Tag Archives: sexism

Um, Seriously?

Have you heard about Lulu?  I hadn’t either until Diane Duane reblogged a link to an article about it on her Tumblr.  Lulu is an app for women to offer their opinions and share their experiences with the men in their lives, most notably the men they’ve dated.  The article makes it sound like the app’s aiming to become a giant database of references that women can look at when considering whether to get involved with or even go on a first date with a guy.

I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing1.  What I do think is problematic, however, is how Alexandra Chong, Lulu’s CEO and founder, is pitching it:

My vision has always been to create a discreet, private space for girls to talk about the most important issues in their lives: their relationships.

Um, what?  Is Alexandra Chong really suggesting that for every single woman out there, the most important thing in her life is her relationships?  As opposed to her education?  Her schooling?  Her family?  Her dreams of being the next CEO of her own company?  Any health issues she might have?  I’m having a hard time believing it.  I think women are much more individually complicated and collectively diverse than that.

I’m also troubled by the suggestion because, let’s face it, we already have plenty of sexist people — especially sexist men — who think that a woman’s worth and importance is primarily and even solely defined by the men she is related to, whether it be romantically, biologically, or even just platonically.  So pitching any sort of relationship app in a way that reinforces that notion and suggests that women should see themselves in that same light strikes me as troubling.

On a semi-related note, I’m a bit weirded out by “Dear Dude,” which is apparently Lulu’s advice column on relationships and sex.  Seriously?  You create an app that’s strictly for women to share about their relationships and you think a guy — a “Dude,” no less — is the best person to offer your all-female userbase relationship advice?  Is this more “Mars/Venus” bullshit?  Because that’s the vibe I’m getting.

The shocking discovery that women are sexual beings too

[Content Note:  Sexism, Rape Culture, Objectification of Women]

Don't tell him that some women hit on guys.  I fear his head may explode!
Don’t tell him that some women hit on guys. I fear his head may explode!

I didn’t get a chance to write a blog post for today as i was having too much fun celebrating my birthday yesterday.  However, I wanted to spotlight Libby Anne’s post from today.  In it, she discusses a preacher who is pro- modesty movement and who recently wrote an article in the Christian Post in which he discovers that (heterosexual and bisexual) women experience sexual desire when they see men.  I love and fully agree with Libby Anne’s response to this discovery:

He had never considered it.He had never considered it. Twenty years of ministry, twenty years of preaching modest, and he’d never thought about the fact that women are also sexual beings. This alone is illustrative of a huge blind spot in the circles that preach modest, if you ask me.

Of course, experience tells me that this isn’t just a problem with people in the modesty movement.  The idea that women are sexual beings seems to escape the notice of a lot of people, especially a lot of men.  There are too many narratives about men being the sex-seekers and women being the gatekeepers of sex.  Those narratives also tend to ignore the idea that women might actually want and seek out sex rather than try to prevent it.  In many ways, the erasure of women as sexual beings with sexual desire is a key component of treating women as sex objects and the proliferation of rape culture1.

So I’m not entirely surprised that this minister missed the memo that women have pantsfeelings too.  After all, we live in a society that too often ignores a lot of things about women, including the fact that they are fully human and therefore sexual as well.  And it contributes to a lot of problems.

At any rate, be sure to go read the rest of Libby Anne’s post if you haven’t yet.  It’s great.

1As an aside, Libby Anne’s blog is a great resource for exploring how both the modesty and purity movements influence and reinforce the objectification of women and rape culture as well, despite the fact that their stated intent is to uphold the value of women.

Today on Sexist Morning Radio: Dating Games and Double Standards

This morning on my five minute commute to work, I caught part of a segment on my local morning radio show.  They were talking about relationships, dating, and the games “women” play.  (Granted, they may have talked about games “men” play too and I just missed that part.)  The part of the segment that I caught involved them talking to a female caller who talked about how she broke up with this guy and when he started dating some “hot chick,” she turned around and started dating his cousin, apparently with the purpose of making said ex jealous. She also commented that the guy still wants her back, despite it being five years later.  One of the hosts (Duffy, I believe — it usually seems to be Duffy) called her actions evil and suggested she’s just keeping him around to make her feel better about herself.

Evil?  Really?  Now granted, I would not date someone in an attempt to make a third party — even an ex — jealous.  Nor would I necessarily brag about an ex who still has feelings for me. I’d either take that ex back or encourage them to move on with my life.  I’m not big on games.  I’m also not big on calling such actions, evil though.

