Fiction

I’ve never been the greatest fan of fiction, but lately some great fiction has sucked me in and now I’m a bigger fan that I used to be and like to always have some kind of quality fiction to read. My latest read was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. I really enjoyed this book because unlike certain fiction of the trashy quality such as “50 Shades of Grey” or “Twilight”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was, in my opinion, a great read! (I know some of my readers may appreciate the other series I mentioned, the views expressed here are merely my own opinions).

There were many things that I appreciated about TGWTDT. The first was, unlike the other above-mentioned titles, the main character, Lisbeth Salander, is a strong woman who stands up for herself and works out her problems by herself. I don’t necessarily agree with her methods, although the scene where she tattooed her rapists belly was pretty funny. Lisbeth Salander isn’t the popular current image of womanhood. She’s unmarried, has a highly intellectual job, and is very much liberal in her beliefs and actions including, of course, her interesting piercings and tattoos.

However, the character of Lisbeth Salander is as much of a real woman as a conservative stay at home, home-schooling mom. We need more fiction with strong female characters, so that we can learn how strong we can be. The reason I don’t like books such as “50 Shades of Grey” or “Twilight” is because they teach women that being in an abusive relationship is normal, or even desirable. Of course, all these stories are just that…stories. The thing is that stories, particularly ones of such popularity as the ones mentioned here, become part of our culture, and our culture is part of who we are. We draw meaning and identity from our culture, which means that we need our culture to be informed by high quality fiction, movies, games, music, art, etc.

I’ve been taking part in some interesting conversations and interactions lately. I had a conversation last night with some great women I work with who differ completely from me in the way that they think, and a lot of it is influenced by their culture. The only problem is when they think that their culture is the only right way of life. Every culture, even every generation, does things a little differently and have both good and bad aspects. My children are being raised in a multicultural home but are living in the culture of the southern USA. I’m hoping that my children will glean the valuable things from both of the main cultures they are exposed to and influenced by.

If I had to choose, I’d rather have my daughter be like Lisbeth Salander than like Bella Swan. So I want to give my daughter access to literature that shows her how strong she is, how wonderful she is. I want my daughter to know that she needs to be in a relationship with a man who treats her well, not a man who abuses her. I want my daughter to know that she is fully capable of having a career in any field she chooses and that she is intelligent. I want her to know that whether she chooses to dress in conservative clothes and has pretty hair or whether she has her tongue pierced and a hundred tattoos, that she’s a beautiful woman worthy of respect because of who she is. And I want her to know that God loves her either way. 
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Rachel Held Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood

I finally received my copy of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans in the mail after months of the suspense of having it on pre-order. I can tell you that I prefer her first book “Evolving in Monkey Town” but “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” is a valuable read also.  My favorite chapters were “July: Justice” and “September: Grace”. To be honest, parts of the project seemed rather silly to me, but I do appreciate the overall idea that inspired the project and I do appreciate the many insights that I gleaned from the book.

I really appreciated the information about fair trade that was in the chapter on justice, and I believe that it is an important topic to talk about and am glad that it was included in this book. Imagine my horror when I learned that some of my favorite candy is made from cocoa beans that were produced through child slavery. I have mixed feelings on the fair trade issue. I would really love to buy fair trade products where they exist, but I wonder if, like boycotts, doing that really helps anything? But now I can’t eat a package of pretzel M&M’s without thinking about some kid in Africa in forced slavery on the cocoa farm.

So I wonder if the fair trade issue is really about wanting to make the world a better place by not consuming products that were made as a product of the exploitation of other people, or if it is just about making ourselves feel better about the exploitation of other people by assuming that because we choose not to consume such products, that we are somehow superior. If I buy everything fair trade, yet I don’t speak out about the exploitation of other human beings, am I really helping to change anything? Should I get involved in some kind of movement or just file the entire fair trade topic under the “social justice” file in my brain? I know that social movements can cause revolutions, and this is a topic worthy of being pursued as a social movement. I guess my thing is that I am wondering what it is that I am supposed to do with the information that I have been given. To pretend that I never learned such things would be a betrayal.

I have to say that I think the book is worth the money just for the social justice issues that it raises, because the issue of child slavery isn’t the only social justice issue that Evans talks about, and I believe that the church is lacking greatly in social justice issues (as the presidential election is showing us).

I also appreciated the arguments that Evans makes for the role of women in the church and their importance to the church. It is a sad thing that in this day and age, women are still being restricted in what they do for the church even though all throughout the Bible women worked in the same positions as men.

She begins the book with the “ten commandments of Biblical Womanhood” and ends with ten resolutions that she emerged from the project with. If Rachel Held Evans didn’t have a book deal, the project would still have been worth it for her personal growth and development by the things she learned and the resolutions that she made as a result.

