Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Soapboxes and sluts.

So, it's been a week.  Like, an up in arms, on my soapbox, do I really have to address this kind of stuff, week.  Things have happened to get my feminist/humanist/Christian self all out of sorts.  Shall I tell you about?  Of course I shall.

If you are a moderately regular reader of this blog, you'll already be aware of some of my views on modesty and female sexuality, and how very frustrating I find it to live in the sort of culture that I do.   Attendant to those views are my issues with the way we establish roles based solely on gender here.  It's difficult and tiresome to always be the one swimming against the current, and I'm not joking when I say that sometimes, i wish I could see the world the way some of these people do, because I think it must be a lot easier.

So, what got me bothered this week? Well, let me tell you.

The first thing was a talk given by one of the higher ups in my church about modesty and sexuality.  Don't get me wrong, I agreed with much of what he said.  But there was as certain section that just raised my hackles. And, of course, it was about modesty.  It's always back to that.  Female modesty.  We are OBSESSED with it.

Here is the quote that made me very discouraged...And the linky, if you want to read the whole thing-
The Lord's Standard....

Our dress affects not only our thoughts and actions but also the thoughts and actions of others. Accordingly, Paul the Apostle counseled “women [to] adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9).
The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.4
Men and women can look sharp and be fashionable, yet they can also be modest. Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self-respect and to the moral purity of men. In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.

Really?  I mean, REALLY?  Are we still here?  Have we not gotten beyond this line of thinking?  I'm so bothered by this.
Now, before you ask, what has me bothered...let me tell you.  First, is the focus on women only.  Women are not the only immodest creatures in the world, trust me.  Second, is the OBVIOUS implication that the way a woman (or girl) dress is the reason men and boys have naughty thoughts.  And lastly, that a girl gets the kind of husband she dresses for.  Wow.  Just...wow.  Oh, the poor young man who is trying to be pure and the naughty, horrid girl who is preventing him.

Anyway, the whole thing had me bent.  I'm sarcastic and hot tempered and I rant on my blog, so I am going to link you to a wonderful post about it, in which the writer is much more level headed than I am, and addresses my points.
Modest is not Hottest

There are a few points in there that don't particularly describe me, primarily the fact that I've never been uber-modest.  Modest, yes, but not super modest.  And modest for one reason, and one reason only.  Me and the respect I have for my SELF.

So, I posted both articles on FB and the response was about what I had expected.  Then one of my friends posted the second link and the conversation took a rather different turn than I had expected.  A very, very good turn, if you ask me.

So, the gentleman who reposted the article is a friend of mine from college.  I've known him for a longtime and he is a wonderful human being.  Hopefully he won't mind being quoted on my blog...
He says this.
 There's another point that I hadn't realized until about a year or so ago. Which is that both "modesty" and "virtue" have nothing to do with sex in their original definitions. We've sexualized them. Modesty is simplicity and moderation... freedom from vanity. Virtue is moral excellence, goodness. Nothing about sex in either one until we put it there. It's like we're fetishizing moral behavior.
We've sexualized the word "virtue" until it's become synonymous with sexual purity. Which becomes a problem for anyone who has been violated or who perhaps has gone down a side road on their journey to redemption.
 I think we equate desire with something bad. It's not bad. And women feel it, too. We program young women to think that they aren't affected by visual stimuli, but that's not what the science is. So they end up getting sideswiped by something that they aren't even aware is a problem.
 One of the things I wanted to mention is about this idea that the way that a woman dresses and lust (as expressed by forcible sex--which is a whole 'nother conversation for a different day) are somehow connected. They aren't. In countries where burkas are required as standard dress for women, rape is a huge issue, and I'm not sure how you could possibly cover up more than they do. Whereas in some European countries that are very lax about their dress (even going so far as to come to the door naked), rape is much less of a concern. Practically nonexistent. And here is where I need to be careful. Rape is a huge problem. It's also statistically an issue for far less women that the issue of feeling that they are somehow responsible for the way men feel about them. That's nearly universal. And that attitude is one that can create in women a vibe which predators can sense, and a mentality on which they can feed. Anytime a woman's dress is linked to a man's carnal nature, as if one naturally follows the other, we are telling our daughters two things. One, that they are (even in a small way) accountable for the actions of others. Which I see as patently false. Two, that men are base and evil. We aren't. Yes, we can choose to be so, and perhaps many do. But women are just as capable of strong sexual desire. And the problem with thinking that women don't have desires is that we are telling them (without meaning to) that they aren't supposed to. So they feel either that this desire makes them an aberration when they feel it, or they cram those desires down to the point that they can't feel it at all. Which keeps them from having a healthy, open sexual relationship with someone when the time comes. There's so much more that I want to express, but my words feel so inadequate. The main thing, I think, is to really listen to the women around us.To really try to empathize with what they're feeling. They're telling us that they feel marginalized, more and more as the years go by. So what would happen if we trusted that they aren't just overreacting? What if we didn't just dismiss the concerns as if they should just "get over them". I'm not saying that you're doing that. I've just seen WAY too much of it from many men who think of themselves as kind and loving people. We need to step up and be better.

