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Social Issues

the day after tomorrow

I spent last night deliberately avoiding the election results because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Instead I spent the evening watching Suffragette and season six of The Good Wife. Both Handsome and I had a terrible sense of foreboding watching the story of women fighting and dying for the right to vote. I had high hopes that watching Suffragette would be prophetic, a good omen on the eve of electing our first woman President, that my hope could stave off the fear and dread I felt.

My hopes and dreams did not come true last night. I woke to a dark and terrible world, one filled with uncertainty. There’s no way to tell what the next four years could bring, and I am afraid.

I am afraid for myself. The county I live in is deeply conservative, racist, segregated, misogynistic, and homophobic. It’s almost as bad the town I grew up in– and that town elected the local Ku Klux Klan’s Grand Giant as mayor until the 90s. I’m afraid that I could be attacked for who I am. I’m afraid that the people who hate me will be emboldened, that someone will attempt the unthinkable if I and my queer friends go to an LGBT bar this weekend.

I am concerned about my future health. Right now the main treatment for my endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome is covered by my insurance, but that’s only true because of the Affordable Care Act, which seems likely to disappear next year. What happens then? I don’t know, and I’m afraid.

But mostly I’m not afraid for myself. If Trump keeps his promises– and there’s no way to tell if he will– I’m afraid for the thousands upon thousands of people whose lives could be destroyed because of his policies and the actions of his followers. I have latinx friends– will their families be ripped apart in a mass deportation? I have Syrian friends who still have family there– will they ever see them again? Native Americans are already facing militaristically-equipped police in Standing Rock– are we going to see another Wounded Knee in the coming months? All my disabled friends who depend on the ACA– are they going to die because they can’t afford to pay for their healthcare? Will we actually withdraw from NATO and send the world into chaos? Will our President continue to use an antagonistic nation’s cyberattacks on his political opponents? How many women will die if Roe v. Wade is overturned? Will all the women with my common medical condition end up in prison because we miscarried and even “spontaneous abortions” (the medical term for miscarriage) become suspect? Is the freedom of the press, the freedom to peaceably assemble, under threat of evaporating?

Outside of policy– foreign and domestic–  I’m afraid burning crosses are going to become commonplace again. I’m afraid that the constant barrage of assault and harassment women already face on a daily basis will worsen. I’m afraid that attacks on my LGBT family are going to rise. I’m desperately afraid for my Muslim friends and for their families. I’m afraid for my latinx friends and how the suspicion and mistrust they already encounter could escalate into something far more terrifying.

I’m afraid, and I’m hurting.

***

But.

But.

We have faced all these things before, and we fought.

We have been tortured, and we spat in their faces.

We have been murdered, and we used our grief to drive our fury.

We have been denied the right to vote, and we endured beatings to get it.

We have died of ravaging diseases while a bigoted nation ignored us, and we searched until we were well again.

We’ve been here before. None of this is new to any of us. People of color are brutalized and slaughtered every day, while a black President watched and was helpless to stop it. The Supreme Court said I could marry whoever I wanted, but that didn’t affect the one-hundred-plus rights LGBT people still don’t have that straight people do. Roe v. Wade is still law, but that hasn’t stopped TRAP laws from encroaching on my autonomy or “religious freedom” letting women suffer or die in Catholic hospitals.

We had a long road ahead of us already. It just got longer and rougher.

Today and tomorrow we grieve. We let ourselves experience the full breadth of the horror we’re facing. An excruciating light is burning in our eyes and souls, illuminating the putrescence buried in the core of our nation and our people. The pain can take our breath away today; we have to deal with the reality of the gauntlet that hatred threw down at our feet last night. Today we hold ourselves and each other. We’ll find each other in the aftermath, we’ll search the battlefield for survivors. When we can’t walk anymore, we’ll find someone to carry us home.

And then we’ll fight, like we always have and always will.

Photo by Tim Sackton
Social Issues

experiencing hate as a queer woman

For almost a year I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of finding out that people I know hate me. I had to look in their eyes and see nothing but rage and disgust at my very existence. It’s been difficult in a way that few things have been, in a way I wasn’t able to articulate until recently.

***

I hate someone, too. The man who raped me. The fact that he exists, that he is out there, somewhere, carefree and happy and free while I’m burdened with everything he did to me… it fills me with fury. I am disgusted by him, by what I know he’s capable of doing. The fact that he can still suck air into his lungs and be filled with life makes me want to retch because I can barely stand the thought that I am utterly helpless to stop him from hurting other people.

I’ve done the one thing I can– I reported him to the police. Hopefully when he hurts another girl, another woman, if she decides to go to the police there will be a report there saying you’re not alone, he’s done this before, he deserves to go to prison, and we can send him there.

I hate him. The world would be a better place if he weren’t in it.

***

It was hard looking into someone else’s face and seeing that feeling there, directed at me. To see hatred for everything I am as a person, everything I represent, flickering at me in their eyes. Wishing for my disappearance, my non-existence. Not that they want me dead exactly– just to have never existed in the first place.

It’s a different sort of hard than the banality of hatred I encounter almost daily. Lots of people think I’m uppity, or selfish, or a liar, or stupid, or fat, or unattractive– and have told me so, as loudly as they can manage through a keyboard. There are people out there who love to pick me apart or whip up angry, pitchfork-toting mobs. While occasionally frightening, and certainly disruptive, mostly it’s simply a matter of time before I can set it aside and not let if affect me. I don’t have to pick up any of their labels and carry them around with me. If someone calls me stupid, the only reaction that calls for is laughter. If they call me a liar, well– I know I’m telling the truth, and that’s all that really matters.

But when someone you know reacts to your presence in the room with loathing it’s not possible to just set it aside. It’s not some ridiculous accusation hurled in your direction over the internet for you to ignore and delete.

If you’re a good, decent person, and someone looks at you like that, your automatic question is going to be what did I do? People typically have very good reasons for their hatred and disgust. I hate a rapist because of what he did to me, and what I’m afraid he’ll do to others. So, of course, the natural impulse will be to try to figure out what you could have possibly done to provoke that reaction.

