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my sin is not just my own: systemic injustice and communal repentance

I didn’t understand repentance until I became a liberal.

I’d been raised a Christian, had heard sermons calling for me to repent of my sin every other week, but until I’d abandoned conservatism I never grasped the grotesque beauty and compelling horror of true repentance.

As a child and teenager I thought of repentance in strictly personal, and individual, terms– and mostly in the context of that first salvific event when I was eleven. I’d been really sorry for my sin, for all the times I’d gotten mad at my sister or disobeyed my parents, and that was that, honestly. Oh, I’d continue to be haunted for all the other sins I’d commit for the next fifteen years, but it was all so self-centered. There was some obligatory guilt about hurting people’s feelings, of course, but any time I “repented” it was to assure myself I wasn’t going to burn in hell because Jesus had already forgiven me, or I was trying to make sure I woudln’t be struck down when I took communion.

I viewed sin and repentance this way because individualism is at the heart of conservative evangelicalism. They have a personal relationship with Jesus, not a silly communal religion. They believe in personal responsibility. They eschew concepts like “it takes a village” and– where I grew up– heaped disdain on other cultures that prioritized community over the needs of the individual. This bleeds into the political of course, birthing ideas like “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and “the self-made man.”

This is one of the ways I believe that evangelicalism is culturally American more than it is culturally Christian. My country is thoroughly saturated by the notion that we individually contribute to societies, that we have individual rights and freedoms. Conversely, most of us believe to our core that things like racism, misogyny, and homophobia are individual problems. If someone cracks a racist joke, no one needs to bother correcting him, because being racist is his problem, not theirs.

Which is why I didn’t truly understand what repentance means until I became a liberal and started reading things by people like Audre Lorde and bell hooks. When I encountered “without justice there can be no love” and “without community there is no liberation,” it finally clicked. I am a member of a system. That system is built on white supremacy and misogyny, and it’s not self-perpetuating. It’s continued by us communally, subconsciously, unconsciously, and actively participating in it. It’s the water we swim in.

It’s hard fighting this current. But every moment when we’re not fighting it, when we let that joke or comment slide, or when we hold onto our purses just a little bit tighter, or when we frown in disapproval at the “urban” teenager … we embrace the whole abusive system that keeps us all in place. For many of us, that system is capable of giving us power when we capitulate to it. I could embrace ageism and start babbling about those entitled millennials who don’t have a decent work ethic– I’d be amply rewarded for it with articles in GQ. I could write long screeds against feminism and be hailed a hero on Return of the Kings. I could start lecturing on complementarianism and be welcomed by John Piper with open arms. I could send out a racist tweet and get “FINALLY someone says it” from a few hundred people.

That is what we have to repent of. We must “turn from evil, and turn to do good.” We must repent of our lust for power, control, stability, and earthly rewards. And, we must do it together. I can fight against systemic injustice individually– as we all should– but one voice crying in the wilderness can only accomplish so much.

All through the Old Testament the prophets called for Israel and Judah– as nations— to repent. The prophets profoundly understood something we’ve lost. They knew that while there are a few righteous men scattered about the countryside, sin is a matter of culture as much as it is a matter of the heart. Greed lives in the bellies of all of us, as does the desire to feel like we earned the power and position we have, that we have a right to it. The prophets knew better, and tried to tell us so. And Paul tried to tell us again:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts …

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus … For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do …

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

~from Ephesians 2 and 6

But, I think, that communal repentance might be too much for many of our churches. I could not even begin to imagine the pastor of my last traditional church leading us in a congregation-wide confession of our sins. We built and sustain the beast together, but saying the words:

“We confess the sin of racism and the hatred toward people of color we have created”


“We repent of the violence against women we have caused with our words, beliefs, and inaction”

… seems incomprehensible for any of the churches I’ve attended.

It shouldn’t be that way. Confession is good for the soul, and it shouldn’t be limited to a private accountability partner. Forgive us, for we have sinned should be a principle part of each service, and it should be accompanied by the public commitment to turn away from evil and toward doing good.

Artwork by Dani Kelley (<– pssst, you can buy today’s header on a shirt!)

The Prophecy of Amos, Revised

Note: what appears in this post isn’t intended to be a translation– it’s a reaction to the words of Amos as I read them in English in the NIV, ESV, King James, and the Message. It’s an interpretation based on trying to find modern meaning and truth in an ancient text. Also, I am aware of the problems of taking passages that apply to ancient Israel and forcing them onto modern-day America.


Amos 2 : 6-8

This is what God says:

For your sins I will not turn back my wrath.
You sell the innocent for middle-class comfort and
ignore the needs of our immigrants for tomatoes you don’t want to pick.
You climb your corporate ladders on the backs of minorities
And claim that Ferguson and Baltimore “isn’t about race.”

Father and son sexualize and objectify every woman they see
Taught by a culture that says “no means yes and yes means anal
And so you profane my holy name.
You go to church wearing clothes made by sweat shop workers
And drink coffee grown and picked by enslaved children.

Amos 3 : 9-10

Assemble yourselves in the mountains of Afganistan
See the great unrest and the oppression that your interventions have caused.
You gave them weapons to help you,
but then you turned on them and destroyed their government.
You do not know how to do right.
You store up in your bases and forts and air stations all the military might that
Going to war and “preserving our foreign interests” have given you.

