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Feminism

The Women’s March is a Culture War

I was raised to be a culture warrior.

As a member of Generation Joshua (the first generation of homeschoolers), I was supposed to be a well-trained advocate for the theocratic Christian fundamentalist cause, through any means I had access to. In college I picketed reproductive health clinics, I protested, I went door-to-door getting signatures for ballot measures, I went to political rallies. I spent the bulk of my life trying to convert people to Christianity, or persuading more moderate Christians to join my causes– young earth creationism, King James Bible Only-ism, complementarianism, the stay-at-home-daughter movement … One of the issues I cared about the most was abortion, which I saw as murder and wanted to restrict through any means necessary. If that meant forcing those murderous clinics out of business, or making it too difficult for women to get an abortion, so be it.

I saw it as my Christian obligation to convince as many people as I could that women are supposed to submit to their husbands, and that feminism is a lie from Satan meant to pull women onto the path of destruction. I believed that being my version of a godly woman would shine like a beacon into the world and demonstrate the truthfulness of Christianity. To me– to most of us, I think, the Culture Wars were never just about changing the laws: it was about changing the culture around us. Taking back my country for Christ couldn’t possibly be accomplished unless most of us were fundamentalist Christians, and that meant we needed more than just mere conversion. I wanted to radically and fundamentally alter the way my culture saw social, historical, political, and religious issues.

It’s perhaps ironic that none of that has actually changed. Oh, it’s changed in substance, but not in form.

***

I went to the Women’s March on Saturday, in DC. I marched with a group of straight, bi, lesbian and trans women, non-binary people, Jewish women, a Latina woman, and one straight cisgender white male ally. Most of us had gotten together for a sign-making party the weekend before, and chose a variety of phrases for our signs. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, was a favorite. I’d been torn between a few ideas for my own sign in the weeks before. “Fear is the Mind Killer” from Dune, or “I will be Non-Compliant,” a reference to Bitch Planet, topped my list of possibilities a while. I was trying to figure out what I wanted the Women’s March to mean to me, what I wanted to remember about it and why I’d gone.

Eventually I settled on a quote from Susan B. Anthony: “Organize, Agitate, Educate must be our war cry.”

I chose it for a variety of reasons– I’m a huge nerd being one of them– but mainly I chose it because it’s what I wanted the March to do. I want every person who marched to become a part of the resistance against hatred, bigotry, and totalitarianism; I want us all to agitate to make our voices heard and make our message clear; I want those of us who can to educate the people who don’t know what’s at risk and what they can do to stop it– or change it.

So I imagine you’ll understand that I find some of the reactions to the March … disheartening. Over the past few days I’ve seen a slew of facebook posts and articles going through my newsfeed, most accompanied with something like “THIS.” There’s one about how men not being patriarchal enough is why we marched. Or another condescendingly and patronizingly “apologizing” to women who have it so much worse than these ridiculous American women who just don’t know how good they have it and how selfish they are (to address the claim that American women have it so good, please read this, this, and this). It’s been frustrating, to say the least, because my vision for Marching was so clear, but I didn’t know how to explain to my friends how we’re seeing that protest in fundamentally different ways. There’s a lot of language being bandied about how vulgar it was, how demeaning, how disrespectful, how pointless and all I could articulate to myself was arrrrrgh!

Finally, one friend asked “Which rights don’t I have that I’m supposed to be marching for?” and that’s when it finally crystallized for me what the people I know aren’t understanding about the Women’s March. It’s not about formal, legal, written-on-paper, law-of-the-land capital-R Rights. Technically, in America, women have “Rights.” We can vote, we can own property, we can serve on juries, we can be autonomous legal agents, we can inherit, etc. Coverture is gone and suffrage is here. In the words of Ainsley Hayes, “The same Article 14 that protects you, protects me, and I went to law school just to make sure.”

The Women’s March is many of the women of this country declaring a culture war on misogyny, hatred, bigotry, racism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, femmephobia, and one Party’s intent to destroy not women’s “Rights,” but all of our freedoms: The freedom of the press, the freedom of speech, the freedom to peaceably assemble. It’s not just our Bill of Rights that are under a war of attrition, either. Women marched this past Saturday because our realities are not all the same, and we have to protect each other. Some women are complaining that they feel “demeaned” by the March because they don’t personally feel that they needed it. Like Ainsley Hayes, they feel “humiliated” by the very notion that some women don’t think we’re equal (which, hate to break it to you ladies, we’re not).

I could go on. The list is, for all practical purposes, endless. I didn’t even begin to touch some of the other horrific and nightmarish problems we have in this country. Many of the ones I’ve listed above affect men as well, obviously. And even though I’ve highlighted a few places where women don’t have Rights, the larger problem isn’t whether or not we have laws in place that enumerate these rights. In some cases we do, in some we don’t. Regardless of a legal reality, it’s not a practical, livable reality until all people are truly seen as equal.

I will organize with others to enumerate or protect our rights. We will agitate against a government that wants to strip all of us of our protections, to hamstring every attempt to fight violence against women. Together we’ll educate others on the risks we face and how to fight.

I decided not to let my fear keep me voiceless, motionless, actionless, so I marched. Not to be vulgar, not to sow division, not to be angry and bitter. I marched because who we elected president is a symptom of a cultural problem, not its cause– and it’s a culture I will go to war against.

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!