When the answer is “you exist,” it’s devastating.

If you’re a good person, you want to try to fix whatever you’ve done, or change it. You want to undo whatever’s happened and earn their forgiveness– because irrational and bigoted loathing simply doesn’t make any emotional sense. You can objectively know that bigotry exists in the world and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, individually, but then you encounter it in someone you care about and what you objectively know doesn’t matter as much as trying to do everything you can to make them stop hating you so much.

Queer people encounter this in our friends, our family, our churches, our communities. We can feel all the revulsion directed at us, and our reaction is so human. We want to fix it– and it’s not like we haven’t been told how. Lie to yourself, lie to us. Let us electrocute you. Take this mountain of shame and self-loathing and carry it on your back wherever you go. Never love anyone the way Christ loves the church or Jonathon loved David or Ruth loved Naomi. Deny every chance at romantic happiness. Never have a family.

Do it all alone, because we certainly won’t help you.

Many of us have tried. Many of us have died trying. I certainly tried for most of my life– and was somewhat good at it, too. Until the moment I realized that being queer makes me incandescently, buoyantly, happy. Until I met someone that didn’t force me to lie to him in order for us to be together– who finds as much joy in my queerness as I do. Until I discovered acceptance among my queer family in a way I’d never felt before. Until I discovered that I can feel pride in who I am and what I bring to the world as a queer person.

I had the chance to let my burden fall off my back and tumble away, and I will never go chasing it down. Not even if all the dishonesty and deceit and duplicity in the world could wipe away the disgust I see in their eyes. It’s just not worth it, however much their hatred hurts. I’m not going to stop existing to make anyone else more comfortable. I will not light myself on fire to keep you warm.

Love isn’t the thing that needs to change. Hate is.

Photo by Alex Holyoake
Social Issues

keeping y’all in the loop

So I knew coming into this that seminary was going to throw a monkey wrench into the blogging works, and I was right. Because of that, I wanted to let y’all know that in the absence of blogging I’m still feeling the impetus to get my thoughts out there into the ether, and the best way for me to do that is what fancy internet folk are calling microblogging: ie: posting mini-posts to Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve posted a few thoughts on Facebook– one that’s my ruminations on being inspired by Witches, and another that digs into why I’m so repulsed by “Hillary the Enabler” arguments that have been stirred up in the wake of TapeGate. I also have a few threads over on Twitter– like this one about the “vote for Hillary because she’s the one who will REALLY do something about the abortion rate!” arguments that have popped up recently, or this one that explains why Trump attacking Hillary for her husband’s infidelity makes perfect sense to conservative evangelicals.

This week I’ve been working on an article for Rewire which hopefully I’ll be able to share with you soon, and then next week I’ll be on United’s campus for classes. I have a long list of post ideas just waiting for me to tackle them, which I think I’ll be able to get to next month because my life will have hopefully settled down by then. Mostly I just want this whole damn election to be over … which for Trump supporters is November 28. Clinton supporters and everyone who just wants to vote in local and state elections, we vote November 8.

Photo by Jeremy Keith
Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: September edition

Mostly this month I’ve been into Halloween. I cannot even express how unbelievably excited about Halloween I am this year. For the past half-dozen years I’ve daydreamed about throwing a wildly extravagant All Hallow Eve’s costume party, and this is the first year I’ve been in my own house and have the space to entertain, so I’m finally doing it. It’s all I’ve really been able to talk about much, other than seminary and the big projects I’ve been doing at work. I’ve even been crafting, which long-term friends and family will tell you is not something I usually do.

Anyway, if you’d like to share in my Halloween joy, here’s my Pinterest board. I’ve decided to go with a white-black-and-gold color scheme, and a “Fairy Queen’s Study” theme. I start beaming every time I think about it. My favorite thing so far: we had about 50 hardbound Left Behind books at work left over from the end of the craze, and I’m turning them all into sorcery and witchcraft “books.” I think this is the best possible use for them. I’m positively gleeful at the image of Tim LaHaye turning green at the thought of what I’m doing to his books.

Articles on Feminism

I’ve spent a significant amount of time talking about the fact that there isn’t some sort of clearly delineated line between “rape as a horrible crime” and “wonderful sex.” Women, because of a variety of factors, experience this as a spectrum. “The Problem with how Men Perceive Rape,” by Lux Alptraum, is an excellent breakdown of all that.

When Detectives Dismiss Rape Reports before Investigating Them” by Alex Campbell and Katie Baker is a well-reported resource for talking about that whole “rape victims are lying, look at all these ‘unfounded’ reports” conversation MRAs love to have.

Remember that Atlantic article a while back about how women “can’t have it all”? Turns out the author’s come around a bit.

The Hidden Conservatism of American Horror Storyby Laura Bogart helped put into words the reaction I had to AHS when I tried to watch an episode– and why I continued thinking “nope” every time I saw a trailer for a new season.

Articles on Race

If you didn’t hear about the “hot chicken” debacle in Nashville a little bit ago, “Race, Credit, and Hot Chicken” by Betsy Phillips explains how covert and institutionalized racism contributed to that whole mess.

The White Protestant Roots of American Racism” by Alana Massey is a deep look into the centuries-old Christian justification for chattel slavery and also why American Christian culture is so caught up in seeing capitalism as an innately Christian concept– and also explores why those two things are linked.

Books

Not a lot of time for fiction reading this month. I’ve mostly just been trying to keep my head above water with a heavier work schedule and finding my footing with seminary. The best book I’ve read so far for seminary has been Jewish Bioethics: Rabbinic Law and Theology in Their Social and Historical Contexts by Yechiel Barilan. It was fascinating to see how Jewish I’ve become in my thinking about faith, the Tanakh (Old Testament), and Jesus. This isn’t exactly shocking news– I’ve been prioritizing Jewish perspectives on the Old Testament in my research for a few years now, and I read The Jewish Annotated New Testament when I’m studying something there. I’ve also got Amy-Jill Levine’s Short Stories by Jesus as a go-to resource, too. It’s not a revelation of any kind to say “Jesus was Jewish,” but I think we’ve lost that almost completely in a lot of ways. Anyway, if you’ve got the time to read a seminary-level text, Jewish Bioethics is an amazing book.

