Depressing Commonalities.

I may have said this before.  My brain, were I to compare it to any appliance in my kitchen, is a bit of a crock pot.  I tend to stew things for days before being really sure what I think about them.  (This is especially ironic when compared to the way I tend to reflexively make judgments about everything.  I snap to judgment and then rue it for days.)  So in the past few weeks, I’ve been exposed to several things I’ve had to mull over.  They aren’t things that have very much in common.  The first is the Netflix series House of Cards.  The second is Paula Deen’s cheerful racism.  The third is rape.

Sigh.

I realize now that there is a common thread:  News Media.

I haven’t been able to decide if I like House of Cards.  There are a lot of brilliantly executed moments in the show, the acting is incredible, and the plot was pleasantly surprising.  It seems like the kind of show I should like; it’s darkly cynical, hard to predict, and makes you think.  So why don’t I like it?  I think it may all boil down to the fact that I don’t like the way the reporters in the show are portrayed.  No one cares about truth in the show.  Everyone cares about getting a good break and beating the competition and keeping a razor sharp edge.  But truth?  Integrity?  F*** that sh**, who has time?  Gotta meet the deadline.  Gotta break it first.

Which brings me to Paula Deen, I suppose.  Almost all of my friends, even some of the most compassionate and racially sensitive, are angry that Paula Deen is being made a whipping girl for institutionalized racism in the South.  “She doesn’t deserve this,” people keep saying, “just because she said some crap 30 years ago that she regrets now.”  First:  If Mrs. Deen hadn’t willingly turned a blind eye to (and alternately propagated herself) institutionalized racism in the South, she couldn’t very well be made a whipping girl for it, could she?  She was the CEO of a company that had racist and sexist policies.  The CEO is held accountable, because everyone beneath them acts in their name.  Her company had policies that punished employees for the color of their skin.  Her family members, who managed HER establishments, abused their employees, exposed them to sexually explicit and abusive materials, mocked and insulted minority employees (including women) and behaved in a manner that is neither legal, prudent, or even understandable.  Yes, Mrs. Deen should be punished for all of these things, if they are true.  Yes, anyone with a few neurons firing in a normal manner who is in a position to distance themselves from her company is wise to do so- including the people who co-produce her shows and publish her materials.  That doesn’t make her a whipping girl, that makes her accountable for her own freaking actions, as well she should be.

Which brings me to rape, naturally.  Because people should be held accountable for their own actions.  A friend of mine posted a story about how she had said no repeatedly to a guy, and he kept pressuring her, and she was drunk and exhausted and didn’t want to make him angry so she silently caved in.  I’d like to point out that if a woman has said no multiple times and then mutely lets you have her way with her, that is rape.

And it makes me blindingly, searingly, furiously angry to realize that we live in a culture that calls that a determined, self-made man getting his way.

I’d like to take this moment to point out that I’m not sure if it is the heat wave making it 90 degrees in my living room despite the air conditioner running full bore, or just the fact that after 30 years of being nice I’m tired of being nice to people who are absolute bastards, but I’d like to take a moment and just scream a general F*** THIS SH** to the world at large.

F*** IT.  WITH A RUSTY SPOON.  THEN DOWSE IT IN KEROSENE AND CALL IT THE FOURTH OF JULY.

Because if you live in America you live in a country where there are scads of journalists ready to pick my friend apart and tell her how she could’ve avoided getting raped, and then blather on about how it’s so unfortunate that her rapist had a moment of flawed judgment which is totally excusable because of my friends rocking bosom.  Which may have been overexposed.  (It wasn’t.)

We live in a country where Paula Deen is pitied instead of being called to account, where the discussion is about poor rich white women having to watch their tongues instead of the beaten black sous chefs that provide them with wealth and are underpaid in return.  We live in a world where a TV show about a politician f***ing his way to running the news is sadly believable, where no matter how dark and cynical Hollywood paints the story it doesn’t feel as dark and cynical as real life.

I’m effing tired of it.

