One of the perks of my job is I get to visit a ton of churches, camps and youth events and hear some of the best student communicators around the country. It’s honestly one of my favorite things to do. But as I listen, I can’t help but notice a habit that I wish every youth speaker in America would kick.
About 1 in every 5 times I hear a (male) youth-worker speak to students on stage, he says something like this:
Here’s a picture of…
I’m married to…
Check out my…
SMOKING HOT WIFE
Because you’re typically on a stage with lights and distractions, you may not notice that nearly every woman in the audience rolls her eyes when this happens (as do some of the seasoned men). I’ve honestly heard audible sighs of exasperation. But here’s the thing: I don’t think most guys make this statement to degrade women. Sure, there are a few who just want to make themselves look good or use it as a cheap way to get respect from teenage boys in the audience, but I’ve met enough of these communicators, had real conversations with enough of them to know that isn’t the norm. I actually think a ton of male speakers say things like “smoking hot wife” because…
They’ve seen other speakers do it and it seems like an easy intro.
They genuinely love their wives and want to demonstrate what a healthy relationship look like.
I can appreciate both. I don’t think the motives are always bad. But, if you’re a communicator, ESPECIALLY TO STUDENTS, can I just humbly request that you STOP IT anyway?
This could quickly become an e-book on all the theological and psychological reasons that reducing your wife’s description to her appearance is a bad idea, but for now, here are two really practical reasons to evict “smoking hot wife” from your talks.
It’s not accomplishing what you think it is. Can I just be honest with you? Talking about your hot wife isn’t as great of an intro as you think it is. Most leaders remember their own youth pastors saying something similar in the late 1990’s. (That’s part of the reason I think it so often gets repeated. We’re all grown-up youth group kids, after all). Often, it just makes you look old to other leaders. And, for students of GenerationZ, the most socially conscious generation in history, they’re quick to recognize when a comment steps outside the bounds of what’s affirming to women and minorities. To shoot straight, opening a talk by referencing your hot wife makes you look out-dated at best and misogynist at worst.
You’re doing more harm than you think. You’d never start your talk by telling 50% of the audience they’re worthless. I know that isn’t the intention, but after decades of working with teenage girls, I can assure that nearly zero of them see themselves as “hot” or as ever having the potential to be so. Think about it, as an adult your “smoking hot wife” probably doesn’t even see herself as that way. Now imagine her with teenage insecurity. That’s half your audience. So, when a speaker (who they respect and admire) takes the stage and says, “I’ve been married to ____, my smoking hot wife for 5 years. As you can tell, God has BLESSED me ha ha", here’s what that the teenage girls you serve hear: You are not a blessing and you never will be. Because of how you look, you are a curse. And, since my wife's looks are all I’m gonna mention…that's all that matters.
Here’s the truth, friends. When you step on a stage at your church/camp/conference, for better or worse teenagers see you as God’s mouthpiece. What you say will ultimately define not only how they value women but also what they believe GOD thinks about women. And because of that, we have a responsibility, not just to the girls but especially to the guys in the audience to accurately portray women as Image-bearers and not just images for our consumption. In other words, when you’re speaking FOR God, you have a responsibility to say what He would say, define His daughters the way He would. And, in His own words, looks aren't even a factor.