Trigger warning – sexual abuse, spousal abuse.
Today is, more or less, my first blogoversary. I published my first real post on Are Women Human? one year ago today. That post was about John Piper’s advice on how women who are being abused by their husbands can still “submit” and affirm their husband’s leadership and should “endure” abuse “for a season.”
Comparing that post to my most recent post on child sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries, there’s an obvious common denominator of Christianized patriarchy. Piper’s response to abused wives and CLC and FCC’s responses to abused children and their families share in common an assumption that the world should be ordered around the belief that the authority of straight, gender conforming men over all other human beings should be universal and unquestioned.
Women should “endure being smacked around for a night” so as not to “disrespect” or be “unsubmissive” to to their husband – their leader. Children who have been abused should be sent away from home so that their molester fathers can “stay in the house as the head of the household.” Survivors and their families should shut up and tell no one about the abuse or the identity of the abusers so as to preserve the reputations of the men “leading” the church. Everything is set up so that men who abuse (not that only men abuse) are coddled, protected, enabled.
This is all about Christian patriarchy. It’s all about defending a worldview that God cares about straight cisgender (white) men more than anyone else, that they are worth more than everyone else no matter how disgusting or evil their behavior.
The devastating effects of these teachings on queer people, trans and gender variant people, women, gender people of color, and children are many. And As I’ve written over the past year, this kind of Christian patriarchy is incredibly toxic to men as well. It imposes a standard of perfect leadership and providing that no man can ever live up to. It teaches men that they aren’t “real” men if they don’t live up to this standard, if they are not able to dominate everyone around them (including other men) and thus turns everyone into challenges to be subdued. It primes men to lash out at any threat to their complete control over others with anger and abuse.
As I’ve blogged about these issues over the past year I’ve become even more convinced that they are entrenched, pressing issues that desperately need addressing. To a lot of people, the effects of Christian patriarchy might seem far removed from their lives. But the reality is that Christian patriarchy is just a more explicitly articulated, more extreme, spiritualized form of plain old patriarchy. Its response to rape is a theology that enshrines and sanctifies rape culture. Its response to female, queer, and trans sexuality and bodily autonomy is bigoted, paternalist, and based a belief in the supremacy of straight gender normative white men – just like our culture at large. The only difference is that in Christian patriarchy straight cis white men are held up as spokesmen and stand-ins for God, who is presented as the ultimate possessive, angry, abusive patriarch.
As I wrote in my introduction to the blog a year ago, many feminists and progressives who haven’t had much contact with evangelical communities don’t fully understand the context for evangelical teachings on gender on sexuality:
I decided to start this blog because I noticed that, while there are a number of blogs and books out there that bring attention to issues of gender and sexuality in traditionalist Christian communities, most are written either by people who are still in these communities or very similar ones, or by people who have never been part of these communities. Many of the blogs by evangelical Christians speaking out against patriarchy in the church still support homophobia, transphobia, and heteronormativity. Meanwhile, non-evangelical feminist and progressive critics of religious patriarchy are often puzzled by evangelical beliefs, or don’t take them seriously.
As I read more about Christian patriarchy, I was frustrated by the lack of resources that balanced a feminist and progressive perspective on Christian patriarchy with understanding and empathy for people who grew up in patriarchal communities. I wanted resources that situated Christian patriarchy in the broader context of gender and sexual discrimination, but also addressed why these beliefs can be appealing, and recognized that it’s a long and often arduous process to work to root out these beliefs from one’s life, and to learn to think about gender and sexuality in more humane and loving ways.
I hope and think what I’ve written over the past year has contributed in some small way to illuminating these issues from a feminist and theologically informed perspective, but I’m also very aware that there’s so much I haven’t touched on yet, much more to be said, much more work to be done. I’ve found writing here to be incredibly fulfilling work and am looking forward to another year of doing it.
Sharing the love with my fellow sister bloggers who also partnered with the Black Women’s Health Imperative to raise awareness for National HIV Testing Day. Check out their fabulous blogs and show them some love, too!
- Queen Unique, The Queen’s Pen
- Malikah, Reclaim Your Queendom
- Nikki, divaMissioN
- Sarah, Vegged Out Mom
- Ayanna, By Ayanna Ellis
- Lucy, Miss Lucy’s Blog
- Michele, Black n’ Bougie
- Franchesca, Franchesca.Net
And don’t miss Franchesca’s hilarious and informative “Every Girl in the World Should Get Tested” video below!
I’m very excited to share that I’m now a contributor to MOMocrats, a great blog dedicated to writing about politics from a variety of parents’ perspectives. My first post for MOMocrats has just been posted; please check it out, and the rest of the blog, too! An excerpt:
Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame recently wrote that he bases his decisions on whether to support government prohibitions on what he calls the “daughter test”:
It wasn’t until the U.S. government’s crackdown on internet poker last week that I came to realize that the primary determinant of where I stand with respect to government interference in activities comes down to the answer to a simple question: How would I feel if my daughter were engaged in that activity? If the answer is that I wouldn’t want my daughter to do it, then I don’t mind the government passing a law against it. I wouldn’t want my daughter to be a cocaine addict or a prostitute, so in spite of the fact that it would probably be more economically efficient to legalize drugs and prostitution subject to heavy regulation/taxation, I don’t mind these activities being illegal. On the other hand, if my daughter had good reasons to want an abortion, I would want her to be able to have one, so I’m weakly in favor of abortion to be legal, even though I put a lot of value on unborn fetuses.
That this is utterly ridiculous ought to be so obvious as to need no elaborating. Do we want legislators making laws based on what they would personally want for us as parents, or based on respect for people as human beings with equal rights and autonomy? This shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer. Yet a bunch more white dudes similarly privileged as Levitt have since weighed in to debate whether or not his test is reasonable.
Read the rest of the post at MOMocrats.
ETA: I just realized this is the 100th post at Are Women Human. Hurrah!
Happy New Year, all! One goal I’d love to make a reality this year is to have some guest posts and perhaps some regular guest or co bloggers on AWH. If you’re interested, please drop me a line in the comments here, on Twitter (@graceishuman), or over email: arewomenhuman2 at gmail dot com .
Posts from anyone are welcome on pretty much any topic related to religion and issues of justice and oppression. However, as another one of my goals for the year is to have a broader discussion of gender and sexuality issues in Christianity (rather than just focusing on straight marriages and cis girls/women), I’d especially love to have some guest posts from trans women,people of non-binary gender, cis or trans men, and asexual, LGB, or queer identified people. Anonymous posts are welcome, too.
Speaking of which – a friend and fellow SGM refugee has started an excellent blog on (among other things) growing up a female assigned genderqueer person in evangelicalism. Check it out: Gender – NOS.
Sorry for the blog absence (she said, to her few but loyal readers). I got super busy for a while there, and then I got sick. I’ve also been having some trouble with writing as – if I may indulge in a bit of meta-discussion about blogging for a bit – I recently hit a point where I had so many ideas for blog posts that I wasn’t sure what to write about next. And since I have mostly written relatively long posts so far, they take me some time to write. I’m going to change things up a little and try blogging more frequently, but with shorter posts, and see how that works. A new post should be up later today.