Amos 5 : 21-27

I hate, I despise your Passion Conferences
I cannot stand your church services.
Even though you gather the offering every Sunday
I will not accept it.
Though you have “fellowship hour” before Sunday school,
I will have no regard for it.
Away with the noise of Casting Crowns and Third Day!
I will not listen to the music of your electric guitars.

But let justice roll on like the river,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!

Did you bring me your offerings
Ever since the Great Awakening?
You have lifted up the Shrine of your Constitution
The Pedestal of the American Flag
You say the pledge to the Christian Flag–
All of which you have made for yourselves.

Therefore I will make the Almighty Dollar less than the Euro
And destroy the industrial-military-congressional complex
says the Lord, whose name is God.

Amos 6 : 3-7

Go to Canada and look at it;
go from there and to Great Britain
Compare: how many women die in childbirth there?
How many rapists are punished?
You ignore the evils justified by “national security”
And terrorize Pakistan with UAVs and bombs.

You assemble your Ikea furniture
and lounge on Ethan Allen
You dine on lambs shipped from New Zealand
And feast on veal and filet mignon.

Your hipsters strum away on their guitars
And you Christian-ize “Take me to Church” and “Hallelujah.”
And wear T-shirts that parody Facebook and Coca-Cola for your pride.
Your youth groups chug gallons of milk for a contest
And you teach girls to obsess over “modest is hottest.”

But you do not grieve over the black and brown children gunned down by police
And their sisters, handcuffed, who have to watch them die.
Therefore you will go into exile: your lock-ins and potlucks will end.

Amos 9 : 11-15

When I end all of this,
I will restore the communities destroyed by urban programs and gentrification
I will repair the decayed walls of those who live in assisted housing.
I will build it as it should have always been
So that the poor, marginalized, and oppressed can be given what was stolen
Stolen by slave owners and plantations and white privilege.

The days are coming
When corrupt farming conglomerates are overtaken by the migrant workers
And CEOs by the burger-flippers.

New wine will drip from the mountains
And flow from the hills
And I will bring my black and brown and LGBTQ children the justice I require.
They will be given the opportunities cishet white men have always had
They will earn a living wage.

I will plant them in their own land,
Never again to be uprooted.

Says the Lord your God.

Artwork by John Jude Palancar

Christian girls on instagram don’t deserve this

So you might have seen a video floating around Facebook recently– and, honestly, I get why it’s so popular. The first time I saw it, I found it amusing enough to make me chuckle. But, after a minute or so, I grew a little annoyed with it, so I didn’t watch it all the way through, and every single time I saw it pop up in my feed I grew somewhat frustrated because I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why it was bothering me. But then Elizabeth Esther mentioned that she was bothered by how it targeted women, and a lightbulb went off.


So I went and watched it again, and then I watched it a few more times today and I think she’s right: it’s sexist.

When I first saw it, I recognized that the video seems intended to lampoon a pretty common lack of authenticity in the way Christians can behave on social media– and, being a person with Christian friends who use social media, I get it. I scroll past a lot of inspirational quotes on Pinterest and the devotional pictures on Instagram, the out-of-context Bible verses posted as Facebook statuses, and I feel the temptation to roll my eyes. Because of that, I understand why so many people found this video entertaining, and I’m not telling any of you that you’re horrible sexist people for thinking it’s funny.

However, there’s a few problems with the video– namely, it doesn’t really have “Christians can be so fake, amiright?” as its main message, but “Women are just so shallow, can I get an Amen?”

First of all, this isn’t the video’s creator first rodeo. Back in April 2013 John Crist— the creator– wrote a post for Prodigal that was supposed to be “satire” but fell completely flat on its face because he did nothing except mock women in extremely sexist ways. I would link to the post so you could see for yourself, but Prodigal (now branded as Common Oath) took it down. Crist cried “persecution” and claimed that feminists got upset because he was just “speaking truth” (sound familiar?).

So, the man responsible has a history of being sexist and then ignoring criticisms for his sexism, and then he makes this video. Already not impressed.

But, it’s important to treat the work standing on its own, because I think the video would still be sexist even if he hadn’t been the one to make it: it would still be sexist because isn’t not really poking fun at Christian-ese inauthenticity, but the way women in particular are supposedly inauthentic, and a part of what is happening is that Crist presents to us some things that aren’t necessarily inauthentic, but take on that feeling because it’s a woman doing it. There’s already a general feeling in our culture that women are “shallow” and “fake,” and that traditionally feminine interests are not valuable contributions like manly interests are.

Take fashion, as an example. For most of fashion’s history men were the ones who seemed primarily interested in fashion, but at some point that shifted, and it became an industry targeted mainly toward women, and that’s when it became perceived as inconsequential and a little silly. Because it’s supposed to be “for women,” it’s not regarded as serious art. Like “chick flicks” and “chick lit” and any number of other examples. The same thing happens with women-dominated career fields, like teaching— or even being a doctor in Russia.

That is part of what is happening in this video. For example, he says that “girls” (even though the person featured in the video is a grown-ass woman, thank you) should always wear their purity rings. Wearing “purity rings” isn’t something that only women do, but it’s somewhat unusual for men to wear them. However, the entire time I was wearing my purity ring and had it on in pictures, I wasn’t being “fake”– and I’d argue that most of the women who happen to include that feature– regardless of how intentional/obvious they’re being about it– aren’t doing it because they’re begging for attention. If they’re anything like me and the countless women I knew who wore one, it was simply a natural part of their lives. They might never even take it off.