I’m also not big on acting as if — as the host does — that these kinds of games is something that all women engage in.  I know several women who wouldn’t do such things.  They’re much more interested in finding men (or other women) they like who also like them and enjoy each others’ company.  When it comes to exes (or other guys there’s not a mutual connection with), they’re much more inclined to cut them loose than play such games.  Tarring all women as such game players is both inaccurate and sexist.

I’m also not big on acting as if only women engage in these sorts of games, either.  Truth be told, I know guys who engage in such games, and other games.  Some guys go by the attitude that they have to “treat a women like shit” in order gain and keep her interest.  Guys are just as capable of such nonsense, and some of them engage in it regularly.

But you know what?  We don’t treat men who play games the same way.  A morning radio host isn’t likely to call such a guy or his action evil.  That’s because we live in a society where we still view guys playing such games as “men being men.”  We ignore it.  We permit it.  Hell, we even celebrate it and make televisions shows glorifying it.

I’m not a fan of games.  I prefer to treat dating and relationships as something much more direct and honest[1].  But I also prefer to be honest and note that a lot of people do this and that it’s not limited to a particular gender or other class.  Nor do I want to support or even ignore a double standard where such games are condemned when played by one group but praised when played by another.

[1]  And there’s a whole separate rant I or someone else could go into about how society tends to frown on women who are so direct and honest when it comes to relationships and their expectations, which often serves to push them towards such games.

Today on Sexist Morning Radio

As is normally the case, I was listening to a local morning show during the five minute drive to work today.  I happened to catch the hosts discussing the question, “How many people have a thing for their boss?”  Having just “established” that there are not a lot of guys with women for bosses (surely a topic that deserves its own blog post or twenty), they immediately started focusing on women who had a thing for their male bosses.

One of them (Duffy, if memory serves) argued that it would make sense that a lot of women would have a thing for their bosses.  After all, bosses “have money and power.”  Because, you know, that’s all a woman is looking for when she’s “on the prowl” for a man.

Let that sink in, all you women and men who love women.  A local radio host just suggested that all a woman needs to be attracted to a guy is for him to have money and/or power.  Things like looks, personality, being interesting, having mutual interests, and oh, I don’t know, being a decent human being don’t factor into the equation at all.  Or if they do, they can be easily overruled by the possession of money and power.

So which tropes are these guys intending to support?  Women as gold-diggers?  Women as manipulative shrews who only want power over others and who are willing to exert it through their man?  Women as weak people who simply want someone else who can pamper and protect them?  I don’t know (and don’t care) what they intended, but they’re certainly propagating all of those notions.

They’re most likely propagating a few others I’m not even thinking of right now.  Readers are welcome — nay, encouraged — to point them out in the comments section.

Raised Right Special Edition: Complementarianism

Note from Jarred:  When I began reading chapter eight of Raised Right:  How I Untangled my Faith from Politics, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much space Ms. Harris devoted to sharing her own experiences with sexism in the Church and how it affected the way she saw others who had a differing view on various subjects.  I felt it would be good to spend a bit of extra time looking at this topic.  I also felt that there was someone (several someones, actually) who was better suited to speak to the topic.  So I asked an old blogging buddy, Pam Hogeweide, if she’d be willing to write something on the topic.  After all, Pam has not only done a good deal of research on sexism in the church and women in theology, but as a woman, she has first-hand experience.  I was delighted when Pam accepted the invitation.

On an editorial note, beyond making a few visual formatting changes (such as fixing up the quotes for my blog) and bolding the word “complementarianism” where Pam gives a brief definition of the word, I have strived to duplicate Pam’s words exactly as she sent them to me.

Jarred and I are blog buddies and Twitter pals. Though we’ve never met, we have crossed paths many times in the digital world for several years. I am honored that he has invited me to share some thoughts for his series on the book, Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics, by Alisa Harris.

In chapter eight of the book, Alisa gives us glimpses of the sexism she experienced from her church  that has left her a bit scraped up. Female prejudice is an unfortunate reality in our culture, though Alisa sheds light on how the Christianized version of sexism tried to box her in. Like after her graduation from college. Alisa had travelled home only to find that the spiritual leaders from her childhood were there to stage an intervention:

“. . . I sat between my parents and listened while our pastor and a church elder explained how my own sin required them to stage an intervention. The pastor and elder, part of a loose affiliation of fundamentalist churches, had grave reservations about women attending college when God ordained marriage and babies instead. College had changed me, they said. I talked more about careers and academics than about being a wife and a mother. . . I was no longer the kind of person they wanted their daughters to emulate.”

