Tag Archives: feminism

Men, Women, Dinners, and Access

I grew up in Fundamentalism with the phenomenon of men and women living under radically different holiness codes. One of the most notable, even to my young eyes, centered on the way men – especially married men – could not be in the room with a woman alone. For example, if the male church janitor was in the sanctuary cleaning up, it would not be considered appropriate for the church secretary (a woman, of course) to be the only other person left in the building.

When I was a teenager, my Christian school almost canceled a planned field trip because some parent of one gender canceled and that left only the opposite gender parent and I’m not really sure because even then it seemed weird to me that people were so worried about parents-without-their-spouses hitting the sack on the backside of a 711 or something.  I think somebody’s wife agreed to take a day off work to go on the field trip and protect the testimonies of all the parents involved.

(Man, if I’d been any more worldly-wise growing up, I would have raised several eyebrows at how often “testimonies” needed to be “protected.”)

When I was in college, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and started a long march through chemotherapy. As a senior in college, I awoke one weekend to the nightmare that she’d had a stroke once the cancer hit her brain (or maybe it was the chemo; those particular drugs had a habit of triggering strokes) and had been rushed to the hospital. It was bad there for awhile, and I was 500 miles from home, and my parents didn’t really have the money to put me on a plane. So the youth pastor from my home church, a man whom I barely knew because he’d started working there after I went to college, graciously offered to drive down to Greenville from Western PA and pick me up for a quick weekend home to see my mom after she had brain surgery.  Problem was, he couldn’t be in the car with me for the ride home.  In Fundamentalism, that was a deal-breaker.  My agnostic, rock-band, techie brother agreed to do the ride-along job of chaperon, creating what must have been the Universe’s weirdest “buddy comedy road trip adventure” story of the year.

I’d pretty much called ‘bullshit’ on this whole paradigm when the head pastor of the church I attended in Greenville made a point in a sermon and then in a published article of expounding why, if he saw a single woman walking down the road in the pouring rain with groceries, he could not be expected to give her a ride. I don’t have a copy of the article and this was pre-internet, but someone on that side of the fence commented on the general gist of it in a post at TGC.

So this might explain how I went for years without any man touching me ever, even on the arm, even as a hug, even as a goodbye or hello, when I lived and worked and studied in Fundamentalist circles. It explains why, when I joined a PCA church in the early 2000s, I nearly jumped out of my skin when a guy would tap my arm as part of normal conversation. Took me years to retrain my body that human contact is actually healthy and good.

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Vice President Mike Pence made a splash in January when it hit the news that he refuses to be in a room with another woman if his wife isn’t present. A lot of people outside conservative religious circles guffawed, but many of us – especially women – rolled our eyes and said, “Here we go again.”

Many people wrote good articles about how this is a form of gender discrimination. I liked The Atlantic’s piece: “How Mike Pence’s Dudely Dinners Hurt Women.”  In a world where men still serve as gatekeepers to power, barring women from the room unless there’s a chaperon around isn’t protecting either of them from wrongful accusation. It’s just keeping women out of the chambers of power.

A friend of mine is studying science at a nearby, large, Research One institution that shall remain nameless. She is a senior PhD student in a STEM field, highly capable and respected by her colleagues.  If she needs to use a particular piece of equipment in another lab, the professor (a man) refuses to let women into his lab unless there are other people present.  Since this student cannot control others’ schedules, she has sometimes lost her slot to work with this critical lab equipment because there were no other people around to “chaperon” their time in the lab.  But it’s ok – some guy got to jump in and take her spot, since apparently religious conservatives are so opposed to LGBTQ+ people that they refuse to consider them when building these holiness codes.

What makes this so galling is the way her science department and university administration cannot see that this professor’s holiness code has become a weapon against women in STEM at that university.  Instead, she’s noted that people are stunned when she suggests anything but admiration for this man “who cares so much about his marriage that he refuses to be alone with any woman who isn’t his wife! Isn’t that chivalrous?! Isn’t it grand?!”

No. It’s legalism, if we want to parse this through the lens of Christian theology.  God never said “don’t be alone with another woman.” What He said was, precisely, “Don’t be an adulterer,” which Jesus intensified as “Don’t lust after another woman in your heart.”  You can’t cut your heart out of your body, guys, so you’re going to have to rely on the Grace of the Cross for your sanctification, not your own rules about who’s sitting in the office after hours. [Please don’t bring up “Let not your good be spoken about as evil.” Not the point of that passage. If we want to play the proof-text game, then let me remind you, “To the pure, all things are pure.” So get your damn mind out of the gutter next time you see a man and woman together in a professional setting.]

