Tag Archive | feminism

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For the last two days, I’ve been struggling to find something to write about.  The weird thing is, I don’t feel burned out or stressed, the typical causes of writing failure.  I just . . . don’t have anything to say right now.  Go on, you can make fun of me for that–especially if you know me offline.

I suppose part of it is that I’m working on some fiction and I’m pouring my energy into that project, which I’m currently having beta-read.  I’m excited about what I’m writing, and I’m enjoying the process.  (Nope, not going to tell you yet–I’d like to get the whole thing done and beta’d.  I may post it as a serial on my fiction blog.)  I only have so many hours in the day, since I also need to work on editing projects and homeschool my daughter and drive the kids around to their activities.

Another part is just a function of not having much to say.  I’ve spent years deconstructing a shaky faith built on a legalistic version of Christianity.  I’m now in process of reconstruction.  I was at church the other night and I mentioned to a couple of people there that coming into a church that doesn’t teach salvation based on receiving Christ as personal savior has been alien to me–in a good way.  Being in a place where the emphasis is on “God is awesome!” rather than “You are unworthy!” has been refreshing.  To an extent, I still don’t fully trust church as an institution.  I’m still guarded when it comes to participation in church activities.  But I’m healing, and that’s what matters to me.

The third piece is that I think I’m softening on some things and learning as I go.  When I left legalistic Christianity, I temporarily exchanged it for legalistic feminism.  That’s not healthy.  I discovered that feminism can be just as much a belief system, in a sense, as religion.  I needed to distance myself from people claiming to speak for me and from terminology (which I’ve used and now regret) that I view as harmful.  No matter how many times women tell me that they have the right to be angry, I can’t see how “kill all men” is helpful in any way.  I’m not talking about “being nice” in hopes of getting people in our corner; I’m talking about how anger can be expressed without that kind of hyperbole.  I don’t feel pressure to conform to someone else’s feminism any more than I feel pressure to conform to someone else’s Christianity.

I’m still figuring out how to write from this place.  It’s where I started–the gap between my faith and my experiences of the world.  Now I need to learn to write from the gap between my feminism and my experiences of the world.  It’s the place in which I don’t want to hurt other women, but in which I need to protect my own spirit as well.  I learned that being angry all the time made me self-righteous and burned me out to the point that I had to block people on social media because they were indirectly causing my anxiety to peak.

Anyway, I’m sorry about the crickets in here.  I know that if I’m patient with myself and allow for the time I need, I’ll be able to write in here again.  For now, I’m going to work on other projects while I enjoy the beautiful sunshine streaming in my windows.  Whatever today brings for you, may you find your small ray of hope in it.

Today, I’m not a good feminist.

Anti-feminist symbol. By Ahmadi (own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I think I haven’t been a “good” feminist for a while now.  I’ve been thinking about it, and maybe I’m just not cut out for this gig.  Oh, I don’t mean that I’m not into equality and I’ve suddenly gone backwards to the world of women having a proper place.  I just mean that I don’t really fit in with what looks sometimes like the Ideal Feminist.

When I stopped believing in the typical conservative evangelical version of Christianity, the first thing to go was the notion that there is some ideal standard out there.  This isn’t Jesus, this is Plato.  That’s not to say there isn’t “better” and “worse,” just that there’s not some magical fairytale Perfect Being with such an impossibly high standard that all of humanity disgusts the Perfect Being.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that this notion exists outside Christianity.  Evangelical Christianity is at least honest about it–if you don’t agree that you’re bad and repent (with the appropriate belief in the magical Perfect Being), you get a one-way ticket to Hell.  The rest of the world is not quite so open about what will happen to you.  From what I can tell, though, if you don’t get it right (there’s no Perfect Being to rescue you), you get ejected from the club and placed on the list of People Who Piss the Gatekeepers Off No Matter What They Say.  I have a feeling there are some people who could say, “The sky is blue” and they’d get an argument about the specific shade.

The reason I say I’m a lousy feminist these days is that I want to concentrate on the big picture and not the minutiae of precisely how someone said something or what an individual woman chooses to do.  I’ve been guilty of hair-splitting myself, and I think it’s time to be done with that.  I’m not convinced the right way to be a feminist is to demand that we consider every damn detail of the decisions we make, analyzing it all to make sure it conforms to the Feminist Policies and Procedures Manual.

There’s this list of rules (sometimes spoken, sometimes not) that exists somewhere, and I just don’t think I can keep up anymore.  This is by no means exhaustive:

  • Don’t do or say anything that could be construed as “what about the men” (the details of what that entails will be explained to you after you screw up)
  • Define anything men say that sounds corrective as “mansplaining,” even when it has nothing to do with feminism (because there’s no possible way you could be wrong if you studied it, read it, or wrote about it)
  • Grill women about the choices they make (taking husband’s name, having babies, working for pay, etc.) and tell them there’s a right answer for anything you think isn’t “feminist” enough
  • Police people’s methods of healing from abuse (but expect them not to do the same to you)
  • Make violent threats, use verbally abusive language, and do the same creepy things you complain men do, but say you can do it because your threat is “empty”
  • Find the most mild examples of your own privilege and say, “See? I check my privilege!” (this applies exclusively to white feminists and mostly to straight feminists)
  • Complain about “creepers” on social media but don’t bother blocking them the first time they make you uncomfortable
  • Do all this to others while claiming you have no issues to work on

I am not in either therapy or recovery, but I know plenty of people who are.  The steps above are aspects of what’s called “taking someone else’s inventory.”  The essence of it is that you’re finding fault with other people and assessing their motives without examining your own.  The problem with this approach when it comes to feminism is that it separates women from each other.  I’m not saying every feminist I disagree with does all of these things, but a fair number of them do at least two, one of which is usually the last item on the list.

A good example of this behavior is an article I linked some months ago about women’s reasons for taking their husband’s names.  The writer didn’t see any valid reason to take one’s husband’s name except for being religiously conservative and believing it was the right thing to do.  Any other reason, including “because most people do it and I didn’t think that deeply about it,” were game-show-buzzered automatically.