I did finish the Night Angel trilogy. It’s solidly good, although it becomes apparent by the last book that Brent Weeks, the author, is a Christian– characters start quoting the Bible, and the climax of the whole series embodies a crucifixion-style Atonement (although, bonus: the Christ Figure is a woman). I didn’t mind the Christian themes since they didn’t damage the writing or the narrative, but I will say I was plumb annoyed toward the end when purity culture reared its ugly head for no gosh darn reason. There’s also some heavy handed “men are ___” and “women are ____,” but the trilogy was enjoyable enough and the women characters well-rounded enough to let me shrug it off.

Whoever told me to check out Michelle Sagara, I have one of her books coming for me at the library, and I’ll let you know what I think.

TV and Movies

Still enjoying The Good Wife, although season five is hella tense. In order to break up some of that tension, I introduced Handsome to Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23, which has actual-goddess Krysten Ritter. Also, Luke Cage released today, and that’s what we’re binge-watching this weekend. The creator, Cheo Hodari Coker, saying “the world is ready for a bulletproof black man” makes me want to cry. I can’t wait to see it.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was lovely and melancholy and sweet and funny, and I highly recommend it. I’ve also been raving about Ex Machina– the ending oh my god the ending. Sweet mother of God. I also enjoyed The Martian a lot more than I thought I was going to– I absolutely loathed Cast Away and I thought The Martian was basically going to be “Cast Away in Space.” It’s not. It’s hilarious. I cannot say enough good things about Spotlight and Concussion, either.

***

So what all have you been reading and watching?

Photo by Matthew Howarth
Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: August edition

So I’m heading out to seminary today, so no Redeeming Love review this week. Sorry that’s been inconsistent so far, but I’m hoping that after this I can be better about posting new segments on Mondays.

Articles on Feminism

In Defense of Villainesses” by Sarah Gailey is just positively brilliant. Also, if you’re a geek and not reading the Tor blog what are you even doing? I’ve read it a few times because I’ve loved it just that much. I read a review of Gone Girl a while ago that inspired similar feelings— her “we need women who breathe fire” still manages to induce chills.

This one also could go under “Politics,” but I think it fits better under “Feminism.” Written by Michelle Cottle, “The Era of ‘The Bitch’ is Coming” should help remind all of us that just like electing Obama didn’t end racism, if we elect Clinton it’s not going to be the end of sexism. In fact, if Obama’s presidency is anything to go by, misogyny is going to come out into the open in a way we haven’t seen in a while.

Articles on Theology

This will probably become a more dominant category now that I’m in seminary. My theology reading tends to come from books, not articles, but anything that I read that’s not behind a paywall I’ll try to share with y’all.

I read “God is not Great; God is Good” by Alexis Waggoner right after Handsome and I had an intense debate about that very topic during small group a few weeks ago. I’ll probably explore this concept more in seminary, but I’m definitely leaning toward a deistic/open theism view of God. As someone who spent her life suffering abuse, the idea that God takes an active hand in world events … bothers me.

So I talk a lot about how the Old Testament treats gender identity, and “Is God Transgender?” by Rabbi Mark Sameth is a good introduction to the concept, I think.

Someone I know is going to be participating in The Courage Conference, and I encourage all of you to look into it and push your pastors and church staffs into attending, even if all they can do is watch online.

I do my best, when I’m reading about racism, to focus on reading work by men and women of color. However, “How God as Trinity Dissolves Racism” by Richard Rohr was really good. If I can find an article on the same topic written by a person of color, I’ll share that one down the road.

Articles on Politics

The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It’s that, but way weirder” by Dylan Matthews was … interesting. I tend to cringe away from calling a white nationalist movement something bland and mild like “alt-right,” and I wish Clinton hadn’t used it. I understand why she didn’t, but this bandying around the bush just gives them credibility, in my opinion. However, like Dylan notes, it is more than just white supremacy.

I love meta analyses. When you really want to whip out some hard-hitting science, nothing beats a meta analysis. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s basically “a study of studies.” It looks over all the available, credible research on a given topic and tries to come to a more-firm conclusion than any of the independent studies could have arrived at on their own. “Parents have been spanking children for millennia. 50 years of scientific evidence said they were wrong” is primarily an interview with Elizabeth Gershoff, who compiled 75 studies and a combined data set of 161,000 children to say– as conclusively as possible– that spanking fucks everything up. To which I and every other spanking survivor say: no shit.

Books

I’ve been doing more movie-and-TV watching than book-reading this month, so I’ll just give you an update. I’m still reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong which continues to be fascinating. I’m also working through Kameron Hurley’s Geek Feminist Revolution. This weekend I picked up Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, but I haven’t touched it at all yet. I also got Good Christian Sex to review next month, and will be interviewing the author, Bromleigh McCleneghan. I’m also going to be reading God’s Feminist Movement in the next few weeks for another review. None of that counts for seminary reading, though, so I’ll probably still be working on most of these for a little while.

For fiction reading I’m digging into Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy and so far I’m enjoying it. Been a while since I’ve read a book written by a man about men, so we’ll see how it goes. If he includes more women characters than Karen Miller’s Kingmaker, Kingbreaker set, I might cry. So far we’ve got one minor character who’s a girl, and another two tangential characters that are women that I’m not sure we’ll see again … which is already beating out Karen’s complete and utter lack of women background characters. She almost made up for it in the last book with two lead women characters … almost.

I read Beautiful Creatures last week and it was … well, I really liked how well the author included elements of the Southern Gothic. I grew up in the kind of rural Southern community that makes up the cultural setting, and I think the authors did it well. There were a few moments that would have been better if they’d really embraced the creep but overall I enjoyed the feel of the book. The main character was a little shit, though, so I wasn’t interested in continuing the series.

