Self-Mutilation. Is it a trend? A rebellious movement? A sign of mental illness? Or a response to trauma, stress, and/or abuse? Current statistics are staggering, suggesting that one out of every ten teenage girls utilizes some form of self harm. Whatever the cause, it’s becoming an epidemic. And all parents should be aware.
Contrary to what you might believe, the cuts are not random. Created with razors, scissors, glass, metal, or anything sharp, the cuts present with pattern and intention. Each slice has its pre-planned place, displaying a memory or representing a story. Some girls cut words or symbols into their skin. Others cut marks that represent numbers….the number of times she was bullied or abused or overlooked or even the number of times she failed. And sometimes, the cutting is simply a way to fit in.
“Teens may experiment with self-harm as a form of pleasure. The body responds to minor pain by releasing endorphins, which has a numbing or pleasurable sensation. It can be the equivalent of “getting high” for a particular set of people. But while some teens may do this for the sheer thrill or at the suggestion of friends, experts believe that most teens self-harm in response to major stressors in their life….Self-harm happens among teens across all demographics. Much like substance use, experimenting with cutting or burning might be discussed among peers and viewed in the media, leading otherwise well-balanced kids to think about trying it.”
Listen, these are our daughters. They are the young women who will lead the next generation of females. Where are we going wrong? If there is a consistent rise in teenage girls utilizing self harm, cutting and burning their bodies, I would argue these young women are not feeling empowered. How do we hearken back to the days when women burned bras instead of their skin? When women cut the rhetoric that pronounced them “lesser than men” instead of cutting their bodies?
Feminism has too often been labeled with a big negative brush stroke, and Christian leaders are partly to blame. If you call yourself a “feminist” in the church, for instance, you are automatically labeled a pro-abortion baby killer. You hate men…and you certainly don’t buy into Ephesians 5:22-23…which means you might not even be saved. This nonsense has got to stop. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. That sounds very Christian to me.
Consider how feminism has shaped us:
Until 1920, women couldn’t vote.
Women could not don their running shoes in the Boston Marathon until 1972!
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed in the US in 1974. Until then, banks required single, widowed or divorced women to bring a man along to cosign any credit application, regardless of their income. They would also discount the value of those wages when considering how much credit to grant, by as much as 50%.
Until the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, women could be fired from their workplace for being pregnant.
We have come a long way, baby, and that is something to celebrate. We can’t go back. And yet this self-mutilation movement feels very much like we’re going backward. Feminism, at it’s core, may have necessarily begun with the commonality women shared in having to fight for equal rights, but in general, and in the best possible sense of the word, it promotes togetherness…females literally teamed up together for a common cause. So why can’t that cause simply be about empowerment? About females defining who we will be in this upside down world?
One of my daughters suffered early childhood trauma in an orphanage before we could get to her, as a result, she battles depression, and she is now a cutter. She was not a cutter, however, until she went into group therapy with other cutters. More than one licensed counselor has told her this: “I understand why you cut. By feeling the pain of a cut, you are transferring the pain you feel in your heart.” THAT is an excuse. THAT is enabling. And it’s coming from WOMEN counselors!!!
Cutting and/or burning is not a transfer of pain. The fix is like a drug, it is temporary at best. And it requires another cut…and another…and another…until all that’s left of the “fix” is hundreds of brutal scars. That is unacceptable. Our answer to these young women must be: “No More!” We help alcoholics and drug addicts by giving them twelve step support groups, and we tell them “No More!” Our girls deserve the same.
Perhaps we need to get back on board this Feminism Train, ladies. Feminism should be a positive term that promotes empowerment by encouraging a necessary support group between girls in a world that is pushing perfection like never before. Our problem is not feminism…it’s perfectionism and the shame that comes with not measuring up. We have a culture of girls who are defining themselves by the number of likes on Instagram, for goodness sakes. This is madness.
In reality, we are all sinners who’ve been saved by the grace of God. Not one of us is perfect in any form or fashion. Don’t we all battle bouts of depression, pain, weakness, disappointment, failure, troubles, loss, and insecurities? For some it’s worse than others, of course, but we all live in a world where sin is inescapable. Like air, it invades our bodies every single day and will until we breathe our last breath. Perfection is a fool’s paradise…it doesn’t exist…yet, it is an enemy that is stealing away our girls. Our girls have to start being real, and in order to do that, they have to hear us and see us be real. We are the example. We have to take the masks off. We have to remember and speak about the inheritance we enjoy because of powerful women who came before us and who didn’t allow themselves to be defined by the latest pop culture trends. This begins with us. Right now.
Hear the empowering voices of the women who fought to return us to our God-given place on this planet: Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Blackwell, Florence Nightingale, Helena Rubinstein, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Hodgkin, Rosa Parks, and Margaret Thatcher. They would all say that we should live our lives to the fullest, that we should use our rights and freedoms to create a better world that is more loving, peaceful, fair, and merciful. We are not the weaker sex. We are women who, when we ban together on anything, produce change. We are beautiful. We are strong. We are smart. We are leaders. We are the glue in our families. And we are feminists.