Name-changing is not a primary issue, yet somehow, it’s been put on the Throne of Importance.  If I’m not railing against the oppression of changing my name, I’m apparently an idiot and a faux feminist.  You know what?  I honestly do. not. care if you change your name to your husband’s, hyphenate it, make up a new name, give him yours, or drop the last name entirely, Cher-style.  You could insist on having your birth name (which may be your father’s anyway) and still be part of a complementarian marriage or have a husband who abuses you.  That’s because the name isn’t the real problem.

Another one I saw the other day was a tweet asking why people had kids.  No, seriously.  Because it’s totally invasive to ask people why they don’t have any but not at all violating to demand we explain ourselves as to why we had them.  (Before you ask, yeah, I answered the question, because I didn’t think anything of it until later, when I realized how much it upset me.)  Anyway, the tweet also said that “because it’s what people do” is not a valid reason.  Again, I’m not making this up.  I love the attitude that says someone else can evaluate my choices but God forbid I evaluate theirs.  As with the name change, I do not have any interest in whether you have kids or you don’t.  That’s your choice.  But it’s a super-duper privilegey thing to do to ask people why they reproduced and blast people you think didn’t consider it hard enough.  (Pro tip: it’s classist.)

I feel more in feminist spheres like I don’t measure up than I ever did in religious ones.  That’s probably owing to the fact that I wasn’t abused in church like some were, so I acknowledge that.  There are also some feminists (even of the more extreme sort) who don’t do this.  It seems to be, for the most part, limited to (strangely) Christians who claim the feminist label.  I chalk that up to the need to rebel against an anti-feminist system, but it doesn’t make it right.  You know what I want out of my feminism?  I want to work toward making sure that all people have opportunities.  I want equality and justice.  I want women of color to be paid the same thing as white men for doing the same job.  I want my son to be a ballet dancer and my daughter to be an engineer (if that’s what they want).  I want our culture to reflect the beauty and diversity of women’s contribution to the arts.  I want all forms of human-against-human violence to end.  I do not want to argue about names and babies and the definition of “job.”

There’s an attitude among some women that they are better than others because hey, at least they aren’t anti-trans like some people or at least they don’t use the word “c*nt” like some people.*  ‘Nother pro tip: taking other feminists’ inventories is also bad.  Stop doing it.  Stop nit-picking my decisions and asking me rudely personal questions in order to prove that you’re the better feminist.  If that’s what you want, then fine.  You can be the Queen Feminist.  I’m out, though.  I’m claiming my fourth-prize ribbon for being a lousy feminist and calling it a day.

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*Last pro tip, I promise.  The word “c*nt” is really, really bad in the U.S.  Don’t use it if you live here or are visiting here.  I understand that it doesn’t have quite the same impact in other places, though.  So we in the U.S. really don’t have the right to tell non-Americans whether to use it or not.  For some reason, there’s a boatload of policing that particular word because “Zomg! Someone used it on Twitter and Americans read Twitter!  And they used it IN THEIR TWITTER HANDLE OMG I AM SO OFFENDED!”  Yeah.  Get over it.  We have words that are equally offensive to other cultures.

Healing, forgiveness, and redemption

Joseph Forgives His Brothers, by the Providence Lithograph Company (http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/1907/gen45.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I recently had the privilege of connecting with Stephanie Drury (of Stuff Christian Culture Likes) through an online community we both belong to.  I’ve long appreciated what she has to say because even though I don’t agree 100% with everything she says, she’s one of the people who comes closest to expressing more or less where my own faith is right now.  I don’t have the history of spiritual (and other) abuse she’s endured; my stay in the conservative evangelical world was comparatively short and uneventful.  My leaving was mostly for the sake of my children.  I saw enough to know that even in the best-intentioned evangelical spheres, abuse is a natural outflow of certain teachings.  It wasn’t something I wanted my children to have long-term exposure to.  Trust me when I say I’d have been happy to foot the therapy bill knowing I could have prevented the damage and didn’t.

That said, yesterday, I read Stephanie’s post, hugo schwyzer’s suicide attempt, the feminist response, and the tension of holding horrible things alongside possiblity.  While again, I don’t agree 100% with everything she says, it resonated with me.  Bear with me as I attempt to explain why, keeping two things in mind:

  1. Stephanie writes from a place of having been harmed.  No one should accuse her of failing to understand what it’s like to be victimized.
  2. I am not writing from that place.  I’m writing from the place of one who has both done the harm and seen the harm.

A lot of people were pretty angry about what Stephanie said in her post.  I understand that.  There was a time when I would have readily jumped on that train.  I have my own experiences with being told to forgive someone who had wronged me–to the point of not being able to express my anger because both Christianity and “psychology” told me that the burden was on me to “own” my reactions.  I wasn’t supposed to hold past misdeeds against people who continued to hurt me.  All of those things are lies; it’s not on me to do anything, and a person’s history does inform his or her present actions.  So believe me when I say I get it that some of what Stephanie said could trigger a lot of feelings.

On the other hand, her post did make me consider two things that are very important for me.  I emphasize that last part because I recognize myself to be pretty near the top of the privilege food chain.  I’m white, I’m cisgender, and I’m straight.  I’m a married stay-at-home-mom (to me, that’s like the height of economic privilege, that I can choose to do what I want).  I’ve never been spiritually abused, though I have a long history of other forms of bullying, and there were certainly abuses in my family.  What Stephanie’s post made me think about wasn’t how I treat those who have wronged me but how I, as a person who has wronged others, have had my own redemption story.

First, I have to really, truly, deeply own my history of fundamentalist ideas.  When I was 15 or 16, I was in the car with a couple of family members.  I cheerfully told them that “sin is sin,” a line I was repeating from church.  They already knew that my church had taught me that gay = sin.  The conversation went like this:

Me: Sin is sin.  One sin is no better or worse than any other.

Family member 1: So, lying and murder are equal.

Me: Yep.

Family member 2: You believe it’s wrong to be gay.

Me: Yes.

Family member 1: So, being gay is as bad as being a rapist.

