Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I'm a feminist.

Ruth 4:16, Esther 7:3-4, Judges 4:9, 17-22, 1 Samuel 25

This feels vaguely like coming out of the closet, except I'm still (mostly) straight.  And I'm debating actually talking about it, because if you've been reading my blog for long, and paying any attention at all, you already know this.  Also, if I'm totally honest, feminism is a buzz kill.  Okay, so I'm a good Christian because I'm a bad feminist.  But I'm still a bad Christian because I'm a feminist at all.

Here's the thing: it's not feminism that's depressing.  It's all the reasons we need feminism that depress the hell out of me.  The reason we need feminism is because the world is a bad scary place for women.  It's a bad, scary place in general, but try, try to convince me that it is not worse for women.  Just try.

These are just some of the reasons I think we need feminism:  rape, date rape, 'gray' rape, the fact that we actually make distinctions between 'types' of rape, blaming victims for getting raped, FGM, human trafficking, abstinence-only sex education, the pay disparity, complementarianism, purity balls, purity rings, purity culture in generalstay-at-home-daughters, incest, virginity, Disney princesses, domestic violence, limited access to birth control, limited access to abortion, limited access to education, limited access to medical care, gender stereotypes, gender stereotypes played for sociological and psychological fact, gender stereotypes played for comedy, headscarves, hijabs, burkhas, dressing modestly, high heels, makeup, hair removal, wrinkle cream, dieting, cosmetic surgery, mommy guilt, using feminine adjectives as insults, the Double Standard (TM), 'women aren't funny', sexualization of women, sexualization of children, the virgin/whore dichotomy, arranged marriages, homophobia, and Christian men who discipline their wives with spankings.  

I actually got tired of making links to fully reference the above 'paragraph of horror', so if you don't believe me when I write it, Google it yourself.  All these things I've listed exist as topics for debate, and I believe are harmful to women and men and society as a whole.  I realize that not everyone will agree with me on this, but I honestly believe that these things, all of them, are bad.  There is no need to ask me to clarify or repeat myself.  Yes, I reject it all.

That is not to say that I have never participated in any of these things.  I have done some of them, I have thought some of them were quite good ideas, in the past.  I still catch myself automatically behaving according to some of them, I lived them for so long.  But I recognize now that my motivation for participating in my own (church- and family-sponsored) oppression was fear.  I have been desperately afraid of being bad, of facing unpleasant consequences, of losing the approval of authority figures.  But all that fear has terrible consequences itself.  Fear breeds deception, of the self and others.  Fear undermines accomplishment of any kind.  Fear is never a trait that earns respect, from anyone.

There are so many reasons to be afraid as a woman.  In my life, I am trying so hard to steel myself in every way I can think of, not just as a woman, but I seem to be coming up with more and more ways that I am afraid.  I want to root out every bit of fear I find in myself, and there's a lot of it to go.  But reminding myself of my own value, remembering to fight for myself as a person and as a woman, gives me courage.  Feminism helps give me the courage to be married, to work, to drive, to go to the doctor, to write this blog.  For me, the personal is very political, and vice versa.

You may think the things I am afraid of are so normal and basic as to be stupid, and you're right.  After all, who's afraid to be married?  Isn't that what all women should aspire to?  But some of the marriages I've seen in my life would chill your blood, and anyone unaware of how women around the world suffer from domestic and institutionalized violence must be living in a cave.  I may be haunted in my daily life by fear and anxiety, but I'm not irrational.  It's not paranoia if they're really out get you.

Instead of living in fear, I want not only to be able to walk confidently in my own life, but to also make the rest of the world a better place for everyone.  My blog is tiny, but I keep putting it out there in the hopes that it will help someone.  I want to be the change I want to see, especially for women.  One day, I want everything I listed in that big, scary, overwhelming 'paragraph of horror' to be over and done with.  I want the world to be so safe that we laugh about those things.  This does not mean I have confidence in human nature that we can all be changed, but that I have hope, or possibly ego, in my ability to live out what I believe and affect others positively as well.

