Browsing Tag

intersectional 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.


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, Social Issues

Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" video has some problems

If you haven’t seen Taylor Swift’s new music video “Shake it Off,” I’ve embedded it above. I don’t think you need to watch it for my commentary to make sense, and there’s no reason to listen to the song since I won’t be critiquing the lyrics extensively– so, if you really don’t like Taylor Swift as an artist, feel free to skip it.

Before we get started, I need to admit to some bias: I’m not a Taylor Swift fan. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid her ever since she released “You Belong to Me,” which practically screamed I’m not one of those girls. She also believe[s/d] that the definition of feminism is “women who are against men and also want everything without working for it.

Because of all that, I was happy to hear this:

I go on too many dates
But I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright

Taylor Swift, unfortunately, has faced a lot of slut-shaming for her supposedly “high number” of relationships– I googled, and apparently that number is six. In my personal life, I’ve been in serious long-term committed relationships twice, have had short-term relationships twice, and have been out on a few dates with one other person, bringing my “number” to five. I’m pretty sure six relationships is pretty normal, which makes me a little baffled why she’s drawn so much criticism. Anyway, I’m delighted that she’s confronted this perception of her head-on.

There’s a few other things going on in the video that I think are positive– I appreciate that she’s not taking herself too seriously, and my overall impression is that it’s supposed to be fun and lighthearted.

However, I want y’all to notice something:

taylor swift ballerinataylor swift contemporarytaylor swift cheerleader

Now, this:

taylor swift stereotaylor swift hip hop

I just want to ask you some questions: which set of costuming decisions could be taken seriously, and which ones are a joke? Which set of clothing, makeup, and other styling decisions are overblown and ridiculous exaggerations of a particular culture? And of these two sets, which are typically associated with black culture in America?


But, we have to move on.

taylor swift ballerinas white

taylor swift hip hop black

Question round #2!

In which picture can you see the women’s faces? Which picture is Taylor Swift not in? In the course of the music video, we only get to see one woman’s face in the booty-shaking-leapard-print-blinged-out segment, and she’s possibly white, maybe Hispanic. I couldn’t tell, and I think that was probably intentional, since the woman they chose was “racially ambiguous.”

Ok, next:

Here’s photoset A:

taylor swift ballerina leapingtaylor swift contemporary leaping

taylor swift gymnast leapingtaylor swift pop lock

And photoset B:

taylor swift booty shaking

Which set demonstrates stunning beauty, grace, athleticism, and breathtaking physical abilities? And which one limits an entire dance style, one filled with a rich cultural heritage with a complex, developed style, to a single move that Miley Cyrus appropriated last year? Which one is, again, associated with black culture, and which ones are considered serious art forms or have entire Olympic events organized around its existence?

And then there’s this:

taylor swift white guy hip hop

That last one is the one that frustrates me the most. There’s whole sections of the video dedicated to breakdancing, which is a style of dance that was created in New York by black people and Puerto Ricans in the 70s. Since I became utterly obsessed with dancing when I was in college, I’ve thought of traditionally black styles as . . . well, they’re beyond description, and I love all of them. Krumping, in particular, is my favorite, but I also think that hip-hop is pretty spectacular, as well. But here, in this video, the person shown doing the most breakdancing is a white guy. They show a black man breakdancing for a few half-seconds, but this white dude gets maybe 10 seconds total through the whole video, doing a bunch of really impressive moves, while I think the black man is only shown doing not even a full rotation of a headspin.

But here’s the icing on the cake:

taylor swift staring

This shot comes at the end of a segment when Taylor has been crawling under and through the legs of twerking black women, and she’s turning and staring at their rear ends the entire time, then comes out on the other side and laughs.


If it’s not obvious by now, I think this music video is incredibly racist. What I noticed were the following:

  • the video erases the existence and individuality of black women
  • When black women are shown in the racist and stereotypical identifiers of “black culture,” they are nothing more than sex objects. The other black women in the video who are depicted as gymnasts, cheerleaders, and contemporary dancers escape this. That is horrifically racist, and is part of the larger culture that makes black women’s bodies inherently and overtly sexual. The promise of this video is that black women, you can escape being sexually objectified as long as you conform to white/suburban/European standards. It is respectability politics in a music video.
  • it portrays traditionally white/European art forms as serious, beautiful, athletic, stunning, and difficult; but traditionally black art forms are shown as laughable, overtly sexual, and reduces the style to a single movement: “booty shaking.”
  • The one form of black dance shown in the video is almost completely taken over (appropriated) by white people.
  • White expressions of fashion and style are credible and treated as aesthetically pleasing; black styles are painted in caricature, are exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness, and the intended result seems to be amusement, not appreciation.

