Social Issues

stepping into the future

I spent the bulk of my early twenties thinking I was going to be a freelance editor, largely because I was a freelance editor. It’s something I’d been doing for a decade by my mid-twenties, and that’s just where I thought my future was going. I got a Master’s degree in English, I went to the Denver Publishing Institute– everything was nice and orderly and mapped out. And then I started blogging, and that managed to blossom into the early stages of a writing career. At first I struggled to keep up with everything that was happening when I started this little adventure with all of you; I’d spent so much time and attention plotting out a different future that when it suddenly changed on me I found myself coasting a bit.

It surprised me when I fell in love with it, found it incredibly fulfilling, and was so thrilled and energized by all the possibilities I hadn’t allowed myself to even imagine when I was thinking I was going to be an editor. I don’t know why I’d assumed I’d fail as a writer without even trying, but I did … until you proved me wrong. Your support showed me I could do this.

So, for the first time, I’m trying to be truly intentional about this whole “I’m a writer” business. Nothing around here should change much, since it’s just going to be me frantically working in the background. Seminary is proving extraordinarily fruitful ground for post ideas– my notebooks are crammed full of dashed-out notes with BLOG written next to them. I think I’ve decided on my thesis topic, which will form the foundational research I’ll need to write the books I want to write. I’m also going to seriously dedicate myself to finding freelance writing opportunities (so if you know of a site like SheLoves, The Mudroom, The Flawless Project, etc, that would be interested in writing like mine, let me know about it).

One of the things I’ve decided to introduce is a monthly community feature. Elizabeth Esther used to do this, but she’s decided to take a step away from writing for a while, so I want to continue what she started. I want to get blog recommendations from everyone– comments, twitter, facebook, private message, e-mail, however you want to get it to me– and every month I’ll choose a handful to feature in my “Stuff I’ve Been Into” post. I’d like them to be either a) less than 3-ish years old, b) have a smaller readership, and c) be written by women, POC, or LGBT+. They don’t have to be religious or have a religious focus, although religious feminist blogs written by people from non-Christian faith traditions would certainly perk my interest. Feel free to pitch your own, even!

I also want to purposely resurrect the Learning the Words guest post series. Check out what’s in the series so you can get a feel for what I’m hoping to see, and then send me your ideas!

There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m ready to get started.

Feminism

the vulnerabilities of choice

I’ve been whining about this (on and off the internet) for a while, and I figured that now was a good moment to sit down and discuss what ails me. Patterns I’ve been watching for a few years are starting to turn in unfortunate and — in my opinion– dangerous directions, and I think feminists need to start examining ourselves and how we’re becoming vulnerable to exploitation by racists, bigots, and misogynists.

To explain, I need to begin with what I’ve started calling “internet feminism.” First, my moniker isn’t intended to denigrate feminist actions that take place on the internet; that would be incredibly hypocritical since most of my work is based online. What I’m referring to is a general sense that online feminist discourse is stuck in a nascent stage. I’ve followed a whole host of sites and blogs like Everyday Feminism and The Mary Sue for a while now, and it seems to me that these ostensibly feminist spaces are stuck in a loop; we only seem to discuss a handful of issues and never seem to move beyond 101-level explanations of things like consent and objectification.

This is not to say that 1) better discourse does not take place online– it absolutely does or 2) that these 101-level explanations aren’t helpful or needed. However, what I’ve experienced is that a lot of online feminists seem to congregate at two ends of a spectrum. At one end you have people like me, who have dedicated our lives to feminism. On the other end are the people who stay in the “shallow end” of the feminist pool; they’re happy to share a Robot Hugs comic when it shows up in their feed … and that’s about it.

I’m not exactly unhappy with this. I appreciate how these 101-level comics and posts are being widely disseminated, and that a lot more people are being educated in the basics of feminism and learning to appreciate it. I especially like that feminism — despite the screaming carrot demon we just elected president– is losing some of the stigma misogynists managed to tar it with.

However.

The “shallow end” is resulting in a certain class of feminist that believes that feminism in its entirety can be encapsulated by a comic strip and amusing videos about tea. This is unfortunate because someone could walk away from the bulk of online feminist commentary and believe that choices — when made by a woman or femme person — are inherently feminist.