And from a professional, “business” viewpoint, it’s sexism. The primary victim of all holiness codes are the women. In the name of protecting something good (marital fidelity), the brunt of the work falls on the women – not to be present if there’s a man doing his job; not to dress in a way that a man finds provocative; not to be available lest he want to rape her. Oh, sorry, I forgot we aren’t talking about the Stanford swimmer-rapist. 

Things were simpler, I realize, when the only power brokers in the boardroom, the lab, the classroom, or the pulpit were white men. That 1950s demographic profile does remain in many conservative circles, but in general American experience, things have opened up for us ladies.   ….Kind of.  OK, barely….. 😉

But I wish more men were out there expressing the outrage they ought to feel when their religious structures reinforce the idea that sexuality and attraction are uncontrollable forces in the universe; that women are temptresses and men are faithless ever; that a man wants only sex from the women he’s around; that people’s ability to claim any ridiculous thing about your reputation trumps the Great Commandments should you happen to see a woman walking in the rain and you’re the only guy in your warm, dry automobile as you pass her.

As a woman who’s married (19 years and counting) to a man who’s nothing like that, I’m offended on my husband’s behalf that people not only think like this, they celebrate people who do.  I don’t feel any need to track my husband’s movements via his iPhone or think twice about what he’s doing with his genitalia where other humans are concerned. Why? Because he’s a decent human, and I trust him. It’s part of what Love means when I think about my marriage vows.

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You don’t get to close your lab “in the name of Jesus.”  You shouldn’t applaud people like Mike Pence who use a non-biblical standard of sexual “purity” in a way that locks women out of the halls of power. It doesn’t matter whether Pence “intended” for that to be the effect. It IS the effect his holiness code has on the women around him.

You shouldn’t cancel your kid’s field trip for the sake of your testimony. (Good grief, who ARE your friends, and why do you keep hanging out with them if they are going to scream nasty things about your reputation the minute you set foot in an automobile with someone of the opposite sex?)

You shouldn’t avoid doing the right thing – the kind and loving thing – because you’ve built yourself a big ol’ holiness fence to protect your personal reputation. Sometimes doing the right thing is going to look rather messy.  At that point, you can either love your holiness code or you can love the person you’re trying to help.  You can’t do both.

Mad Max: Fury Road is Great. Here’s Why It’s Also Important. | Tor.com

Great read. And marvelous film. Go see the movie, then read this analysis. (The whole thing.)

Much as silent film used to be able to reach across cultures and languages, Miller’s focus on action and emotion over dialogue and exposition allows us to experience the story in a direct, intimate way. The people who referred to this film as a “Trojan Horse” were completely correct—but Miller wasn’t smuggling feminist propaganda, he was disguising a story of healing as a fun summer blockbuster. By choosing to tell a story about how a bunch of traumatized, brainwashed, enslaved, objectified humans reclaim their lives as a balls-out feminist car chase epic with occasional moments of twisted humor, George Miller has subverted every single genre, and given us a story that will only gain resonance with time.

via Mad Max: Fury Road is Great. Here’s Why It’s Also Important. | Tor.com.

Article: Reconciling Christianity and Feminism // Dianna E. Anderson

I appreciate articles which offer us a glimpse of the tension between personal faith and historic Christian tradition. I’ve rarely found anyone who attempts to hold both feminism and Christianity as complementary worldviews rather than as enemies. Yet Dianna Anderson is living that dream. So to speak.

The Atlantic did a short piece on her recent book Damaged Goods, where she writes as a committed Evangelical Christian about gender issues, sex, and womanhood. Though it sounds like her narrative doesn’t really marry these divergent viewpoints into a true harmony, I appreciate her willingness to live inside cognitive dissonance while she works it out.  It’s more honest than the “purity culture” narrative that Evangelicalism is trying to live with.

Anderson claims she has developed a whole new way of thinking about Christian sexual ethics, yet she refers to this casually as her “thing.” The personal quality of her argument doesn’t necessarily make it more persuasive; it would take more than 200 pages and a quick skip through history to reconcile two ideologies that have been defined almost wholly in opposition to one another.

But it is probably more honest. Anderson really wrote Damaged Goods because, as she puts it, “I felt like a freak because I was a feminist, a Christian, and a virgin.” For the next generation, this might be a useful framework for engaging with both Christianity and feminism, and one that will probably resonate: understanding the work of Jesus and the identities of women not in abstract political terms, but as glimpses of truth people use in shaping their own lives.

via Reconciling Christianity and Feminism in Dianna E. Anderson’s New Book, ‘Damaged Goods’ – The Atlantic.

The Ways Women’s Magazines Convinced Me I Must Earn My (Inherent) Worth | Thought Catalog

The problem is that you’re not supposed to linger in a perpetual state of “reaching for something more.”

