Friday, September 6, 2013

Rage Against Modesty Salesmen...Rape Culture for the Laymen Evangelical

"By saying "avert your eyes lest ye stumble", they taught me to fear the female body and in fear objectify it. I reduced women to nothing but a sexual trap. This is a reality, but it is a LEARNED REALITY and something that should be unlearned NOT ACCOMMODATED."  Micah J. Murray

And now it gets interesting...  Awesome chain of blogs here I want to walk through and talk about some of the comments.  As a person once said "proof that 'rape culture' exists is made evident not in what feminists write but what the comments reply."  So skim through these and we'll use them for references.

Rape Culture 101:
So the major theme through the comment thread is, "how is this rape culture?"  Much to my dismay, most of the people who know what they're talking about don't explain the phrase.  The term is a short hand for several pervasive thoughts that can be identified in the original blog post and in our culture.  The short hand term "rape culture" does not encapsulate the argument it refers to the writings and understandings a lot of people have put tons of time into.  Let me sum it up.  Rape culture is the idea women a responsibility to not get raped.  i.e. the court cases were people have argued that, "she was asking for it," based on how she was dressed or because she was in a sketchy part of town.  Here's a MAJOR problem. This SHOULD disturb you.  

Some people say well, she's increasing her statistical likeliness.  
Statistically  most rape occurs between people who know each other.  Not the "stranger in the bushes" scenario movies sensationalize.  Further more it's not a 'class thing.' Rich or poor rape and sexual harassment actually transcend social classes. So being on the street at night or born in red-neck-land is not increasing your statistical likeliness of getting raped by much.  At any rate people don't get to pick what class they're born into so how was she "asking for it" by having no control over her statistical placement?

Some people say, "she was dressed provocatively," 
This is also a little slippery.  What's provocative at church isn't at a club.  Further more if she didn't want to have sex, indicated by not saying that she wanted sex, there was no communication of her wanting sex.  The dress code is a terrible indicator because there are so many variables.  What if her shirt looks fine, but then it rained and looks sexy?  What if her skirt rips?  What if she's borrowing a friends clothes and they're too tight?  All of these things have nothing to do with sex or the desire of the woman to have sex.

BOTH of these arguments are often made to blame a woman for why she was raped instead of the rapist who violated another person's free will.  It is the belief that men can't control themselves and women are endangering themselves by being looked at by another person.  In other words, "boys will be boys."  As another blogger put it, "the underlying message of modesty culture is, Women’s bodies are sexual and must be hidden from men, or it will make the men have sex thoughts and that is bad. The message is, If a woman is showing skin/bedroom/evidence of her own embodiment or (gasp!) sexuality, she is being sexy AT men." This is were the male-egocentric comes into why I have a problem with "modesty" as the church calls it.  It really isn't about women.  Women are always sexy 100% of the time and must hide it with their clothes.  They're like the minor characters in a book that only shows a  glimpse of the person to the reader because they're not as important as the main characters.  Like the bad guys in cartoons, we don't usually hear about the villain's family, emotional state, love life, hobbies, or personal feelings of any kind.  The only time they are on screen is when they are talking about, thinking about, or acting with, the main character.  In the same way women's bodies are just sexy and made for men.  They're always sexy and have to be covered and made less visible *for a future husband and the other men who might stumble*.  Men act as main characters in this line of thought which means that they exist with a sex drive, an ability to have sex, sexual preferences, be sexy to women, and have a personal sexual identity but also have bodies that can used their strength for sports, building things, and playing.  But a woman's body is only one thing, sexy for men. I.e. "sexy tennis player--fierce" "sexy pose on a ladder building something--tough girl." Men can be shirtless for fun, the weather, or sports, but it is assumed that women wear bikinis to be sexy for men (not the nasty sand that gets in a one-piece--yuck!).

Don't believe me.  Here's a prominent church leader in Portland telling wives, "not to let themselves go," and stay pretty for their husbands.  But encouraging women to "see yourself through his eyes."  Why?  because he's the multidimensional character that we have built our theology around.  Women play the supporting role in providing someone beautiful.  Because of this Ryan, the first blogger, assumes that women are the property of their multifaceted future husband, completely ignoring the people who stay single.  In this we see how little assumptions that don't seem like a big deal are like angles in geometry that are only hairs away when they start out but are revealed as time goes on.  45 degrees in a one inch square, sounds like "what will your future spouse think of you if you do X," but further down the line that thought is a mile away from anything Christian with Ryan's very twisted sense of spousal ownership.  There is no submission to a person who owns you.  There's no glory in being enslaved, that's why we have Jesus and choices, and all the free will Christianity has been singing about for centuries.

Here's the thing no one is going to like, I don't think we should continue teaching "modesty" or "purity," at all.  I think we should tell youth group kids what marriage could look like.  How monogamy is awesome.  How God is glorified in life long partnership in marriage.  I think kids should be taught about how anti-gospel it is for Christians to engage in the American rape culture we live in.  That women are not always trying to look sexy because they're not just Sexy covered up with clothes or Sexy who needs to put more clothes on.  I think sex should be treated as sacred not scary.  