Feminism

Introduction to the Review Series: "Lies Women Believe"

[update on me: I know it’s been quiet around here for a couple weeks– between period week and an IBS flare-up, I’ve been sort of miserable. I have been developing some ideas for blog posts, though, and I think we should have some interesting conversations over the next little while. I’ve also been watching Parks and Rec and reading David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, and both have been highly entertaining. The Honor of the Queen was especially interesting to read– the main plot revolves around a complementarian and benevolently sexist-patriarchal society where the fact that they have to deal with a woman in command throws them all into a tizzy.

Anyway, we’ll be leaving on vacation next week, and then it’s period week again, so I’m not sure how regular posts will be. My goal is to write a bunch this week and schedule them to go up, but I’m trying to go easy on my body, so we’ll see.]

~~~~~~~~~

How to Win Over Depression and Redeeming Love were neck-and-neck in the last poll I did, but since my friend Dani Kelley is doing a review of Redeeming Love, I decided that my next review series would be the runner-up: Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets them Free. In the comments, a lot of you mentioned how toxic this book was for you both personally and in your marriages. I received it as a gift when I was still at Pensacola Christian, and I remember feeling vaguely uneasy about it, although at the time I chalked up that reaction to “being convicted.”

In fact, as I flipped through it today, I discovered sections I’d highlighted, and it made my stomach sink all over again. The first time I read this was after I’d become engaged to my abuser and rapist, and the fact that I needed to mark “Every married couple is incompatible” (156) and that submission is a “gift we voluntarily give” (151) is disturbing in retrospect. I will continue screaming this until the cows come home: books that command “submission” from wives keep women in abusive relationships. End of story.

It’s a fairly popular book– the cover I have shouts “OVER ONE-HALF MILLION SOLD”– and over 70% of the people who reviewed it on Goodreads gave it 4 or 5 stars. Reviews generally follow along these lines:

This is one book that I will always go back to for a right and true perspective on God and His ways for me. Nancy’s insight gives genuine hope for all of us women who need perspective that is true and holy… some of it is not easy to hear but often what is best. November 2007

This book challenged me from the first word to the very end. So many of us don’t realize how many of Satan’s lies we are believing and acting upon day after day. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is candid, to the point, and unapologetic as she writes truths and supports them with scripture. I believe that every Christian woman could benefit from reading this book. August 2012

This is an excellent book for those women who actually care what the Bible says, and want to renew their minds to think more Biblically. Eve’s diary entries at the beginning of each chapter were really thought provoking and helped me to see the differences between what God’s plan was and what we fallen humans now have to live with. I went through this with the ladies Bible study at my church and I value it so much that I’m going to be facilitating a study using this book with college-age girls who want to live their lives in line with a Biblical worldview. I highly recommend it, and I even bought 2 more copies to give to my sister and my best friend! December 2014

This is one of the best books that I have read regarding women in the church. DeMoss makes no apologies for telling it like it is, and she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. Some of the issues she addresses have been accepted practice within many churches, and though some may have a problem with what she says, she is right- on. I recommend this book to my Christian women friends often. June 2004

~~~~~~~~~

As you can tell, one of the most common reactions to this book is that it is eminently biblical and should be received as God’s Own Truth. Even the title contributes to that notion, which claims that this book contains the truth that will set you free. It seems as though many of the women who read that took it at least somewhat literally– the hundreds of reviews I skimmed over echoed the idea that Nancy has repackaged The Truth in an accessible format, and that if you reacted poorly to this book, it’s only because you’ve accepted Satan’s dirty feminist lies.

Many reviews contained kernels like “hard to swallow,” or “she pulls no punches,” or “unapologetic,” and I find that response oh-so-interesting, because they tended to attribute this not to her writing style or voicing, but to the veracity of her content. These women had the same reaction to this book I did in college– we assumed any negative reaction we had was ultimately due to her being right. If we found something “hard to swallow,” it wasn’t because we thought something was illogical or unhealthy, it was because we were being convicted. God was using Nancy to tell us how wrong we were to believe things like “I get to have a say in the course of my life.” I think this is going to be an interesting dynamic to explore as we move through the series.

There’s twelve sections to the book, but some are significantly longer than others– and I think some sections (like chapter six, “About Marriage”) might take us even longer to get through. I’m going to do my best to keep this down to three months, although that all depends on things like how angry I feel like being on any given Monday. I’ll be working with the original version published in 2001, although I believe it’s been slightly updated since then.

As always, if you have a copy of the book on hand and would like to read through it with me and and your thoughts in the comments, please feel free! The best part about doing these series is hearing from y’all.

Feminism

despair and fury: being a woman in rape culture

[content note: rape, sexual assault, depression]

This is an extremely difficult post for me to write. The words have been simmering inside of me for a long time, and I hope that getting them out of me will … help. I wrote a post a little while ago that talked about the depression I’ve been struggling with, and as you can probably tell from my lack of regular posting, the past two weeks have been rough.

I consider myself fortunate in that my depression has always been situational– while it certainly isn’t fun, that it’s been a rather normal reaction to life events means that when life settles down, so can I. I’ve never worried about being depressed because I knew there would be a bend in the road, a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’d come out of it. Eventually. All I had to do was buckle down and muscle through it.

This time, though … I’m not sure how to get around this depression because while it’s still situational, the “situation” isn’t ever going to go away. This time, I’m depressed because rapists get away with it.

I don’t think that’s a fact that’s going to change at any point in my lifetime … and that’s just fucking depressing as shit.

I came to the realization of why I’m depressed shortly before Christmas. I was speaking with my partner about a man we both know to be a sexual predator when I just … snapped. I was remembering all of the times this person had grabbed my ass without my permission or the times I’d watched him drunkenly grope and forcefully kiss his way through a party– and the fact that he was surrounded by a community of men who find this behavior acceptable and will call any woman who complains about it a “bitch.” And, suddenly, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I’d removed myself from that group of people, but the group still exists and that behavior still happens, and nothing is ever going to happen to him.