If you are a person of color and noticed something else, or you’d like to add (or correct!) something here, please feel free. I very much would appreciation your voices and thoughts in the comments.

I think we also need to have a conversation about cultural appropriation. I’m still educating myself on what that is and how to identify it when I see it happen, so I’d appreciate all of you sharing your thoughts on that aspect of what’s happening in the video. For example, I know that the fact that Taylor Swift has dressed up in these “costumes” is problematic because of the appropriation element, but I’m not informed enough to fully articulate why that is.

Anyway, I didn’t want this to go without comment: too often white feminists are completely silent when a white female artist does something like this (Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, anyone?), and I didn’t want that to happen again. If I see any good articles written by women of color about this, I’ll link them at the bottom here.

UPDATE 9/12/2014: This post is now almost a month old, and the comments are becoming repetitive, with the same racist arguments being presented multiple times. Since the discussion is no longer moving forward, I am closing the comment section on this post.


do you have to be pro-choice to be feminist?

mother and baby

One of the reasons why I write here is to attempt to convince people that feminism isn’t the movement a lot of people think that it is– we’re not a bunch of bitter, vengeful, ugly hags. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to hate men, or burn your bra, or you can’t shave your legs, or you’ll never be able to wear makeup again. There’s a lot of stereotypes out there, stereotypes intentionally created by those who fought (and fight) against gender equality, but hopefully if you’ve been here long enough you’ll realize that I definitely don’t fit those molds.

I read a lot of feminist writers who are trying to do the same thing– we consider ourselves advocates and educators, and we put ourselves into that position of being the person willing to explain the obvious over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over . . . and something that we end up saying, ad nauseum, is:

“The definition of feminism is ‘a) the belief that all genders should be politically, economically, and socially equal, and b) the organized movement to bring this about.'”

Some of us have argued that this is all you need to be a feminist, that there’s nothing more to it than that. If you believe that men and women should be equal, than wham bam thank you ma’am you’re a feminist.

I’m not one of those people. I think there’s a whole lot more to feminism than that, and I think it’s far too easy for someone to claim that they believe in gender equality on paper and then be a patriarchal misogynist in real life. And while I hope that someday we’ll live in a world where everyone believes in the ideals of feminism, that world is a long way away, and in the mean time, there are a lot of people walking around calling themselves a feminist who are not and they’re able to do it because they/we think the above definition is all there is to it.

And it’s not as though feminism is a monolithic movement and every feminist thinks and believes and wants the same thing. I identify as an intersectional feminist because it seems obvious to me that every person can be both oppressed and privileged based on different parts of our identity. But there’s also trans-exclusionary radical feminism (as much as I’d prefer that they’d stop calling themselves feminists, I’m not going to start shouting “No True Scotsman!”); there’s also the problem of white feminism (which is one of the reasons why I don’t push the feminist label on those who don’t want to claim it. Feminists have a history of being racist as fuck, people); and then there’s all sorts of other disagreements– can porn be feminist? Can you be a sex worker and be feminist? Is lipstick feminism a thing?

But, probably one of the more divisive issues is reproductive rights.

Do you have to be pro-choice to be a feminist? I’ve explained, at length, why I am pro-choice. However, becoming pro-choice took me years and I don’t think it’s a position that a lot of people can adopt. So, do I want to put an insurmountable roadblock in place for those who can’t accept the pro-choice position? Can you be a pro-life feminist?

Well, in my opinion… yes and no.

It all depends on how you define pro-life.

If you want to make all abortion illegal (like it is in Ireland and some Latin American nations), then no. Absolutely not. If you think that “partial-birth abortion” is a medical term and want to ban any abortion after 20 weeks, then no. If you want to make it impossible for international aid organizations to offer women in developing nations hormonal contraception, then no. If you think that a company has the right to dictate to their employees what medicine they are allowed to use, then no. If you think that legalizing rape by use of a medical instrument in the context of a doctor’s office is ok, then no. If you think that women who don’t want to keep their babies should just give them up for adoption but you aren’t ever going to adopt a baby, then no. If you think that women who have abortions are just lazy sluts who have been brainwashed by money-hungry doctors, then no.