Books that I’m looking forward to reading when I’m not inundated by seminary:

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik looks like it’s going to be brilliant. I was explaining the concept to Handsome, and I discovered that I know a shocking amount about the Napoleonic-era naval conflicts for how much I’m not interested in that. I’m also really fascinated by Last Song Before Night because of this article about her approach to worldbuilding. After a months-long search aided by r/tipofmytongue and r/fantasy– as well Peter Ahlstrom– I finally found the title for a book I’d been desperately wanting to read but couldn’t’ remember: The Paper Magician. Pretty sure I’m never going to forget the title of that book.

TV and Movies

Still watching Alias, still enjoying it– although, at this point, I’m really just watching it for Jack and in the hopes that Michael goes deliciously dark and murders his traitor double-agent wife. I discovered that there are two premises for this show: 1) everyone in it, with the exception of Jack Bristow, is actually a really fucking bad spy, and 2) everyone marries a Russian spy.

Discovery of the month: The Good Wife. I got into it because it aired between Elementary and Madam Secretary and I didn’t feel like getting up off the couch, so I’ve actually seen the last few episodes of the final season. Handsome was out of town on business last week, so I decided to download the first season to check it out and I am loving it. I haven’t enjoyed a show as much as this one in a while. Possibly since the first time I saw The West Wing. There’s a main character who’s a bi woman, and there have been a few times where I’ve squeed and started bouncing on the couch because yay. Although, to be honest, the fact that when Alicia asks her if she’s gay and her response is that she’s “private” I was a little bit meh about.

***

So what all have you been into?

Photo by Carmela Nava
Social Issues

Stuff I’ve Been Into: July Edition

This has been a week from hell in more than one way for me, since I’m coming off period week and it’s also been the horrific shitshow that is the Republican National Convention. Thankfully, I’m leaving for vacation tonight, so I wanted to leave you with reading material, although I might pop in with a post or two next week if the mood strikes me.

Articles on Politics

The Republican National Convention and the Criminalization of Politics” by Dylan Matthews is a must-read in my opinion. If you haven’t paid any attention to the goings-on in Cleveland, Christie said that we should imprison Hillary Clinton because of her policy positions, such as negotiating with Iran. Matthews does a good job of explaining why it’s an all-around horrifically bad idea to start advocating for things like political prisoners.

Speaking of dictatorships, “Donald Trump and the Authoritarian Temptation” by Shadi Hamid was one of the better articles I’ve read over the last year that attempts to understand why Trump’s bid for the American presidency has been so successful. Considering he’s praised Putin, Kim Jong Un, al-Assad, Gaddafi, and Saddam Hussein for being “tough,” “strong,” “incredible,” and “ruthless,” I think I have more than enough reason to be legitimately frightened of a Trump regime.

Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All” by Jane Meyer is probably the best profile on Trump I’ve read. It’s an interview with Tony Schwartz who “co-wrote” The Art of the Deal, and if you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth the time.

Who Are All These Trump Supporters?” by George Saunders was excellent, and I think another must-read because it does what all good journalism should: it humanizes the people we disagree with most.

Articles on Race

We’re No Angels” by Danielle Moss Lee is a heartbreaking piece about what it’s like growing up as both a girl and black, and makes it brutally clear that you can have a stellar performance record, get amazing grades, have no disciplinary problems, and still face racism from the authorities in your life. White people need it drilled into our racist heads that there is no standard a black woman could possible meet that could help her escape racism.

Stop Kidding Yourself: the Police were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People” is written by Sam Mitrani, an expert on the history of policing, especially in Chicago. It doesn’t dig into the race element in depth, but it does make it clear that “to serve and protect” is a convenient bit of myth-making.

I grew up believing that the “War Between the States” and the “War of Northern Aggression” was strictly a matter of “state’s rights.” So it knocked me on my arse when I found out that I was incredibly wrong about that. “Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong,” written by the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me (good book!) puts a lot of what I’ve learned in one place.

How a $2 Roadside Drug Test Sends Innocent People to Jail” by Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders was mind blowing. I had no idea how this whole process worked, and this piece was more than just illuminating, it was infuriating.

I’ve had a difficult time trying to understand cultural appropriation. As a concept it’s not super cooperative with my tendency to want all information neatly sorted into black and white. It’s cultural, and is therefore complicated and messy and nuanced. “Why Defending Your Cultural Appropriation” by Ana Thomas was a brilliant explanation and very helpful for me.

Why I’m Skeptical of White Liberals in the Black Lives Matter Movement,” although written by a white woman, was incredibly thought-provoking. She asks a question that I think deserves incredibly serious thought and introspection, and it’s been following me around ever since I read it. She asks us to figure out how racism hurts us as white people— something that had never occurred to me before. I think she’s getting at something fundamentally true: white supremacy’s target is people of color, it benefits us as white people … but it also must therefore limit us in order to keep us in power.

Articles on Feminism

I love, love, love, love, love this metaphor for consent: the Consent Castle by Robot Hugs.

In the “solidly good things happening in the world” category, there’s a new program being funded by the NFL because they fucked up big time and are trying to balance some of their bad karma. It’s called Safe Bars, and it’s teaching bartenders how to identify sexual harassment and intervene before an assault happens.

‘Empowerment’ is Warping Women’s View of Real Power” by Ruth Whippman is one of those articles that borders on a style of feminism I fundamentally disagree with (the kind that still defines “power” and “success” in white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist terms) while still making a valid point. She also critiques things like “lean in!” and, in her words: “Sexism, in this story, is not the fault of the patriarchy or systemic injustice, but rather a regrettably unavoidable consequence of the fact that women are a pathetic bunch of compulsive apologizers with vocal fry.”

On the other side of the feminist spectrum is “What works for men doesn’t work for everyone: why cities need to start planning with women in mind” by Caroline Criado-Perez. There are a host of things in this world that people would never think of as having gendered consequences– like public parks, parking garages, snow clearing methods, bathrooms, and lighting– but they do.