We've got to bury the 1980's d-day mentality.  The hysteria that started with shunning Disney movies and democrats and ended with purity balls and bad christian pop music.  This is not an example of "not being of this world," this is theological suicide.  Why don't we worry about why our kids don't know that the book of Amos exists, or that most church members can't answer to why we don't follow the rules of Leviticus.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Normal. Ordinary. Grand.

Life in community is, Normal.  It is the exceedingly plain, the 'good mornings,' 'good evenings,' and 'whatcha' doing today...'

It is in the Ordinary that we find something about ourselves.  We grow closer until the space between us disappears and with think, 'my God, I love these people."

There's nothing more glorious, more grand than the communion of believer, met with belief and doubt, peace and chaos.  God is seen in community.

I can't decide if relationships are the antidote of binaries or the antithesis.  If the tensions and the joys are locked some sort of cosmic battle or in progressing glory. In a way the fondness and closeness seems inseparable to the agonizing months, the days crying, the weeks angry.  Something bad is what shapes the good.  Like plaster molds shaping porcelain only to be crushed and flaked away.  A worthless, and broken thing, doomed to be broken and ripped away is crucial to making what we know as community.  I don't want to be a community member leaning in one direction or the other in order to counteract something, at the cost of furthering a culture of reaction rather than reality.

So what is it? Is it normal or extraordinary? Is it grand or grotesque?

For those who've experienced the transcendence of community most eventually shrug and just say it just was.  Because 'it' was so many things.  The people they know best and who know them best are most detailed with faults.  That something so great in its whole consists of a bunch of stories about stomach flues, watching movies on laptops, lonely Christmases and fights about doing dishes.  But when it happens it happens, and something catches your eye when you realize 'this is it,'

and maybe 'this' is love.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The memories of a woman.

If you're going to read blogs about the church you find a few basic themes.  You have the nice folks who say nice things about Jesus and the bible and what they're learning lately.  You have the political types who want to talk about who is doing something Christian or anti-Christian.  You have the dooms-dayers who want to talk about the next up and coming anti-Christ.  You have the social justice folks who have a new cause or a new tidbit of info on how we're furthering injustice.  And then you have the peculiar strand of people who don't go to church, don’t like to call themselves Christian, and disagree with 87% of everything anyone says about God, but still have blogs on Christian websites like Patheos and Christianity Today.

More and more I'm finding these self-proclaimed emergents are rather odd facet of Christian writing.  Firstly because I can't see what their motive in writing is to begin with.  

Let’s say you hate knitting.  You hate the cattiness of all the knitting clubs you used to be a part of.  You think that the sweaters your parents made you wear were constricting.  You think wool is out of fashion and irrelevant.  You think that the process of knitting is tedious and the anger and frustration of not knitting well enough is unhealthy for your emotional state.  Now imagine you then decide to create a blog centered around critiquing knitting patterns.

In the same way I'd like to ask, what's it to you? As someone in the knitting club, wouldn't it be a little justified to get a few feathers rumpled about an entire online community devoted to thinking about what a terrible group of people the knitters are?

Then realize for a moment that the church discussing community is not in some sort of Oceans 13 where these anti-knitters will sneak into the cassino-knitting-club-church and get the "bad guys."  Because the Bad Guys don't exist, your misinformed aunt, abused pastor, and financially struggling family, are not the conniving crooks of emergent fetish.

 I'm personally becoming so fed up with what I read about the church.  In the end there is no such thing as ivory tower sharp shooters.  No one relevant to the discussion is reading a scathing blog post and thinking "oh wow, that's so true, I am a terrible person."  I don’t want to write to people who agree and yet draw their personal experiences of when they visited a church 15 years ago.  I get the pain I get the frustration, but I refuse to make a straw-man of my past experiences.  As C.S. Lewis reminisced about the passing of his wife and what "still having her memory" meant, "A corpse, a memory, and (in some versions) a ghost. All mockeries or horrors. Three more ways of spelling the word dead. It was H. I loved. As if I wanted to fall in love with my memory of her, an image in my own mind! It would be a sort of incest."

In a sense it is the same with the church.  Those who have loved and those who love still the memory does only a small service.  It is not the church now or even the church then as nostalgia has had its way in all of our minds.  The church is not a building or a specific denomination, though it is both experientially.  I'm not against experiential wisdom, only the complete disconnect to what is and what was and the assumed right to criticize after divorce.  In a word, your ex-wife doesn't care if you think she looks good or not when you meet her on the street.  She is all a combination of your past memories, your past fights, your present distance, and your new standards of womanhood--as she exists in a grid of your understanding, as everyone in our lives does--but she is not your wife.  And the divide, be in in humiliation, heartbreak, or freedom, must be observed as a concrete fact within the relationship.