The last part is the part I really love, and directly addresses part of what has bothered me so greatly in the past..  "What would happen if we trusted that they aren't just overreacting?"  Because, I can't even tell you how many times I have been told that, that I'm overreacting.  That boys will be boys.  That men are just visual creatures and if I don't want those kind of remarks, I shouldn't dress the way I do.  It would be different if it were a once in a while thing, but it isn't.  It's a barrage.  ALL THE TIME.

I signed up on a dating site, you can check out my other blog if you want some stupid dating horror stories, but one of the things I was told, by more than one guy was that one of my pictures was the one that was inviting the sex comments.  INVITING THE SEX COMMENTS.  It says, RIGHT ON MY PROFILE, that if you are trolling for sex, this is not the place to find it.   I took the pic down.  Sure enough, the sex comments decreased.  BUT, and here's the kicker.  The dress I was wearing was not immodest.  Not at all. It was fitted, yes, but not tight.  Knee length.  Sleeves.  High neck.  Yep, I'm curvy.  And I have red hair.  I see no reason to hide or change these things.  God gave me this body, and it's a rather good one.  I like it, I respect it and, while I don't feel the need to flaunt it, no more do I feel the need to hide it.
Once upon a time, when I was previously in the dating pool, I met a guy at church.  One night, he decided it would be fun to try and get it on with me, and he wasn't gentle.  Fortunately, he was a small guy and easily fended off.  As I showed him the door, he turned to me and said, "you shouldn't have been such a tease." What?  "That outfit you were wearing at church, you were advertising."  And then he left.  I was horrified. Could I have been sending that message?  Could it be MY FAULT that he thought it would be ok to do that?  I thought back to what I had been wearing, and fortunately, realized, that HELL NO, it wasn't my fault.  And, in case you wondered, I was wearing a burgundy ribbed turtleneck sweater, an ankle length black skirt and black knee high boots.  I was covered from neck to toe.  The only skin showing was my hands and head.  So, no, don't tell me the way I was dressed was the problem.
No, kids, the problem isn't me.  And the problem isn't the girl in the bikini.  Or the girl in the burqa.  Nope. The problem is the person having the immodest thoughts.
Now, I have a degree in Costume Design, so believe me when I say that I am aware that clothing can evoke a certain reaction, as a designer, I use that fact to tell a story.  BUT, that being said, YOU are responsible for YOUR reaction.  Your impure thoughts are not my fault.

Here are a couple more comments from the Facebook thread-
Here's the thing: many women don't care what you think of what they're wearing and that's just the direction that we should want our daughters (and sons) to be headed in. I had a visceral reaction to your "changing attraction" diatribe but I'm going to try to make my response direct and short. Self-assured women wear (and do and say and eat and...) what they want for many complicated reasons, but I'm GUESSING that it has very little to do with "the *effects* provocative clothing has" on you and what you might think of them...

And this one-
 I dress modestly. But I do it for myself and God, as a sign of respect. If I were to think of men and their reactions to my body as I dressed myself, I would be objectifying myself. And if I were to objectify myself everyday while I got dressed, it would make it very easy to accept men objectifying me--in fact, I would expect it.

That's really what it boils down to.  It isn't about anyone else.  And stop marginalizing my anger at it.  It's real.  This attitude is so incredibly destructive to women and men.  Girls AND boys.  Let's stop objectifying our girls, shall we?

And, as a small reminder, though perhaps men are more "visually stimulated" than women, as a general rule, you can in now way expand this to mean that women are not visually stimulated.  A well put together, fashionable man will make me want to stare, every single time.  And possibly have carnal thoughts.  Not because HE'S being immodest.  That's on me.  Every time I have those thoughts..  Women and girls have sex drives.  If we didn't, well, that would be a big problem.  We do.  And I'm tired of being made to feel that not only should I not have one, but that I'm also responsible for the fact that his goes into overdrive when I wear a cute purple dress...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sometimes, it's just not my favourite

Small Daughter is out of town this weekend.  She went down south with her dad to see her paternal grandparents and so her dad could attend a funeral.  His best friend's father, who was like a second father to him and a great man, passed away.  He was too young, it was unexpected and it seems like it oughtn't to have happened.  His family deserved to have him for a long, long time.

I knew him, though perhaps not as well as I'd have liked.  But I did not go down to the funeral, of course, for obvious reasons.  Having divorced the ex, there are certain places and situations where I am no longer welcome.  And this is difficult.

He and I have a longish history together.  We knew many of the same people before he and I ever met and we have many, many friends in common.  Then you add to that the friends that we made as a couple, or the people with whom we became friends because the other was friends with them, and the list is extensive. Much of my post-college history has him in it.  We have many shared experiences, we worked at the same summer theatre for several years, we worked on the Olympics and many other things over the years.  And now, I have given that up.  It's no longer my right to have.  And, that makes me sad.

