Friday, March 5, 2010

A response

Dear Brother:
In response to your comment on my post from yesterday: I thank you for your questioning and seeking, and I hope this helps you understand a little better.

To me, to grossly oversimplify, it seems that women are typically seen as "less-than" and compared, often unfavorably, to men. I am a feminist (unapologetically so), and to me, that means that each of us has the right to make our own decisions for our lives. It doesn't mean that I am better than men. I want respect on my own terms, not on terms decided for me by men, church, society, etc. This doesn't mean I am *not* open to the guidance and shepherding of a community - I am talking basic human respect for the quality of my life being JUST AS important as that of a man's, JUST AS valued, JUST AS respected. I love men and value men, but I'm glad I'm not one and I don't want to be one. I see great value and import in being a woman. There are probably other ways some of the following ideas can be argued (I don't pretend to have all the answers about causation and correlation), but I see a pattern.

In the United States, we live in a culture where women are expected to maintain standards (often impossible) of beauty, but men are not. Women still earn less for the same work ( The standard subject for medical studies is the middle-aged, white male; therefore the effects of many medicines in women is not well understood - thus getting a prescription makes me feel I am playing roulette with my health. Twice as many women as men suffer from depression. Women are more likely to die from heart disease because their symptoms are usually ignored or misdiagnosed in the emergency room (being different from those of men). Women are overwhelmingly left to single-parent children. Women who are married with families and who work outside the home still shoulder most of the housework. I could go on.

Worldwide, girls are regularly denied education. In China, infant boys are still more highly valued than girls, increasing the number of girls left in orphanages or aborted before birth (which as we know, endangers the mother's health and well-being, too). In Africa, many girls stop going to school once they begin menstruating, because there are no bathrooms for them and they are not excused from class to see to their bleeding. In Juarez, Mexico, women are being slaughtered every day ( In many countries, rape is still used to silence and intimidate women and girls. In Thailand, and many other Southeast Asian countries, women are forced into or sold into prostitution because their families cannot/will not support them. Why? Too many children. But family planning is also not allowed or not discussed. Women in fundamentalist Islam worldwide are expected to cover up their bodies completely (making them invisible, making them not individual). I could go on.

To see the extent of misogyny all around you:
- Try googling "quotes about women" and see what kind of quotes are out there. In your opinion, are they positive? What values do they reflect? Who said them?
- RE: Church doctrine. Notice how man was created just to be, and woman as his "helper." Notice how creation starts with men, which directly conflicts the actual biological practice of women bearing children. Try talking about God (who is represented in the bible as being neither male nor female) in the feminine and see how quickly people call you heretic or laugh at you. Notice how sermons and messages are primarily taught about the men in the Bible. Yet notice that the first people who found out Jesus was resurrected were WOMEN. Notice how the word "man" "he" and "mankind" are scattered throughout hymns, readings, etc. Imagine what it is like to grow up never hearing yourself represented in the world of faith, not to mention in the trinity (for goodness sakes, can't just one of the trinity be female??).
- Consider how men insult other men by calling them "pussy," "girly," or "ladies." Not to mention the phrase "throw like/run like/play sports like a girl."
- Consider how men tend to see women as objects, ie. whistling at them in the streets, shouting catcalls, ogling. This is not positive attention. This is not recognizing me as a person. It is seeing me as boobs, ass, cunt. As a receptacle, a receiver.
- Consider how the traits we see as "feminine" (nurturing, giving up time to be with family, empathy, peace-making, caring for the sick, feeding and changing and raising children, etc.) are considered negative in the men who embrace them.
- Ask the women in your life about episodes of discrimination, negative attention, abuse, etc. that they have experienced. Ask your mother if she could get credit in her own name once she got married. Consider that 1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic abuse in their lifetimes. Consider that 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18 (If you are in a group with 5 women and girls, at least one of them has been sexually abused. Think about that next time you are surrounded by women). Consider that 73% of rape victims know their attacker. Consider that only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. Consider living your life in that kind of world.
- Consider how long it took women to fight for and win the right to vote. (From at least 1776 to 1920).
- Consider that women make up over half the population in the USA, but there are only 17 women senators (out of 100) and 76 women representatives (out of 435). With those numbers, would you feel understood and represented in Washington?