However, if you have personal moral and/or spiritual reservations about the life of the unborn and you don’t think you’d ever get an abortion no matter how desperate you were, but you are aware that all making abortion illegal does is kill women, then yes. If you believe that life is a beautiful, sacred mystery and deserves to be valued, but you also acknowledge that woman are people, too, then yes. If you want to do all you can to reduce the abortion rate through education, through access to effective contraception, through pursuing policies that will help working mothers keep their jobs (like subsidized day care, either through employers or government-sponsored programs), if you believe that life outside of the womb is just as important as life inside of it, then hell yes.

In short, if you believe that abortion should be illegal: I’m sorry, but no. I don’t think you should consider yourself a feminist. Keep on fighting for gender equality in whatever circumstances your find yourself in, absolutely, but I don’t think that it’s possible to pursue policies that would endanger the lives of countless women and be a feminist.

But, if you don’t want to make abortion illegal, but you’d like to see it become scarce (through pursuing realistic and proven-to-be-effective methods) and you’d never have an abortion yourself, then yes. I think you could be a feminist.


Christian women: feminism IS your friend, actually

pumpkin exploding
[this is what the patriarchy will look like, when we’re through with it]

I usually do whatever I can to avoid reading anything Matt Walsh says, because reasons. He’s the blog version of Rush Limbaugh and an un-educated John Piper rolled into one Godzilla-sized disaster. Seeing someone in any of my social media feeds link to him has been enough to cause this reaction:

luke NO

And that person usually ends up blocked or hidden. However, he’s been showing up more and more often in my Facebook feed, and from people that I respect and value my relationship with them. So, here goes.

If you want to read Matt Walsh’s article, “Christian women: feminism is not your friend,” here’s a Do Not Link version.


Before we get started, there’s something that Walsh is doing in this post that seems to be a consistent pattern with him: he re-defines words to whatever he wants them to mean in order to make his “argument.” In this post, “feminist” is re-defined to mean– an only mean– a woman who thinks there’s nothing wrong with murdering babies and “equal” means sameness, both of which are preposterous definitions.

Everyday I hear from people who tell me they are ‘pro-life feminist’ or ‘Christian feminist.’ Yet millions of modern feminists would respond that such a thing is not possible. Feminism, they say, exists largely to combat the patriarchal evils of pro-life Christianity. They claim that calling yourself a pro-life feminist is like calling yourself a carnivorous vegan, or an environmentalist Humvee enthusiast. The concepts are contradictory, they argue, and I agree — though I’d say the term ‘pro-life feminist’ could be more aptly compared to ‘abolitionist slave trader’ or ‘free market communist.’

Ok, first off, since there’s apparently “millions of modern feminists” who would argue this, I’m surprised he was unable to find a quote of anyone actually saying this– especially when I know they’re out there. I think it’s a completely accurate statement to say that Matt Walsh is lazy. In the posts I’ve seen, I’ve never seen him link to research, studies, even people who agree with him. He just spews bullshit for 2,945 words and then eventually runs out of steam.

But more importantly: yes, there are feminists who are primarily focused on maintaining reproductive rights; however, that is not the sum total of feminism, and, in fact, a lot of feminists critique these “single-issue” feminists for a variety of reasons. Intersectional feminists have a problem with reproductive rights being a “woman’s issue” when trans men and intersex persons need to have access to abortion and hormonal contraception, too. A lot of other feminists feel that trying to make it seem like feminism is singularly focused on reproductive rights to the exclusion of anything else is damaging.

In fact, in all of the feminist literature I’ve read, it’s actually unusual for them to spend time talking about reproductive rights; which Walsh would know if he’d bother to read any, which he openly admits that he hasn’t. The only two significant organizations I know of that seem preoccupied with reproductive rights is NARAL and Emily’s List. NOW does what they can to protect those rights, but it’s far from their only platform.

It is also completely possible to be a feminist and to be pro-life– and to be a Christian feminist and to be pro-choice, like me. I’m a Christian, and I feel that is consistent with being pro-choice as a civil issue. Being a Christian is not synonymous with being pro-life. In fact, many Christians (50-60%) are politically pro-choice while having ethical and moral reservations. Feminism is an extremely large tent, and people only have time to maintain their own education and activism in certain areas. For me, I focus on sex education for teenagers and raising awareness about abuse and rape– others focus on violence against women in an international context, like sex trafficking. These are a tiny sliver of what feminists can talk about and fight for.

Also, most of Walsh’s argument in this post centers on the idea that feminism is the only thing responsible for the “slaughter of countless innocent babies,” since it was primarily the feminist movement that got it legalized in America. The problem with this argument is that the number of pregnancies that were terminated before and after Roe vs. Wade is exactly the same. Legalizing abortion didn’t increase the number of abortions– it just made them safer.