Language Matters: Why I Don’t Fear being Called ‘Pro-Abortion’“by Maureen Shaw appealed to my feminist, English-major heart. The first time I ever wrote about being pro-choice, I described myself as pro-abortion, even though I was aware of all the negative associations tied up in the term. I wanted to own my public position and be proud of it, even though most of my fellow Christians would probably prefer I be ashamed about this and keep it hidden. In the same vein is “It’s Time to Say ‘Abortion’ When We’re Talking About Abortion” by Genevieve Cato.

My friend Gabby wrote “Reproductive Freedom and Pride Go Hand-in-Hand,” and it’s something I wish more of us grasped. The few times I’ve brought up reproductive rights to my gay friends, they weren’t exactly dismissive but it was clear that they thought the plight of Planned Parenthood doesn’t affect them. Considering Indiana is now experiencing a rise in HIV because Mike Pence shut PP clinics down, this isn’t something the LGBT+ community can afford to ignore. Feminism and queer rights are intrinsically tied up together.

This one could go under both race and feminism, but either way it’s another must-read: “This is What I Mean When I say ‘White Feminism.’

Books

I’m almost finished with the Kingbreaker, Kingmaker series, and while I’ve read four of them so I must be enjoying them at least a little, my original complaint from three weeks ago stands. I had such high hopes for The Relectant Mage, since the back copy and cover art made it seem like the main character was going to be a woman. Well, I’m a third of the way into it, and most of it has been from male points of view. Two villains, and she introduced three more characters last chapter– all men. Again. Le sigh.

I picked up Dietland the other day, though, and while I’m not very far along into it, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be amazing. I don’t read fiction books that aren’t in the sci-fi/fantasy category that often, but it seems like this one might be a winner.

I also grabbed Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, which I’ve had my eye on for a while. As in, multiple years, so hopefully it’s good. I’ll keep you updated on what I think.

TV

We finished season two of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and I think the season ends even better than it started. Kimmy starts therapy and decided to confront her mother, and it deals with all sorts of important things I think trauma survivors will recognize and understand.

Based on a recommendation from my sister-in-law we watched Grace and Frankie, which was one of those that we’ve been meaning to watch for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it, mostly because we’re both firmly convinced that there is no better television than The West Wing— and that’s coming from a Trekkie and a Firefly-fan. Anyway, Grace and Frankie was solidly good and enjoyable. It’s amazing watching Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin together, especially since they’re playing women seven or eight years younger than they are.

We also started Alias, and it’s hilarious. I’m not sure why the Bones theme song is better since they both sound sort of exactly the same, but it is. Jennifer Gardner’s costumes are the crème de la crème of 90s fashion, and Bradley Cooper as “plucky reporter” is also awesome. My only observation so far is that most of Sydney’s troubles could be prevented if she got better at lockpicking. Just throwing that out there.

Anyway, enjoy the rest of July!

Social Issues

at dawn, look to the east

One of my favorite scenes from almost any film is at the end of the Battle of Helm’s Deep, from The Two Towers. They’ve retreated from the walls, and you can feel the hope fading. You feel the same shocked horror as Eowyn when she realizes the end is coming, and coming quickly. When everything seems to be at its most dark and desperate, King Théoden looks at Aragorn, frozen, shocked, despairing.

We’re approaching the end of a horrific week, and at times I feel like we’re facing an unending, teeming horde of Uruk-Hai– but instead of facing a concrete enemy with clattering armor and raised swords, the evil we’re fighting is systemic. Police brutality, like the Uruk-Hai, is just one manifestation of the evil the One Ring represents: the temptation in all men to possess power.

On days like today, I’m reminded of why I originally named my blog Defeating the Dragons. I was referencing a Neil Gaiman paraphrase of a G. K. Chesterton quote:

Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist,
but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.

I was reminded of it yesterday as I witnessed white people all over social media ask Théoden’s question: what can men do against such reckless hate? There was despair and hopelessness- helplessness. The police have killed 566 people this year– that we know of– and 2016 is barely half over. When a problem is this big, what can we do? When it’s seemingly in every state, in every justice department, in every police force, in every prison?

But, Théoden’s crushing despair isn’t the answer in this scene. The answer is delivered through Aragorn, who isn’t removed, isn’t separate, from Théoden’s fate. He meets Théoden’s eyes unflinchingly and says “Ride out with me.” Théoden assumes that Aragorn is envisioning a last ride of blazing glory, but Aragorn contradicts him: “For Rohan. For your people.

Of course, the audience knows what Théoden doesn’t– that Gandalf told Aragorn “Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.” Aragorn is trusting Gandalf to pull some miracle out of his robes, but Theodan isn’t aware of that.

Today, we need to be Théoden listening to Aragorn. To ignore our feelings of helplessness that could push us into desensitization and apathy. We could try to retreat through the passage into the mountains– or we can ride out for our people. Apathy and helplessness are beckoning, I won’t deny it– especially since, as white people, it’s not just possible but easier for us to pretend like the Uruk-Hai and the malice of Sauron isn’t a real threat to anyone. If we’re not Théoden, in the trenches at Helm’s Deep, we could be any one of the blissfully ignorant nations who believes that Saruman the White is just some puttering old wizard who mostly just hangs out in his tower. Him, trying to destroy Rohan? That’s laughable!

Turns out, though, that’s exactly what him and Wormtongue want us to believe. Empire and its oppressive power wants us to remain apathetic, is trying to convince us it’s not really our problem. Alton Stirling, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland— aren’t they just minor aberrations and not worth getting ourselves worked up about? They probably did something to deserve it anyway. As long as the only people the police are routinely gunning down don’t look like me, then our police force acting like something out of a post-apocalyptic dystopian nightmare is fine. Our lives are comfortable, unruffled by the constant fear of the police. They’re our thin line of blue, after all– the ones sworn to protect and serve. They couldn’t possibly be burning down an entire forest to forge weapons and turning Orthanc into a war machine.

