Monday, January 4, 2016

Before it Gets a Chance to Begin

Below you will find a video that uses some unpleasant descriptors of women, written in a the form of a letter from an unborn baby girl to her father.  It talks about how we can use idle words used to describe women and how those words end up affecting us.

I consider myself rather lucky in many ways.  To my knowledge, I was never called a whore by any young men.  During my last week of public school when I was twelve, one kid who was very bright and seemed to me to have a good future ahead of him wrote a note to me in a yearbook that used one of these nasty names as part of an infantile rhyme.  I remember feeling very distraught because I did respect him.  He was a smart and interesting kid.  He grew up to be a fine young man who was very kind to me when he waited on my table at a restaurant when I was 21.  I talked with him, and I learned that he was in college.  He ended up becoming a fine podiatrist in my home town.  I'm sure that he has no memory of writing that horrible little rhyme that would have amused his male peers then.

The only other person that I recall ever really using the word "whore" around me was my mother.  I once wrote a blog post about how I felt the first time that I took notice of her use of it.  And the day would come when, in anger and in an attempt to control me as a young adult, she would call me a whore.  Though its sting is gone, her voice and her words are still burned into my mind, just as a branding iron leaves a permanent scar.  It seems far worse, coming from her.  Within a few days, I moved out of my parents' home.  I wasn't who my mother wanted me to be, and she seemed to feel that she could resort to any means necessary to turn me into whoever it was she wanted me to be.  I don't think that she even really knew or knows now what she wants.  I do know that the experience was exasperating and painful.

My parents grew up with a 1950s pious mentality concerning women and sex.  The word "bitch" was commonly used, and I use it myself to this day, especially when describing unpleasant women (including myself at times).  In my home, I never heard the word that my classmate used, and though I knew what it meant, I rarely heard 'whore.'  I never heard my father or either of my grandfathers use it, either.  I heard women use it.

Parallels in the Evangelical World

As I watched this video, I identified with some of what the protagonist says, and while it set me thinking about my mother and that old schoolmate, I thought about how many Christians have their own version of this.  They don't use vulgar language (at least not in public).  They use other terms, many that they created, to demean women.  That theme seemed to be of little difference to me than the one that I experienced with my mother when she used the term repeated in this video.  Men can't get what they want from women, so the belittle them, dehumanize them, and de-Christianize them in an attempt to control them.  They use "Jezebel" or "strange woman" to berate women because those terms are found in the Bible, but how different is it from the rest of the world?  For everything we see happen in society, it seems that there is some parallel to the same elements in modern Evangelical Christianity.

What happens in the mind of a young man who hears pastors and experts claim that women caused original sin, that they are easily deceived by nature, that they are somehow more cursed than they are under the doctrine of original sin, and that even their mate is their worst adversary?  How does it shape a man to hear that a woman is merely a vessel for God to bring forth children, and that she has little else to contribute to the world apart from servitude?  As an object of sex which some have spiritualized to a ridiculous extent, why have so few people asked what the consequences are and will be for women (and for men) because of the picture they paint?  The pejoratives may be different, but I see such similar outcomes.

My Questions

Concerning the use of these monikers when they are used against women by other women, I could not help but think of the time that I wrote to Revive Our Hearts to ask whether failure to sign the "True Woman Manifesto" meant that a woman who didn't embrace their interpretation of Scripture was in fact not a devoted woman of God.  It is a way of manipulating and of leveling the playing field.  We can encourage others in right living without the inclusion and exclusion factor.  It reminded me of women and the problem of inhumanity that women show to one another.  If you are a complementarian woman who signed this manifesto, does that mean that you're more true than women who chose not to sign it?

To Christian men, I would like to ask what this unborn babe who speaks in this video asks of her father.  Think about it in terms of the church and what fate your daughters face in the church.  We are a people who have been taught that hatred is as terrible as murder and that lust is as bad as adultery because God looks to the intent of our hearts.   Though the monikers bandied against the "wrong kind of woman" who rejects the obsequious nature of gender roles seem quite sanitary and proper, are they really any different that the ones in the secular world?  Do they edify or condemn?  To they speak liberty or foster manipulation and control?  Do you really want this for your daughters?  Would you want it for yourself?

Here, I echo the words that haunt me, and I cannot help but think of Shirley Taylor and her constant pleas to other Christians to consider how gender bias affects us all.  And I am saddened, for I really see most Evangelical Christians as identical to the secular world.  In fact, they seem to be much more gracious and kind to women, offering liberty and hope to them.

As you listen, the protagonist says that her father would be ashamed of her because she is "wasted," but I could not help but think that too many churches do a different kind of wasting of women and all that they have to contribute.  And the issue of rape?  Why would a man not think that it was his right to do so and that it was not that great of a matter if women are solely created for the gratification of men as the only way that they are permitted to worship God?  Why would he not call a woman names in frustration, and why not hit her if she exists for his pleasure?

When the Freedom for Christian Women Coalition offered this response to the patriarchal Danvers Statement, we noted that the damage done to both men and women cannot be estimated because it has become so pervasive.  Is this the legacy that Christianity really wants to foster?  Think about it as you watch.

Dear Daddy, this is the favor that I want to ask: 

One thing always leads to another, 

so please stop it before it gets a chance to begin

[. . .]

I will be born a girl. 

Please do everything you can so that 

that won't stay the greatest danger of all.