But he’s playing on that stereotype: women supposedly spend their entire lives dying for attention.

There’s an additional problem with this video, because it engages in something that happens way too often in American culture: hating teenage girls. They’re viciously attacked from so many corners when the reality is that teenage girls are awesome and spectacular and wonderful and I love them. It seems like every day I read or notice something about another teenage girl doing something fantastic, like taking on slut-shaming at their school or, I dunno, winning a freaking Nobel Prize.

And, let’s just be honest: we mostly associate the things shown in this video with teenage girls– things our culture paints as insipid. But, instead of even attempting to see the best in this, we assume the absolute worst: she’s not sharing that verse because she genuinely got something out of it, but because she’s shallow and vapid and is only posting it for the likes.

I’m just as guilty of judging them for this as anyone else.

However, one of the things that has become so valuable to me is that my feminism means having their back. I’m not here for us to make fun of them, to mock them, to belittle their interests or hobbies or likes just because society has taught us to see that as inconsequential and stupid.

Screen capture belongs to John Crist

can video games turn us into misogynists?

For most of my life I didn’t consider myself a “gamer,” mostly because I had an incredibly narrow understanding of what a gamer could be. I was usually more interested in books and film than I was in video games, so I didn’t think I was “allowed” to describe myself as a gamer. Over time I changed my mind.

That happened in graduate school, and the first time I self-identified as a gamer a bunch of boys tried to laugh me out of the room. Mockery, derision, dismissal … I was an English major, a book nerd– and they were being extremely honest when they said that I was “too pretty.”

For weeks I tried to establish my cred– that I’d grown up with the TurboGrafx-16, the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, N64, Gamecube, Playstation 2, and Wii. That I’d played Doom and Warcraft. I can still cycle through all the different responses you’d get by clicking on an orc grunt and the StarCraft Terran medic (“where does it hurt?” still makes me giggle). I still cry when I think about Kerrigan (and I played through that mission so many times before I figured out that it was rigged). My family hosted Unreal: Tournament LAN parties. I can hum the theme songs from Sonic the Hedgehog. Diddy Kong Racing and Star Wars Episode I: Racer are still my all-time favorite games, and I downloaded an N64 simulator just to play them. That guy who proposed to his girlfriend at a Con by cosplaying Link and Zelda and then saying “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this” while offering her a ring makes me sob like a baby.

In high school I played EverQuest, Anarchy Online, Star Wars Galaxies— I even played Lord of the Rings Online from beta and all the way through grad school. I love all of the Fable and Assasin’s Creed games and I’ve played through Portal a half-dozen times. Currently, I’m saving up money to get Bioshock Infinite.

It was extremely frustrating to have all of that dismissed like it didn’t matter. I was a girl, and that’s all they could see, so they did everything they could to ignore me. Had I played every single Halo? No, only 3? Not a real gamer. Had I ever played Call of Duty? No? Not a real gamer. It was endless. I eventually realized I didn’t have to prove myself to them and I walked away, but it still irks me at times that those dumbasses were so smug and arrogant and they still think that I couldn’t possibly be a gamer because I was a girl.

So, yeah: video games and sexism? In every single encounter I’ve had with “gamers,” they go hand-in-hand.

Which is why I’ve been paying some attention to #GamerGate. Anita Sarkeesian is one of my all-time favorite people and YouTubers, so she’s how I found out about it, and I’ve been keeping up with it since about early September. If you’re not familiar with it, this post is a good synopsis. I also really loved this video, which covers the base assumptions of #GamerGate.

There’s already posts and articles and forum threads and twitter conversations aplenty covering what’s wrong with this “movement for journalist integrity” (coughbullshitcough), but there’s one argument I’ve seen pop up quite a bit, and I want to address it: video games cannot make players be misogynists.

This is not an argument unique to #GamerGate– I’ve already heard it a number times, usually in response to the Feminist Frequency Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games series. The argument usually follows this pattern:

  1. Research shows that violent video games don’t increase aggression among players (which some research does support; but then, some research says no, it can make people more aggressive and hostile).
  2. Ergo, video games can’t make people be sexist, either.

I’m not a psychologist or a sociologist, but in a way that argument makes a certain sort of sense to me. I don’t think that video games can make a non-violent person go on a shooting spree at their high school. I’ve grown up around incredibly violent and graphic games, and I’ve enjoyed camping with a sniper rifle while picking other players off, delighting in “FIRST BLOOD” and “HEADSHOT” being shouted out of my speakers during an Unreal: Tournament deathmatch– but I have never once wanted to pick up a gun and shoot anyone, or even become a sniper. I’m not a violent person, and playing violent video games didn’t change that. That is also true for most of the people I know.

However, saying that video games can’t make people violent so they can’t make people sexist, either is a false equivalency for the simple reason that everyone is already sexist.

Video games that uncritically (key term) show sexism, misogyny, violence against women, rape, sexual assault, sexist slurs, domestic violence, casual sexism, sexist tropes/costumes all contribute to our cultural assumptions about gender and women. There isn’t a culture of “regular” people walking around cities robbing, looting, defacing, and killing indiscriminately like what the player does in the Grand Theft Auto series– however, there is a consistent problem of violence against sex workers, a problem that GTA engages in by allowing players to murder sex workers in order to retrieve their money.

