Lessons from the Mall of America: Indecent images in advertising encourages modern ideals, negative self-image

By Rachel Golias

The adage ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’ used to dictate who could enter an establishment, but some clothing stores are bucking at this tradition by placing shirtless men in mall hallways to draw customers inside.

Whether looking at the displays at Victoria’s Secret, the mannequins at American Apparel, the posters at Abercrombie and Fitch, the shopping bags at Hollister, the models at Gilly Hicks or simply other shoppers, inappropriate images abound in the malls across America.

Unfortunately, the majority of consumers are not bothered by this growing trend of indecency, and some encourage it. One day this summer, as I was walking through the Mall of America on the way to work, I passed a family in front of Victoria’s Secret. The parents were laughing as they took pictures of their preteen boys by a larger-than-life store advertisement. This shocked me as I realized how low society’s standards are set.

Most of the time, I tell my brother to stay away from the mall, and when my parents visit me at work, I tend to steer them away from certain areas to avoid the worst stores. Because of advertising, malls in general have gone from a fun place to hang out to a negative experience I wish I could avoid.

For women, the airbrushed images on the advertisements make many feel like they need to be perfect. Advertisers promote immodest clothing choices and make women believe size-zero clothing is average. They encourage the mentality that women are objects instead of people, and make them feel the only way to be happy or to have a boyfriend is by looking and acting indecently.

For men, manhood is being defined as looking like macho football players or by wearing a v-neck shirt with skinny jeans. Not only can a man’s identity be challenged, but they may also be faced with temptation and lust everywhere they look at the mall.

What is the answer to this dilemma? Unfortunately, our culture is so saturated with sexual images in malls, clothing, movies and music that it will be hard to make changes across the board. For consumers, the fight against this mentality might mean boycotting certain stores or brands, avoiding malls, making sure the way they dress and act are appropriate, or hiding from society.

There is a delicate balance to learn how to be in the world but not of the world. Romans 12:2 urges believers not to be conformed to the world but to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

One way a friend’s husband put this verse into practice was by switching sides of the table while eating at a mall food court so he would not be facing an inappropriate or tempting poster.

Inappropriate advertising and cultural pressures cannot always be avoided, but one can fight against it and insure they are not being affected by the images

Before going to a mall or simply checking out at the grocery store, one needs to make sure his or her heart is centered on Christ and their image is modeled after Him, not the world’s standards and ideals.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.