So to my friend, I love you.  I wish we lived in a world that defended you and others like you, because you deserve to be upheld and not torn down.  To Paula Deen, your empire should fall.  It was built on taking advantage of others, which is the worst kind of avarice and cowardice.  And to the producers of House of Cards, eff you.  I’ll watch the next season, though, because it’s still good television.

I just wish it didn’t feel so much like real life.

rape should be blamed on the rapist.

So a few days ago, a friend of mine linked to an interesting picture on Facebook.  It was of a topless woman who had written “STILL NOT ASKING FOR IT” on her breasts and abdomen.  I won’t post it here, because I know some of my readers find nudity distasteful*, but it sparked a very interesting debate.  I’ve seen it shared a few other places since, and every time the comments are just breathtaking.

You wouldn’t wear a chum suit to swim with sharks.

There is this idea, beneath the surface of almost all of the comments, that women’s bodies are a dangerous weapon that once unleashed turn normal respectable men into mindless automatons of desire with undeniable destructive force.  There are two issues to be addressed there:

  1. Men are not savages, and society should not give them permission to behave like such.  Showing men a pair of perky breasts should not turn them into raping machines.  If they cannot control themselves in the face of a flash of skin here or a lowcut top there or a pretty lady in high heels and a skirt walking through the park in twilight, this really isn’t the lady’s problem.  It’s the man’s.  If the men in our society cannot bear the sight of a little boobs or butt without losing their minds, I think that we should either blame society or men, not women.  That’s sort of like saying, “I know I promised not to eat any more sugar but then there were chocolate bars in the checkout lane and I completely lost my mind and woke up the next morning with a Hershey’s mustache surrounded by shredded wrappers.  I blame Safeway.”  Uh, no.
  2. Women’s bodies aren’t chum.  They aren’t a shredded bucket of viscera whose only purpose is to attract sharks.  Imagine for a moment that a man was painting the side of his house in only a pair of tight shorts and the woman who lived there invited him in for a cup of lemonade, roofied him and raped him.  Do you think society as a whole would say, “man, you really shouldn’t work with your shirt off.  You KNOW what those rock hard abs do to women.”  No.  Because there is a double standard, and women’s bodies are the only ones treated like a weapon.  Women are told to be demure, to be “good”, to keep their breasts and buttocks covered, to not wear too high of heels, etc, etc, etc, to “protect themselves” or to “protect men from temptation”.  Then, women are told that they should be sexy to keep their husband and they must dress attractively to be respected and on and on and on, because apparently our bodies aren’t our bodies, they are a tool.  A tool that must know when to be used and when not to.  A tool that is constantly meant to be in the service of others.

I don’t normally cuss on this blog, but I can only think of one word to sum up my feelings on this subject:

bullshit.

Let’s make one thing clear; the only time a woman is “asking for it” is when she says, “give it to me, I want it.”  Simply having a pair of breasts isn’t asking for it.  Even showing you her breasts isn’t asking for it.  Her body isn’t consent, period.  I know people who think the act of sexual intercourse is in and of itself consent, which is such an utter crock of insanity I hate to even write about it because it makes my heart bleed.  It really does.  Women have a right to decide when they want to have sex and when they don’t.  I once jokingly told someone that it’s a little different when you’re married, because there’s this assumption that your bodies are there for each other.  I was talking to a guy, as a matter of fact, and his response was that while some guys might think it’s cool for their girl to just stick her hand down their pants and say “give it to me” it really doesn’t work that way.

And you know what?  It doesn’t.

We live in a world where privacy is something that you can have or give away with the click of a button, it’s a commodity that is bought and sold without so much as our knowledge.  Our bodies may be our last line of defense.  Our bodies may be the last place where we can truly feel ownership of ourselves, the last thing that isn’t being bought and sold and grasped at for profit.  And for women, that feeling of ownership and peace has never really truly fully been there.  We’ve always understood that our bodies belong to our children, to our husbands, to our world as a whole.  Our beauty has always been something we’ve been told to use to our advantage, if we’ve got it, or if we haven’t that’s always been something that has set us apart.