Sexist video games capitalize on the already existing oppressions in society. The sexist tropes that appear in video games don’t show up in these narratives completely out of thin air– they are present in games because they are present in our culture, and every single time we encounter one of these tropes or patterns it can reinforce the patriarchal narratives our minds have been steeping in since birth.

Gamers aren’t being forced to become misogynists against their will by playing these games– these games are simply relying on shallow depictions of women, on clichéd storylines and tired plots, and a player who absorbs the gendered messages of these games without analyzing them is having his or her beliefs confirmed, not invented.

#GamerGate is such a perfect illustration of this, too. Without even realizing it, these gamers who are so worried about “journalistic integrity” have only even gone after women, none of whom were journalists. You’d think that if they cared about journalistic integrity they would have en masse attacked the journalist that Zoe Quinn supposedly dated in order to get positive reviews (which don’t exist, by the way), but they didn’t. This “movement” hasn’t turned any Gater into a misogynist– they all just already were.

Photo by Mack Male

the church won't rein in misogyny, but bloggers will


I’m guest posting at Convergent Books today about the Acts 29 Network’s decision to remove Mars Hill from its membership.

My friend, like the evangelical community at large, was captured by Driscoll’s apparently genuine and forthright style. The outspoken pastor rocketed to an extremely influential position among evangelicals, at least partly because he comes across as ballsy. It is said that he is willing to say out loud what the rest of us are thinking.

And that is exactly the problem.

Recently, the board of the Acts 29 Network—an organization founded by Driscoll—removed Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the group’s membership. Acts 29 said Driscoll had become a “distraction.” A message from the board members, made public by Acts 29, went even further in asking Driscoll to “please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.” Such an action, when taken by an established evangelical church-planting network, attracts attention.

Further, LifeWay Christian Resources has—at least temporarily—removed Driscoll’s books from its stores’ shelves in order to “assess the situation regarding his ministry.” But, like others, I am left to wonder about the timing of this move. Was it merely the only PR move left to a major Christian retailer that had been selling Driscoll’s books for years—apparently without reservation?

You can read the rest here.


"Captivating" Review: 113-129, "Romanced"


We’re halfway through the book! Also, Handsome is in the middle of reading Wild at Heart, and he’s putting his thoughts on it into a post, which I am pretty excited about. I read through some of his marginalia, and I think you all are going to enjoy what he has to say.

On today’s chapter, I think it would have gone a lot better for Stasi if she wasn’t so dismissive of feminism and if gender essentialism weren’t buried so deeply into all of her assumptions. There was a lot I enjoyed about this chapter, however; this is probably the chapter that I enjoyed reading the most because there was a lot in it that I think people need to hear more often. Basically anytime that someone dedicates an entire chapter of their book to how much God loves us, I’m going to be at least somewhat happy with that.

She does say a few things that I think deserve to be highlighted, though.

A woman becomes beautiful when she knows she’s loved … Cut off from love, rejected, no one pursuing her, something in a woman wilts like a flower no one waters anymore. She withers into resignation, duty, and shame.

Honest moment: that Handsome tells me, almost on a daily basis, that I’m beautiful hasn’t exactly hurt my ability to see myself as beautiful when I look in the mirror.

However, I am insulted that Stasi apparently thinks that I was ugly before I met him. She rushes to assure us that we don’t need to “wait for a man” to be beautiful– that God loves us, so that can make us beautiful, too!

Just … ugh.

The interesting thing about this section is that she pulls from pop culture– movies, like she usually does– to make her point, and one of the examples she chooses is Tulah from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That’s one of my all-time favorite movies, so I was amused when Stasi got it so epically wrong. She says that Tulah’s beauty was “released” by the “power of romance,” except… that’s not what happened at all. She got sick of her life going nowhere, living under her patriarchal father’s roof, and decided to educate herself. She starts going to college, changes her job, and that’s when she starts seeing something different in the mirror. She owns herself and who she is and what she wants, and she goes after it.

But nope. Not according to Stasi. It was totes falling in love that did it.

What would it be like to experience for yourself that the truest thing about [God’s] heart toward yours is not disappointment or disapproval, but deep, fiery, passionate love? This is, after all, what a woman was made for.

Ok, so I see where Stasi was going with this: God made us so he could love us. It’s a pretty typical evangelical thing to say, and it’s a somewhat pretty idea. However, I disagree with this point of view because of what it says about God, because it turns him into Pygmalion. For example, there is the possibility for me to become pregnant, and I would be “making” another person, after a fashion. If the only reason I had a baby was so that I could have something to love, that’d be … well, in my opinion, that would be supremely selfish. But, that’s frequently something evangelicals say about why God made us.

Later, Stasi draws on the story of Mary and Martha, where Jesus says that “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” Stasi argues that the “one thing” Jesus is talking about– the one thing Mary chose– is a “captivated, adoring heart, a heart that responds to the extravagant love of God with worship.” I feel that Stasi is doing a little bit of eisegesis here, since it’s incredibly convenient for her if that’s what Jesus meant– however, in verse 39 of Luke 10, the passage says that what Mary was doing was hearing his word. What’s notable about that was that Jesus welcomed a woman to hear his teaching, which was unusual, not that Mary was “captivating.”

The last problem I had with this chapter stems from Stasi’s inability to see how our Christian culture functions because she dismisses sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. At one point in the chapter she is encouraging women that they matter because “women minister something to the heart of God that men do not,” and while that’s more gender essentialism, the real problem I have with this is that Stasi has to fall back on patriarchal gendered stereotypes in order to tell women that they matter while simultaneously denying the way that conservative Christian culture has utterly subjugated women.