And, feminists are constantly working to lower the abortion rate, because the feminist goal is for abortion to be extremely rare. How do we make it rare? By pursuing paid parental leave– for both mothers and fathers. By subsidizing daycare. By making contraception available to all the people who need it. These things could dramatically reduce the abortion rate to something like what it is in other developed nations, where the rate is half of what it is in America. There have been studies conducted in Michigan and St. Louis– when these things become available to the people most likely to consider an abortion, the abortion rate drops immediately and drastically.

Who opposes these things? Oh, right. Conservatives. Like Walsh. People aren’t having abortions because it’s legal– they’ll have them whether or not it’s legal. They are having them because the world we live in is hard.

What truth did feminism reveal at all, actually?

That women are equal to men in human dignity and intrinsic value? No, feminism did not reveal this. Christianity revealed it. Christ revealed it. Christian thinkers throughout the ages have affirmed it and taught it; notably Thomas Aquinas, who said that women are meant to rule alongside men. That was 800 years ago, or 600 years before the term ‘feminist’ existed.

Ok, yes and no. As a Christian feminist, I believe that Christ exalted women at pretty much every opportunity and treated them as equals– or even as his superior, on one occasion. I believe that his followers did the same– Paul frequently praises women in leadership positions, and he describes at least one woman as a leader over him. So yes, there are roots of feminism in the Christian tradition.


There is also a long, horrific history of flagrant misogyny in the Church. There are archbishops removing a woman’s name from Scripture. Clement said “every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.” Tertullian described women as “being built over a sewer.” St. Augustine asserted that women were not created in the image of God and that we have “no use” (except, he grudgingly acknowledges, possibly pregnancy). Even Thomas Aquinas, who Walsh quoted here, said that women are “defective and misbegotten.” John Wesley told women to be “content with insignificance” and Martin Luther… well, he said a bunch of shit, because by even Christian-theologian-patriarch standards, Luther was a misogynistic son of a bitch.

This is why the church needs feminism– because the last two thousand years of church teachings have been riddled by misogyny and sexism. Many of St. Augustine’s writings form the basis for long-held Christian orthodoxy, and he declared that half of the people on this earth do not bear the imago dei. Martin Luther, whose teachings formed the basis for Protestantism and evangelicalism, said that it’s better for women to die in childbirth than to live a long life. Christian feminism seeks to overcome these failings in our theological systems, to breathe fresh life into these doctrines so that they more truly represent what Christ did and taught.

 Similarly, equal legal protections are good, and feminism, at one point many years ago, helped ensure those legal protections. Times have changes, and feminism no longer serves that purpose.

Yes, technically, women have the right to vote, own property, and divorce their abusive husbands now– so yes, feminism is no longer pursuing those goals. However, sexism still exists, as does the reality that 1 in 4 little girls will be sexually abused, that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted, that 1 in 7 married women will be raped by their husbands.

Walsh doesn’t even mention this. He accuses feminists of painting some horrible picture of reality that doesn’t exist– that feminists are literally making shit up in order to convince women that they’re oppressed with some horrible, fake, woe-is-me sob story. Except, most women– with the exception of women like Mary Pride, Mary Kassian, Phyllis Schlafly, and Elisabeth Elliot, who somehow ignore this– experience oppression every single damn day of their lives. We are catcalled and harassed virtually everywhere we go. I had a male friend look me in the face and say that it just makes sense for a man to dismiss a woman’s arguments because we’re “too hormonal.” Women, for a variety of factors, earn less than men, with Hispanic and black women being horribly affected by the wage gap.

Feminism is necessary because of these things. Feminism doesn’t just exist to protect reproductive rights. It exists to fight for the marginalized and oppressed, no matter what shape that person might take.

We’re not fighting to be “the same” as men, as Walsh argues when he accuses feminists of being gnostic (which, wow, does that ever expose his complete ignorance on this subject). We’re still fighting because men like Walsh can write an entire post about how “feminism is not your friend,” never even once mention the rampant violence against women, and hardly anyone will even notice.

Social Issues

bounds of their habitation: a request for guest posts


It was our first pre-marital counseling session, and I was nervous. I wasn’t thrilled with being forced to do this, but John* wanted his pastor to marry us, and that meant going through at least four separate counseling sessions. However, both of us were in a different state than his pastor, so the only option I had was going to a pastor that made me . . . uncomfortable. I already was struggling with trusting this man. He’d exercised church discipline against a woman who dared to express a different view than him without seeking the approval of the church body first. When I was being attacked and lied about by one of the church’s young men, he had dismissed my concerns as “hysterical” and “humorless.”