I hid myself in the closet and beat my head into the wall until everything in my vision was a little fuzzy and dark; I wanted to claw out of my skin, to rip my heart out of my chest so it would stop hurting so badly. My rapist, the last time I heard anything about him, was a youth pastor, and married to the woman he’d cheated on me with– a woman, because of what he told me, I suspect he might have assaulted. By all accounts he’s happy and successful and chances are he will never be brought to justice for all the women he’s harmed. And that … was overwhelming in a way that I can’t put into words. That night, I hated this world and everything about it. I was hysterical with fury and pain.

Since that night I’ve been struggling to deal with this reality that I’ve been able to emotionally ignore for so many years. I can’t escape it now, and the burden of waking up to a world where the men I know to be rapists are happy and hale and will– almost absolutely– never see the inside of a prison makes me want to shrink as far into my bed as I can bury myself.

Today it took me three hours to drag myself out of bed, and all I ended up doing was moving to the couch, cuddling with Elsa, and crying myself to sleep again. I thought I might be getting better, that surrounding myself with tea and good books and good movies and cuddling with Handsome was working.

But, last Wednesday, I was riding the DC metro and I watched a man violate every single one of a woman’s boundaries while she was helplessly trapped on a train with him with no where to go. I stood there, helpless and enraged, not knowing what to do, while I watched him slowly escalate his behavior until he attacked her and she tried to fight him off and I start yelling at him to stop, but he ignored me until Handsome grabbed his shoulder. And then he spends the next five minutes yelling at every single last person on the train about the “dumb bitch” who interfered.

And I stood on that train until he got off, and I sobbed, because I saw that other people had noticed, and I and Handsome had been the only ones to even move when he attacked her. I cried harder when another passenger confronted my partner and told him that he should have “left it alone.”

I don’t know how to live on this planet. I don’t know how to live on a planet where Fifty Shades of Grey is a box-office success and women tell me that I need to take responsibility for being raped because obviously I ignored the many neon-billboard signs that my rapist was an abuser because I thought he was hot. I don’t know how to live in the same country as a woman who tells rape victims that they need to repent. I don’t know how to live in a world where it’s rare and unusual for someone to step in, even when a sexual assault is obviously happening right in front of them.

And while I know this is a bit melodramatic… I feel like Elijah saying “I am the only one left.” And of course that’s objectively ridiculous. There are so many incredible people out there fighting for the same thing I am, who speak up when they see something happening. It’s just difficult to remember that when you’re the only “bitch” at a party telling someone to quit it, or the only person on a train willing to speak up.

It makes me angry, too, because it’s not as though being a feminist takes any of my fear away. I am just as embarrassed and awkward and afraid of rocking the patriarchal party boat as anyone else. I am just as terrified of confronting someone on the train and making myself a target. The difference is that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t do something, and it infuriates me that so many know that people around them are being harassed and assaulted, and they care … they just don’t care enough.

In the end, that is what I find truly depressing.

So, I’m throwing this post out there, hoping that it could make someone understand exactly what is at stake when they keep their head down and “mind their own business,” when they are bothered by that guy at a party who just won’t leave that woman alone but don’t want to get harassed for saying something about it. If these words do anything, I hope that it convinces at least one person that taking all the heat and flack and cursing and raging is worth it.

Art by Liza

Social Issues

there’s a difference between criticism and bullying

Tone policing is wrong. Respectability politics is wrong. Telling victims that they shouldn’t respond with anger to someone participating in abuse apologetics (inadvertently or not) is wrong. Anyone, anyone at all, is and should be open to criticism, even vociferous criticism. When I read Captivating and watch John and Stasi go on for pages about white supremacy I’m going to call it like I see it, and I’m going to say what the fuck. Out loud. When Grace Driscoll perpetuates the extremely damaging teaching that victims should repent, I’m going to talk about it, and I’m going to be harsh.

When Matthew Paul Turner uses a gendered slur to complain about criticism, I’m going to say “hey, not cool,” no matter how much I appreciate the past work he’s done for people like one of my closest friends. When Rachel Held Evans repeats the same tired lines abuse victims have been hearing for centuries, I’m also going to point out that it’s not ok.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty pointed criticism. I do my best to always listen to it, even if I have to walk away and leave it for a bit. Eventually I always come back and ask myself is this criticism valid? Where do I think they have a point? If what they’ve said makes sense to me, I do my best to incorporate it and move on. Some criticism has radically changed the way I do things on here. Some criticism has helped only in that it helps me avoid certain pot holes in the future– like writing “I know, not all men” ad nauseum when I talk about rape, no matter how ridiculous I think it is to include it.

There are some writers online who disagree with the way I do things, with the way I express myself and my opinions. I’m not overly concerned with being perceived as “nice,” and the whole tone of my blog is about the furthest thing that anyone would describe as “gentle.” A Sarah Bessey or Preston Yancey, I am most definitely not.

I also think it’s egregiously wrong to expect survivors to be a “well-behaved victim” or a “model survivor,” which happens sometimes. A lot of the time, our hurting is going to be messy and loud and obnoxious and I don’t fucking care if you’re ok with that or not. I have the right to stomp on things and rage, and so does anyone else. How we heal shouldn’t be policed or managed. Everyone’s journey is going to look different, and just because someone managed to recover while appearing placid and calm and tranquil doesn’t mean the person scream-sobbing is doing it wrong.