It’s our responsibility to banish Wormtongue– his lies and his apathy– from our holds. To listen to Aragorn even when it seems hopeless. I won’t make false promises– maybe it is hopeless. But I choose to believe that nothing is truly hopeless unless we let it be, that evil can only win if good men do nothing.

***

In this extended metaphor of a post, as white people in a country with a militarized police force and a racist legal system, we’re not actually Théoden and his men. I know it seems like we’re the ones facing a monstrous force working to crush us, but we’re not. We’re not the ones fighting for our lives against the Uruk-Hai, struggling to hold out for just one more day, one more dawn.

We’re the Rohirrim. We’re the ones with the power to do something. It’s against everything good and just that we have this power in our hands, but we have it. But we have to show up– we have to be there at dawn on the fifth day, willing to face the Uruk-Hai when we could have been running away and pretending that the fate of Helm’s Deep has nothing to do with us. Without us, Théoden falls. Without us standing up for the people of color who are our sisters and brothers and siblings, our fellow children of God, then Helm’s Deep is lost.

They can’t fight this battle on their own. They need us.

***

So, practically, what does this look like, since of course it’s not going to be one glorious moment of us rushing downhill in a single magnificent charge. Maybe we’ll have those victories, but it’s not just the Uruk-Hai. It’s not just Saruman. Those are only puppets, really, symptoms. But, we have to start somewhere.

First, start with educating yourself. Acknowledge that as a white person you do benefit from a racist system. Keep educating yourself. Stay aware, and pay attention. Listen to people of color about their experiences. Cultivate a mind and heart that responds with compassion and grief.

Then, look into what needs to be done to reform our police forces. Get involved, and listen to brown and black people about where you should direct your energies and focus. When it comes to the police, local government is crucial. Delve into the histories of the people who serve as your judges, your sheriff, your mayor. Research the histories of those running for those positions and hold them accountable. Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote. Communicate with your city councils, your district attorneys. Call your state senators and representatives and make it clear that police reform is a priority for you, their constituent.

If you can, see if you can get involved in politics– and that doesn’t necessarily mean running for public office. You can work to make sure police reform is a part of your party’s platform on the state level. You can meet up with the local Democratic or Republican committee and convince them to make police reform an important issue in your county politics. You can be the persistent widow.

Ride out with us– not for death and glory, but for our people.

For the least of these, the widow, the prisoner, the orphan.

Photo by New Line Cinema
Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: June edition

The picture for this post is of the book haul Handsome and I brought home from our county library book sale– which is “The Event of the Year” as far as anyone down here is concerned.

Articles

I’m a big fan of the Washington Post— I read it fairly consistently, and I love that they run pieces like “For the poor in the Ivy League, a full ride isn’t always what they imagined” by Nick Anderson fairly often. This one was especially good because it puts to bed the tired argument that minority/poor students can just “get scholarships” to solve their problems. Sure, you might have your tuition covered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can buy food, or textbooks. Heaven forbid you want to major in a STEM field, where the textbooks are constantly updated and can cost hundreds of dollars.

I’ve been reading the blog-zine Women in Theology for several years, and I recommend them in general– they’re one of the reasons why I’m going to seminary. “A Reasonable Violence: Why the Third Way is the Worst Way” by Amaryah Shaye is a good example of the work they do. I’ve shared my own opinion on the “Third Way” perspective before, and Amaryah’s argument, I believe, is incredibly compelling. I kept wanting to grab a few pullquotes, but all of it is just too good.

My friend and colleague, Sarah Jones, wrote “The Strange Story of Sewanee, the KKK, and a Franklin County Gay/Straight Alliance” for Scalawag and it’s fully worth a read. bell hooks first coined the phrase white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy — and while it’s certainly a mouthful, it elucidates the reality we all unthinkingly live in: that misogyny, racism, homophobia are all tied up in each other. Each oppressive system perpetuates the others.

This is Why we have Women-Only Spaces, and I Don’t Want to Hear Your Complaints” by Clementine Ford wrestles with the impossible-to-meet demands women face that constantly contradict each other. I think the thesis of her piece is here:

The only conclusion I’ve been able to draw from this is that women, despite being constantly told what we MUST do to avoid danger, are actually not allowed to be in control of what those preventative actions might look like.

Bust can be a hit-or-miss feminist magazine for me, just like Jezebel and a few others– but “Why ADHD is a Feminist Issue and What Happens when its Overlooked” by S.B. Casteñeda is short, but excellent, and is a good introduction to this issue. Girls also tend to be under-diagnosed for a lot of things, like autism, and we need to keep demanding that the medical establishment corrects its misogynistic bias.

The Reluctant Memoirist” by Suki Kim is probably one of the best things I’ve read this month. She’s an investigative reporter, but yet when she tried to share her investigative journalism on North Korea — one of the most badass things I’ve ever heard of — it got billed as “memoir.” Argh gablargh. Anyway, you should read it. She’s a lot more eloquent than “argh gablargh.”

Bitch magazine, unlike Bust or Jezebel, is a publication I have a lot of respect for. When I saw that Kameron Hurley– one of my favorite authors– seriously, go read The Mirror Empire right now–had written “In Defense of Unlikable Women” for them I squeed. It’s one of the essays from her book The Geek Feminist Revolution which I’m going to buy as soon as I’m able. Two of her women characters in Mirror Empire are everything she’s arguing for in this piece, and they’re some of the best-written “unlikable women” I’ve ever encountered in literature. If you think I’m trying to get y’all to become Kameron Hurley fans– you’re right.

Books

As I mentioned above, I brought home a literal trunk-full of books from our library’s book sale, and I’ve been tearing through them. I picked up The Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan and enjoyed it so much I bought her other two trilogies in the same universe– The Black Magician trilogy and the Traitor Spy trilogy. She has an interesting plotting style, and I enjoyed the pacing of her books. Traitor Spy has a bisexual woman and a lesbian as two of the main characters, and they get a happy ending. No Bury Your Gays here. Black Magician has a side-ish/main-ish character who realizes he’s gay toward the end, and he become a main character in Traitor Spy, and wheeee I’m so happy when I read books that resonate with my lived experiences. Made me realize how tiring it can be to read about exclusively straight characters the rest of the time.