I understood how we’ve gotten here. Supposedly feminism is all about offering women more choices, and they’re not wrong … in the sense that Captain America wasn’t wrong when he observed that “it seems to be run on some form of electricity.”

If you follow the history of the feminist movement in the United States (as well as other places, but I’m an American, so), women from the suffragettes to the second-wave feminists to intersectional feminists of today have all fought for the agency and autonomy of women. In a word, that fight is practically represented in choices— the more autonomy we have, the more choices we have available to us. This is why the argument that women should have the choice to remain in the workforce or become a stay-at-home-mom is, from a feminist viewpoint, sound. Feminists argue that neither women in or out of the workforce should be economically, socially, or politically penalized for their decision.

Making our choices truly autonomous ones is the struggle of feminism.

Unfortunately, all this talk about “it’s my choice!” has led many of us to believe that any choice can be a feminist one. This is where I think we’re vulnerable, because it is allowing a certain kind of person to claim their actions  are– or to label the actions of others as– “feminist” even when the decisions they’re making are harmful to women, especially women of color.

Last month I read an article titled “Pushing Back Against Non-Consensual Misogyny in BDSM.” In it she described her relationship: Her and her partner are full-time dominant/submissive, and while I have issues with power play (as opposed to sensation play or impact play), I don’t feel that it’s my place to tell anyone how to live their life. If she thinks it’s “so, so hot” for her husband to tell her when to shave, what to eat, what to wear, etc, whatever. As long as she’s not telling other women they have to submit to their husband, it’s none of my business what happens in their home.

What I do have a problem with is her argument that her husband using misogynistic language and regimenting every aspect of her life is “feminist.” It’s her choice, and she’s free to make it, but it is not feminist. It does not advance the autonomy of women, it does not help women achieve equality or liberation, and it does nothing to fight for our rights. If other women were to emulate her, mimic her, what would be the end result? An equal and just society, where all genders are free? Absolutely not. Her life choices, if repeated by others, would lead to the opposite.

Feminism fights for the autonomy of women; feminist choices are those that resist systems of patriarchal oppression. Choosing to expand my definition of beauty in ways that do not align with white supremacist, classist standards is a feminist choice. Choosing to defend my LGBT siblings against bigotry is feminist. Choosing to surround myself with marginalized artists and creators is feminist. Choosing my fashion aesthetic based on personal preference and without shame is feminist.

Many choices are neutral, and have no real feminist implications one way or the other (like, say, which flavor you want at the fro-yo place). Choosing to have your husband demean you because it turns you on, on the other hand, could even be an anti-feminist choice. These sorts of choices matter because they are a part of the system you’re upholding and reinforcing. If you want to uphold a dynamic where, as the woman, you’re demeaned and infantalized … go ahead. But don’t say that decision contributes anything toward tearing down patriarchy.

Which leads me to my last, and most significant, concern. This sort of emphasis on choice feminism is leading to an environment that allows racism and other forms of bigotry to invade. Last year, Megyn Kelly was hailed virtually internet-wide for her “feminism” when, as a debate moderator, she asked Trump a question about his disdain for women. Megyn has explicitly stated on multiple occasions that she is not a feminist– not that she rejects the label, but that she opposes feminism.

When women like Megyn– anti-feminist, racist, bigoted– are hailed as “feminist icons” for daring to say “calling women mean names isn’t cool” then feminism has been co-opted to serve the interests of Empire. In the context of everything I’ve been railing against in this post, this permissiveness is a result of thinking that merely making choices is what can make a woman a feminist, even when those choices uphold patriarchal systems. Choice feminism and white feminism not only go hand-in-hand, they’re indistinguishable. They both exalt people for upholding patriarchal, white supremacist norms.

Feminism isn’t ultimately about choice. It’s about equality and liberation, and we cannot lose sight of that. Too much is at stake, especially now.

Photo by David Uy
Feminism

Redeeming Love Review: These Boots Are Made for Walking

Plot Summary:

  • Angel continues (physically) healing.
  • Michael takes her to see a sunrise.
  • Later, they have sex for the first time.
  • She tries to leave, but gets lost and has to return to Michael’s farm.