But. There is a difference between being angry and loud when you criticize someone’s actions or words and making it your mission for weeks on end to harass a person. Abuse survivors can also be bullies. Just because we’ve survived spiritual abuse, or sexual abuse, or domestic violence, does not mean that we are ourselves immune from engaging in the same behaviors that were used to control and manipulate us.

I am not interested in roaming the internet and telling people that I think the way they’re responding to X situation isn’t what I would do. This is something you have to evaluate on your own and decide for yourself if you’re comfortable with it. There’s lots of things that I don’t personally do because it isn’t the right avenue for me that plenty of other people do on the regular. For example, I don’t really do online debates. Not even in my own comment section. I don’t argue with people on Twitter. Sometimes I’ll respond, but it’s going to be a single comment or tweet most of the time. I’ll engage people in conversation, but the second it takes on that “debate” tone I whistle for a cab. That doesn’t mean that I think getting into it on Twitter is a “wrong” way to be an activist. I appreciate the people who are willing to do that because I’m not.

I’ve learned that, for myself, engaging in extended online debates isn’t healthy and is almost always unproductive in the ways that I’d like a conversation to be productive. Doesn’t mean that another person finds it extremely productive for a variety of reasons that don’t apply to me.

But I have seen whole groups, whole movements of people who identify as abuse survivors, who seem to wander around the internet frothing at the mouth for a good knock-down drag-out fight with pretty much anyone and I don’t agree with that. I left Stuff Christian Culture Likes because the community as a whole engaged in bullying en masse. I’ve seen relative unkowns, people with less than a hundred followers on Twitter, get ripped to shreds by hundreds of people all at once and it is disturbing.

To me, some of the things I see on happen on Survivor!Twitter don’t seem any different than the 4Chan trolls who organized to harass and threaten Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu.

I also don’t think it’s ok to do the this to “public figures.” I will shout about how Mark Driscoll and Tony Jones are sexist bullies until the cows come home, and while I’ll join a protest– I’m not going to join a mob. I think leaders like Tony Jones and Matthew Paul Turner tend to see pitchforks and torches where none actually exist and misinterpret many people criticizing them all at once as a “lynch mob” (note: fellow white people, please do not use the term lynch mob to describe anything that happens to you until you’ve been an oppressed racial minority for centuries and a crowd of people show up at your house with a noose), but I have to admit that I am terrified of becoming a “public figure” like Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber.

The platform I have right now is small and intimate and lovely and cozy and I think it’s pretty much the best thing ever. But, hopefully, someday, I’ll write a New York Times best-seller and have a blog where every post gets a 100+ comments, and while that will also be awesome… I’m still going to be a human being, and I am going to fuck up. I am going to do something pretty bad, and it is going to upset an awful lot of people. I hope that when that day comes that I’ll realize how badly I fucked up and be able to make amends, but I also hope that when I do, eventually, fuck up that someone doesn’t make a parody account of me and that my inbox isn’t flooded with people telling me that I’m a worthless human being and that I’m no better than an abuser.

Photo by Richard Elzey
Feminism

so, are you a feminist?

[Taylor Swift, Gina Rodriguez, Shailene Woodley]

It’s become almost de riguer for red-carpet journalists (and others) to confront a female celebrity and demand to know whether or not she considers herself a feminist.

This bothers me.

From what I’ve seen, most of the time the publication asking doesn’t have any vested interest in their answer (see, a Time magazine writer asking Shailene this question, and then another turning right around and putting “feminist” on their “words to ban” poll). This leads me to believe that these people aren’t confronting these women because they care about feminism, or want to help overturn some of the misconceptions about feminism– they just want headlines and clicks and shares, and they don’t really care how it happens.

Unfortunately, throwing “are you a feminist, huh, huh?” in a woman’s face seems to work for the whole “getting page views” thing that drives the capitalist internet—especially if she answers the question “badly”—if she says no. Things become even more interesting if she explains why she’s not a feminist, because it usually has something to do with misconceptions about feminism (“I don’t hate men” being one of the most common reactions).

And the reporter and the editor chuckle gleefully together and they take it to the presses and the misconceptions are reinforced and feminists have to waste more time explaining that no, that’s not what feminism is. I swear, we don’t hate men …

This bothers me because it’s not fair to do this to anyone, especially women whose entire lives are in the public eye and if they say “Yes, absolutely I’m a feminist!” they’ll be vilified and hated by some very disgusting people who are willing to harass and attack them for years, and if they say “no, I’m not,” a bunch of people (who, personally, I think are being a little bit ridiculous) get all upset with their sputtering “well, why not? DON’T YOU BELIEVE IN EQUALITY?!”

And that is exactly the problem, because anyone who isn’t an outspoken misogynist is going to respond with “well, of course I believe in equality!” At this point in our culture, I think it’s pretty rare for a person to consciously choose to believe that men and women should be treated unequally.

And while, at its most absolutely basic articulation, feminism is “the belief that the genders should be treated equally,” I feel that this definition is woefully unhelpful.

For example, complementarianism is a methodology espoused by many, probably most, conservative Christians leaders. Complementarianism is sexist, and cannot be divorced from its extremely misogynistic roots—both from the original texts that biblical scholars pull from and from the way it’s been disseminated throughout Christendom. Complementarianism is based on the idea that men and women have been given “different roles,” with men being leaders, teachers, pastors, elders, and kings, and women being submissive, obedient, silent and completely barred from any form of leadership. The point of complementarianism is to treat men and women unequally.