Me [now very uncomfortable]: Yeah, I guess, but it’s just because all sin keeps us from God.

Family member 2: So I’m as bad as a rapist.

Me: I don’t know. I guess so.

And that’s the most mild and printable of the ways I hurt this person.

Ten years.  It took me ten years to get to a point where I didn’t still believe that.  I have no idea how that particular family member stuck it out with me.  All I can say is that from the time I was old enough to remember, she’s been one of my favorite people in the whole world.  She’s been one of my biggest advocates.  Because she (and other family members, who have also been wonderful) loved me and waited patiently for me, we made it past all that.  I changed.

It’s that belief that people can–and do–change that keeps me blogging.  It keeps me searching for new ways to be an ally and it keeps me reading on Twitter to see where my privilege is showing and what I can do to make it right.  It keeps me searching for justice and my part in it.  It keeps me pointing to the voices of others and asking people to listen.  I express all that in different ways.  Sometimes I’m angry and bold; sometimes I use Scripture; sometimes I write about how deeply I love the people in my life.  I keep going, though, because someone, somewhere may be reading and might just find the spark to change.

The second thing that occurred to me is that I’m a harsh critic of people.  I don’t actually like people very much.  Perhaps that’s the result of my history with peers at school or with some of my family.  It could be because I’m pretty introverted.  I don’t really know.  The problem is that I often have trouble separating what people say and do from who they are.  This is particularly true when those people are public figures.

I have little difficulty accepting and loving ordinary people, even when they aren’t perfect.  The real people in my everyday life get the benefit of my ongoing forgiveness.  My two closest friends (other than my husband) are very different women, but I love them both so, so much.  Have we ever hurt each other?  Sure.  Do we do things the others think are probably bad ideas?  Of course.  But there is a lot of good history that none of us are willing to throw away.  We make things right and we move on.

That can’t be done with these big-name “celebrity” bloggers, pastors, and speakers.  I’m not at all condoning what any of them say or do.  We need to keep calling them out on their behavior because they are doing these big, public things and using their fame to gain followers who will then turn around and do the same things.  We need to stop them.  We need to be angry, we need to be pushy, we need to be bold.  We also need to be gentle and persuasive and kind–not because that’s the “best” way to do it but because our natural personalities make us respond in our own ways.  I cannot imagine some of my fellow bloggers being polite about Mark Driscoll or Hugo Schwyzer’s latest pile of poo.  On the other hand, there are many bloggers I can’t imagine writing a scathingly funny take-down or an angry rant; they normally write very differently than that.

Where we may be able to agree is that we can say what a person is actually doing without assigning motive or making assumptions about who that person is or whether there is any hope for change.  We can say with certainty that Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Hugo Schwyzer, and others have said and continue to say terrible things.  We can worry about their families.  We can tell anyone who will listen in whatever way we need to that their words are damaging.  What we can’t do is know why they do those things or whether they will ever change.

I also feel uncomfortable with name-calling, as that speaks to who or what we think someone is at their core.  I admit to having done this; I imagine that I learned to do it as a child.  My mother used to call me names when she was angry, and I was bullied mostly with name-calling for years.  Whether or not anyone else agrees, I believe no matter what abuse someone has committed or appears to have committed, it is, in fact, bullying to call people steaming piles of shit or assholes or fucktards or douchebags.  I don’t really care that you think it’s not hurting them because they hurt you first or that you’re just expressing your anger.  It’s still not right.  They are humans, not poo or body parts–regardless of the evil things they’ve done.*

There is one place where I strongly disagree with Stephanie (and I hope this does not hurt her, in the same way that I hope not to have hurt others with my words above).  In the specific case of Hugo Schwyzer, his past is applicable.  He may have apologized for what he did, but the fact that he keeps on doing it says volumes more than his apology.  Perhaps he wouldn’t try to kill an intimate partner now, but he isn’t demonstrating respect for women.  This is the same man who penned an article (which I will not link to) about removing a tampon from his soon-to-be ex-wife.  If that’s not a violation of her privacy and her womanhood, I don’t know what is.  If he wants people to stop bringing up his past, then he needs to stop behaving that way in the present.

I know this post is already too long; I hope you’ve stuck with me.  I honestly don’t want to hurt anyone with my words.  As I said near the beginning, this was mostly about the things I believe I’ve done wrong and now wish to amend.  It won’t change the fact that I’m going to continue to use my words to fight injustice.  It does mean that I want to be careful not to conflate actions with unknown motives or words with people.

I’d love to know what you think; leave me a comment and tell me what’s on your mind.

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*I maintain that name-calling can be ok for institutions (which are not thinking/feeling beings) or in certain humorous contexts, such as the post I linked in my News last Friday about being a better douchebag (it wasn’t connected with a specific individual).

Notable News: Week of June 8-14, 2013

Happy Friday! Here at our house, this is the last Friday of the school year (for the kids, anyway).  They’re done as of next Wednesday.  I’m glad, because I need a vacation.  The nice thing about the school calendar is that just when I’m starting to feel burned out, we get another break.  I’m going to be making the most of mine, that’s for sure.

Here are the cool (and not-so-cool) things I read this week:

1. The “question” of consent

Dianna Anderson has a fantastic post on dignity and not treating people as questions to be answered.  She rightly points out the inherent problem of calling consent a question and where the Church must tread lightly in regard to ideas open to debate.  Ironically, the same day I read this post, I read another one in which the writer cheerily talks about wanting to interact with “the gay community” in order to demonstrate how loving she is–all while simultaneously referring to “the gay lifestyle” as being outside God’s perfect design.  Guess that writer didn’t read Dianna’s post first.

2. The “question” of breadwinning wives

I highly recommend you make time to read all of Danielle’s response to Mary Kassian’s post on breadwinning wives.  I particularly liked the second part, My Marriage Is Not a Form of Prostitution.  In parallel, I’ve seen couples treat marriage this way outside of the career/financial angle–a lot of people seem to think that it’s an acceptable transaction to trade sex for goods and services.  I’m not convinced that’s a healthy view of marriage.