I don’t matter to God because of my ability to fit into gender roles. I matter to God because I’m a person.

She closes out the chapter with this paragraph:

The culture of women in the church today is crippled by some very pervasive lies. “To be spiritual is to be busy. To be spiritual is to be disciplined. To be spiritual is to be dutiful.” No, to be spiritual is to be in a Romance with God. The desire to be romanced lies deep in the heart of every woman. It is for such that you were made. And you are romanced, and ever will be.

And while, yes, those are lies I’ve heard preached from a lot of pulpits, to separate those lies from the context they belong in means that you’re not going to be fixing the actual problem. Women are told that they need to be busy, disciplined, and dutiful because they are women, and are told that deviating from these things means that you can’t be a “true, godly, feminine women.”

I am sure that many men are told that traits like “discipline” are how one demonstrates spirituality– I’ve seen it happen. However, Stasi is divorcing these lies from how they are delivered to women, and women only.

Women are told to be ‘busy’ by being a “keeper at home” and occupying herself with homemaking and child-rearing. Women are told to be ‘disciplined’ so that she can maintain her youthful vigor and looks, to not “let herself go.” Women are told to be dutiful by “submitting in all things” to the “priest and king of her home.” Stasi is ignoring how these lies take shape in the life of Christian women because she can’t afford to– because admitting to that could eventually lead to her realizing that gender essentialism is inherently damaging.

And the next chapter is . . .

“Beauty to Unveil.”

Sigh. Again.


"Captivating" Review: 77-92, "A Special Hatred"


Other possible titles for this chapter could be:

  • “Satan Makes Them Do It.”
  • “No One has Free Will. Satan or God Decide Everything Always.”
  • “We’re Not Quite Sure how to Construct a Rational Argument.”

Today’s post might be just a touch snarky, as I’m a little bit tired of their nonsense. There are two glaring problems with this chapter, but before I jump into them, I want to begin by highlighting how self-contradictory John and Stasi are. Because they adhere to gender essentialism, they are incapable of recognizing the problems that come with thinking about people that way, and it forces them to make arguments that aren’t internally consistent.

Something that happens in this chapter makes me feel all sorts of conflicted, because I want to be heartbroken while I also want to smash things. It’s funny how often the two go hand-in-hand in my life nowadays.

But a young, rebellious, unwise woman set loose with a Eurail Pass and a bleeding heart attracted cruel attention. While traveling through Italy, I was sexually assaulted, and although I was furious at the man, deep in my heart I felt somehow worthy of assault … Later, in the south of France, I unwittingly put myself in a dangerous position. After enjoying a few too many drinks … I accepted a ride back to the hotel from the men we had been drinking with. You must be shaking your hear as you read this, knowing what was coming. I am. Their offered ride did not lead us back to the hotel but instead to a private location where I was raped.

Internalized misogyny logic: trusting that men aren’t rapists means getting raped is all your fault, you foolish girl.

I understand this perspective. It’s where my head was for three years after I was raped and assaulted– I believed in all the lies of my sub-culture; “men only go as far as women let them,” and “you can incite a man to rape you by being sexually impure,” as well as many others. Stasi believes that women can be at fault for the sexual violence perpetrated against them– both passively and actively. The fact that Stasi is spreading these lies around as a rape survivor is shattering, but it also makes me angry. There are so many toxic messages in this book I am desperately sorry for all the men and women who have read it.

However, contrary to this paragraph, Stasi and John go on to make the argument that violence against women exists because Satan hates women for the following reasons:

  • He used to be beautiful. Now he isn’t, and he can’t stand that women are pretty.
  • He is a murderer, and he hates that women can make babies.

Neither ones of these makes sense, but Stasi and John are convinced that this is true because they believe that 20th century white middle-class American stereotypes about gender apply to everyone who has ever lived. To them, men are not beautiful, which just baffles me. Also, apparently, human females are capable of asexual reproductionWe definitely make life all on our own and we don’t need sperm to do it. Nope.

They also go on to claim that Satan targets women because we are “the weaker of the two [sexes].” I was a little surprised that they made this argument, because its premise is that women are either morally or mentally (or both) inferior to men. If Satan targeted the woman because she was “weaker,” it necessarily means that women are more easily deceived, have weak moral wills, are not as autonomous, aren’t as capable of expressing agency, and are more easily corruptible than men. That’s some pretty blatant misogyny.

What also frustrates me is that they frame the way that Satan targets women as “an assault on femininity.” That’s just more of their gender essentialism speaking, but heavens does it make me want to tear my hair out. Being feminine and being a woman are not the same thing, and this belief centers the white, heterosexual, American perspective as the standard. But, to them, “femininity” and “womanhood” are not just synonyms, they are the exact same thing.

John closes out the chapter with six pages of blaming Satan for his sexism. After describing a woman’s soul as “a bloody mess,” he spends a lot of time talking about how, as a manly man who mans very dudely, he doesn’t like taking the time to understand women.  But that has nothing to do with sexism or misogyny or patriarchy. Nope. It’s because Satan wants to use him to get back at women for being pretty.