I could go on.

I could share my own, deeply personal, stories, but this is not the place.

The hate against me, just for being female. It is constant. It is a barrage. It is a whisper. It infects every conversation I have with a newly-met man (will this man harm me? Can I trust him? Must I prove myself again? Will he be threatened by my intelligence? Do I have to be nice because I don't want him to think I'm a bitch?) and every moment I spend in public (is that man following me? Is this a good place to park? Better not stop at this gas station, don't like the looks of those drivers...don't make eye contact or smile with that one...keep an eye on those teenagers...better be home before dark/midnight/ten pm...can't go running alone after dark... etc.). It is ignored, dismissed (ask yourself, with what other group would we be so OK at dismissing these situations?). It is real. It is my life and that of every woman.



Jeremiah said...

Good stuff. I am convinced.

To respond somewhat "sterily," I would like to begin to bounce a theory off of you that I am working with.

Basically, the theory asks the questions: "when is revolution 'good?...'" and "does revolution produce not just healing (a righting of a wrong) but 're-creation' (the healed/redeemed being better than before the wounding which brought about the revolution)?

In my examination of the above, I plan to try to begin to answer some of the following questions/make some of the following observations...

-Though there was gross exploitation before the revolution in Communist China, I would argue that the damage (e.g., starvation during "great leap forward", executions, imprisonments, and lack of freedom makes the revolution in Communist general generally "bad" (from anyone other then an enfranchised party elite in China...)

-Some may argue that the American Revolution was not that big a deal and that the current result of the United States being the top repository of virtual capital in this day in age is, at best, a marginal "good" but folks might generally argue the American revolution was "good" when compared to the Chinese Revolution.

-Now, onto the revolutions of the Civil Rights movement. Rights for oppressed minorities is "good." However, every revolution seems to naturally produce a counter-revolution and folks, even folks who embraced the revolution, being disavowed as counter-revolutionaries. Negative fallout from the Civil Rights movement is harder for me to "track" than some of the negative fallout I perceive from the Women's Right's movement. One can certainly perceive negative fallout from affirmative action, although affirmative action was signed into law by a conservative who identified it, correctly, I believe, as a less-than-ideal “fix” for an even greater problem (perhaps a tie in to abortion could be made along this lines with regard to at which point the rights of the mother supersede the rights of the unborn child, why our justice system punishes murderers for two murders when an unborn child is killed but does not, in many other cases, consider an unborn child a person)? For example, and I do think you would agree with the following assessment of, for example, the feminist movement, because oppression often requires a “violent,” (even if the movement is technically one of non-violence) assertive revolution for the oppressed to achieve equality or, at least, lesser oppression, now you not only have women who are still asserting their (I believe, correctly) rights to behave in “masculine” ways (“am I being to pushy?...”), and are still afraid to do so, you have men afraid to behave in “masculine” ways (“am I being too pushy?”) women afraid to behave in “feminine” ways (“is it safe to appear ‘weak,’ will someone take advantage of me, will fellow women judge me?”) and men afraid to behave in “feminine” ways (“will I not be attractive, will “is it safe to appear ‘weak,’ will someone take advantage of me)?

In short, has the “troop surge” of feminism simply left everyone more afraid and unsure – a situation, perhaps, like post-Independence India with Hindus and Moslems at each other’s throats or like Iraq post-Hussein?

I am musing about analyzing the failures of the feminist revolution simply to be debative but that I am seeking to learn so that, if possible, a way to bring about not just change, revolution, equality, etc., but re-creation using, perhaps, some of the techniques of Jesus, who’s basically only violent action was getting himself crucified…

wuertele said...

Which do you prefer, Feminism or Christianity? I'm sorry to have to say that there is no reconciliation without actually denying what one of these movements is about.

Jennifer said...

I suppose it depends on how you define revolution. There is personal revolution, public, bloody, non-violent, global, etc. I believe each of us is responsible for ourselves and our own passions - therefore the lives of women is a personal passion and a personal and public revolution of mine. Although I have never attended a public event or protest, I still believe that I have changed lives in my own individual and personal way. That's pretty revolutionary.