3. Questions for N. T. Wright

If you’re a fan of Wright’s work, you may be interested in his responses to readers’ questions on Rachel Held Evans’ blog.

4. The “question” of women teaching

This is a great read from Laura Ziesel about the illogical view of women as “more easily deceived.”  I have long held that not only can we not determine exactly when a boy is too old to be taught by a woman (many churches arbitrarily use 18), we also have the stupid view that a 70-year-old life-long woman of faith cannot teach a young, inexperienced barely adult male of 18 or 21.  Now there’s another one–that women, being weaker and more easily deceived, should probably not be teaching children, either.  What a load of manure; thanks, Laura, for pointing that out.

5. Questions for a couple coping with chronic illness

This is an interesting interview with a couple in which the wife has endometriosis.  I appreciate the wisdom in recommending that the Church develop healthier ways to talk about sex and relationships, especially given the fact that it’s never one-size-fits-all.

6. The “question” of PDA

Yeah, I admit I’m one of those people who prefers that couples not stick their tongues down each others’ throats in public or grope each other under their clothes on the beach.  But a little kissin’? Heck no, that doesn’t bother me.  It makes me just want to scream whenever I see someone on social media write,

I’m not homophobic, but I really don’t need to see two guys kissing.

I get it that some people don’t like PDA, but until everyone starts pointing it out when they see a het couple doing it, then those people really need to keep that thought to themselves.  Anyway, go read this article about couples who were asked to leave for PDA and then try to tell me it’s not homophobia.

7. Love isn’t a question

My fellow writer Aaron Smith has written a beautiful guest post over on Registered Runaway’s blog.  He says it all; I have nothing to add.

8. A question of point of view

Novelist Adrian Smith explains using second person.  I do it all the freakin’ time, on this blog and in casual speech, but I’ve never written a story in second person.  When done well, it’s good; when done poorly, it’s awful.  See if you can make it work. (See what I did there?)

9. The “question” of modesty

Oh, dear Lord, here we go again.  We women don’t know what we “do” to men.  Apparently, they have to repeat the internal mantra, “Don’t think about boobs don’t think about boobs don’t think about boobs dammit I’m thinking about boobs.”  This just seriously creeps me out, because I don’t think I know any men who really have these issues, but a few who do have managed to convince a whole generation of young men that they do, too.  So gross.

10. A question for Cheerio-despising racists

At the end of this spoof of the Cheerios ad with the biracial couple, the question is: “What? Now this is a problem?”  Go watch it and share the funny with your friends.

11. A story with a question

I’m not entirely sure what happens after the end of my story for Fiction Friday.  I’ll let you decide.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Book Review: The Other Hidden Wound

Occasionally, I have the immense pleasure of being asked to edit someone else’s work.  I’ve gotten to know several authors this way, and it’s a nice diversion from my own writing.  Over the last several weeks, I’ve been able to work with Travis Mamone on his latest book, The Other Hidden Wound: Uncovering the Effect of Patriarchy on the Male Psyche.

This short work is not a scholarly tome.  It is a personal journey from youthful ignorance to feminist ally.  Travis tracks his own history, including the mixed signals of his childhood and his own relational missteps.  It’s honest and intimate, and at each turn you can see another piece of the puzzle slide into place as he stretches his understanding of what it means to be both spiritual and feminist.

If you’ve spent any time around my blog, you’ll know that this is one of the issues close to my own heart.  Too many times, I’ve seen women hurt by the kinds of things Travis talks about in this book.  Few men are willing to examine their own part in it, or admit that they harbored underlying attitudes that have contributed to the oppression of women.  It’s refreshing to see a man willing to own those mistakes and take responsibility for listening when women speak.

It’s clear from Travis’ conclusions that the story he tells is not over.  By his own admission, he sometimes still has moments of falling into old patterns of thought.  But the good news is that no one is expected to be perfect out of the gate, and he’s willing to continue to learn and grow.  I am reminded of my own experiences having to navigate the waters of being a good ally.

The Other Hidden Wound should be relatable for anyone who has moved from oppressor to ally, but it will be particularly meaningful for other men who are struggling to understand where they may have gone wrong in their treatment of women.  Travis makes it clear that it isn’t merely overt misogyny that causes deep hurt but also the ongoing subtle patterns of behavior that encourage an entire system to flourish.

If you are wondering where to begin taking steps as a feminist ally, I recommend starting with this book, followed by seeking out women with whom you can ask hard questions and receive honest answers.

 

What our boys learn

Yesterday, Emily Wierenga apologized.  I’m glad, because she owed it to those who were hurt by her original post about relationships and submission.  There were several reasons why I didn’t respond to the first post.  First, I was late to the game.  I’d been on vacation when it appeared, so I missed it–all I saw was the fallout.  Second, plenty of others had already written what needed to be said.  Third, I already didn’t care much for her theology or her title of “Everyday Radical” (she’s not particularly radical); I really couldn’t figure out why everyone was so surprised by her words.

I don’t want to go around and around about the original post.  I will say that no matter how “heartfelt” or sincere-sounding her apology, she still has problematic theology that she refuses to acknowledge.  I’m glad she understands how hurtful her words were, but she also needs to examine her beliefs a lot more closely.  Her original post was addressed to people like me–Christian feminists.  It was not a rallying cry for people who share her views but something written to those of us she feels are outside that theology.  Therefore, I see no need to extend some kind of olive branch in her direction.  I don’t stand with Emily or people who share her beliefs, despite the fact that we may all call ourselves Christians.  As a woman, as a feminist, and as a Christian, I have a responsibility to address things that contribute to the way women are seen in the church.  That includes speaking out against the patriarchal leanings of other writers–whether those people are men or women.  The fact that we both have vaginas in no way obligates me to some kind of womanly solidarity.

When I saw that Emily was offering an apology, I was glad; I believed she was doing the right thing–until I read a couple of paragraphs down.  These words made my blood boil:

I didn’t know the way I would cry at night for fear of sending my boys to school, for all of the school shootings and drugs but not only that: for the way they wouldn’t be taught how to be strong leaders, but rather, would be questioned about their gender, made guilty for the way their kind had treated women in the past, and told that they could be attracted to either males or females because there was no male or female: there just was.