***

As you can see, nothing much actually happens in these three chapters; most of what Francine gives us here is internal emotional struggles happening inside Angel and Michael. From a character development perspective, Francine is focusing on making certain archetypes brutally clear. Up until this point in the book, she’s been focused on the “Hosea” element of Michael’s character, but in these chapters she hits us over the head, frying-pan style, with comparisons of Michael to God and Jesus. He washes Angel’s feet, for one (163), and he’s constantly haranguing her to “put her trust in him” (137).

Francine is not a particularly good writer. This book isn’t the worst thing I’ve read– and it’s passable for the Christian Fiction genre– but this is where she runs into even worse show vs. tell problems than what we’ve seen so far. It’s not that she tells us more than she shows us, it’s that what she tells us contradicts what she shows us.

For example, in Michael’s perspective, we read this:

Most men would have been satisfied to have such a malleable, hardworking wife. Michael was not. He had not married her to have a drudge. He wanted a woman as part of his life– part of himself. (141)

However, all he’s done is tell her that she has to stay there, learn to work, clean, do chores, feed him, and he’s expressly forbidden her from leaving. He won’t even use her name– in fact, in these chapters he calls her Mara, Tirzah, and Amanda. For no reason. He tells her when to sleep. When she wants to sleep, he yanks the covers off her repeatedly, drags her out of bed, and forces her out onto a hike. When walking through the dark is a clearly triggering experience– she even tells him she’s afraid because it’s reminding her of “something that happened” when she was a child– he ignores her and just pulls her through the woods (136-39). A drudge is a “person made to do hard work,” and that’s how Michael has treated Angel for forty pages.

It happens again in Angel’s perspective:

She didn’t like that he didn’t fit any mold she knew; that he kept his word; that he didn’t use her; that he treated her differently from any way she had ever been treated before. (143)

I want to comment on two things happening here. First, it’s not surprising to me that Francine has this problem. In her culture, it is expected for Christian leaders to tell people what and how to think, and how to “correctly” view the things that are happening to them. The Bible, or your pastor, are capable of overriding your own experiences– in fact, they’re supposed to supersede them.  For Francine to expect her readers to listen to her authorial voice over what she’s written the characters actually doing fits right in with that cultural narrative.

Second, the principle struggle for Michael in these chapters is to not have sex with Angel. He goes on long walks in the night, he talks cold baths, he sits by the fire and mopes, all while being “tempted” to have sex with her. All of this is painted as what makes him like Jesus, and a better person than his father (who had the life philosophy that all women want to and deserve to be “dominated” [142]). He’s not having sex with her, and that means that he’s not “using her” and “treating her differently.”

He won’t use her name. He refuses to ever listen to her, about pretty much anything. If she says she wants to do something, like stay in bed, he forces her– bodily– to do what he wants her to do, right that second. He manipulates her– like asking her to collect walnuts because he knows the shells will stain her hands and she won’t try to leave him (148).

But he’s not having sex with her, so he’s a great guy. Again, this point of view is unsurprising. Christian culture is obsessed with sexual “purity” to the point that basically every other concern, including abuse, is tossed by the wayside. As long as people aren’t getting jiggy with it, who cares about whether or not we’re treated with respect, consideration, and kindness?

***

From the opening pages of Redeeming Love, Michael’s been hearing The Voice of God, which appears as bolded text. Well, in these chapters, guess who else starts talking to Michael– and Angel? Satan. He starts encouraging Michael to have sex with Angel, and guess what he starts telling Angel to do:

You have to go back, Angel. You must. You’ll never be free if you don’t … You can build another cabin like this one, and it will be all yours … (145)

Think of having something for yourself. Think of being free. (156)

You’ve got to get out of here! Save yourself and flee! (158)

All of Angel’s impulses toward independence, self-preservation, and freedom are ascribed to Satan. In Francine’s story, Angel wanting to live her own quiet life without interference is an actual literal Devil inside of her head– and of course, to the vast majority of people reading this book, the only logical conclusion is that it would be a sin for Angel to have the freedom she wants– that craving independence is sinful. And, of course, to Francine and her audience, this is all justified because the freedom Satan offers is obviously a lie. Angel can’t truly be free and independent without God … or Michael, who in this telling is both. Considering that the complementarian theology inherent to most of conservative Christian culture almost explicitly conflates the role of God and Husband for women, this is, again, unsurprising.

