[Ed note: Bearing in mind the piranhic frenzy regarding a car bumper sticker this week, I was so tempted to call this post 'What the Fuck Would Jesus Do?', but I went with the above instead.]
A week or so ago I wrote 'Why are Christian Men Not All Raving Feminists?', regarding my observation that there had been a lack of their presence on Twitter regarding the abuse received by Caroline Criado Perez.
This began an interesting conversation with Steve Holmes in the comments section of that post and then he blogged further on his reflections here.
I too have been further musing on our conversation and, mirroring his honesty, want to take you through some of the thoughts and feelings around this issue and blogging about this issue.
It took a bit of courage to blog that piece you see.
I absolutely do not *ever* wish to write a post of the 'poor me' variety, but I do want to say that sometimes it takes rather a lot of courage to write, blog, tweet in a way that is consistently exposing the sexism that is part of the air that we breathe (and most people do inhale...) - see, it's not 'poor me', it's actually 'well done me'. But the risk is that you may not feel that you can engage with me if I say it too much, because you're nice, and don't want to be mean to the poor feminist.
However, I did want to point it out, because it's part of the dialogue.
Let me start a bit further back....
When I was at college training for ordination here are some of the things that I observed or experienced:
- I raised my hand to ask a question in a lecture and the male student next to me leaned over, dug his hand into my shoulder and said 'just getting rid of that chip'.
- One of the female students asked for more sanitary towel bins on toilets of the block where she was living and was told they weren't in budget.
- Another female student discussed some sexist comments she'd experienced, with a member of staff and was told to accept it as 'banter'.
- I was carrying two teapots to the common room and a male student going past me quipped 'nice jugs' (it's a euphemism for boobies - tee hee...why aren't you laughing...you must have had a SOH failure surely?).
- In our student common room meeting to elect new committee members, the only woman to be elected was welcomed as the 'sex-retary' ('Cos she was the new Secretary of the committee and 'Sec' is a bit like 'Sex' and we all know what secretaries like doing don't we... - gettit? *sigh*)
[Ed note: I have since been contacted by someone who would like me to clarify the following about the above statement: 'A public nomination paper for Secretary of the Student Common Room was graffiti'd to read 'sexretary' - the nominee was a woman'.]
I could go on, but you might think I'm overegging the point.
Of course I have had many more experiences before and since, which make me want to cross my eyes or poke someone else's out..or something. But the point is that *this* is my baseline people. Do you get it?
In some ways it means I'm very easily pleased - you get above the baseline merely by not being someone who's going to comment on my tits.
So when Steve asks 'Why do you call me good?' - and I really do get his point, it stands alone, as well as part of our conversation - but can I explain that my expectations have been set staggeringly low? It's understandable I think that Steve (and not just Steve, please be assured I've got some fantastic male friends), goes so far above the baseline that we all get a bit dizzy. I'm just so ecstatic when someone - particularly a colleague, ordained as leader/priest - goes beyond the 'get over it' or 'let's just get on with the important stuff/Gospel' and actually appears to understand issues such as privilege and the assault that sexism and misogyny commits on the Gospel.
So I wonder if perhaps he and others of that ilk could bear the understandably heavy load of 'good' just for a little bit?
I know it feels heavy. I'm sorry for that.
And that's where I think Steve really did 'get it' from his blogpost - that the 'getting it', is about understanding the impact it has when Christian men, stand up - all by themselves - and say 'not good enough' or 'keep going'.
You know, when Steve commented on my initial blogpost, I wanted to say 'nooooooo, I didn't mean youuuuuu'. It was one of my worries about writing a piece like that - that the people who need to hear it least, hear it most. Or that it will just descend into my being interpreted as a bitter harridan even by those men who are 'supporters' of women. ('Sigh...She's started on us now...')
But the reality is that we need you to 'get it', so I'm glad I wrote it, even with that risk attached. We need you to 'get' that the tidal wave of negative criticism we get, not just about being women, but about being women who think about what it means to be women, and talk about it out loud, is incessant.
That when someone tells me I 'hate men', I wonder if it's true.
That when someone tells me to 'hush up', I wonder if I should.
It's just so much noise.
I am not ashamed to say that it's music to my ears when someone (a man) says 'no it's not true' and 'no you shouldn't'.
It may even be very good.