But violence.

Violence.

To tell us that our bodies deserve violence because they are appealing, that it is our duty to avoid violence by hiding our bodies…

NO.

Let’s make everything very, very clear:  No one’s body belongs to anyone else, even if you are married.  You give access to your body, but it must be a gift and it must be given freely.  If a woman is less than dressed, that’s not consent.  If she’s passed out on the couch, that’s not consent.  If you have some control over her, as her boss, as her lover, as coercion, that’s not consent.  If you didn’t ask and she didn’t say please, one of those two things has to happen.  And the reverse is true, ladies: men don’t want it by default.  Don’t go around sticking your hands down their pants.

We don’t have a right to each other’s bodies.  Nothing but permission gets that for us.

I know in the romance novels he always gets that look in his eye and she just knows and they fall on each other like wolves in heat and it’s so whatever, but that’s not life.  I know in the movies they never talk about it either.  It’s ridiculous.  We’re adults, and we’re responsible, and this is the real world where consent is necessary.  If you’ve got someone willing to communicate with you about sex, by all means communicate.  And if you don’t, you should very seriously think about whether or not your sexual life is really what you imagine it is, because there are plenty of people out there afraid to say no, afraid to say slow down, afraid to say I don’t want this.  They are afraid because society has taught them that if someone goes after their body it must be their fault for taking the lid off the chum.

So don’t treat each other like chum.  Honor and love and respect each other.  Treat the gift of a lover’s body like the miracle and art that it is.

I guess that’s all I’ve got to say.

 

* Side note:  I see nothing shameful in nudity.  God created Adam and Eve naked, and they only felt ashamed after experiencing sin.  I, personally, believe that our bodies are a good creation, and in their purest (nude) form are not an embarrassment but a testimony to the art and pleasure of our Creator.  

Abuse.

I want to talk about abuse.  It’s an issue I care deeply about, but something that oddly has been seldom discussed on this blog.  Recently I read a post that very eloquently described the social rules that allow rape to continue to happen.  I had to let things ferment for a few days and really ask myself why that post got under my skin so thoroughly.  Then I realized: while the post was talking about women and men, the same social rules cause children to be abused.

It’s horrifying- but let me explain.

Children are taught from birth to respect people in authority.  While to a point this is necessary, it’s often abused.  Some children are taught, for instance, never to question an elder.  Children are taught to wordlessly obey anything that an adult requests of them, “except for strangers.”  Wait- what qualifies a stranger?  Often the dangerous people don’t look like drunken panhandlers, more often the person a child ought to be afraid of is “Uncle” so-and-so from the local church.

This is a very insidious thing.

And it’s not just physical abuse people need to worry about- it’s emotional and intellectual abuse.  I hate it when children are taught not to question.  There are some kids who are from a young age stripped of their inquisitive nature.  They are told it is wrong to correct a teacher, that questioning their parent’s philosophy is evil, that doubts they have about faith or about who they are were put there by the devil.  This sort of brow-beaten indoctrination is just wrong, and too often leads to children who grow into adults who are lost, even if they are where their parents would have wanted them to be.

And I’m not even going to get started on sexual abuse by church elders.  Suffice it to say that I’ve heard stories.

We need to teach our children to have boundaries and to enforce them.  We need to teach them to draw back if they are uncomfortable.  We need to teach them to question if they want to question, to argue if they want to argue, to stand up for themselves even if it’s uncomfortable for us.

We need to teach them strength.

And for the love of God- we need to stand up for ourselves.

Rape, and why I think submission in “all” things is a dangerous concept to handle.

I do believe in the existence of good doctrine.  And from time to time I write about those beliefs on this blog.  Not in the sort of vague “it has to start with us loving each other” terms, but in terms of real verses that make real commands of us, and what I think of them.