I’m not going to waste time on the rest of her apology; it wasn’t bad, though I think she still needs to consider the implications of her original post beyond its triggering effect.  No, I want to address what I quoted above.  I am the mother of a nine-year-old boy who attends public school; there has never once been a time when I have been afraid that he would be taught any of those things Emily mentions:

1. They wouldn’t be taught how to be strong leaders

First of all, that’s not the job of the school.  The job of the school is to teach our children how to read and write and do sums.  If we want any of our children–sons or daughters–to be “strong leaders,” then we must take responsibility as their parents.  Not only that, this desire to have (in particular boys) become strong leaders ignores the fact that not everyone has a personality suited to “leadership” (at least, not the way it’s defined in conservative evangelical circles).  As for what I think Emily might actually mean–that boys need to learn to be strong leaders so they can lead their wives–that is most definitely not something I want my son learning at school.  If that’s your religious belief, you’re welcome to it, but don’t impose it on my kid.

2. They . . . would be questioned about their gender

As far as I know, this is a made-up concern.  I have yet to meet a teacher or school employee who questions my child’s gender.  I’m not entirely sure how Emily means this, but if she means that girls are given unfair advantage because there’s a sudden backlash against boys, she needs a pretty serious reality check.  Boys are still more frequently called on in class, and boys are more often encouraged to explore math and science.  What gets questioned is when boys fail to live up to that expectation.

If Emily means that suddenly boys won’t be boys and girls won’t be girls, that’s also pretty ridiculous.  Is she assuming some mass takeover of our schools by an imaginary army of transgender people and their allies?  Or is she just lamenting that now it’s okay for boys to like pink and take ballet?  (I doubt she’s having the same questions about whether girls can climb trees and play with trucks.)

3. . . . made guilty for the way their kind had treated women in the past

My son hasn’t yet come home telling me that girls are good and boys are bad for hurting them.  Again, this is not a thing that happens in schools.  I just don’t understand where Emily’s deep fear of feminists is coming from.  We’re not staging protests on the high school campuses or storming the gates of district offices.  We’re not making impassioned pleas at school board meetings.  No one is telling our boys that “their kind” are heinous beasts that have perpetrated evil on womankind.  This smacks of feminist stereotypes.  What I hope my son is learning (and I believe he is, if his behavior is an indication) is that girls are equally intelligent, interesting, strong, brave, and fun.  Through his friendships with girls, my son is learning things that will eventually make him a better man.  The adults around him are encouraging this–and that’s a very good thing.

Also, let’s be clear on this: Men being assholes to women? Not so much a thing of the past.

4. . . . told that they could be attracted to either males or females

Damn skippy, though I doubt this happens at age nine.  I certainly hope that my son is aware that whatever sexual attractions he feels are normal.  I learned at church that sexual attraction was bad unless it was within marriage between a man and a woman.  Because I live in a conservative city, the most “sex ed” I got there was a very brief, embarrassed, “Um…uh…use some birth control so you don’t get a nebulous disease we’re not actually going to describe for you.  Now, watch this video of a woman giving birth so you’re too disgusted to get pregnant.”

Anyway, Emily is wrong about this one too–is she not aware that kids are still being bullied for their sexuality?  Even if schools are teaching an inclusive sex education (which they’re not in most places), the horror of having your kid know gay people exist is a lot less scary than being the gay kid who gets threatened or beaten.  Priorities, people.  Sort them.

5. . . . because there was no male or female: there just was.

This is also foolish.  No one teaches or believes this.  It’s fear-mongering.  I do not know any person–cis or trans–who believes or teaches this.  For the love of God, please go look things up before you start spouting off on them.

Oh, wait.  She probably means proper gender roles, not actual genders.  Er…I hope.  What she seems to possibly mean here (?)–though I honestly can’t tell; I’m still confused–is that it’s okay for men to be attracted to men or women to women because the lines between their roles have gotten too fuzzy.  I can’t decide which interpretation of Emily’s words is more offensive.  In either case, gross stereotypes are being perpetuated here.  Whatever Emily’s intent, it changes nothing.  There are no schools teaching these bizarre things about gender.

When I send my son to school, I worry that he might have forgotten his lunch money.  I worry that he might be bullied (or worse, engage in bullying behavior).  I wonder if his ADHD is making him struggle through his day or if he’s getting enough stretch breaks.  I think about whether he’s learning to work cooperatively with all kinds of people.  I hope fervently he doesn’t get hurt on the playground or in phys ed.  I think about ways to make getting his homework done a priority on nights he has ballet class.  I pray that today is not the day a troubled young man decides to show up at his school and shoot a classroom full of children.

I do not worry that he won’t grow up to be the right kind of man.

 

Notable News: Week of April 6-12, 2013

Here we are, the end of another week.  I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but here it’s rainy and cold.  I’d like to spend my day curled up with a mug of hot tea and a good book. Sadly, it’s not to be.  I hope you all are more successful in your plans for today.  Meanwhile, here’s what’s going on:

1. About that song…

By now I’m sure many of you have heard the Brad Paisley/LL Cool J song “Accidental Racist,” or at least heard of it.  I’m sure lots of you thought, “Wow! That’s very cool that they’re addressing modern racism.”  Yeah, not so much.  Go listen to the song (if you can stomach it), then read this post over at Shakesville.  This about sums it up:

What’s being described in the song is a White man wearing a t-shirt with a Lynyrd Skynyrd logo, which features the Confederate flag, and expecting Black people to understand it only means what he wants it to mean. That is neither unintentional nor accidental. That is obliging marginalized people to center privileged people’s rewriting of a history to salve their own discomfort with that history.

2. Hope for the future

This post, An Open Letter to The Church from My Generation, has gotten quite a lot of attention.  (This is one where I think you should just avoid the comments.  Not worth the headache.)  She suggests that the real reason young people are leaving the Church (and even their faith) is the Church’s reluctance to accept its position on the wrong side of history.  It’s an eloquent plea for the Church to stop fighting change and instead grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a chat.  Sounds just about right to me.