These are harsh words hurled by men of the cloth who are attempting to keep Alisa on the straight and narrow of being a good Christian woman.  It is all too common for women from conservative Christian churches (as well as not-so-conservative) to experience this tearing at personhood for the heresy of being Her.

I am well acquainted with the complementarian position Alisa’s childhood pastors asserted. I used to live under it myself and also defend it. Complementarianism is a fancy theological term that shrouds the idea that women are equal, BUT separate. It’s the idea that God in his divine order of creation has uniquely created men to lead and women to assist. It’s why men are the the pastor and women the secretary.

This view is based on a handful of scripture verses that at first glance seem to support the complementarian position. For instance, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 says, “The women are to keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.”

Sounds pretty dire for women, doesn’t it? But the same author who is given credit for penning these words–the apostle Paul–also wrote in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  So which is it Paul? Are women free to be anything or is there a hierarchal constraint designed by God?

It was these kinds of inconsistent Bible verses that got me into debates with other Christians when I was younger. I saw the world in black and white evangelical hues. I was the girl who had the bumper sticker that read, God said it, I believe it that settles it.   But I have always been a blessed woman who has possessed strong minded female friends. And it was one of those friends who first wrangled with me that God does indeed esteem women as fully as men. Just look at how Jesus treated women. He was scandalous. Rabbis of his time were not to look let alone speak to women publicly or touch them. Yet Jesus related freely with women, breaking all social and cultural and religious protocol.

So the issue of female equality in the typical protestant church is reduced to the interpretation of a few Bible verses. The problem here is that rigid beliefism locks many people into an immovable perspective that leaves no room for a spirit of inquiry or respect for differing opinions.  Like this commenter who left this challenging remark at my blog in response to my post about women’s equality in the church:

You need to be reminded that this world isn’t about you and what goes on in your mind. This about God and what he wants, and if he were to demand that there be a separate, lower section of seats in the church for women to sit in, then as a believer in God you better sit there! Now obviously I’m using a more extreme case of “sexism” or whatever you would call it to illustrate my point, but at least you understand it.? If you disagree with that argument then you are disagreeing with God, because whatever God asks of you, you need to do.? It’s a simple fact that Eve took the fruit and ate it before giving it to Adam and convincing him to eat it as well. So you tell me, why do you think God doesn’t want women to lead the church?   (from How God Messed Up My Religion)

I wish I were making this up, but nope, sexism is alive and well in the 21st century and it’s dressed up in pretty church language in Christendom.

A woman’s identity is overrun with messages from her church that she is to be the sidekick to man’s leading role in the narrative of life. These forces shape and inform a woman’s perception of herself. Alisa reveals this when she writes,

“I sat through sermons where the pastor said we should train our children–but especially our sons–to be spiritual warriors, as if women’s warfare was battling a grimy kitchen instead of the forces of darkness. I sat heavy in my seat while the pastor invited the men and boys, but not the women, to pray for a teenager going on a mission trip. Women probably shouldn’t be missionaries, said the pastor’s kid.”

A thousand instances like this one will affect the image of God a woman will internalize.
I remember one women’s Bible study I attended years ago. One of the participants said out loud to us in a moment of vulnerability, “I wonder if God just thinks women are meant to be doormats.” She began crying with that admission, her feminine wound bleeding out  on the clean church carpet. The room sat quietly, and then, the moment passed, and we resumed our discussion of why biblical submission is a Christian woman’s duty.

I’ve blogged about these things many times. There is always pushback like from the commenter above. It is controversial, and this I find absurd, an absolute absurdity that the issue of women and equality in church is an issue at all.

Hear me on this: in the 19th century American church, slavery was a controversial issue!

I’m glad Alisa is telling it like it is. Women need to do this. We need to tell our stories, to say out loud what’s happened to us and to make sure we don’t minimize Christianized oppression as a mere theological hiccup that’s irritating but has to be accepted. No. I don’t think so, and it sounds like Alisa doesn’t think so either. The church might not have raised her right in helping empower her in all her womanly glory, but she’s managed to find her voice despite her conditioning to be a domesticated female. That makes her a warrior woman  in my mind, no matter her faith or politics.

Pam Hogeweide is a blogger and writer. Her first book, Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church, confronts and dismantles Christianized sexism. It will be released by on Amazon January 23. Pam lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Jerry and their two teenagers.