries what to do, it would be well for us to consider what it is they see when they look at us. Predatory, half-naked half the time, violently sexual, promiscuous, dismissive of one another's worth -- our advertising and our music sells these things around the world. They have also been sold to us, and we have bought willingly. Without asking ourselves, at least not often enough, if they are really the best we have to offer?
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