Interestingly, the fact that they have sex is almost a complete non-event. He makes her say his name over and over again, even though he can tell she doesn’t like it. Apparently this goes along with his “we’ll make love and I’ll show her how sex is REALLY supposed to go!” plan. It backfires because she leaves him the next day– until he tracks her down and finds her bloody and wounded in the rain. But he washes her feet like Jesus so it’s all ok!

Heavens does this book make me furious and sick.

Feminism

A Feminist Vision for Hermenuetics

I’m wrapping up the semester, and I think I’ll have a much better handle on life balance in the Spring. But, I promised you a sample of some of what I write for seminary, so here’s my term paper for Hermenuetics. We were supposed to explore one concept we’d studied and how we’d incorporate it into our hermenuetic, so I decided to talk about feminist theory functioning as a corrective presupposition.

It assumes you have some familiarity with material we discussed in class (like Gadamer’s view of “prejudice,” which is not the dictionary definition, or the difference between “interpretation” and “re-interpretation”)– if this sparks questions, I can do my best to answer them.

***

When I first encountered Gadamer’s explanation of prejudice, I was intrigued by the possibilities in his concept. My first understanding of his prejudice was intuitive in the sense that it aligned well with my understanding of how the world works. As an explanation for what happens when a reader interacts with a text it has a flavor of common sense about it—of course a reader has to bring pre-judgments to the text in order to have a place to begin understanding it. Some of these are incredibly basic, such as having a pre-judgement that water is wet, it quenches thirst, it is necessary for survival, it can be refreshing, and it can be fun to swim in. We build these pre-judgements from infancy forward; without them we would not be able to function hermeneutically. In Gadamer’s words, prejudices “constitute the initial directedness of our whole ability to experience.”

However, there is a form of pre-judgement that is one layer of abstraction beyond our more intuitively obvious conceptualizations of the world. Brown deals with these abstracted pre-judgements as she discusses presuppositions, which she argues include “pre-understandings.” For example, Christians can bring sophisticated theological concepts like the Trinity or Penal Substitutionary Atonement into their readings and assume the text supports their “pre-understanding” when it may not. Or, it could be a presupposition that is even less conscious than that. White American Christians, for example, have grown up unconsciously swimming in a sea of white supremacy and privilege, and we bring those with us to the Bible whether or not we want to. Brown also goes on to say that “Trying to discover our presuppositions can be rather like trying to see our blind spots—very difficult without outside assistance.”

This is where the possibilities for Gadamer’s prejudices intrigue me, since as a feminist I believe that it is incredibly important for every reader to be aware of their pre-judgments in order to distinguish between what is a “bad” prejudgment and a “good” one. In my view, a pre-judgment is “bad” when it does two things: when it creates eisegesis, or a reading that is not supported by the text; and when it creates an interpretation that either erases harm or causes harm.

I believe that feminism is, at its most fundamental, a hermeneutical task. Feminism requires us to analyze our biases and our presuppositions, even when they are cherished traditions or powerful systems. Feminism is an attempt to interpret the world accurately: it is an awareness of how nearly every form of human endeavor is affected by the subjugation of women and the men who align themselves with womanliness. As feminists, we view the interwoven stories of humanity with self-critical and text-critical eyes. Phyllis Trible notes in her essay on hermeneutics that the point of Christian feminism is “To reclaim the image of God as a female [and] to become aware of the male idolatry that has long infested faith.” In short, I believe that feminism can help illuminate where our “blind spots” are—at least some of them.

Feminism is not just a means of illuminating our presuppositions; I also think feminism should be a presupposition in all our engagements with biblical texts. To Christian feminist scholars like Trible, Russell, and Fiorenza, there are two primary avenues for feminism to function as a “good” prejudice. The first is as a hermeneutics of suspicion, and the second is as a hermeneutics of remembrance.