I also grabbed all of Karen Miller’s books from the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker universe. She’s a genuinely good fantasy writer, and I’m really enjoying them, but I do have one complaint: in a world where the main religious icon is a woman, you’d think there’d be other women in the books. There’s four women total in The Awakened Mage. Innkeepers, servants, stable hands, secretaries, guildmasters, guards, teachers … they are all men. The only exception is the queen, the princess, one woman who shows up for a few pages during a court hearing, and the main character’s friend. It’s frustrating that even in a fantasy novel written by a woman, the male gender is treated as the default.

I also read The Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop in basically a single sitting because I’m a complete sucker for books written about insanely powerful women; but, I will warn you that while the second two books are decently entertaining, there is a lot of sexual violence in the first book– Daughter of the Blood. And I mean a lot– against women and men and the main character, who’s a child in the first book. It’s a complicated system to explain, but there’s a lot of gender essentialism and then there’s the interesting little factoid that a woman can be “broken” on her “Virgin Night” and lose her magical powers. The same is not true of men, although I think this might have been Anne’s attempt to balance out the fact that women tend to be magically stronger than the men. But …  bleh. Anyway, truly entertaining books and I liked how they referenced vampires and gargoyles without specifically invoking those archetypes … but yeah. Complicated feelings. The next two books respond to the sexual violence the main characters endured delicately and appropriately– Anne doesn’t ignore the trauma or its consequences, and there’s an organic healing process, but, like I said … it’s complicated.

I also read the Selection series by Kiera Cass, which is in that young-adult dystopian genre with the interesting twist that it’s about royalty. Again, I’m a sucker for princess-themed books, so I read them all. Not the best in the genre I’ve read, but cute. There’s four books and I think it probably should have just been two, but I understand the rationale of stretching it out a bit for younger readers.

***

I’m throwing a barbecue this weekend that I’m very excited about– hence why you’re getting a “stuff I’ve been into” post. I wish everyone a very jolly weekend, and if you’re an American citizen, happy Independence Day!

Social Issues

yes, you hate me: Christians and homophobia

[content note for bigotry and homophobia]

If you’re anything like me, this is a conversation you’ve probably had with your parents:

“Ugh! I just hate her! She’s so awful!”
“Samantha, don’t say ‘hate.’ Hate is a strong word.”
“Fine, then, I strongly dislike her.”

I always felt like I was being particularly witty, since “intense or passionate dislike” is the dictionary definition of hate. Colloquially, hate does have a connotation that “intense dislike” just doesn’t encompass, but Christian culture has bent and twisted the word hate until it’s practically meaningless. When a Christian looks me in the eye and says “of course I don’t hate you!” what they actually mean is something akin to I don’t personally want to assault you with my bare hands. To a conservative Christian, unless they’re actively and personally wishing you —personally– harm, than you can’t possibly accuse them of hating you.

That’s how Thabiti Anyabwile and the people who agree with him can say this:

Return the discussion to sexual behavior in all its yuckiest gag-inducing truth … In all the politeness, we’ve actually stopped talking about the things that lie at the heart of the issue–sexual promiscuity of an abominable sort … I think we should describe sin (and righteousness) the way God does. And I think it would be a good thing if more people were gagging on the reality of the sexual behavior that is now becoming public law, protected, and even promoted in public schools

That sense of moral outrage you’re now likely feeling–either at the descriptions above or at me for writing them–that gut-wrenching, jaw-clenching, hand-over-your-mouth, “I feel dirty” moral outrage is the gag reflex.

… and then infuriatingly believe that their explicit perpetuation of an active and intense dislike isn’t an act of hatred. They can do it because they’ve intentionally forgotten that hatred is “intense dislike” with just slightly more oomph– the oomph of thinking “I feel dirty” or “those people are so sick!” They can do it because they’ve lost their sense of communal responsibility. To your average evangelical Christian, sin is personal and it is individually committed. They are blind to systems, to institutionalized hatred. They blatantly refuse to acknowledge how every single one of their homophobic actions and beliefs feed into a system of hate.

It leads to these, which are just a handful of the awful comments on Rachel Held Evans’ post where she reminded us that “there was a body count before Sunday”:

facebook comments

Or these, from Jen Hatmaker’s post where she said “We cannot with any integrity honor in death those we failed to honor in life”:

facebook comments 2

“It’s not hate, it’s a disagreement.”

They say it over and over again and are just so utterly baffled when I choke on rage, frustration, and despair. They’re just so very confused when they look at me and say “I disagree with your very existence because of my pet biblical interpretation, but that clearly can’t be hate. If I hated you, I’d want to punch you or something. Since I don’t want to punch you in the face, that must mean what I’m saying is loving!” and all I want to do is rip my skin off and gnash my teeth at them.

Believing that I don’t have the right to exist exactly as I am is hatred. Fighting against my civil rights is hatred. Believing that Romans 1 applies to me and that I’m therefore “worthy of death” is hatred. Referring to my existence as an abomination— which has happened to me multiple times over the last few days– is hatred. One man on my public facebook page told me I was abomination, that my existence was just as evil the eyes of God as mass murder, but then two comments later said that he “loved” me and “mourned the deaths in Orlando”!

IT rage gif

Not only have they twisted the definition of hatred into something so deformed it’s beyond recognition, they’ve done the same thing to love. Here’s the thing, though: when Jesus said they shall know you by your love, it comes with the pretty basic assumption that your “love” should be recognizable to people who don’t share all your pet theories. If people who don’t share your interpretation or your faith look at your actions and say “that looks an awful lot like hate to me,” your response shouldn’t be “oh, it only looks that way to you because you’re not a conservative evangelical like me!” It doesn’t make any sense.