You don’t divide your life between “periods in which you are transforming” and “periods in which you are living.” There is healing and experiencing, there is rest and adventure, but there is no behind the scenes, there is no show, there is no performance that you put on for anybody but yourself and your illusions.

via The Ways Women’s Magazines Convinced Me I Must Earn My (Inherent) Worth | Thought Catalog.

Gender and Calling: A few thoughts

Yesterday I wandered around in the not-all-that-brilliant observation that I can’t really get a grasp on my own calling (what I’m supposed to be doing on this planet, my personal mission statement, whatever you want to call it) without viewing that very question from within the complex network of relationships that surround my life.

We all draw circles of influence and relationship in our lives—often including spouse, parent, and employee (or perhaps entrepreneur).

And for me, as a woman within conservative Christianity living in America, that means I haven’t had an independent sense of my calling in life. It’s always been a calling alongside.

Let me hasten to clarify: I’m not complaining or unhappy with the alongside-ness of my calling. But I do want to pause to recognize what that means for me:

1. Because my calling has for the past couple decades been inextricably linked to my husband’s, I don’t plan clear, guiding goals for future accomplishments in my life and work (more than a year or so down the road).

I’ve never felt the pull toward the FUTURE the way Coart does.  Perhaps that’s a part of my personality – that I’m totally happy living “in the moment” – but that doesn’t match the way I view milestones at work: starting the new year, dreaming up a new project, thinking “what if we did this next year…..” is actually very energizing for me.

But I don’t seem to develop those same questions or daydreams about my work as a whole.  I don’t spend much time considering questions like “What if I started a company to ……?” “Should I be writing a book about …..?” “What big problem or need in the world would benefit from my skills and experience?”

2. Because my calling is alongside, I don’t pursue opportunities that would launch their own trajectory that could radically depart from Coart’s.

For example, I’m not pursuing any job openings right for any reason since he’s finishing a PhD within 18 months, and his future employment will make all the difference in where I end up living and working.

[Again, I’m not complaining AT ALL, especially since Coart has always been very conscious of what is best for the two of us together, not just me. And he’d be happy for me to launch something new.  And he provokes me to be a better version of myself (far better) than I would be on my own – more thoughtful, more analytic, more caring, more capable. I expect that he’s more disappointed at my vocational myopia than I am.]

3. And then there’s the really big one ….  Parenting.  Knowing that childrearing totally up-ends the apple cart of a woman’s career planning has had a profound effect on the way I “imagine” my life’s work and calling — and that has been true since the day I got married.

We don’t have kids (yet) but we both want to raise children. I assume kids will work their way into our lives sometime in the next few years.  We both want that.

I don’t plan for the future because, as a woman, I feel like I have very little control over what my future circumstances will be. 

And that plays out in a variety of ways, including this:

I know what I’m good at: provoking people to flourish as better versions of themselves (usually intellectually, sometimes spiritually).

But I can’t really tell you how that’s going to play out in the world as a whole, because I can’t lay much claim to controlling the context in which I do and will work.

And that, my friends, is kind of frustrating, honestly.

Get up to speed on #GamerGate

The Future Of The Culture Wars Is Here, And It’s Gamergate.

^Good read.  Read it.  Because threatening women needs to stop. Period.

There is a reason why, in all the Gamergate rhetoric, you hear the echoes of every other social war staged in the last 30 years: overly politically correct, social-justice warriors, the media elite, gamers are not a monolith. There is also a reason why so much of the rhetoric amounts to a vigorous argument that “Being a gamer doesn’t mean you’re sexist, racist, and stupid” —a claim no one is making. Co-opting the language and posture of grievance is how members of a privileged class express their belief that the way they live shouldn’t have to change, that their opponents are hypocrites and perhaps even the real oppressors. This is how you get St. Louisans sincerely explaining that Ferguson protestors are the real racists, and how you end up with an organized group of precisely the same video game enthusiasts to whom an entire industry is catering honestly believing that they’re an oppressed minority. From this kind of ideological fortification, you can stage absolutely whatever campaigns you deem necessary.

What we have in Gamergate is a glimpse of how these skirmishes will unfold in the future—all the rhetorical weaponry and siegecraft of an internet comment section brought to bear on our culture, not just at the fringes but at the center. What we’re seeing now is a rehearsal, where the mechanisms of a toxic and inhumane politics are being tested and improved.

Article: “I hate Strong Female Characters”

Nowadays the princesses all know kung fu, and yet they’re still the same princesses. They’re still love interests, still the one girl in a team of five boys, and they’re all kind of the same. They march on screen, punch someone to show how they don’t take no shit, throw around a couple of one-liners or forcibly kiss someone because getting consent is for wimps, and then with ladylike discretion they back out of the narrative’s way.

via I hate Strong Female Characters.

Great article. Give it a read.

Time for Hollywood (and mainstream video games too) to stop selling us badly written female characters.