A hermeneutic of suspicion, at first glance, may not appear to be a pre-judgment worth having. To approach any text suspiciously may seem needlessly antagonistic; however, in the context of the biblical canon and Christian theology, it is important for feminists to confront patriarchal understandings of either. That is what it means to be “suspicious.” As a hermeneutical pre-judgment, feminist suspicion requires readers to be mindful of how “the principal actors, preservers of communal memories, and writers [of the Bible] were men, most of who occupied positions of privilege in patriarchal societies,” as Clifford notes.

From a practical point of view, what would this look like and how would it affect hermeneutics? First, it asks feminists to interrogate their presuppositions: have we ourselves prioritized male voices and male authority in our personal lives, or in our theological lives? This step should direct us to begin evaluating both our fundamental and abstract presuppositions. Is it possible that my understanding of something as unassumingly benign as “water” could change within a feminist framework? Is there something unique to the feminine experience that we do not even have a word for, and therefore would not even think to include in our sacred writings? If women were involved in the early formation of doctrine, would a concept like Mary’s virginity have been included in our creeds? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Feminist suspicion demands that we ask.

Second, a hermeneutic of suspicion acts as a sort of lamppost as we engage with biblical texts. As we use all the various tools at our disposal, from reader-response theory, speech-act theory, to historical criticism, feminist suspicion is an awareness of how patriarchy interacts with all of the above. Historical analysis is flawed in any attempt to represent the diversity of human experience because history—and historians—have (intentionally or not) silenced women and erased womanly experiences. Even a concept like speech-act theory might be skewed to benefit patriarchy—after all, if the purpose of language is to do, to act, we need to question how that may align with Man as Actor and Woman as Passive Object.

From a textual standpoint, a hermeneutic of suspicion reminds us that the text, at the very least, was recorded by men and that it is impossible to tell how much women were involved in the passing of the oral tradition. As the first men transcribed the oral tradition, how much of their experience as men, even as innocuous as that is—how could we expect a male scribe not to include his male experience?—entered the text and affected the implicit and explicit meanings? This feminist suspicion also does not trust that the men who wrote the biblical texts were well-meaning in their regard for women. When we read that women will find salvation in childbirth, a hermeneutic of suspicion forces interpreters to ask how misogynistic that might have been intended to be, regardless of whether or not misogyny would have been the logical consequence of the writer’s historical location.

This is how a feminist hermeneutic of suspicion can provide a corrective for interpretations that cause harm. Clifford highlights this idea when she says “if a biblical text fails to liberate women (and subjugated men) from patriarchy to the fullness of life, then it must not be true or has been misinterpreted.” There are two possibilities in Clifford’s statement: the text can be wrong, and the text can be misinterpreted. It is the feminist interpreter’s responsibility to view Paul’s (or pseudo-Paul’s) argument in this light, to ask if Paul was wrong about women being saved in childbirth, or if we do not yet “understand it as [we] ought.”

It is also important for feminist hermeneutics to aid us in avoiding the consequence of a “bad” prejudice in erasing harm, and this is where the feminist hermeneutic of remembrance enters. Trible defines a hermeneutic of remembrance as a means of retelling “stories in memoriam, affirming sympathetic readings of abused women.” This emphasis on remembrance can also be drawn on to “look behind the stories about men’s experiences of God to unveil women’s experience in the unrecorded silence.” A hermeneutic of remembrance is therefore two-fold because it is a dialogic encounter with the texts. Feminist interpreters can find meaning in the text as they identify with and feel sympathy for the women of the Bible, and we can draw upon our experiences of being silenced and our awareness of the historical silencing of women to see the women who have been rendered voiceless by biblical—largely, if not totally male—authors. Women like Trible and Clifford are drawing upon reader-response theory, which they admit to, but I believe that even this hermeneutic of remembrance can be a part of our prejudices without it becoming a re-creation or re-interpretation.

I believe this is possible because to be human is to be hermeneutical. We are creatures of firelight and story. If biblical stories are to do anything, they are first to function as memorials. Part of the implicit purpose of recording anything is to ensure that the stories will be remembered and preserved. As feminist interpreters, we ensure that it is not just men’s stories that we remember, but women’s stories—and the stories of men who were not powerful, who did not rate as important enough to include. We are to remember that just because a woman was not mentioned does not mean that she was not present, and we ask how her presence might have affected the outcome. Sometimes this form of remembrance is preserved for us intentionally. In the story of Jepthah’s daughter, the only conclusion of any sort offered by the text is that Israel’s daughters created an annual memorial to her. Feminist scholars have pointed out that the Hebrew—so often overlooked by male theologians and translators—makes it clear that Jepthah’s daughter was the crux of this remembrance: not her death, not her father’s foolhardy promise, but herself and her life.