But my generation, the generation that can smell bullshit, especially holy bullshit, from a mile away, will not stick around to see the church fight gay marriage against our better judgment.

3. About a body

I love this wonderful post by Andi Cumbo.  I think I’ve linked it everywhere except this blog (and now I’ve remedied that).  She puts words to exactly what I want to do–create safe space for my kids to ask questions.  As a child, I knew the hard, cold facts.  But questions were often off-limits because they were strange or embarrassing or “rude.”  Yes, it’s uncomfortable, at least in part because of this generational failure to be open.  It’s necessary, though, if we want our children to grow up with healthier views than we did.

I heard lots of conversations – a friend losing her virginity in a shower, another wearing a “promise” ring, boys and whispers about boobs and third base.  I heard lots of lectures, too – wait until you’re married, God made sex for marriage, women were made to be the helpmeet to men.

But no one talked to me about my body or about sex. No one answered my questions. No one asked if I even had any.

4. Beautiful honesty in struggle

These two posts–about expectations within marriage and about living with rapid-cycling bipolar–are both achingly honest and brutally lovely.  Everyone has challenges, and it helps to know we’re not alone.  Whatever you’re struggling with today, I hope that you find comfort and hope in these women’s words, even in the midst of difficulty.  Today, find a friend or be a friend, and open your heart to listen.

Airing out our unmet expectations didn’t magically transform our despair into joy and contentment . . . But it did allow us to evolve with one another, to reevaluate what our marriage would look like as Christians and feminists… [from Unmet Expectations in a Feminist Christian Marriage]

When depression comes. It’s a black numb night with no stars. Everything becomes about me: about how God is taking special notice of my situation and punishing me. How nobody likes me. How every movement of the world is designed for my special torture.

Mania is all about the stars. Or, rather, the star: Me. Because when I’m manic, you’d be a fool not to notice me, want me, befriend me, sit in the sheer awe of magnificence.[from I is for Me]

5. Christian identity

This fantastic post by Tina Francis about identifying as a Christian and being ourselves was one of the best things I’ve read this week.  The cultural differences are fascinating to me.  One of the things I took away from this post is that the way we come across may not be read the way we want it to when it comes to people who didn’t grow up in our western culture.  That understanding about what Christian discourse looks like makes me think that we Christians need to do a lot more listening and a lot less talking.

Because I did not grow up in the West,  I sometimes find it tough to follow social discourse. This is especially true for the plot lines (read: battle-lines) in the Christian Blogosphere. It’s like watching a game of tennis, with words instead of balls. My head bobs from side to side as I try to understand what each person is grunting about. You say, “Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory”; I hear, “Pee Pee Glibitty Glob.” I find myself lost because I haven’t read the right books, listened to the right music, or watched the right movies. So I don’t always get the references.

6. Naked Pastor takes one for the team

Because David so kindly tackled this, I didn’t have to.  Many thanks!  (And have I mentioned how much I love when men get all feminist?  Remind me to link to some other good ones sometime.)  Anyway, Lee Grady used some loaded terms in his post Six Women Leaders to Avoid.  Go read it if you want some deep feminist rage.  Instead of pointing out traits to avoid in any leader, he used words associated almost exclusively with things many people dislike about women.  Fortunately, David drew a great cartoon and offered a well-written commentary in response.  (Also, when you read the last part about traits to avoid in any leader, guess which well-known preacher came immediately to my mind?)

It’s that old fallacy that men allow women to do what men do but under certain restrictions and expectations. Our club has been dominated by men for centuries but we’re going to now allow women to join. Now these are the rules.

7. Your humor for the day

It is entirely possible that I know and am related to the author of this blog.  Maybe.  I might also be a little bit proud of the person for creating it.  I hope you enjoy the blogger’s take on Hilarious Lambs, More Hilarious Lambs, Even More Hilarious Lambs, and my personal favorite, Too Many Hilarious Lambs.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! Back on Monday for [DUN DUN DUN] 50 Shades of Lambs.

When friendship empowers us

By Jules Morgan from Montreal, Canada (Cara's Ad Hoc delicious  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know why asparagus symbolizes friendship; but this was the 5th image that came up when I typed “friendship” into Wikimedia Images. I liked it.

Sometimes, I feel like I have no fight left in me.  I forget why I write and why I speak up, because no matter how many of us have joined our voices, it’s hard to see progress.

But then I have a conversation or exchange comments online and I remember.  I know why I do this.  I see others doing what they can, what they know how to do, every day in their ordinary lives, and I remember.

Last night, I had a terrific exchange with a couple of people on my Facebook page.  Nothing earth-shattering, but it was cool.  I connected with one old friend and one new one, and we shared some thoughts.

The original post, which I shared via a fellow blogger, was a link to a Christianity Today article in response to the Steubenville rape case and the aftermath.  After a few comments from one friend, another jumped in and asked what I thought of the post I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter which was linked in the CT article.  (I agree, by the way.  I think it’s a weak argument that continues to perpetuate the idea that women are only someone in relation to a man.  I feel the same way when people use the “it could be your friend/relative/coworker” argument to “humanize” any group of people.)  I won’t bore you with the details of our conversation, but eventually, it sparked my new friend to post this question:

Thought experiment: There are two magic buttons. One makes all men see all women as persons. The other allows all women to see themselves as persons. (Person = full empowerment; full ownership of one’s own body, mind, and destiny.)

If you could press only one of the magic buttons, which would you press? Why?

Both my other friend and I (in a rare fit of solidarity; we often disagree with each other–but that’s one of the things I like about her) said we would choose the latter.  We disagree on why we would make that choice, but it struck me as important that two people who have vastly different approaches to addressing the ills of the world would be of one mind on this.

The next question, of course, was why we (feminists) don’t focus more on empowering women rather than changing the way men view us.  My friend said that what’s important to her is not to worry about educating those who won’t change their minds, to be a better person than those who came before her, and to pass that on to the next generation.