I like how throughout the book, Evans shows how “Biblical Womanhood” as the fundamentalists choose to interpret it, is an impossible task, and even more, that we weren’t ever supposed to live like that. It was good to read about the valuable things that she learned during the project and the things that she was going to continue doing after the project was complete. Not everything about the notion of “Biblical Womanhood” is bad, it’s the concept that there is only one right way to please God as a woman that is the problem. I think that Evans represents the distinction between the two very well. While I prefer her first book, this one is a worthy read. 

Republicans, Stereotypes, and Sociology

So I know I haven’t blogged in over a week which is sad because I try to blog every day. Truth is, life has bogged me down and being a writing major in college and taking two writing courses this semester, I’m totally spending a lot of time already writing. 🙂

I did, however, want to talk some about comments made by a certain Republican Senate Nominee Todd Akin. His words have caused a firestorm, and, in my opinion, rightly so. What he said was that women who were “legitimately raped” don’t usually get pregnant from it because their bodies have an automatic defence against getting pregnant as the result of rape. His comments just blow my mind, because a woman’s reproductive system works the same no matter whether the sexual experience was “legitimate” or “illegitimate”. If a woman has sex, she is at risk of getting pregnant, it doesn’t matter how the sex happened, if the timing and conditions right the woman will conceive.

The problem here, (a problem I intend to write about very soon), is that a lot of people seem to discount science and intellectualism and academia even if the facts are proven, simply because it doesn’t fit with their ideology. So instead of changing their ideology, they try to pretend the facts don’t exist. Ignorance of this variety is not pretty. Choosing wilful ignorance is an awful thing for people to do to themselves.

I’ve seen several comments from Republicans that have been offensive, sexist and downright degrading to women. But, when I make a statement to this effect, even giving examples, I’m told that I shouldn’t blame the whole group for the actions of some. The problem is that these people are speaking for their party, which means that while it’s possible that not everyone in the Republican Party agrees with these statements, these statements were made by Republicans on behalf of the Republican Party, and therefore we can in these kinds of cases blame the whole group for the actions of some.

The problem here is that the Republican Party’s groupthink is what is wrong; its entire party’s attitudes and beliefs concerning women that are the problem. I don’t think that so many Republicans would say things like this if they weren’t sexist. I don’t see how it is possible for them to use the kinds of offensive statements they have been using if they weren’t sexist. See, the problem isn’t necessarily what these people are saying, it’s what they believe. We need to look beyond what they say and look to what we believe.

Also, their actions will also reveal what they believe, and the fact that a lot of Republicans want to make sure women can’t get their birth control paid for on their insurance (yet Viagra is covered), it means they are more than likely against birth control, no matter what they say. The blatant sexism is appalling here. Medicine to help men’s sexual function is covered by insurance, but medicine that helps enhance women’s sexual experiences (and a whole heap of medical issues), they don’t want covered.

I’m really not trying to bash the Republican Party here, I’m trying to make a point that we need to look at what politicians say, and what they do, to determine what they believe. Chances are, most of the politicians in the same party agree with them to some extent, it was, after all, the fact that their ideals and beliefs were similar and they could work together that brought them together. While I’m not trying to bash the Republican Party, I will speak out against sexism and male privilege no matter who is endorsing it. For the record, sexism in the church is just as bad to me, and I speak out against it too. In fact, sexism in the church, where we should know better, is actually worse.

Being a sociology student, I study social trends; I study how the elite, those that have a lot of money and are in power, manipulate society for their own gain. This is a passion of mine, it’s what I do, and it’s why I decided to study sociology in the first place. I’m supposed to scrutinize social situations and analyse them and comment on them. Not that I want to turn this into a sociology blog or anything, but my point is that I talk about these things because they are interesting to me and are part of my passion. 

Mutuality is Not a Curse Word

While the extremely offensive quotes continue to go around the internet, I suppose I shall continue to comment on them. This newest “gem” was posted on Doug Wilson’s (the same Doug Wilson that was the perpetrator of yesterday’s highly offensive quote) blog on Thursday:


“Sex, as commonly conceived, is something a couple do together.  But the sexual act itself is not quite like that.  It is, and remains, something a man does to a woman.  They are not both working at the same thing.  He is giving, she is receiving.  He is the lover, she the beloved. Now, if they both set out to “have some Sex,” the whole delicate balance is wrecked, and neither can find his own role.  What is happening is that the difference we all love so dearly is taking a bad beating.  The wife is being backed into a decreasingly feminine role, even in overtly sexual matters, and the husband is finding that he has less and less of an object to be masculine toward.  He is getting what he wants, but not what he needs.  He asks frequently enough, but he has lost sight of what to ask for; and that is deadly” (Robert Farrar Capon, Bed and Board, p. 51).

What these men appear to have a hard time understanding is that sex is supposed to be about love, not about control. When the agenda of sex is to control, that’s when sex starts to turn into rape, because rape is ultimately about control. What these men don’t seem to realize is that their entire philosophy is offensive to women. I would try to argue that men who make statements like these obviously know nothing about sex, but it’s very possible that they do know something about sex and are really just control freaks, it could go either way. It’s at least obvious that control is very important to proponents of patriarchy. I will also say that men who truly love their wives wouldn’t feel any need to control them.