Sometimes public revolution is necessary. Sometimes that results in backlash, exploitation, imperfect fixes. But how do you measure when it is worth it? If one life is changed even a little for the better, isn't that enough? Is that failure? What is success? My life has been easier than my mom's, is that success? Even though I still struggle?

Certainly, we are still dealing with fallout. You can't remove thousands of years of patriarchal repression overnight. Inevitably, change will stymy some and invigorate others.

True change involves relationship with others, and a modeling of what we want to see. Jesus knew this. Gandhi knew this. And I believe if all of us keep working towards being better people, and better to each other by understanding the past and working for a better future, revolution is still happening.

Anyone else want to chime in?

wuertele said...

Revolutions are violent by definition. You might not value the thing that is violently destroyed, but someone did.

Jennifer said...

Re: feminism vs. Christianity: again, it's in the definition. I posit that Christ was a feminist; therefore, the two are consistent. However, if you're talking about the Church (the institution of Christianity), then, absolutely, the two are at odds.

Jeremiah said...

Hi Team,

a) I do not agree that revolutions are violent by definition, though I would have to say most end up needing to utilize some sort of violence. Even if websters or other feeding sources of define it that way, i am then talking about another definition of revolution. Communism, by definition (some friends of mine would insist only certain brands of Marxist Communism) DOES require the overthrow of the capitalism regime through violence - thus, no one who has been a communist can generally join the u.s. military because of that specific caveat attached to (most brands) of Communism.

b) I have no problem criticizing christianity along with my criticism of some brands of Feminism but my intent is not to juxtapose feminism and christianity. If you read some parts of my over-copious posts, you will see that I am (a) trying to fully understand the injustice that gave rise to a brand of Feminism which I will argue not only has not served women ideally [via ensuring that when women exhibit “masculinity” there is always conflict attached to it, via ensuring that when women exhibit “femininity” there is no freedom to do so, via ensuring that when men exhibit “masculinity” (in a good sense, as women do there is no freedom to do so, via ensuring when men exhibit “femininity” there is conflict attached to it, etc., etc.]

c) If you wish to discuss the failings of christianity and its failure as a revolution, I am also happy to do so, but, at least for now, I am criticizing Feminism as a “failed” revolution, albeit with some “success,” and I am also exploring the concept of creating a type of “Neo-Feminism.” The fact that I am a guy attempting to create a new definition of Feminism and criticizing certain brands of Feminism only adds fuel to the fire. Later, I will as more fuel to the fire by possibly exploring how a brand of “Neo-Christianity” (a.k.a. “Neo-Emergence”) with regard to how it relates to “Neo-Feminism.”

Normally, something like “Neo-Emergence” and “Neo-Feminism” would each probably take 5-10 years to develop, with no guarantee of simultaneous development but I figure (a) what the heck? We are in the 21st Century and (b) any interaction of the two are another story for another day…

Right now, I need an answer to the question with regard to has (some brands of) Feminism contributed to more conflict with regard to…

a) when women exhibit “masculinity” there is always conflict attached to it…
b) when women exhibit “femininity” there is no freedom to do so…
c) when men exhibit “masculinity” (in a good sense, as women do), there is no freedom to do so…
d) when men exhibit “femininity” there is conflict attached to it, etc., etc….

tera said...

Jenni, I am in agreement with you and I enjoyed what you wrote very much. Scriptures support equality between men and women, and we are called to help the oppressed, hence, there is no conflict between Christianity and Feminism.

Here is a video that illustrates how much God's love is needed in helping to bring equal care and love to women around the world everywhere, including our own country.

Dave said...

The Christian God is an anthropomorphism of the strict father. "HE" is the remnant of Zeus's character after the Jews discarded most of the Greek narrative and the other deities, ESPECIALLY the ones that represented female morality.

I think an argument could be made that Jesus was a feminist, but one could just as easily argue that it was his advocacy of the underclass in general that determined his attitude toward women. The word Christianity in its current usage is so bound to the violence that has been done to Jesus Christ's message that in the words of Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means."

Jenni I think you should call yourself a "Jesus Christian". And I agree there is no conflict between "Jesus Christianity" and feminism.