Those are admirable things, and I want to go on record saying that I am absolutely certain–whether she always feels it or not–that this friend is making a difference (even though she absolutely does not need my approval!).  We haven’t seen one another face-to-face in many years, but even when we were in college together she was making an impact.  She might not remember it, but she was a good friend (along with our whole group) at a time when I needed that.  So if nothing else, she affected me.  I have no doubt that she is having that effect on others, likely in ways she’s not aware of.  She is doing what is meaningful for her and being the person she wants to be.  That should never, ever be discounted as unworthy or unimportant.

Which brings me to why I do what I do.  I have a vastly different approach.  What’s key, though, is that my way of doing things is not better than anyone else’s.  Nor is it less worthy.  I choose to take on educating the ignorant because I believe that’s what perpetuates cycles of violence and hate.  It’s not the small number of perpetrators who allow it to continue–it’s the uneducated people who stand by and do nothing while violators do what they do.  It’s the people who sit around asking questions about why rape victims “allowed” themselves to be in that position.  It’s the average church-goers who say nothing when their pastors spew hate towards gay people.  It’s the ones who say, “I’m not racist, but…” followed by something that sounds remarkably racist.

In the end, people like my college friend give me the courage to do what I do because she has the courage to live it in her corner of the world.  It doesn’t matter that we work this out in different ways, because there are any number of approaches to making this world a better place.  Instead of being frustrated that all my friends aren’t activists, I’m choosing today to appreciate the beauty of our diversity.  And I’m choosing to celebrate and honor the women I know who have the courage to believe in themselves regardless of what anyone else says.

Thank you, friends, for an excellent discussion and the renewal I needed to go out another day and work against oppression.

Notable News: Week of March 9-15

Happy Friday, everyone!  I hope you all had the chance to celebrate Pi Day yesterday by sharing some pie with friends and family.  I know I did.  We ate chocolate Oreo pie with homemade whipped cream.  Mmmmm….

Anyway, here are some of my favorite posts this week.

1. On teaching men not to rape

I thought I’d start with this fantastic post by Zerlina Maxwell.  Since this week was just full of “What about teh menz”-types crying foul over the use of the phrase “teach men not to rape” (and plenty who thought that it wouldn’t do any good anyway), here’s a look at what we can do and why it matters.  Zerlina says,

When I said that “We can prevent rape by telling men not to commit it,” I wasn’t expressing some simplistic, fantastical worldview.  There are organizations like Men Can Stop Rape and Men Stopping Violence that are already doing the work to train men from a young age to understand and challenge rape culture.  Interestingly enough, many who disagreed with my argument chose to send me rape threats, insults, and dismissive remarks that in many ways proved my point.

2. On Joel Osteen

Fellow writer/blogger Chad Jones hits the nail on the head regarding the platitudes of people like Osteen.  No, it’s not a “nice” sentiment; but neither is it nice to tell people they need to pray more or believe harder when life sucks.  Many thanks to Chad for saying what a lot of us were thinking.

It seems to me, Joel, that their [people of faith in the Bible] hope was not in having the best life now, but in having a blessed life now.

Which meant walking with God, and trusting him, through hard things. Not being delivered from those hard things, but rather being delivered through them.

3. On church abuse

Gotta love John Shore.  His approach reminds me a lot of how Jesus dealt with people in the Bible–he’s always gentle with the hurting, but you’d better watch out if you’re the one doing the harm.  (Don’t believe me?  Go back and read Matthew.  Several times.  Then come back and we’ll talk.)  A few days ago, John posted this piece about Pastor Marc Monte.  Yesterday, he posted this follow-up.  Pastor Monte’s attitude is one of the reasons that people a) don’t go to the church for help and b) don’t return to church when they’ve been abused.  Yes, I’ve seen this kind of thing happen.  “Forgiveness” is often used as a weapon against the hurting.  I hope my dear ones know that if they are hurting from abuse, especially when it’s happened in a spiritual context, that I love you and I stand by you no matter what.  And screw this particular version of “forgiveness.”

Throw in other recent Monte tweets around this (sort of) debate, which include such enjoinders as, “Radically generous forgiveness is a good preventive medicine for mental illness,” “Dwelling on offenses is poison to the soul,” and “Practice the forgiveness of Christ and be set free today,” and you have a fairly comprehensive expression of a philosophy of forgiveness that today is very common, and which every day is not unlike a candy-festooned gingerbread house: it appears magical and wonderful—right up until you try ingesting it, at which point you realize that its hollow sweetness can only make you, Christian or not, ill.

4. On problems only the privileged have

This post on xoJane, which was retweeted by some of the people I follow, is a good example of “Please just shut the hell up now.”  When it comes to patriarchy and misogyny, I am among the first to stand up against abuses.  But women taking their husbands last names making anyone “die a little on the inside”?  Well.  You know what makes me die a little on the inside?  Rape.  Child porn.  Sex trafficking.  Slave labor.  Yeah, I don’t honestly care whether a woman takes her husband’s last name (as I did), keeps her “own” (you know it’s probably her father’s and his father’s and his father’s, right?), hyphenates it, or makes up another one by pointing at random letters.  Just. Not. My. Concern.  Here’s a gem from the post:

And I find it especially upsetting that most of the excuses women give for changing their name are, well…not very convincing.  At least be honest if you wanted to avoid conflict with friends and family members.  I can respect that.  [Good to know my own reasons are unacceptable to her and that she thinks my real reason was just to avoid conflict.  Silly me, thinking I was happy with my choice and why I made it.]

5. On something other than feminism or religion

Yes, I am a New York Yankees fan.  Shut up, haters.  I have loved baseball since I was a kid, but growing up in a household with parents who didn’t care for the sport, I didn’t know one team from another.  When I met my husband, I found out that he was an oddity–a Bostonian (more or less) and a lifelong Yankees fan.  When we were dating, he would sometimes flip the radio on to listen to the games.  Until we had kids, watching the Yankees play or listening to them on the radio was just part of our routine.  For our fourth anniversary, we took a trip to New York to watch them play.  Let me tell you, it was FANTASTIC.  It happened to be Old Timers’ Day, which meant we got to see an exhibition game played by famous Yankees past.  Even with my largely baseball-less childhood, I knew who they all were.