However, every single complementarian teacher will shout until they are blue in the face that what they teach has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not men and women are equal. Of course men and women are equal, they’ll say—they are ontologically equal, and everyone is equally cherished by God. We’re just given different roles. That’s not a statement about which one is worthier than the other, or more valuable, they’ll argue. Pay no attention to the fact that men are the only ones qualified to be in charge of anything. That’s not inequality. That’s just our purpose.

To any feminist, that argument is nonsensical, but if you ask John Piper or Mark Driscoll if men and women should be treated “equally” they’ll say “of course!” but then saying well, that means you’re a feminist in response would be absurd because they are not.

There’s a really big idea shoved into the Merriam-Webster definition that rarely gets unpacked in conversations about whether or not such-and-such female celebrity says she is one or not.

Feminism is the belief that all genders should have equal rights and opportunities.

Inside of those words is a dizzying world of academic and social discussion, intersections of injustice and oppressions, conversations about race and gender and toxic masculinity and benevolent sexism and ableism and heteronormativity. Feminism is more than just the belief that men and women are equal, but how men and women and other genders live.

Feminists are dedicated to dismantling the systemic oppressions that affect women, especially the ones that we all tend to be unconscious of. We fight against internalized misogyny and the need many women feel not to be “One of Those Girls,” whatever those girls might be. We point to ways that whole career fields are hostile to women. We examine how gender roles and stereotypes affect all of us, no matter our gender, and how our communities police these things in sometimes brutal ways.

I don’t think it’s fair to demand that everyone self-identify as a feminist. To me, being a feminist is big work. It’s a commitment. Being a feminist means that when any one of my friends says or does something sexist, I am willing to say something about it, right then, on the spot, no matter the blowback and pressure I might face from others to “not make such a big deal out of it.” It’s a promise to constantly be educating to myself, to always listen to the experiences of women, especially women who experience a different set of intersectional oppressions.

I don’t want to appoint myself as some sort of feminist gatekeeper. Feminism is not a monolith. Feminism is an awfully big tent, filled with many people who can vociferously disagree because we are human beings and that’s inevitably going to happen. I, however, do wish everyone in the world would listen to feminists and think “hey, that makes a lot of sense!” and I’m hopeful that someday that dream will be a reality.

But, for now, there’s a big, uphill battle in front of all of us, and I don’t think handing over a note on the red carpet that asks “are you a feminist? check yes or no” is really helping anybody.

Feminism

Why Captain Marvel was the Right Choice

I’ve been a member of the #CarolCorps for a bit, so you can imagine that I was pretty dang excited when Marvel announced they’d be making a stand-alone film based on Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel. But, many of my geek friends were more than a little disappointed (read: devastated) that they weren’t going to be getting a Black Widow movie at the moment.

And, even though I would have loved to see Natasha kick some ass all by her lonesome, I’m pretty happy that Marvel decided to lead with Carol. I even wrote a thing about all the reasons why for The Mary Sue, which you can read here.

I didn’t really have the chance to grow up with the comic books, but I did have a pretty steady diet of X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman cartoons when I was little– and when they released the first X-Men movie when I was in highschool, my love of all things superhero was reignited. Superheroes, and women like Carol Danvers, have meant a lot to me over the past few years.

In fact, it’s one of the reasons why I decided to do this to my hair:

purple hair

It’s an every-time-I-look-in-the-mirror-and-think-whoah reminder that I’m actually sort of a badass.

So– what sorts of things have you found encouraging recently? The small things that help you keep going?

Artwork by Filipe Andrade

 

Feminism

being outside while being a woman

I’m in Denver, walking back to my dorm during a summer post-graduate course when a car pulls up next the sidewalk and slowed down, keeping pace with me. The driver rolls his window down, and the men inside of it start yelling at me. I do my best to ignore it, to just keep walking, but when they became angry some of what they say registers.

“Fat ass.”

“Ugly bitch.”

“We were just being nice to you– why couldn’t you just talk to us?”

I keep trying to ignore them, but then he starts revving his engine and jerking his car toward the sidewalk. I walk faster– he speeds up. Suddenly the low-level anxiety I’d been feeling bursts into full-fledged panic. I could see a bluelight, part of the campus security system, and I run for it, hoping I could make it before something awful happens. I pick up the phone while the driver speeds off, screaming obscenities and threats.

I’m in St. Louis, hired to photograph some of the unique architecture in a downtown area for a local guidebook, and a man starts shouting at me from his truck. “Hey! Hey, baby! You wanna take a picture of my dick?” and then he laughs and drives off.

Florida: I’m walking in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, and a middle-aged man who’d been walking from the store turned around and starts following me. “Hey, how are you doing?” I give that half-smile that every women knows, the one that says please I just want to be left alone while also pleading please don’t hurt me. “Hey, why won’t you answer me? I’m just being nice! Cunt.”

I’m sitting in the middle of a traffic jam in North Carolina, and the men in the car next to me start shouting. I look up, and one of them has drawn a picture of a penis in his notebook and has it pressed against his window. I do my best to ignore them, but for the next three hours they sit next to me, taunting me, shouting at me, drawing more and more graphic and lewd pictures, alternately “complimenting” me while screaming that I’m a bitch for ignroing them.

I’m waiting for a bus, and a man tries to strike up a conversation. I keep my answers muted and monosyllabic while trying to seem friendly because I have to stand there. I can’t leave, I’m trapped. I’m desperate to do anything I can to make sure it doesn’t escalate. At first it’s ok, but then he starts asking really invasive and obviously in-poor-taste questions, and I’m so relieved when I see my bus pull up. I do my best to extricate myself from the conversation as smoothly as I can– “hey, it’s been nice chatting, but my bus is here!”– and I move into the crowd of people waiting, trying to put a buffer between us. He immediately starts screaming a litany of profanities and threats, and three other men join in, shouting “why couldn’t you just talk to him?! He was trying to be nice to you, bitch!”

