Me Too, You Too, All Too

MeToo

Note Before You Indignantly Comment: Yes, I know that not all men do these things. I am not operating from the assumption that they do.

Yes, I know that men can be and are harassed and assaulted. I simply write from the perspective of womanhood.

No, I do not believe or claim that women are perfect and all men are monsters.

Gentle Reader,

I was 11 the first time a boy tried to grab my breasts. Several of us were playing on a trampoline. He lunged at me. I shoved him away. No, I was not mistaken as to his intent. He laughed when I shoved him. Made a rude comment.

Before that, long before that, boys made fun of me for being “too smart” and “ugly.” (To be fair, some of the girls made fun of me for these things, too). Freshman year of high school I even made it onto the official “ugly list.” Yes, the boys in my class made a list detailing which girls they liked and why (suffice it say that “intelligence” and “personality” were not factors). I remember some hand flapping from teachers, but nothing more than that. We girls were basically told to ignore them.

I attended a small, private Christian school for six years, so we got a “purity talk” every year around Valentine’s Day. Boys and girls split into separate classrooms. The boys’ talk lasted about 15 minutes. They went to the gym to play basketball. My junior year, the girls were lectured for close to two hours. Don’t put yourself in a situation where your purity will be compromised. Don’t wear a skirt shorter than this. V-neck shirts are not a good choice. Boys are boys; they can’t help themselves, so you need to have good boundaries.

The message was clear.

We were the responsible ones.

Our bodies, instead of being good, instead of being beautiful because God made them, were inherently dangerous. Seductive. Boys could hardly be expected to exercise self-control. They could hardly been expected to respect us.

Three girls (that I know of) were expelled from school because they were pregnant. One of those girls, her boyfriend attended the school. There was quite an uproar among the students because he wasn’t expelled. (To his credit, he chose to leave, although neither should have had to do so).

I have been groped, pinched, grabbed, slapped, screamed at, cussed out, manipulated, stalked. My “no” has been ignored. When I was a teen, grown men followed me around as I did my job at the library. Teenage boys used to pull my hair, snap my bra straps and even, on a few occasions, when they sat behind me, unhook my bra in the middle of class. I have received pornographic images from strangers on all of my social media accounts, despite having them locked down as tightly as possible.

I am far from the only one who has experienced these violations.

This is why the #MeToo Movement exists.

A movement that should prompt national mourning and reflection has, instead, pushed some to ask the same tired, old questions. Well, why did she/they wait so long to say anything? You know, she benefited from that, so what gives her the right to come forward? What was she wearing? Why did she put herself in that position? Why didn’t she just say “no?”

  1. Everyone knows why women don’t come forward: We aren’t believed. Even if/when we are believed, we aren’t a priority. In this country, there are tens of thousands of untested rape kits just sitting on shelves. Perhaps worse, the majority of perpetrators do not go to prison.
  2. Define “benefit.” And even if a woman did benefit, at one point, from someone doing something wrong, does that mean she can never raise her voice and say, “Yes, that was wrong”?
  3. It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing. Women who wear burqas are harassed and assaulted.
  4. What position? Being alone with a man? Are we supposed to view all men as brutes who will hurt us? Are we supposed to be able to see the future, to know how this person will behave if we go on the date, take the meeting or have the drink?
  5. “No” is ignored. All the time.

Again, the message is clear.

The responsibility is on us.

This is all rage-inducing enough, but then throw in the fact that the Church – the worldwide people of God – is just as bad at dealing with sexual harassment and assault as everyone else and I genuinely want to tear my clothes and coat myself in ashes. Pastors – perpetrators – who should be permanently disqualified from the office are instead allowed to preach freely. Popular books encourage “lust management” instead of the soul-purity that Christ commands. Instead of the freedom to interact with each other as siblings, as fellow heirs and stewards, men and women are taught to view each other in terms of suspicion and danger – because, once more, men can’t control themselves and women are always and forever temptresses.

I like men. I married one. I have a dad and a brother. Grew up around several uncles and lots of boy cousins. Have always had male friends.

But some of you are wringing your hands. Some of you are saying that you don’t know how you’re supposed to act around women now. Come on. You aren’t that stupid. I know you aren’t.

Treat us with kindness and respect. Listen to us. View us as something more than breasts and a vagina. Something more than an object that exists to satisfy your desires.

Human beings.

Stop trying to roll your sin onto our shoulders. Your lust and bad attitudes – that’s you. Go before God and deal.

#MeToo is also #YouToo and #AllToo. Your sisters are screaming, exposing long-festering wounds to the light. Resist the urge to defend your fellow men. Hear the screams. See the tears. Absorb the full horror. Our torment is part of your experience, because we are family – adopted by Christ.

And family, when it functions the way God intended, sticks together.