Most days I am fine and more than fine, I am good.  But some days...some days the loss of a companion and those shared experiences breaks my heart.  The loss of the right to participate in those experiences is saddening.

I won't say divorce is a bad thing.  Sometimes, it is an evil necessity, the lesser of two evils.  And it requires a careful weighing of loss and sorrow against loss and sorrow.  And it all sucks.

I may delete this later, so don't be surprised if it disappears.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Holy Cruelty

Sometimes I think these things go hand in hand.  And it saddens me.  I am a Christian.  I am a Mormon, but lately, I have been hearing things from Mormons and other Christians that make me wonder how we follow the same Saviour.

I live in Happy Valley, Utah.  (Not it's real name, you won't find it on a map), which is a bastion of Conservativism.  I am not a conservative, in case that has not been clear in previous posts.  It is also a bastion of Mormonism.  And as Mormons, one of the things we like to focus on is that, despite some belief otherwise, we are Christian.  But, what does it mean to be Christian?  I know that some churches and religions and people define it as a belief in the Trinity or some such, but to me to be a Christian is to be like Christ.  Now, I know I am not perfect.  FAR from it.  But, neither are you.

I am tired of Christians, or any other flavor of people who consider themselves moral, upright, good people, writing off those who sin differently than they do.  Just because you choose a different flavor of sin doesn't mean you are better than anyone else.  You sin, too, I know you do.  If you didn't, you would have been translated by now.  Since you are still here, I can only come to one conclusion.  You have your own sins. We all have our own sins.  ALL OF US.  Can we please, for the love of all that is good and holy, be CHRISTIAN about it?

Phillip Seymour Hoffman died a couple of days ago from heroin overdose.  And what do I hear from many people?  "Well, he shouldn't have stuck the needle in his arm."  As though he deserved to die for being a relapsed addict.  No, OF COURSE he shouldn't have stuck a needle in his arm.  But, he's AN ADDICT. Addicts don't make rational decisions about things like that.  That's what makes them addicts.  If they were able to make a rational decision about such a thing, they wouldn't be addicts, because no one in their right mind does that.

Addiction is a mental illness, friends.  AN ILLNESS.  Sure, maybe if when he was a hormonal and non-thinking teenager, the guy with substance abuse problems hadn't taken that first painkiller or that first drink or whatever poison you want to choose, maybe he would never have discovered he was an addict.  But, addicts are people with an illness.  Maybe if you hadn't let Johnnie ride his bike down the street he wouldn't have fallen and broken his arm.  Shall I blame you for that?

Yep, addicts have screwed up.  They took that one step that revealed their predilection to addiction.  The one step too far.  The one step too far that many of us have taken, but lacking the mental illness of addiction, didn't end in the same place for the rest of us.

I am not saying that addicts shouldn't take responsibility for their behaviour.  Of course they should.  People with any kind of mental illness have to be responsible for their behaviour.  But, need we be so cruel?  Need we say, well, if you hadn't done _________, you wouldn't be where you are.  No shit, Sherlock. They KNOW that.  They are broken.  People with mental illnesses are ILL.  Their brains are broken in certain spots.  Would  you like to know something?  My brain is broken in certain spots.  No, I am not an addict, but I have my own genetic mental issues to deal with.  I did not cause them. They are not the result of sin or bad choices, though I've certainly been made to feel that they are.  And I take medication to fix those broken spots. (Don't worry, I've been told that taking medication for my mental health problems is being weak and dependent.  I should be stronger, pray more, etc.  Please, may I say that to you the next time you break your leg?  Forget the medical help.  You don't need painkillers or a doctor, just pray harder, I'm sure your leg will heal on it's own.)  I am lucky, in that my medication works really well most of the time.  Addicts don't have that benefit. There is no magic pill that fixes addiction.  There is intense work that can be done to help rewire the brain to better resist addiction.  There are precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of relapse into addiction. And these things are incredibly hard work.  Harder than you or I or anyone without this problem can possibly imagine.

So, how about this.  How about instead of shrugging our shoulders and saying "well, he shouldn't have used to begin with."  or "he shouldn't have started down that path."  or "he should have followed the rules/commandments/pick your religious text", we say instead, "Yes, we acknowledge that you have messed up.  We acknowledge that you made the wrong decision.  And we acknowledge that the results for your wrong decision are worse than they might be for someone else.  It led you down the wrong path and ended with this.  And now we are here to help you get back on the right path, because we acknowledge that you cannot do it yourself.  And because we are Christians, because we are good, moral, Christlike people, we will do this."

It won't always work.  There are some addicts and others with other mental illnesses that won't be able to receive your help.  Not because they don't want to.  But because, for the most part, they can't.  But don't shrug them off.  They don't deserve to die.  They deserve your kindness, or at the very least, your pity, if you cannot give them your love.

But, don't pat yourself on the back because you escaped addiction by your own good sense.  You have your own sins and your own issues and God will judge you against yourself, just as he judges everyone against themselves.  And remember, to whom much is given, much is expected.  You don't know what inner battles are being fought by anyone.  So be kind.  It can't hurt.  And it might help.