As I sat in his office, on a sofa I felt like I might slide off of at any moment, I struggled to be in that moment, and not dwell on the past. I just needed to get through this– and then do it three more times.

“Well, first things first.” He opened. “There’s some questions to get out of the way. I know I’m not marrying you, but it’s my responsibility to make sure that you both are ready and qualified for marriage. I don’t want to do wrong by the pastor that is marrying you.”

We nodded. That seemed sensible.

“There are a few things that I have stood by my entire ministry. There are some couples I just won’t marry, because I think that it’s unbiblical. So, first off, have either one of you been married before?”

My laugh was a half-strangled twitter. “No.” John* echoed me.

“And you’re both of the same faith? You agree on matters of salvation, on standards? That’s part of what it means to be equally yoked, you know.”

We told him that we were– and the questions continued for another 20, maybe 30 minutes. Most of them were fairly easy to answer, and fairly obvious. Toward the end of our session, the atmosphere had lighted up a bit. John seemed comfortable, and the pastor was leaning back in his chair, fingers clasped over his stomach.

“Well, you two passed with flying colors,” he laughed, “so no worries there. And there’s other questions I don’t even have to bother to ask you, of course. Don’t get me wrong, but I can’t in good conscience marry mixed-race couples.”

I struggled to keep my mouth from dropping open. He what?

“I realize there are plenty of folks who are willing to do that, and I’m totally alright with that, to each their own and all that. But, to me, the Bible is pretty clear on the subject. The children of God aren’t supposed to inter-marry. It’s all over the place– if they do, they’re bound to a cursed and shameful life, and they’ll never receive God’s fullest blessings. Now, I can’t say this in front of my congregation, it would step on too many toes, but I just feel that this is right. God confirmed it in the New Testament, in Acts, when he said that even though we’re all of one blood, we have the ‘bounds of our habitation‘ and we need to stick to that.”

I was silent for the entire 20-minute drive home.

I waited for my mother to come home from the grocery store, and immediately pulled her into her bedroom and shut the door. I explained to her what the pastor had said, and watched her become more and more horrified.

“He actually said that?”

“Yes, Mom, he did. I’m never going back to that church.” It took everything I had not to cry.

That 45-minute conversation with that pastor was the last nail in the coffin of my faith.  I didn’t come back to it for another four years.


I’ve talked about the completely horrific racism I was exposed to— and that I participated in— a few times before. Growing up in Christian fundamentalism only exacerbated the fact that I was also growing up in the Deep South, in a tiny town controlled and dominated by the KKK and by systematic racism from every source– newspapers, radio, television, the polls  . . . I was completely inundated by a culture that had never grown into the ideas of the Civil Rights movement. I spent almost twelve years of my life in a place where Christian schools were created in order to avoid desegregation laws. I’ve been to churches where people of color weren’t allowed to walk through the doors. I’ve listened to racist rants cloaked by “common sense.” I’ve uttered ideas I knew were racist and then dared to follow them with “and if that makes me racist” and a shrug. I’ve said the words “stereotypes exist because stereotypes exist.”

Leaving fundamentalism behind and trying to grow out of it has been a painful process for me, because it has meant that I had to open my eyes to my privilege, to the ways I had benefited from and contributed to systemic racism.

I’ve done that with the help of incredible, amazing, women and men. There have been some articles I’ve read that have been a knife-stab deep in my gut and my conscience. There have been some pieces that were powerful and illuminating, and helped me see the world in a completely different way. I’m grateful to all of these people who have helped me move past what I was taught as a child.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process is that there is only one way that we’re going to be able grow past racism, and it’s by listening to those who have been affected by it. Get on twitter and follow amazing people like @graceishuman and @msloola and @detoursfromhome and @cscleve– read what they write, listen to them respond to a world that ignores and silences them. Follow their blogs, if they have one. Keep track of where they’re writing.

And that brings me to this: racism is endemic to evangelicalism. It’s especially severe in Christian fundamentalism.

But, as a white woman, I am completely lacking the experience to talk about this. I can shout from the rooftops what I’ve personally witnessed, but I am only that: a witness, and nothing more. However, what I do have is a blog. And amazing readers. And facebook likes, and twitter followers. Not very many– we’re a small community here, and I love that– but it’s within my ability to help amplify the experiences and stories that I can’t personally share.

I would like to begin another guest post series, with your help. I want to set aside space here for men and women to tell their stories of what it is like to be a person of color in Christianity today. This can be stories, or responses to particular events or articles, or it could even take the form of an interview.

I’m passing the mic.

Pass it with me?