I go out to get the mail in my apartment complex, and two men follow me all the way there and back to my apartment, starting off with “hello!” and “nice ass”, but then escalating to “bitch” and “whore.” Eventually I’m so fed up with it I flip them the bird, and that’s when they start screaming at me, and I’m scared. I’m ten yards away from the stairs– can I make it? If I scream will my partner be able to hear me?

I’m in Virginia, antiquing, looking for Christmas gifts. A man starts following me, waiting for me outside of every store I go into. He doesn’t say anything, he just follows me, and stares. Eventually I go inside a coffee shop and ask the employees inside to keep that man from coming in– I’m frightened. The barista recognizes him because he’s done this to many other women, including her.

I’m taking out the trash, and someone driving past yells “hey!” and then when I don’t respond, “you want to fuck a n*****, bitch?” out of his window at me, laughing when I jump.

I’m sitting on the metro in DC and a man who watched me as I got on moves from the complete opposite end of the mostly-empty car to stand directly in front of my seat– he positions himself directly in front of me, trapping me. He was so big, he filled up the entire space, I’d never be able to get around him. I open up my book and do my best to keep my eyes glued to the pages, even though I can’t read a word. I sit there and pray that he has to get off before my stop.

~~~~~~~~

It took me a long time to recognize this sort of behavior for what it was because it’s been happening since what feels like forever. It started when I was 12 and creepy old men would come up and start stroking my waist-length hair without my permission. It happened so often that one day I’m with my father when it happens and he gets angry at me because why didn’t  I do anything? and I don’t know what to say because all I can think is I don’t understand why you’re upset this is normal. I turn fourteen and suddenly hips appear and every time someone follows me around a parking lot to shout things about my rear end I just assume that I’m not dressed modestly enough, even when I’m already wearing a skirt with enough fabric you could camp under it.

And then I’m in my twenties and researching feminism and I finally connect the dots: what has been happening to me my entire life is harassment. It is not a compliment, and it is not my fault.

So yesterday, when I saw Shoshana’s video, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Then I saw the comments, not just on the video, but on the pages of the friends who’d posted it. I saw the rape and death threats. And I’m exhausted. I don’t want to expend any of the energy to respond to the (usually white) men who just don’t get it. They don’t understand. They’re screaming about “how can just saying “hi” be harassment?! Feminists are just so stupid and sensitive,” and I want to scream because most of the street harassment I’ve ever experienced in my entire life starts with “hi”– and it never ends well. You say “hi” back and all of sudden you’ve given them permission to follow you. You flip them off, and they get pissed– really pissed. You ignore them and suddenly it’s all about how ugly you are and how they’d never fuck you anyway.

Men don’t have to deal with this. They don’t understand how every single time I hear the word “hi” something inside of me wants to curl up into a ball and hide because I know what’s coming. I can count on my fingers and toes the number of men who have looked at me and given a polite “hello” that wasn’t the precursor to insults and jeers. That’s not normal. When a man is polite and respectful to me in public, it is actually startling to me because I don’t expect it.

That is something all those men shouting about how these entitled little jerks are just “being nice” will never understand.

Update 9:47p: When I saw the video yesterday the only thing I was watching was her face, and, like in my real life, not paying attention to who in in particular was harassing her. But I saw this statement earlier today from Aura Bogado:

That catcalling video you all posting is deeply problematic: It perpetuates the myth of the cult of white white womanhood by literally placing this white woman in neighborhoods where men of color will be the ones who catcall (or, in some instances, say hello to) her. Doing so makes it appear as if men of color are the perpetrators of all that is bad on this planet, which can only be balanced with the exigent need to therefore save white women above all else. This stale, ahistorical association also makes invisible the disproportionate harassment that women of color face broadly from men (including white men)–and the very tangible violence that trans women of color face in particular.

So I went back and re-watched the video and I agree with her thoughts. As a white woman, I can afford to see this video primarily as a useful tool for talking about the constant barrage of harassment women face on a daily basis, but we must never forget that everything we do, everything we create, exists in a system dominated not just by sexism but by racism and other oppressions. It’s unlikely that the editors consciously chose examples for this truncated video that focused on the actions of black men, and because I didn’t follow Shoshana around for 10 hours I don’t know if she really only did walk in black and/or brown neighborhoods, but the end result is racist.

In my personal experience, I am harassed by men of all races, but because of my context, I’m harassed primarily by white men. I’ve decided not to remove the video because it’s also helpful to illustrate how white people have used, and continue to use, the racist assumption that black men pose a particular threat to our white women.

Photo by Paul Cleary
Feminism

"Real Marriage" review: 65-85, "The Respectful Wife"

With a chapter title like that, you just know how much I loved it. I probably should have expected this chapter to be more infuriating than the one devoted to men, but I didn’t. My marginalia has a lot more “WTF” and “BS” (which stands for both bullshit and benevolent sexism; nice how that one worked out) than the last chapter did– and I wish I could talk about a lot more than I have the space for.

But, today, we’re going to start of with Significant Problem #1:

Mark and Grace twist Scripture to the point of deceit. Or they proof text in order to mislead. Or they use footnotes as if the verses they’re referencing have anything at all to do with their argument. In short: Mark and Grace use the Bible to lie, and it pisses me off. What they’re doing isn’t at all unusual in complementarian circles, because the “biblical” argument for complementarianism is incredibly weak so they are forced to rely on manipulative tactics like these. Unfortunately, these deceptions work on far too many people.

The first time I threw the book today was when I got to page 71, and Grace quotes 1 Cor. 11:7-9 in order to support her argument that women need to be “companions” and “helpers” in the complementarian sense. I have actually written about this exact problem, in a post I’m particularly proud of.

Grace quotes this:

“Man is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”

And then she stops. Because, if she kept going, she’d eventually run into this:

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman, For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman.

Grace purposely omits this part of the passage, even though from a grammatical stand point the passage climaxes here. Stopping where she stops would be a bit like me stopping a sentence right before a but. After what she quotes is nevertheless. Nevertheless, (πλήν) as in, “in spite of what has just been said” or “but rather, except.” Quoting a passage in order to prove your point when the author himself says “but” right after the section you’re quoting is … well, I threw the book across the room. Now I just want to type out curse words. It’s wrong and misleading and dishonest and she’s doing this to the Bible, a book they both claim to live their lives by. This isn’t the only instance (she does something similar at least four times), but I have to keep going.