A feminist vision for hermeneutics begins in our presuppositions, our biases, our pre-understandings, our prejudices. Instead of attempting to eliminate any form of prejudice in order to become “objective,” as some hermeneutical scholars have advocated, feminist hermeneutics asks us to be prejudiced for women in order to overcome our unconscious patriarchal biases. We should be suspicious of all the ways women have been harmed in history and in theological applications and to remember all the women whose lives have been erased from the text and from our interpretations of the text.

Resources:

  • Augustine of Hippo. On Christian Doctrine.
  • Brown, Jeannin K., Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermenuetics.
  • Clifford, Anne M. Introducing Feminist Theology.
  • Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method.
  • Trible, Phyllis. “Feminist Hermeneutics and Biblical Studies.” In Feminist Theology: A Reader, ed. Ann Loades.
Photo by Andrew Seaman
Social Issues

stomping on eggshells: on white fragility and speaking up

It’s been two weeks since the election, and I’ve been struggling to find something to say. Somehow life has to keep moving, we have to keep going … but it’s difficult to come here and continue reviewing Redeeming Love when it feels like the entire world is going up in flames. On the other hand I don’t want to continue re-iterating what you’re likely seeing through the rest of your social media/blogging channels, and as important as it is for us to be aware of the steps Trump is taking, I don’t want to merely add to the noise.

I went to a march and protest in DC the Saturday after the election. We started at a candlelight vigil, singing 70s-era protest songs and “Hallelujah,” and it was amazing to be with thousands of people who were grieving as much as I was. Then, thousands more of us marched to the Trump hotel– the one he’s asking foreign dignitaries and diplomats to stay in when they come to Washington– and shouted “Islamaphobia is not America” and “My Body My Choice” and “Black Lives Matter.” That whole experience was cathartic, and I plan on taking more actions in the future as they are necessary. I also attended the local county meeting of the Democratic party last night, and I’m going to become involved with organizing on that level. I can’t sit on my hands and watch the world burn. I encourage all of you to take whatever action you can, whatever it is.

Which brings me to the topic of today, which is part criticism, part education, and part encouragement for my fellow social justice advocates and progressives. In speaking with people over the past two weeks about ways to get involved and stand up for vulnerable people– especially Muslims and people of color– I’ve been seeing a common theme. It’s certainly not new, and it’s something I’ve struggled with until relatively recently. People with privilege– white, straight, male, Christian, etc– frequently want to do what’s right, but they feel like they’re “walking on eggshells.” They want to be an ally, but they don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. Many of us feel anxiety or nervousness about racial issues in particular.

I would like to gently and lovingly and directly say that this feeling of “walking on eggshells” is based in a lie, and one we believe because our privilege has made us incredibly arrogant. I don’t say this to be mean or harsh, but because I believe it’s the truth, and one I had to learn for myself sometimes painfully.

To be bluntly honest, I started this blog because I was bored. I’m fortunate now to have a job that only asks me to work twice a week, but three years ago I didn’t have that. I was stuck at home, working on periodic freelance editing contracts and watching TV the rest of the time. After a few months I started writing a blog … and now I’m here. I’m an activist, a professional writer, I’ve been interviewed for multiple BBC radio shows, for the Washington Post and Marie Claire, gave a talk at the Gay Christian Network, and now I’m being published at major feminist websites and helping to organize state politics.

I didn’t intend to become a feminist activist. I almost literally stumbled into it on accident because I started talking about my personal experiences with fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism… and now I’m considered an expert in my field. It’s weird, and mind-boggling. Coming to this the way I did meant that there were more than a few rough patches. I had no choice but to learn as I went, and it was not always sunshine and rainbows.