Sexual sin – for that is what harassment and assault is – negatively impacts the whole Church. When one suffers, all suffer. There is no room for justifying, minimizing or rationalizing. Perpetrators are not to be coddled, excused, given a platform or hidden. Boys are not to be taught that they “will be boys,” but rather that they will be held accountable for their actions (just as girls are). The Church must become a community that emphasizes justice as equally as it does mercy.

Please, Church. Believe us.

Signature

Photo Credit: Rachael Crowe
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31 Days for the Ladies: Closing

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Gentle Reader,

The 31 Days Challenge never fails to live up to its name. I wanted to give up somewhere around day 18.

This requires a lot of us writers. If only it were as easy as a good idea and a steady stream of words. It’s work. It’s discipline. It’s hours spent behind the scenes crafting images, settling on the best categories and tags, deciding how to publicize, staring at a blank screen and mocking cursor and remembering to publish anything written in advance. And, of course, battling with computer issues that always seem to arise at the worst possible moment. Creative ADHD sets in. You want to do something else. You get distracted. #squirrel.

After participating in and completing the last three 31 Days gauntlets, OCD wouldn’t let me quit – and I’m glad. Writing this series, even in the hard moments, has been a delight. I find myself thankful to be a woman and thankful for the fantastic women I know. We are a diverse, colorful lot. We have strong opinions and even stronger personalities. We bounce off of each other and sometimes hurt each other with our sharp edges. Words are exchanged. Hot tears flow. Forgiveness is extended and it all begins anew.

Women are amazing creatures.

Most importantly, I am thankful to God. Over and over again He reminded me that He did not put women on this earth to take a backseat or sit on the sidelines. He did not make us to live as delicate hothouse flowers that need coddling every step of the way. His Spirit dwells inside every woman who has bent her knee to Christ – and that Spirit raised a man from the dead. That’s some mighty awesome power we ladies are plugged into.

Women are warriors. We do battle. Sometimes against a world that wants to swallow us whole. Sometimes against ourselves, against our selfish desires. Always against the very real enemy of our souls. We bruise and we bleed but we get up again. That is our calling. We get up and we move forward, empowered and strengthened by the God who so carefully crafted us.

The heart of our Father is to give us good gifts. He sees each tear we cry. He holds us close. He knows when we can go on no longer and pours just a little more strength into our bones. He laughs when we play. He smiles when we thrill to the colors of a sunset. He knows our hopes, our dreams, our passions. In everything we face, He rests His hand upon our heads and declares, “She is mine.”

He is for us, ladies.

For 31 days and beyond.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.

31 Days for the Ladies: Mold-Breakers

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Gentle Reader,

Every woman who ever drew a line in the sand and said, “Enough.”

Every woman who lobbied for decades to achieve the right to vote.

Every woman who believes she deserves to be paid the same wage a man receives for the job.

The first college student. Doctor. Pastor. Lawyer. Representative. The ones who paved the way. The ones who battled real injustice. The ones who continue to do so. Voices raw and bodies weary, their hearts burning with longing.

Every woman who wants more for her daughter.

Every woman who never listened to the “can’t.”

Every woman who steps into a new role.

The famous names like Marie Curie and Elizabeth Blackwell and Amelia Earhart and Florence Nightingale and Ann Judson and Jeannette Rankin and Susan B. Anthony and Fanny Crosby and Alice Paul and Amy Carmichael and Annie Oakley. The unknown scores around them, faces blurred in old tintype. Your great-grandmother, who rode the trolley to her office job. Your mom who stayed home and took care of you. The pioneer lady in the history book who walked across an entire continent in the hope of a better life. The immigrant bent over her work inside a dimly-lit factory.

And you, dear reader. Every time you dare to dream. Dare to hope. When you sign up for that class. When you take on that project. When you will not let what has gone before determine what lies ahead. When you choose to be the person God created you to be instead of striving to meet the expectations of others. When the man-made boundaries chafe your skin and you stretch and pull until the thing just breaks and you are free, gloriously free, to travel the road and exercise the gifts laid out for you before the world began.

Mold-breakers, I salute thee.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.

31 Days for the Ladies: Thank You, Shaving

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Along with many others, I’m shamelessly ripping off this bit from The Tonight Show. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say. Please do play the music as you read.

Gentle Reader,

One tiny cut on your ankle and the shower floor looks like a scene out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the one where the Black Knight insists it’s “just a flesh wound.”

Blood everywhere.

Like you should call the police and request a CSI team.

Thank you, shaving, for being the worst.

Dudes be all hairy and somehow it’s “manly” and “rugged.” They don’t even have to mess with their back hair. Back hair. But I leave my legs stubbly for a couple of days and dare to wear a pair of shorts and it’s deemed “gross.” Like hide your kids, hide your wife, the she-beast approaches.

You’re not even worth the satisfaction of a few hours of smooth skin because I have to do it all again tomorrow. Dark-haired ladies got it rough.

I loathe you.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.