On to Significant Problem #2!

Grace and Mark put all of the responsibility for a healthy marriage and productive life onto wives. In the chapter Mark addressed to men, all he basically said was “don’t be a monster”; he never once uses the word “abuse” even though he describes emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. He didn’t even really take it beyond that into “here’s how to be a decent human being”– he just talks a lot about all the ways men can abuse their wives and then says “don’t be that guy.”

In this chapter, though, Grace has got a lot to say about all the things that a woman has to do.

  • She prays for her husband about every single thing he has to do all day long.
  • She touches him affectionately, romantically, and sexually.
  • She texts him through the day.
  • She makes sure the prepare healthful meals.
  • She takes up his interests.
  • She reads the Bible (71-75).

And while when she’s talking about learning to communicate she indicates this is something husbands and wives have to learn how to do together, “dudes, talk to your wife about what you think a problem is” is something Mark never tells husbands to do. Communication is a two-way street, but they’ve missed that.

And, lastly, Significant Problem #3:

Grace uses the “except if you’re being abused” line.

I wish I could tell you how much I hate that line. I hate it. I hate it more than any other single phrase I’ve ever heard come out of a spiritual leader’s mouth. I have gotten up and left church services because of it, and at this point if I hear it uttered in a sermon and I talk to the pastor afterward and their reaction is nonchalance, I’m never going back to that church. I am done with this phrase.

It is worse than useless. It is dangerous.

It is especially dangerous because of the context of this book. Chapter three spent a lot of time describing abusive behaviors– and not just verbal and emotional abuse, but physical coercion and violence as well. But, Mark never once says “this is what abuse looks like.” He spends the entire chapter minimizing it– personally, I think he has a vested interest in minimizing abuse, because he’s an abuser. There’s no way in hell Grace isn’t going through at home what Mark has been putting his church and staff through for years.

He gets away with it, though, because hardly anyone in our culture understands what abuse actually is. We have the vague thought that it’s black eyes, broken arms, women who “fall down stairs.” But the reality is that my abuser called me Goddamn fucking bitch every single day for almost three years and I never thought it was abuse because he wasn’t hitting me. He would pinch me and twist my fingers like he was playing “Uncle,” and I never thought it was abuse because there were never any bruises.

It is extraordinarily rare for a person in an abusive relationship to understand that’s what is happening. When someone says “oh, if you’re in an abusive relationship, none of this applies to you,” there is basically not a single fucking person who’s going to hear that and think “oh, that means me.”

If you’re about to say something that you think needs to have that disclaimer slapped onto it, then you need to think about it really, really hard. If you know that something you believe could be twisted by an abuser or a victim in order to trap them, then that belief must be re-evaluated, period. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

But, Real Marriage makes it so much more worse than that. She tells women that they are commanded to submit to their husbands, even if he makes an irresponsible decision that could be detrimental to both of them (80). She compares a woman submitting to her husband to a child obeying their parents (82). She says that “if your husband isn’t working on his part of loving, you are still called to work on your part of submitting” (84).

But, worst of all, she says this:

If your husband is verbally or physically abusing you, he is not loving or respecting you. If this is an ongoing issue, it should be addressed and stopped immediately by a pastor or trustworthy leader who will listen to you both.

There is so much wrong with this. First of all, if you realize that you are in an abusive situation, leaving should be your end goal. Not reconciliation. Not redemption. Not forgiveness. Getting yourself (and children if you have them) safe is your first and only priority, however you need to go about doing that.

Second, Grace’s idea that someone in an abusive marriage should go to a leader “who will listen to you both” is beyond wrong. It is worse than wrong. That “advice” can, has, and will kill people. Anyone who is willing to listen to both a victim and their abuser is an unwise person who should not be sought out or listened to. If they are willing to “listen” to the abuser, if they want to “hear both sides,” they will be used by the abuser to further ensnare their victim. A wise and properly trained counselor who hears “my husband hits me” will not be interested in hearing from the person willing to hit their spouse.

That Grace (and, presumably Mark), think this is a good idea is horrifying.

Feminism

"Real Marriage" review: 19-41, "Friends with Benefits"

When I was in graduate school, one of the books I had to read was The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, and one of the chapters was written by Mark Driscoll– unsurprisingly, it was on swearing. I didn’t know anything about Mark Driscoll at the time, but I figured out quick that he was a pretty big fan of Martin Luther. As I’ve come to know more about Mark, that he sees himself as a “Martin Luther 2.0” should surprise absolutely no one, and that comes across pretty clearly in this chapter. The first five pages are dedicated to Martin Luther’s marriage to Katherine von Bora, and Mark cannot even begin to contain his enthusiasm:

Their marriage was a public scandal and arguably the most significant marriage outside the Bible in the history of the world.

Just … sigh.

In the rest of the chapter, Mark is going to spend a lot of time trying to convince us that he isn’t a raving misogynistic chauvinistic pig and that complementarian headship in marriage isn’t demeaning to women in any way whatsoever. However, the way that Mark writes about Katherine upends that completely:

What is perhaps most curious is that their marriage did not start with love or attraction, as Katherine was not physically attractive . . . Martin even confesses to his friends afterward … that the proud and haughty Katie alienated him . . . Even Martin’s friends were not fond of Katherine. He reported that many cried with grief upon hearing of his hasty marriage. (21)

Katherine was not physically attractive? Aish. It’s not exactly as though Martin was some sort of Adonis, but Mark says absolutely nothing about his looks. And, when talking about their “awkward” early days, due– according to Mark– to their “monasticism,” he only gives an example of Katherine being awkward, not Martin.

As the story goes on, Mark describes the blossoming friendship and romance between Katherine and Martin Luther, but it’s clear from the previous five pages that Mark thinks the love that Martin felt for “Katie” was not only in spite of himself (“Good God, they will never thrust a wife on me!”), but in spite of Katie, as well; after all, Martin married an ugly harpy– a harpy who worked very, very hard and sat with him while he wrote his letters and was just there for him as he did all of his amazing man-stuff while Katherine … kept a garden.