For a long time I was so incredibly nervous about messing it all up. When you’re first thrown into social justice, it can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s so hard to catch up and learn all the ropes. Is it trans or trans*? African-American or black? What is a polite way to engage with a hypervisible black woman on twitter? How do I find resources? How can I figure out who’s credible and who isn’t? It’s a lot.

Getting started did make me feel like I was walking around on eggshells. When there is that much to try to absorb all at once, how do you even begin without being afraid you’re going to make a mistake?

Here’s where the lie and the arrogance come in: we think it’s possible to avoid making mistakes.

I believed for a long time that I could do enough research and get enough education and listen hard enough to the right people for long enough and that would mean I was ready to be a “social justice warrior” and work for all the causes I believed in. If I worked hard enough at it, I could say everything I wanted to say without any blunders or missteps. I wanted to be a good ally. I wanted to be a part of Jesus’ mission to liberate the oppressed and set the captive free, and I certainly didn’t want to hurt anyone while doing it.

I was so incredibly arrogant to think that was even remotely possible. I was blind to just how much my whiteness could affect me– that my whiteness would affect me. And not only did I believe the arrogant lie that a white person could avoid making any mistakes when talking about racial justice, I was also prioritizing my own fear over doing what was right. I was terrified of being “called out” if I did or said something wrong … so, sometimes, I didn’t do anything. Instead of speaking up, I’d let my anxiety about screwing up keep me silent.

That was my white privilege in action… or inaction, really.

We can’t let our pride get in the way of taking steps, of using our voice and our privilege on the behalf of the oppressed. We have to be humble enough to know that we will fuck up. It is inevitable. We will say something racist. We will say something homophobic, or transphobic, or biphobic, or sexist. We have to be willing to speak up anyway, but we have to do so while practicing humility and listening. It would be just as wrong to let our fervor carry us away from the marginalized we’re supposed to be fighting for, which has happened time and time again in progressive circles. We can’t shield ourselves from criticism– either through saying nothing, or refusing to see when we said something wrong.

I think what this all comes down to is that I’m asking us to be bold. To set aside our white fragility and get to necessary work of fighting for justice and equality for everyone– even when we’re uncomfortable, even when we make mistakes.

Photo by Jorge Andrade
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
Uncategorized

stuff I’ve been into: October Edition

Happy Halloween! As you might have been able to tell, Halloween is my favorite holiday, and recently I bumped into this post talking about Halloween as following in the steps of inversion festivals— which made me realize that’s why I love it so much. It’s not just that Halloween was forbidden for us Christian fundamentalist kids, it’s that Halloween as a holiday represents everything that fundamentalism opposes, and that’s why I love everything about it.

Last month I mentioned all the craft projects I was doing, so here’s a quick glance at some of the final results:

spell-books spell-book-on-desk

I was very happy with the way everything turned out, and I’m still delighted by the image of Tim LaHaye rolling over in his grave at the thought I turned his Left Behind series into witchcraft decorations.

Articles on Feminism

I for one appreciate the fact-checking “fad” reporters are doing on politicians– it’s been far too acceptable for politicians to tell half-truths and lies for expediency’s sake, and I hope this trend of calling them out on it continues (although some people are apparently annoyed by it, which I don’t understand). However, this article by Soraya Chemaly highlights that fact-checking can only go so far in the endless tide of culturally-enforced misogyny in her article “Fact Checking is Largely Irrelevant Because Deceit is not What’s Causing Moral Outrage, Clinton’s Gender Is.”

In a class of articles that I call “explaining the obvious” we have for you this month “Women Negotiate for Raises as Much as Men. They Just Don’t Get Them” by Emily Crockett.

I’ve been following the crises Baylor has been experiencing because people discovered they were covering up rapes committed by their athletes and other students. It got worse this month when the Title IX coordinator resigned because she wasn’t being allowed to actually do anything (video at link).

This is How They Broke Our Grandmothers” by Natasha Chart was powerful reading.

In the “women are wonderful and I love them” category, here’s “How First Ladies on Opposite Sides of the Civil War Forged an Unlikely Bond” by Hadley Meares.

I’ve mentioned before that the re-told fairy tale is perhaps my favorite genre, as are pretty much any books that are original fairy tales. Uprooted by Naomi Novik takes the cake in that category in my opinion. This essay from the editor of a collection of fairy tales (The Starlit Wood, which I now desperately need), Navah Wolfe is wonderful: “Wicked Girls Saving Themselves.”