This does not necessarily make me a good person.  Feminism has come under fire for attacking, undermining, and oppressing men, and I don't doubt that there are women working with this goal in mind.  I refuse to blame them.  Sexual politics and relationships don't have to be a zero-sum game, but there are times when it is hard to see the middle ground.  And if I can't be or feel safe in a society built on equality, then you better believe I'll settle for my turn as Queen of the Hill.  


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hate is a verb, Part 2.

Matthew 4:8-10, 27:40-43, 25:40,  Mark 8:35-36,  Luke 14:26

Any time we act, even unconsciously, to preserve our own implicit power under the status quo, we act in hate.  And any time we fail to act, any time we show indifference to the powerless and marginalized all around us, we act in hate.

Since Jesus called us to love, how should we act, how should we vote?  As Christians I believe that we need to lead this nation in purging hate from our political process.  Not by shouting and spending until everyone agrees with us, but by laying down our political rights.  We can let love win if we give up our rights and political power, exactly the way Jesus gave up his rights and Godly power when He died on the cross for us.

Political power does not make us moral leaders.  In fact, we cannot be moral leaders unless the base of our morality is love, rather than power of any kind.  Jesus understood this.  When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert by offering all the kingdoms in the world, he was offering Jesus the opportunity to impose God's will and morality on the world through political power.  Jesus didn't take the deal.  Neither should we.

This does not mean that we disengage from politics completely.  No, I have a much more difficult, much more ridiculous idea in mind, and this one I can credit to real people, quicker and cleverer than I: vote for your neighbor.    

Vote for the least of these.  Vote to benefit those for whom you have the most contempt.  Vote against your own interest, because you believe that it will lift up someone else.

If you are rich, vote yourself more taxes, for the benefit of parks, and schools, and libraries.  If you are straight, vote for gays to marry.  If you are pro-life, vote for more government benefits to care for families that choose to keep the children they cannot afford.  If you are out of work, vote to make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens, and get jobs in the meantime.

Can we love, sacrificially, the way Jesus loves?  Can we love enough to give up our power, give up our advantage, to benefit someone else?  Can we lay down our lives, our livelihood, and even the sanctity of our families, so that other sinners can get a leg up on us?  Can we vote against our own opinions, because a friend in trouble desperately needs a policy or program that we abhor?

I believe we can.  I believe that voting against our own best interest, for the benefit of our neighbor, will be the key to re-civilizing the American political process.  Does it mean we will all vote the same way, or for the same party?  Of course not.  But it will help us think more deeply about how and why we vote, and it will help us show more compassion and regard for those who think and feel differently than we do.

Any time we act, however grudgingly, to surrender our power in politics, society, and all areas of life, we act in love.  Any time we act, however insignificantly, instead of remaining passive in the face of oppression and injustice wherever we see it, we act in love.  Love is a verb.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hate is a verb, Part 1.

Matthew 25: 45,  9: 36, Colossians 3: 12,  James 2: 22-26 

Back in the day, when saying 'back in the day' was still cool, the Christian band DC Talk released a song called "Luv [sic] is a verb" on their Free at Last album.  It was a great song, about how love is not just warm, fuzzy, transient feelings, but a force propelled by actions.  It does not matter what you say, it matters little how you feel, but how you act towards people will show them how much you, and therefore God, loves them.

That song helped define faith, and the working out thereof, for many Christians of my generation.  It had a big impact on me, and the concept of love in actions has been gnawing away at my sinful nature ever since I first heard it in that song.  It keeps coming back to me, especially recently, when Civil Rights has once again come to the fore as a political issue in our nation.

I have written before about nasty attitudes and how disturbing I find them in politics, and I have been reading a great deal about it as well.  So much so, in fact, that the ideas I will write about in this post have no doubt already been elucidated elsewhere, but damned if I can remember where I read them.  I'm sorry.  To everyone who reads this and thinks: I've seen this somewhere, or heard this somewhere, you're probably right.  And the preceding paragraph is my sad attempt to credit everyone quicker and cleverer than myself.

Hate is a verb.  Hate is not just hot, hard, flared-up feelings, but a force propelled by actions.  It does not matter what you say, it matters little how you feel, but how you act towards people will show them how much you, and therefore your god, hates them.