So, these are the conclusions of this chapter:

  1. Rapists rape because Satan made them do it, but they only rape foolish people who sort of deserve it anyway.
  2. Misogyny and patriarchy are really just Satan attacking women cuz we’re pretty and are capable of being preggo.
  3. It just makes sense for Satan to attack us. Men are more moral and more intelligent.


nolite te bastardes carborundorum


I’ve been avoiding this. I didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to dwell on it, didn’t want to really acknowledge what had happened. I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t heard about what happened at University of California Santa Barbara last week. If you haven’t, “Elliot Rodger didn’t have Autism, he had Anger” by Emily Willingham and “Stop Being Surprised, Damn It” by Donna Decker are good places to start, in my opinion.

I heard about the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Saturday night, and contributed a few tweets. I spent the rest of the holiday and most of this week avoiding the internet because those tweets were basically blood in the water. I couldn’t face all of the e-mails and comments that started pouring in– people attacking me, accusing me of horrible things, maligning my integrity, my honesty, belittling me, and harassing me for days. It’s only just now died down, but I’m still flinching when my phone tells me that someone tweeted at me or I’ve gotten an e-mail.

I tried to view these attacks as funny– after all, they really were just fulfilling Lewis’ Law. My point could not have been proven any better, really.

Except… that really doesn’t help.

It doesn’t help when I can still see Elliot Rodger’s face, can still hear his speech in my head, repeating on an endless loop, and it’s accompanied by the dozen other times I’ve heard that exact same speech (granted, without the “I’m going to kill all of you” part) shouted at me in restaurants, in my car, in a classroom, on a sidewalk, on dates. That speech has been directed at me, meant for me- and it’s been given to me as though I’d be sympathetic, as though I’d understand and be on his side.

That frightens me beyond words.

Because, up until now, I’ve been annoyed by ideas like the “Nice Guy” and the assumed existence of some “Friend Zone.” The notion that some men think that being a decent human being entitles them to sex with women has infuriated me at times. But, it never really scared me. Now, it does. It terrifies me. Because now I’m wondering– how many of the threats I’ve gotten have been idle? I’ve dismissed them, up until this point, because I’ve always assumed it’s just some guy being an asshole from the safety of his keyboard. But now . . . now I’m not so sure. That man who followed me around in his pickup truck for half an hour– if I hadn’t dialed the police and told him I was doing so, what would have happened? Would he have tried to hurt me? The men who followed me out of Wal-Mart and shouted things about my ass and watched me as I put my groceries into my trunk while my heart was trying to strangle me… if things had been just a little different, what would have happened? Would I be alive right now?

And what about a young man I grew up with that has delivered three different versions of Elliot Rodger’s screed to me over the years– who I’ve had to block multiple times because he keeps creating accounts to harass me? As far as I’m aware, he’s angry, and bitter, and people who know him describe him as “hurt” and still single and has “given up” on relationships. Will I wake up one day to a news story about him going on a rampage and shooting people, and then naming me in a 140-page manifesto as the woman to blame?

The world we live in is … it’s horrible. The thought of it has kept me in my bed, hiding under blankets and avoiding any form of reality for a week. I didn’t want to summon the strength to hit delete delete delete over and over and over again, while opening up each message and reading it and taking a screen shot and finding his IP address and blocking him from my blog and on twitter and from my e-mail and putting all of the information in a folder I keep on my desktop– and feeling as though if I don’t do these things I’ve failed in some way, when I shouldn’t have to be doing it at all and the fact that I do is what’s fucked up and not me not wanting to deal with it at all.

It all just gets so exhausting. I’m tired of being afraid. I’m tired of grieving. I’m tired of that horrible lurch I get in my stomach when I read yet another headline about how a man has stabbed someone, or shot someone, because they didn’t get what they wanted from women. I’m tired of the blinding rage and fury that follows when I see comments that sympathize with a mass-murderer because yeah, rejection sucks, broI feel ya, dude.

I wanted to burn the internet down this week. Just burn it at all. Burn it with fire.

I wanted to sleep and never get out of bed and pretend that the only things in the world that exist are Klondike bars and Netflix.

I don’t want to talk about these things. I hate that every time I do, it feels like people come out of the woodwork for no other reason than to harass me and then eventually melt away. The endless barrage of “you’re a lying whore” and all the people on internet forums who are so filled with hatred that they rip me to shreds for no goddamn reason. I’ve stopped checking my stats hardly at all because I see the list of referrers and I know that the people who are coming here and reading my words aren’t here to understand, or to learn– they’re here to find ammunition to blast me with by taking everything I say out of context.

Then I read back over this post, and I realize that I’ve spent 900+ words whining about nothing. I get e-mails from anonymous assholes?  People talk about me on message boards? That’s nothing. It barely matters at all in a world when girls can be kidnapped for trying to get an education. When simply being white protects me from the harassment and dehumanization that women of color face on a daily basis. When I’m in a healthy, loving relationship with a man who would be devastated if he ever did something to hurt me.

Thankfully, I’m surrounded be a community who support what I do, who believe in what I write, who hear my despair and wrap their arms around me and whisper “illegitimi non carborundum” and give me the hope to keep going.

So, if there’s one thing I would want to say to all of you, it’s this: don’t let the bastards grind you down.

#YesAllWoman will make a difference. All of us can make a difference. The world is a horrible place, yes, but I still believe that it doesn’t have to be this way– that it won’t always be this way. It can change. We can do better.

We won’t let them win.