And every time I write about these things, it gets uncomfortable.  You see, for the last couple of days I’ve been involved in (and then following) a conversation on another blog about wives submitting to their husbands.  The topic was breached in the absence of talking about the husbands role, and inevitably turned to the question of the wife submitting when she disagreed with her husband about something that would have long term repercussions, like family being sent to boarding school.  And I tried to respond and did a poor job of vocalizing myself.  So I tried to write about it here, and again did a poor job of vocalizing myself.

The idea of submission still holds a great deal of fear for all women.  The idea that my husband could make any demand of me, and I would be expected to offer myself up to him as to Christ.  That’s terrifying.  And anyone who doesn’t find that terrifying and respect the power that such fear holds for women obviously knows very little history.  There was a time when women were seen as less than men- as property, as pawns in a game of chess, as a method through which to gain an heir and keep the house clean and often little more.  We all should know this fact because that time was roughly when Ephesians would have been written in the first place.  And the thought of women as lesser continued for some time.  Daughters were the property of their fathers while sons gained autonomy, wives were possessions, women were thought of to gain a soul later in life then men, to be more prone to witchcraft and evil, to need this evil purged from them by a heavy hand as much as possible.

Women were on a level above cattle, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like much of one.  Honestly.  The right to vote and hold property is still a historically recent one.

And the idea that a husband “can’t” rape his wife is still one being debated in some circles.

So let’s talk about submission, in frank terms, and let’s not mince words.  Does anyone reading this believe that I should submit to my husband if he allocates money that needs to go to feeding my children to buy himself a gaming system?  Does anyone believe that Ephesians five requires me to submit myself to his will when he demands sex and I’m ill, or tired, or otherwise not compliantly disposed to the idea?  Does anyone believe that if my husband heard a word that he should take a second wife, that I should say, “yes dear?”  I’m hoping most would say no, because these are extreme examples.

But what about less extreme examples?  What if I am sick, and exhausted, and don’t have the energy to cook a meal, and my husband complains that he’s been working all day and shouldn’t have to work at home?  Or what if I haven’t seen my family in over half a year and he demands that we spend Christmas with his, meaning that I won’t get to see mine?  Or what if I feel God is calling me to a position in my local church body and my husband says that he will not have his wife teaching other men, and forbids me to do it?

Do I really submit to him in all things, to the cost of my body, my family, my calling?

Or by submitting to my husband, would I in some things draw myself further away from God?  In order for both my husband and I to follow God and serve him with all our hearts, my submission to him MUST follow, CANNOT be without his submission to God and his loving me as his own body.  These things are NOT seperable.  Likewise his loving me as his own body and cleansing me as Christ cleansed the church MUST be, CANNOT be without my submission to him.

Both parties must obey God in their commands, or one will get hurt.  That is the beauty of the arrangement- the two become one, or they don’t function, period.

Now, in case I haven’t made myself clear:

  • The wife does not, by submitting, become her husband’s possession or subordinate.  She is his servant, but by choice alone.
  • The husband, should he demonstrate a pattern of making unfair demands or abusing his wife’s submissive position, is not acting in a holy manner and should be called on it- first by his wife, then by his church.
  • Both partners serve God first and each other second- if either one interferes with the other’s servitude to God, something is wrong.
  • Children come first.  If either one places demands on the other that interferes with the raising of their children, something is wrong.
  • If something is wrong, both need to go before God and their local spiritual leaders and sort it all out.

I’ve seen numerous books on the subject which talk about how women can win over their husbands through loving submission.  And at it’s root it’s not a bad thing.  It’s in the Bible! The problem comes when it’s taken to far.  Anything, no matter how good, no matter how holy, becomes bad when not delt with in reason and moderation.  When a woman stays with a drunk who is abusing her kids to win him over in loving submission, it’s not good.  When a wife does nothing about her husband overpowering and raping her to win him over in loving submission, I am sure that is not what God intended.

These concepts must be handled with the respect they deserve, because mishandling them takes advantage of weakness and can lead to real damage.

And I guess that’s what I needed to say.