~~~~~~~~~

The rest of the chapter is Mark and Grace arguing about how important it is for married people to be friends. Which, ok, there’s nothing wrong with that argument on its face. I think friendship can go a long way in a marriage, and I have a hard time envisioning a successful marriage without friendship– all of the happily married people I know are friends. So, while I don’t necessarily have a problem with the message of the chapter as a whole, I do have a problem with how a lot of the specifics get presented, because things like this happen a lot:

I wanted the friendship but without the conflict. I didn’t understand that true friendship involves healthy conflict and hard discussions as God reveals sin and repentance, and reconciliation takes place. (25)

There’s an important word missing there: can. Friendships can involve conflict. However, the way that Grace has phrased this– and from things they both say later on– it is assumed that all friendships must involve conflict, or they are not actually friendships:

We may say we are someone’s friend, but unless we are quick to pursue them in the sin they have fallen into, we are not really much of a friend. (40)

I disagree with that. This is coming from someone who hasn’t even been married two years yet, so feel free to tip in your two cents, couples-with-more-experience, but drawing on both my experience as a partner and as a friend, I don’t think this is true. All of my friendships have involved some sort of conflict, true, but those have been the moments when our friendships have been the weakest and the most unloving. In my marriage, my goal isn’t to “pursue him into the sin he has fallen into,” but to love and accept and encourage.

I’ve had the sort of friendships that Mark and Grace are advocating for here, and one thing I’ve learned after a short lifetime of “friends” who want nothing more than to “sanctify” and “edify” me is that it sucks. Hardcore. I can’t imagine if Handsome treated me the way that Mark thinks partners should treat each other; I would be miserable and unhappy. The fact that my partner encourages me, and loves me, and accepts me for who I am right now while also dreaming with me about everything we can be together is wonderful. We both want to become better people– more loving, more generous, more kind . . . but we are not going to do that by harping on each other every time we think the other has “fallen into sin.”

Also, Mark doesn’t actually believe this, since he fired, excommunicated, and publicly shamed pretty much anyone who dared to disagree with him, particularly regarding accountability.

Interestingly enough, this first assumption– that true friendships are about “edification”– leads to another problem I have with this chapter: Christian elitism.

Only when marriage and family exist for God’s glory– and not to serve as replacement idols– are we able to to truly love and be loved. (28)

It is through the presence of God the Holy Spirit in our lives that we are able to love our spouses. (30)

We are convinced that the couples who pray … together stay together. (36)

The more his need for her and her need to help him are celebrated as gracious gifts from God, the faster oneness and friendship blossom in the marriage. (38)

That last one is also just icky– because they say that a wife needs to “celebrate being helpful as a gracious gift from God.” Whee. Complementarianism isn’t demeaning or chauvinistic at all. Not even a little bit. But the biggest problem I have (for the moment) with these statements is that they frame non-Christian marriages as less than. They probably wouldn’t go so far as to say that non-Christian marriages are doomed to unhappiness and divorce, but by making the claim that we need to place “glorifying God” as the center purpose of our marriage in order to truly love, what they are saying is that people who don’t think of “glorifying God” as a goal cannot truly love. They can love, sure, but not truly love. Any happiness a non-Christian experiences in their marriage is because of luck, probably. Because they couldn’t possibly be building a healthy marriage filled with trust and love and respect and kindness and acceptance– not without God, at least. Not really.

Christian elitism comes out in a lot of ways in Christian culture, and they’re usually wrapped up in sentiments like this one– and it frustrates me no end because of how baldly false it is. I’m friends with a lot of atheists and agnostics, and my friendships with them have been richer and more meaningful and more challenging than most of the friendships I’ve ever had with Christians– and the relationships that I have now with Christians don’t have anything “more” than my relationships with atheists. In fact, most of the friendships I’ve had with Christians have been profoundly negative and have ended horrifically because they felt more entitled to judge and condemn me than to love me.

In short: being friends with your spouse = good. Doing it the way that Grace and Mark think is good (such as, for Grace, “forcing herself to trust him,” 25) = bad.