Feminism, Social Issues

liberation theology, Moses, and us

prince of egypt

So, in preparation of launching my YouTube channel, I created a Tumblr. I had never gotten into Tumblr before, and I regret not finding out about how awesome it is sooner. Like Twitter, it’s the social media that you make of it, but once you’ve found a few good people, it sort of balloons into a parade of wonderfulness. I saw an amazing gifset from The Prince of Egypt featuring Tzipporah, so one night when I was up with insomnia I watched it– and liked it. A lot. It was nice finally seeing a biblical story without any white people in it (Noah, I’m looking at you).

Watching The Prince of Egypt was the first time I’d really thought about Moses and The Exodus since I’ve started looking into Liberation Theology, and one of the things that stood out to me this time was what Moses had to overcome in order to become the man that could lead the Jews.

He had to overcome his classism.

This is something the book of Exodus actually seems to emphasize as part of Moses’ story, although I have never heard a message taught from this perspective. Moses was a child of mind-boggling privilege– fantastically wealthy, raised as the grandson of a god, and educated in one of the most advanced civilizations of the time. Exodus 2 doesn’t say how or when Moses discovered that he was not actually an Egyptian– only that Pharaoh’s daughter raised him as her own son, but sometime before the events of verse 11 it seems that he knows.

What the story does illustrate in two different ways is how Moses overcame his privilege. He probably could have remained in the palace indefinitely, embracing a system that justified brutality against those deemed lesser, but he didn’t. He committed an act of violence in defense of a victim. He does the same thing, again, when he sees his future wife being driven away from the well by a group of shepherds.

He could have ignored the oppression happening right in front of his face when he saw a supervisor beating a slave. He could have thought this is the way things are supposed to be, or if I get involved, I could lose everything, but he didn’t.

He could have thought it was right for the shepherds to take what they wanted, to use their strength and status to drive women and girls away from water. He could have thought I am only one man, what can I do? But he didn’t.

I don’t want to read too much into Moses– the text does not speculate as to his state of mind, or to his motivations. But, it is entirely human to go along with the power systems that benefit you without questioning them. The status quo is maintained not because there’s a group of conspirators actively making sure classism, racism, and sexism remain systemic and institutionalized, but through sheer force of numbers the people who accept “the way things are” keep these kyriarchal power structures in place. It would have benefited Moses to play along. He could have remained in luxury and privilege, but he didn’t. He chose to recognize suffering of those the culture he was raised in had collectively decided “deserved” to be slaves, and do something about it.

That’s also what the Bible says God responds to.

The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

I’m not sure why it took God so long to do something. He didn’t act when Pharaoh ordered all of the firstborn Jewish boys slaughtered. He didn’t act for however long they were enslaved until he sends Moses to liberate them, and that … bothers me. I wish there was some explanation for why then, why not before, what changed, but the Bible doesn’t give us any.

But it makes me wonder– Americans enslaved Africans for centuries before we decided to go to war over it. Segregation and Jim Crow went on until a woman sat on a bus and four boys sat at a lunch counter and a black preacher said “I have a Dream.” It took a woman sitting down and writing Le Livre de la Cité des Dames (The Book of the City of Ladies) to point out the inequality between the sexes, and another six centuries before women could vote, own property, and legally divorce abusive husbands (this is an oversimplification for brevity).

It seems that people like Moses, and Mary Wollstonecraft, and Rosa Parks, are necessary, that it takes regular, every day, run-of-the-mill humans to stand up and say “No More.” I’m not sure what it says about God, but I like what it says about people, about you and me.

I just finished reading Robert Reich’s Beyond Outrage (which became the documentary Inequality for All), and he makes an interesting observation in the book– that the class of political activists he calls “regressives” (conservative Republicans) are advocating for economic Darwinism– a political and economic justification of classism, essentially. Rich people are rich because they worked hard and therefore deserve to be rich; poor people are poor because they are lazy or inept and therefore deserve no help from society or government. It’s a  “meritocracy” and “boot-strapping” and “rags to riches” that, frankly, doesn’t exist (in the case of meritocracy) and isn’t possible for most people.

And it’s going to take us– all of us– standing together and saying “No More.” What’s wonderful about the story of Moses is that it shows us what it takes, and what we have to lose, and that we’ll need patience and perseverance– but it also shows us everything we have to gain if we “go out to where our own people are.”


(update on Elsa: she seems to be doing ok at the moment. She ate and drank regularly yesterday, and she hasn’t vomited — at least, not yet. I played with her for a while today and she was her enthusiastic self, but when I picked her up she meowed like it hurt her, and she’s currently curled up in the corner behind a chair. That’s not all that unusual, but one of the possible symptoms is “hiding” for long periods of time. She’s yet to have a bowel movement since she ate the string, but I’m trying to remain hopeful. Thank you for all your encouragement yesterday– this is starting to exacerbate my pretty constant low-level anxiety, and hearing from you helped.)


"Captivating" Review: 34-43, "Why Beauty Matters"

beauty standards

[unrelated author’s note: my cat, Elsa, has eaten 1-2 feet of yarn sometime early this morning, so I spent the last few hours at the vet. My hope is that she chewed it up into sections so it could pass safely– if not, we’re facing some pretty steep costs for emergency surgery. Posts may be a little sporadic over the next few weeks as I’m watching her like a hawk now, and might be taking care of a recovering kitten next week. Positive thoughts and prayers appreciated.]