Hate is not always enmity.  Hate can be a fist, or a shout, but it does not have to be.  Hate can be a shrug.  Or a vote.  A check.  A prayer.

We may not carry heavy, smoldering feelings toward an individual or group, but that does not mean we do not hate them.  Anytime we act, even unconsciously, to preserve our implicit power under the status quo at others' expense, we act in hate.  And any time we fail to act, any time we show indifference to the powerless and marginalized all around us, we act in hate.

One historical example that is getting more attention recently is the interning of Japanese-Americans in special camps during World War II.  Star Trek alum George Takei has been working tirelessly for decades to get attention for this grave injustice, and recently his work has begun to pay off.  Others are coming forward with their stories of the internment camps, and one common thread seems to be that it was not necessarily burning enmity that motivated America to lock up its Japanese citizens, although that was certainly a part of it, but hate masquerading as indifference.

Some popular excuses from back then still sound all too familiar now: 'It's not my problem, what can I do?'  'Maybe they are all spies, trying to undermine America!'  'We have bigger problems right now.'  'We're at war with their home, they should understand why we don't trust them.'  'They chose to come here.'  'It's not hurting me, why should I care?'

Now it's rare that anyone still says these things about Japanese-Americans, but we say them everyday about all kinds of people we consider different from us.  I can't count the number of times I've heard Christians say that gays are undermining America, Muslims should just swallow our discrimination against them, and illegal immigrants and the poor should be willing to accept any kind of terrible working and living conditions.  It's indifference, and it's hate.  It lulls us into acting, as in: voting and spending money, in ways that only benefit ourselves, while neglecting Jesus and the oppressed people He cares about.

What does this mean politically?  I realize that I'm a little late to this game, the President already elected and all, but we have elections in this country every two years, in some states even more often.  So there's always another one coming up, one that affects you and your neighbors even more than who is President.  How should we act?  How should we vote?  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

This is how I craft.

Exodus 32: 1-4, 1 Kings 7, Proverbs 31: 13

Step 1: Drag DH to local funeral museum.  Be the only patrons there, for three (3) hours.  Enjoy self thoroughly, except for lack of magnets at the souvenir shop.  Buy lovely ceramic tile with Day of the Dead motif, intending to stick magnets to the back.

Step 2: Wait several (6-8) months.

Step 3: Get angry at self for never finishing anything and go to craft store for sticky magnets.  Purchase sticky magnets.

Step 4:  Get distracted again and wait a couple (2-3) more weeks.

Step 5: Get angry at self again and break out sticky magnets.  Find you have purchased twice (2) as much as you need.  Separate extra magnet panels and set down on table.  Get slightly irritated at DH for interrupting you, then apologize and act quickly when he points out you have set spare magnets down on your laptop.  Laptop suffers no damage.  This is why you keep DH around.

Step 6: Stick magnets to back of tile.  Put tile on fridge.

Step 7: DH catches tile as it falls off fridge, leaving several (4-5) magnet panels behind.  He sets everything back on table and calls you into the room to let you know about it.  Thank God for DH.

Step 8: Brainstorm ways to treat back surface of tile so sticky magnets will stick.  Best idea is to paint with nail polish.

Step 9: Over the course of the next forty-eight (48) hours, paint back of tile with two (2) coats nail polish.

Step 10: While re-applying sticky magnets, drop them on dining room carpet.  Pick off hair and fluff and continue re-application.  Put tile on fridge.

Step 11: Catch tile as it falls off fridge again.  Put whole failure of a project back on table.

Step 12: Get Elmer's and Super Glue out of toolbox.  Apply both types of glue to different magnet panels to test which one will stick.  Hope its Elmer's, as have exhausted supply of Super.  Allow twenty-four (24) hours to dry.

Step 13: Elmer's works!  Once again, re-apply sticky magnets to back of tile, reinforced with Elmer's.  Allow twenty-four (24) hours to dry.

Step 14: Put tile on fridge.  Watch suspiciously for further failure until you once again get distracted.

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