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Christian author sparks debate about women’s body image

CHALLENGING INSECURTIES: Author Chine Mbubaegbu

CAMBRIDGE THEOLOGY graduate Chine Mbubaegbu is no stranger to meaningful discussion in her work as Head of Media for the Evangelical Alliance, and in her former role as a journalist.

She’s now added a Christian perspective to the national debate about women and their body image in her debut book Am I Beautiful?

Mbubaegbu’s reasons for writing Am I Beautiful? are manifold. The 29-year-old explained: “The book started off life as a Christian version of How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. But when I started to think about the thoughts that dominate my mind as a woman, that hold me back, a lot of it is about body image and beauty. And when I think about the things that dominate my conversations with other women a lot of it is about image and dieting. I wanted to take a deeper look at that, and to challenge it, especially from a Christian perspective.”

During her research, Mbubaegbu who serves as a trustee of a New Frontiers church in southeast London found a key contributor to women’s beauty angst is the media. She said: “Women today see more images of outstandingly beautiful women in one day – through advertising, media and television etc – than our grandmothers did in their entire lifetimes.”

Black women too are susceptible to beauty angst, because they don’t comply with Western society’s view of the ideal woman. She recalls that, as a five year old, she drew a self-portrait of herself with blond hair and blue eyes because that’s what she thought beautiful was. She recognises that little has changed.

“Fast forward 25 years and I'm living in a society in which black women are desperately buying skin-lightening creams and spending thousands of pounds on hair extensions and chemical straightening in an attempt to conform to an arbitrary, man-made standard of beauty which doesn't look like us” she said.

She acknowledges that following Jesus doesn’t exempt women from experiencing beauty angst despite Biblical injunctions that everyone is made in God’s image.

“Being a Christian doesn't mean you are evacuated from the world,” Mbubaegbu explained. “We hear the same messages, see the same advertising, read the same magazines. Rightly or wrongly, we are influenced by the culture around us.
But I do think our story as Christian women really needs to be better than this. We need to model what it means to be confident, Christ-reflecting women who are passionate about changing our worlds, rather than being obsessed and paralysed by our thoughts about how we look.”

It’s Mbubaegbu’s prayer that Am I Beautiful? will challenge the church to reflect on how it might contribute to women’s insecurities, particularly injunctions from some Christian speakers encouraging single women to look their best to ‘get a man’ and stating married women should aim to look hot to stop their man’s eyes from wandering!

She also hopes the book will remind women that they are more than just their looks and bodies.

“Why do we not want women to be objectified or made to feel that they are inadequate and less than? Because we – as Christians – believe that we are all made in the image of God and that He looks at the inside rather than the outside.”

Am I Beautiful? is £7.99 and published by www.authenticmedia.co.uk Read Chine’s blog at www.amibeautiful.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @ChineMbubaegbu @amibeautiful13

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