However, let’s move on to the quote itself, as there is so much that is wrong about Capon’s philosophy here. To be fair, Capon’s book was published in 1970, and I know that people thought differently back then, however, I don’t see why Wilson would be approving of this quote in 2012. Capon claims that sex is something a man does to a woman. Although I’ve been sexually active for a lot less time than these men have been alive, I do know that both partners give and take in a sexual relationship, and if they don’t, there’s really no point of having a sexual relationship. Usually, a couple has a sexual relationship because they love each other. It’s not just the man who decides he loves the woman and therefore showing his love to her, no, it’s them both showing love to each other mutually.

Mutuality, however, appears to be a curse word in patriarchal circles. What I fail to understand is how the equality of men and women is a bad thing. Why does there have to be any “roles” in sex? If a man and a woman truly love each other, why would they be vying for control in sex or in anything else? This is, in fact, one of the issues I am working on in my own marriage and in my daily life…that love means releasing control, and that I am not as important as I think I am and that I have no right to try to control what my husband does, or what anyone else does. If I truly want to love my husband, truly want to be in a mutual relationship with him, and truly respect him, I will relinquish control. Trust me, it’s much easier said than done, but any of you that are married probably know that.

I’m not sure how these men think that a woman initiating sex is “unfeminine”. Women have sex drives too, women enjoy sex too, it is not merely an exercise for a woman to give her husband pleasure and receive none herself, although this appears to be exactly what people who subscribe to these hyper patriarchal ideas appear to believe. This is one of the problems with extreme patriarchy, the belief that the man must control everything about the marriage relationship or he is not masculine. Sex, despite what Capon seems to be insinuating, is not merely an activity for the man to “get what he needs” but for the couple to give to each other.

After all, marriage is about oneness, marriage is about mutuality. In a good marriage, this would mean that both the husband and the wife mutually submit to each other out of a desire to make sure their spouse is happy, and that both relinquish control of the other, and worry about controlling only themselves. 

Reference:

Capon, RF 1970, Bed and Board: Plain Talk About Marriage, Pocket Books.

50 Shades of Abusive Relationships…uhh…Grey

I’m trying to figure out what the attraction is with 50 Shades of Grey. As a Christian feminist who is passionate about equality for women, I am concerned about how many women love this book, and what messages this book is sending those women. From what I have read, the book started out as Twilight fan fiction, and from the sounds of it, is worse that Twilight. It appears as if popular culture is currently trending towards romanticizing abusive relationships, and that’s sad. 50 Shades of Grey is also a very poorly written manifesto on being in an abusive relationship.


And talking about abusive relationships, there’s a blog firestorm right now that I am entering late about a leader in the Christian patriarchy movement, Doug Wilson, who seems to think that men need to conquer women in bed. To me it sounds like he’s advocating abusive relationships also, but then again, in my opinion the entire patriarchy movement just does that. Here is a quote from Douglas Wilson’s book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man:

“Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.”
Looking around online, I see that I’m not the only one disgusted by Doug Wilson’s words. First of all, I want to know why exactly sex can’t be “an egalitarian pleasuring party”. I think my husband and I could have a lot of fun with our own private egalitarian pleasuring party, not that any of it would be any of Doug Wilson’s business.

 At any rate, Wilson goes on to say that a man is to “penetrate, conquer, colonize and plant” and that a woman is to “receive, surrender, and accept”. See, that sounds like abuse to me. The words conquer and colonize are violent imagery. When my husband and I were in pre-marriage counselling, the pastor told my husband that he was to “ravage” me on our wedding night, and told me that I was to “submit”. So this violent rape imagery isn’t exclusive to Wilson, it seems to be exclusive to abusive men who use patriarchy to put a religious label on their abuse in order to try to make it ok.

I think that telling a woman to submit and surrender to violence is horrible. For far too long now, women have been blamed for their own rape, with the men who raped them claiming that they enjoyed it, or they were asking for it by what they were wearing, or that they shouldn’t have been in a particular location. For some reason, culture still tends to blame rape victims for what happened to them, and reading things like Wilson’s quote and 50 Shades of Grey just makes this kind of thinking worse, not better.

Wilson states that his writing is offensive to all egalitarians, and I can say that this is probably the only part where I agree with him. However, I would hope that his writing is offensive to more than just people who claim the egalitarian label. Women are not something to be conquered; we are a person to be loved.

I really think that Wilson’s views are dangerous, but so are the current portrayals of relationships in popular culture. We need to throw out Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey along with the likes of Doug Wilson, and stand up for ourselves and refuse to buy literature which exploits women and teaches them to remain in abusive relationships.

Reference:

Wilson, D 1999, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man, Canon Press.