Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Not the kind of change I can believe in

Content note: sexual assault

Remember a couple of years ago when the news stories came out about sexual assault at conservative Christian colleges and how extremely bad their response to sexual assault tends to be? And then shortly after that there were news reports about how the Duggar's had responded to their molestation (non)crisis, and screenshots of pages from counseling textbooks used in conservative churches made the rounds and there was all kinds of shock and pearl clutching and hand wringing for about 10 minutes until the next news cycle hit?

Well, now it's the same song, second verse, but with the Mormons. I understand that if you didn't grow up in a conservative religious environment this stuff may continue to be shocking, but in fact it shouldn't be. And asking institutions like Bob Jones University and BYU to change their approach to sexual assault and sexual assault victims is asking them not to be who they are. It rests on a lack of understanding of the most fundamental views of these groups concerning women's bodies and sexuality. This is not a surface-level, cosmetic fix. It's deep in the roots.

Used chewing gum, stuck to the bottom of a shoe
Your vagina, on sex
Think about how rape victims were treated in the Bible. Now think about the analogies that are most often used for women's bodies in purity culture. Women who have had sex are like pieces of used chewing gum. It's completely meaningless to ask chewing gum whether it consents to being chewed or not. Even if it could consent, whether it had consented to be chewed or not would not make even the tiniest bit of difference concerning the outcome. Chewed gum is no longer useful and can only be spit out in the trash.

Trash can with duct tape on it
Used tape. Don't stick it on your dick.
Similarly, tape cannot consent to being stuck to anything, much less a trash can. Even if it could consent, whether it had consented to be stuck to something or not would not make even the tiniest bit of difference concerning the outcome. Used tape is no longer useful so it can only be thrown out.

And so it is with women who have been used. In this culture it's just an odd thing to consider whether they had consented to being used or not. The simple fact that their bodies are no longer "pure" is taken as a sign of some sin, or a violation of the school code, or whatever. And the reality is, sin or no, their gum has been chewed. Their tape has lost it's stickiness. You don't want to stick your dick in that. (I maybe don't completely get how these analogies are supposed to work.)

What's surprising to me about these stories is that people who are from these churches go to these universities and are then shocked by the response when they get assaulted. The church is supposed to be a safe space - it's supposed to be about love and all that, so I get why you might expect a compassionate response. But these core beliefs make it so that, in my experience and in the experience of those individuals featured in these stories, these environments will never be a safe space for women.

So maybe what's more distressing about these stories is not just that the women who were assaulted found that is wasn't a safe space. It's that at the end of the day, it's not a safe space for any of the women there. Living your day-to-day life immersed in an environment that views you as being similar to a piece of chewing gum or used tape just isn't good for you, and kills you with a million tiny cuts that you barely perceive. Maybe you're better off to experience the big dramatic cut right away, so you become aware that you need to get out. Or you get expelled. Either way, at least you have a shot at recovery now.

Monday, May 16, 2016

What you know vs. who you are

I've heard this thing three times in the last two days now, and it's finally irritated me enough that I have to post about it. When asked about Donald Trump's record on "women's issues," conservative female politicians and pundits suggest that he can make up for his "weakness" in that area by surrounding himself with strong women in his administration. As if this is something like being weak on foreign policy.

Let's make a distinction here. Being weak on foreign policy is a matter of knowledge and experience. It's about your history and your background. You can learn that shit and rely on some good advisers. Every candidate is going to be weak in some area. But being a misogynist is an orientation. It's a stance and a fundamental way you approach the world. It's who you are.

Of course you can change your attitudes and your stance, but you have to want to do it, you have to work to educate yourself, and it takes time. Note Caitlyn Jenner's attitudes toward women's and transgender issues. That shit doesn't happen overnight, and surrounding yourself with smart and strong women doesn't make you smart about women's issues by some mysterious process of osmosis.

So for now, let the record be clear. Trump is an unapologetic misogynist, and that's not changing any time soon. It's about who he is, not what he knows.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Death and Taxes

Or maybe just taxes.

I just got my tax return (yay!) and in honor of the event, here's a graphic showing where our taxes from 2015 went:

You can read more here.