Anyway, fast-forward to 2013.  I am sad to say that my all-time favorite Yankee is retiring at the end of the season.  With him goes the famous number 42, as he is the last player who will ever wear Jackie Robinson’s number.  So long, Mariano.  It’s been a good run.

Mariano Rivera’s decision to retire after the 2013 season represents the end of an era for several reasons. The major leagues’ career leader in saves, he has been a cornerstone of the Yankees since winning his first championship ring with them, in 1996, and given his remarkable consistency and distinct lack of histrionics, he will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.

Have a great weekend, folks.  See you on Monday for the next episode in the continuing saga of “Amy Really, Really Hates 50 Shades.”

Notable News: Week of March 1-8, 2013

It’s International Women’s Day!  How are you celebrating?

Here are some of the articles and posts I enjoyed this week.  Read them with your favorite woman.

1. On the importance of girls

This post is from more than a year ago, but Princess Free Zone shared it again today on Twitter.  It means just as much now as it did then.

Sadly, around the world, girls are undervalued, underestimated, uneducated, used, abused, and ignored. Research shows that the plight of girls is directly linked to many of the world’s problems like hunger, economic disparity, and disease. Inevitably, helping girls and women in various ways can have a tremendously positive impact; one way to do this is through efforts to improve education.

2. On body image

I linked to this post by Jennifer Luitwieler in my own post yesterday, but here it is again in case you missed it.

When we hang so many hopes on one thing, one arbitrary, deeply powerful thing, expecting untold happiness from attaining the holy grail of physical perfection, we will be disappointed. Our bodies may look different, we may feel like we look amazing. But it won’t change our circumstances. It won’t make someone love us better or our families not be weird. Being skinny will not make us also rich or flawless.

Being skinny is not everything.

3. On the Jesus bridge

Reading this fantastic post by Addie Zierman, I found myself nodding in agreement.  I, too, have had negative experiences with Christian “counselors” who offer pat answers about just needing Jesus.  I, too, have listened to the testimonies of people who leave the impression that their lives did a rapid 180 rather than the truth of a slower turn.

Instead of looking into my eyes and seeing that I was fighting to hang on, she assumed that my doubt and pain and struggle was symptomatic . She assumed it pointed to a faith that had never been there, and so she sent me back to the beginning to take a first step toward God.

But the truth was that it wasn’t a broken faith at all. Just the normal middle of things.

4. On being an angry feminist

I love this excellent response from Sam Ambreen to yet another shameful post over at Good Men Project.  Not surprising that GMP has included a woman stroking the egos of the “nice guys,” unfortunately.

I have every right to hold patriarchy responsible for the ways in which it controls women. Unfortunately the patriarchy is mostly made up of men. I am angry but there is love in my life. It surrounds me and supports me. Anger at the patriarchy is one of my redeemable features and shock horror; there are men that get why! And totally dig it.

5. On “good” racists

I constantly have to check myself because I know that as a person with privilege, I’m in danger of ignoring that privilege.  I don’t want to be the “good racist” in this post who refuses to believe that such things exist.

The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion. We can forgive Whitaker’s assailant. Much harder to forgive is all that makes Whitaker stand out in the first place. New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years.

6. On making Satan proud

This is an incredibly heartbreaking story that should remind us just how important it is to make sure that we are holding churches, pastors, and leaders accountable not only for their own abuse of congregants but for their failure to take action when it’s warranted.  Of course we want churches to be places filled with grace; but not at the expense of terrified 14-year-old girls.  John Shore explains why he posted this:

I’m running this comment as a post for two reasons. The first is because if I have learned anything in this world, it’s that people—particularly if they’re trying to communicate an injustice visited upon themselves or anyone else—need to be heard. When you’ve been traumatized an affirmation of your trauma by others can spell the difference between salvation and desolation. I have no idea who has or hasn’t read this girl’s story. But having read it myself robbed me of any excuse for not making at least some effort to ensure that more people read it.

7. On speaking about spirtual abuse

Dianna Anderson writes a great response to Matt Appling (of The Church of No People) regarding his series of posts on spiritual abuse.  As she rightly points out, co-opting the term is inappropriate and diminishes the suffering of those who have been abused by people in spiritual authority.

Appling suffers from a common malady that afflicts a lot of white male evangelicals – not bothering to research the actual definition of the terms they’re using, and predicating entire ideas on a misunderstood definition.

8. On God-centered shame

Elora Nicole’s post on how words mean things delves into the worrisome teaching that shame is godly because it leads to repentance.  When we make words mean what they don’t mean, even ancient words in foreign languages, we risk presenting a false gospel that isn’t filled with grace.

“I still don’t see how they relate.” I said. “Grief is not shame. Sorrow is not shame. When I feel shame, I believe lies. Grief and sorrow are healthy emotions. Shame is not. Shame is negative. Shame speaks lies.”

9. On environmental impact on sexuality

I get fairly sick of hearing about how one’s childhood experiences must have “turned them gay.”  I’ve found that the people who say that must not know a lot of gay people.  Or a lot of people in general, actually.  I don’t really know if I think that this particular cartoon by Naked Pastor is necessarily logical, but it did make me smile and wish I could say this to anyone who thinks they can explain why someone is gay.

I’m okay with theories. If they work. When they no longer work it’s time to dispense with them. The number of theories out there attempting to explain away the vast array of orientations out there are just that: an attempt to invalidate them.

10. On my fiction blog

This week’s story is about unresolved sexual tension.  Kind of.

Whatever it was, Kay found nearly everything about Devon maddening. She disliked his booming laugh, his boastful reenactments of his weekend activities, and his assertions that the team would fall apart without him. She even disliked his obnoxious printed ties—even if she did have to admit they suited him. Kay’s least favorite thing about Devon was the fact that he always looked good, no matter how horrid his ties.

Have a great weekend, everyone.  Go celebrate a woman you love!