Up until this point while I was reading Captivating, I was staying pretty optimistic. John and Stasi were saying some problematic things, some things I disagree with, but there were things happening to balance some of them out.

This is where my marginalia changes from “I wonder if they’ve thought about ____” to “GAH” and “WTF. NO, SERIOUSLY, WTF JOHN.”

I start off this section essentially agreeing with John; he spends the first few pages talking about beauty in general terms, in nature, as part of God’s creativity, and as something that feeds the human soul– beauty, according to his argument, is a vital part of all God’s creations. As someone who grew up in a hideously ugly fundamentalist church that started going to liturgical Presbyterian and Episcopalian services almost entirely because the beauty of those churches took my breath away, I agree that American evangelical culture has a tendency to overlook beauty as inconsequential and supercilious instead of something that feeds a soul craving. But then . . .

But in order to make the matter perfectly clear, God has given us Eve. The crowning touch of creation. Beauty is the essence of a woman. We want to be perfectly clear that we mean both a physical beauty and a soulful/spiritual beauty. The one depends upon and flows out of the other. Yes, the world cheapens and prostitutes beauty, making it all about a perfect figure few women can attain. But Christians minimize it, too, or overspiritualize it, making it all about “character.” We must recover the prize of Beauty. The church must take it back. Beauty is too vital to use.

Long, dramatic sigh.

This note is a bit of an aside, but I don’t like how he uses the word prostitute here. I’ve learned a lot from listening to sex workers of all types, and I’ve learned how important it is to listen to these people instead of talking over them and assuming we know more about their lives then they do.

But moving on: Beauty is the essence of a woman.

I… am having difficult responding to that. I understand where John is trying to go with this argument, but the reality he’s trying to ignore is that words mean things, and when you say something like “beauty is the essence of a woman,” you can’t escape how a very specific definition of beauty has been ingrained into Americans practically since birth. When he says this, he is also saying thinness is essential to a woman, and so is whiteness, and so is subjectively large breasts and clear skin and red lips. I’m positive John and Stasi would never openly endorse these sentiments, but they do absolutely nothing to recognize these shortcomings in using a phrase like “physical beauty.”

He goes on to support this by showcasing how Western art has supposedly chosen the cisgender female form to represent beauty. I’d ask how familiar John is with the Renaissance, but the most irritating part of page 37 is that John goes to Santa Fe, sees women represented in art, and uses this to support his conclusion that beauty is essential to womanhood. I don’t think it would have ever occurred to him to ask the question why he might have seen women overwhelmingly represented; aside from how women are sexual objects in our culture, there’s also a lot of homophobia spinning around, even in the “liberated” art world– anything that might appear homoerotic (which is basically anything that doesn’t center the straight male gaze, and ignores the existence of bisexual and lesbian women) makes some people uncomfortable. Ergo, using the cisgender male form to represent beauty isn’t going to happen that often.

There’s a bit of that homophobia happening here:

For one thing, men look ridiculous lying on a bed buck naked, half-covered with a sheet. It doesn’t fit the essence of masculinity. Something in you wants to say, “Get up already and get a job. Cut the grass. Get to work.”

Two things: John needs to get out more. Go look at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, maybe. And when I see my partner lying on a bed buck-naked, half-covered with a sheet, I am most definitely not thinking “Go cut the grass you look ridiculous.”

Second: John can’t get away from how our culture identifies beauty. Women are portrayed as passive, and that is part of what makes them “beautiful.” They are depicted as languid, as restful, as reclining, and ultimately, as receptacles. Portraying women as “doers” would acknowledge that we actually are capable of action, and that would upset the gender narrative. He even already knows this:

[A woman at rest] is enjoyable to be with. She is lovely. In her presence your heart stops holding its breath. You relax and believe once again that all will be well. And this is also why a woman who is striving is so disturbing. (emphasis added)

However, John blatantly insists that “There is no agenda here; no social stigmatizing or cultural pressure. This is true across all cultures and down through time.”

Really. All cultures through all time. No exceptions. Ever.

And then he just really takes the Samantha-has-no-time-for-this cake.

There’s a touching story told from the hospitals of WWII, where a young and badly wounded soldier was brought in from a hellish week of fighting. After doing what she could for him, the nurse asked if there was anything else she could do. “Yes,” he said. “Could you just put on some lipstick while I watch?”

That was the second time I threw the book across the room. I started shouting, and it inspired a twitter rant.

That is sexual objectification.

That is the female body limited to male consumption and the male gaze.

Also, that soldier is creepy as ever-living fuck. And sexist. That John thinks of this story as “touching” is … horrifying. This is the moment when I could no longer mentally engage with John with respect. Not only is he ignorant, not only does he rely on confirmation bias out the whazoo, I cannot trust him to understand basic human interactions and what “creepy” and “sexist” looks like.

But, oh no, it doesn’t end with that. It gets worse.

One of the deepest ways a woman bears the image of God is in her mystery . . . God yearns to be known. But he wants to be sought after by those who would know him . . . There is a dignity here; God does not throw himself at any passerby. He is no harlot.

God dammit.


Third time the book flew across the room. I almost hit my cat.

This isn’t just ignorance now, or confirmation bias, or not understanding sexism. This is him either not reading or completely ignoring huge portions of Scripture.

John 3:16 is in there. So is the Parable of the Lost Sheep. And “I am come to seek and to save.” And I dunno, the whole God is love part, and that bit seems mighty important.

Apparently that makes Jesus a slut.