This article, “Laughing Until we Cry: Conversations about Getting Flashed, Grabbed, and Gropped” by Liz Meriwether, has prompted a lot of thought for me over the last week. In it she asks us to re-consider how we approach the casual assault on our bodies that we can face almost daily.

Articles on Politics

We’re just about a week out from November 8, when all of this hullabaloo will hopefully be over. However, that doesn’t mean that this election cycle hasn’t exposed something important about American culture, and I think we need to understand what’s been happening and why. “Finally, Someone Who Thinks Like Me” by Stephanie McCrummen is a profile on a Trump supporter, and was interesting reading.

Articles on Race

If you’re not aware of #NoDAPL and the Standing Rock protests, get aware. Everything I’ve been seeing makes me cry, and also absolutely bewilders me. It’s somehow still incomprehensible to me that I’m watching a dystopian novel acted out in the Dakotas.

How To Talk about #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective” by Kelly Hayes.

A History of Native Americans Protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline” by Alexander Sammon.

Assorted Articles

A linguist named Benjamin Bergen has written a book on swearing, which of course is relevant to my interests. He looked at what swearing actually does for people and to people, and found that hey! there’s a difference between swearing, verbal abuse, and using slurs! No kidding!

This story about faith healing exemptions, “When Religious Freedom Leaves Children Dead” by Emma Green, is necessary reading in my opinion. These exemptions need to be abolished everywhere because they are horrific. And keep in mind that many of the same people who are voting for Trump because “pro-life Supreme Court Justices” also think they deserve the legal right to murder their born children through vicious medical neglect.

Books

Whoever told me that The Paper Magician was going to be underwhelming … you were right. I’m still very excited by the magic system and will probably read the rest of the trilogy because I want to see where it goes, but the central plot of The Paper Magician was not satisfying.

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich is, however, completely delightful. I’m not fond of the initial interactions between the two main characters, but it is funny and easy to read– something I need in between dense seminary texts.

Speaking of, if you’re interested in really understanding hermenunetics and how to interpret the Bible, Scripture as Communication by Jeannine Brown is exceptionally good.

TV and Movies

I just watched the second part of Hunger Games: Mockingjay, and I enjoyed the movie better than the book. I don’t think the first movie adaptation went very well and Catching Fire was only slightly better than average, but the way that Mockingjay deals with everything the characters have been through goes better than in the book, I think.

I absolutely loved the first Jack Reacher movie so I was excited about the sequel Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. I know the title is from the book it’s based on, but the movie did not explain the “never go back” bit very well. Otherwise, though, it was a highly enjoyable beat-’em-up action movie and I liked the addition of a more substantive role for a woman than what we got in the first movie.

We’ve been watching Conviction because Hayley Atwell is in it, but so far I’m not impressed. The episodes so far have been incredibly formulaic, but I do like some of the characters. Tess Larson is especially intriguing. Hopefully the writers and the directors work out the early-season kinks soon.

Designated Survivor has been interesting because of its complete reversal on Kiefer Sutherland’s character in 24. He’s basically the anti-Jack Bauer in this show.

All my CBS shows are back, though, so yay! More Elementary and Madam Secretary for me. ABC, you need to step it up.

Photo by Thad Zajdowicz
Feminism

Purity Culture Itself is the Problem

I got back from my short jaunt to  seminary this weekend, and I have my first massive paper of seminary due tomorrow, so that’s been what’s keeping me occupied. I did take Redeeming Love with me and was able to read a little of it, but I was somewhat preoccupied with an article I was writing for Rewire, which went up today!

It’s titled “How We Teaching Purity Culture isn’t the Problem: Purity Culture Itself is the Problem,” and I’m pretty excited about it. As always, if you think this is valuable reading, please share it generously with your social media circles.

This weekend is my big Halloween bash, so after that life should settle back down to something resembling more routine and I hope to return to at least a weekly blogging schedule. For now, enjoy my post over at Rewire and you can always find me on Twitter and Facebook ranting about things.

Photo by Noee
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