On top of that, Jesus also said this:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Raca literally means “to spit.” It’s a reaction of disgust, of revulsion– in the words of Thabiti, it’s the “gag reflex” at work. And Jesus compares that reaction to murder. John, later, makes the connection explicit for anyone who might not have gotten it:

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer.

I’ve seen hundreds of Christians over the last four days protesting against the connection that my LGBT community has been making: this is on you. You’re responsible for creating him and the homophobic culture he breathed in every single day of his twenty-nine years. You weren’t the gunman, but you’re the culture that built him. You’re the bullets in his gun.

To be honest, I never really, viscerally, understood Jesus’ indictment of hatred until Sunday. I understood the larger point of the sermon on the mount, that sin isn’t a matter of rules and regulations but begins in the hearts and minds of men. I understood that he was reorienting a culture away from their preoccupation with the Law and focusing them on their beliefs and perhaps deeply-buried motives. But saying that anger and disgust and revulsion were on par with murder seemed so extreme–surely this is one of those times Jesus was speaking hyperbolically?

I don’t think he was. I think he was talking about systems. He was talking about the creation of a system where Robert Dear could walk into a Planned Parenthood clinic and open fire while shouting “no more baby parts!” and then declare “I’m a warrior for the babies!” The hatred that stirred the “Center for Medical Progress” into slander prompted Robert to commit murder. Just a little bit ago James Dobson practically begged for someone to shoot LGBT people, trans people in particular, with a desperate plea of “Where is today’s manhood? God help us!” Thirteen days later someone in Florida decided that he was enough of a man to actually pick up the gun and go do something about those abominations.

You have hated us for years. You have been killing us for years. Now, it’s time for you reconcile yourselves to us, to seek diallassoa change of mind, a change of heart.

Photo by Julien
Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: May edition

Articles

Hookup culture is bad for women– so why do we force ourselves to participate?” by Leah Fessler was interesting to read. I’d add the two thoughts: “hookup culture” is a little overblown in the general imagination. It exists, but the research says it’s made too much of. However, I’ve talked about a related concept– raunch culture– and my problems with it, so I think the criticism Leah makes is valid. Second thought: she talks about how women are “emotional,” but doesn’t ever clarify what she means so it plays into the “women are emotional, but men aren’t” stereotype, even though her research indicated that men wanted intimacy and commitment just as often as the women.

Stop Trying to Choke Me: The Rise of Rough Sex Culture” by Rose Surnow was thought-provoking. I have a nuanced view of pornography– I think porn could, theoretically, be a good thing if it is ethically made and treats human beings with dignity. However, that’s not often the reality and I’m troubled by the thought that people are being exposed to the relentless degradation of women when they consume porn.

Service Work is Skilled Work” by Hanna Olsen is fascinating. I’ve been reading a lot about the future of America’s labor force and I think we’re going to experience … no one seems to have any clear idea of what but all signs are pointing toward something big. I’m firmly convinced that trying to bring back manufacturing is both fruitless and problematic– the men and women building our cars in Mexico are making $10 an hour, and that’s a “good job” for them. Why do we feel the right to take back that labor from them so we can pay our manufacturers here $30-50 an hour? I’m very much feeling a Workers of the world, unite! sentiment, and for that we need both free trade and to change our perceptions of “burger flippers” here at home.

The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries” by Dave Eggers and Níneve Clements Calegari got a bunch of fist-pumping from me. As an education major, I once had to read a book that advocated paying teachers the minimum wage and specifically hiring married women so you could justify paying them less, I shit you not. One of my peers qualified for food stamps during the years she taught. That’s not ok.

Why Do We Give Robots Female Names?” by Laurie Penny was good. So good. Read it. It’s really stuck with me.

Re-examining Monica, Marica, Tonya and Anita, the ‘scandalous’ women of the 90s” by Sarah Marshall was fantastic and a little bit mind-boggling. I was a kid during the 90s– I was 13 when they ended– so everything I absorbed about these women’s stories was the extremely tricked-down version. It’s amazing to me how much hate and misogyny I inherited through hearing about them … especially concerning Tonya Harding, who I knew the most about because I was figure skating-obsessed as a teenager.

Books

I stayed up all night last week to finish Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. The magic concept is essentially a good way to start discussing race, segregation, civil rights … and I don’t want to spoil too much so let me just say that there’s also an amazing jumping-off point to talk about problems with a certain kind of “ally.” It wasn’t the most amazing book I’d ever read, but it was interesting and entertaining.

I just started A People’s History of Christianity by Diana Butler Bass is a variation on a theme that Howard Zinn started with A People’s History of the United States. Christianity isn’t a monolith, and never has been. “Orthodoxy,” for all it means “having the right opinion” isn’t the same thing as truth, which no one person has an absolute claim on.

Television and Movies

Still re-watching The West Wing, still loving it especially now that Sam is off in California. Interestingly, I”m tending to agree less with CJ, too, who tends to have a narrow focus. Yes, the young pianist should be allowed asylum, but it’s not like trying to make sure North Korea doesn’t sell its nukes to Iran is bad.

We’re also really enjoying the second season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. We’ve discovered that it’s better if you don’t binge-watch it … it’s much more hilarious in smaller doses.

I have also watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens two more times since I saw it in the theater, and I think I love it more now, which I wasn’t sure was possible.

If you haven’t seen Madam Secretary, the season just finished and I’m enthralled. I can’t wait for it to start up again because TWIST. Yay. I love good twists instead of heart-shattering ones. Speaking of heart-shattering twists …

Anyone who’s seen the season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’d be more than happy to have a spoilerific conversation in the comment section because FEELINGS.

Also, Elementary is still fantastic. Femme!Watson is still the best damn thing on television.

***

So basically I ran errands for much of today but didn’t want to leave you hanging, especially since there won’t be a post on Friday. My cousin is graduating high school, so we’re heading up to hang out with family for the weekend.

Photo by Jon S