Gender


The following lyrics are by Owl City, a band which I enjoy via Grooveshark but not quite enough to commit to buying their music for my own. But after hearing this song I was more than disappointed.

“Deer in the Headlights” by Owl City

“Met a girl in the parking lot
And all I did was say hello
Her pepper spray made it rather hard
For me to walk her home
But I guess that’s the way it goes

Tell me again was it love at first sight
When I walked by and you caught my eye
Didn’t you know love could shine this bright
Well smile because you’re the deer in the headlights

Met a girl with a graceful charm
But when beauty met the beast he froze
Got the sense I was not her type
By the black eye and bloody nose
But I guess that’s the way it goes

Tell me again was it love at first sight
When I walked by and you caught my eye
Didn’t you know love could shine this bright
Well smile because you’re the deer in the headlights

It’s suffocating to say
But the female mystique takes my breath away
So give me a smile or give me a sneer
Cause I’m trying to guess here

Tell me again was it love at first sight
When I walked by and you caught my eye
Didn’t you know love could shine this bright
I’m sorry I ever tried (Deer in the headlights)

Tell me again was it love at first sight
When I walked by and you caught my eye
Didn’t you know love could shine this bright
if life was a game, you would never play nice
if love was a beam, you’d be blind in both eyes
Put your sunglasses on
Cause you’re the deer in the headlights
You’re the deer in the headlights
You’re the deer in the headlights”

Can you guess why I’m pissed? I can’t go into depth regarding the meaning of the lyrics because I don’t know why they were written but regardless of the INTENT, the lyrics definitely cast women in a negative light – specifically, as over-dramatic, man-hating, and manipulative or playing “hard to get”. But it’s not just that – the first two verses completely negate the fact that women have a legitimate reason to carry pepper spray and know how to physically defend themselves. And as a woman who carries pepper spray and has taken self-defense classes, that makes me feel invalidated and as if my bodily safety isn’t worth protecting.

I “get” that it sucks that these nice, well-meaning guys have to “suffer” the repercussions of the “baggage” that some women carry around from abuse and that all women carry (whether they know it or not) from sexism. But how can the woes of these ‘love’-struck boys outweigh what women have to go through on a daily basis in order to be vigilant about protecting their own bodies?!

I’m disgusted that Owl City created lyrics that minimize the gravity of the safety of womens’ bodies and the fear that we live with on a daily basis, and ultimately cast women as the antagonist who are in opposition to these clueless and innocent men who simply want to ‘love’ us.

Men, have you ever had to consider the following?

1. Where to park in regards to a street lamp?

2. Have you ever had to pause inside of a building at night to get your keys out to be able to unlock your car with the utmost speed?

3. Are you careful to only unlock the driver’s door instead of all the doors of your car when entering it? Do you always lock your car doors when inside it?

4. Have you ever had to check under your car or in your backseat before you get near/in it?

5. If walking a lengthy distance, even in the day-time, have you ever periodically checked over your shoulder to see if you were being followed?

6. Have you ever changed your demeanor while walking from a casual stroll to a confident stride with your chin up in order to demonstrate to possible predators that you will put up a fight if tried to take advantage of?

7. Have you ever felt nervous entering your home alone? Or made a lot of noise entering your home in hopes to scare off any thieves or predators that may be inside?

8. Have you ever felt the need to carry pepper spray, a rape whistle, or a kubotan?

9. Do you have dreams of being assaulted or beaten and unable to defend yourself adequately?

10. Have you ever felt powerless when walking somewhere, no matter how you are dressed, because you know your body is being scrutinized and will likely “solicit” comments, inappropriate looks, whistles, and/or crude shouts?

11. Have you ever felt a sense of relief when you walk somewhere with a guy because you know a stranger won’t try to take advantage of you and you probably won’t have any whistles or shouts directed at you?

Men. We NEED you. We need you to speak up and talk about how it isn’t acceptable for women to have to live in fear for their safety. So next time a woman gives you a dirty look after you’ve hit on her when you’ve known her for a total of 120 seconds, realize that it’s probably more than she just “doesn’t like you”. And next time a female friend expresses concern for her safety or her lack of trust in men, don’t say she’s “overreacting” or that she’s “too sensitive”. We have a hell of a lot on our minds.

The second thing that is concerning me is this recent ad from Dove.

Spotted in Oprah Magazine, I immediately noticed a serious problem with this skin care ad. Mirroring the before and after pictures, there are three women who stand in order of darkest to lightest skin. What does this imply? Even if one doesn’t notice this consciously, we still learn something from it. Lighter is better. But not only that! It could also be deduced that blonder, straighter hair is better and that thinner is better. Again, the INTENT of the advertisers isn’t the only concern. There are a number of articles on the web discussing whether or not Dove was purposefully being racist. While that is a legitimate question, in the end the IMPACT of the ad is what matters more. This is why it’s possible for us to not be racist ourselves (as in, participate in the KKK or hate a certain people group) but still be participating in a system that perpetuates racism. If we just go with the flow, oblivious of the impact of our actions, we are keeping racism instilled as a system. Unless we actively go against racism, we are supporting it, whether we intend to or not. While Dove may have not been intending to espouse the idea that “lighter is better” (though this may be argued) they were certainly oblivious to what the article was teaching it’s audience, and in the end, perpetuating racism.

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I think I have a crush on Jackson Katz.

“If we want to deal seriously with reducing violence we have to turn away from thinking about it as kids imitating violence and focus instead on all the different ways we as a society are constructing violent masculinity as a cultural norm – not as something unusual or unexpected but as one of the ways boys become men.”

“We have to show that vulnerability, compassion and caring are also a part of what it means to be a real man. One of the ways in which we need to see more diversified images of masculinity is we need to see more honest portrayals of male vulnerability. Because the idea, again, that we are invulnerable is just a fiction.”

This weekend I was on a retreat with “my church” (aka the local group of believers that I choose to commune with and serve on a regular basis). With four of my favorite youth dozing off in my car, I drove home listening to Lecrae and this song reminded me:

There is something I am just not understanding.

The Church (as my Dad would remind my siblings and I almost every Sunday) is not the building but the people.

Christians – past, present, and future, local and global – collectively make up the Church.

The Church is the body of Jesus. Literally His hands and feet. He is no longer physically present with us but as the Church we bring His presence with us. We continue his work and ministry.

You’ve probably heard the verse that says, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The Church makes that happen. We live out the Kingdom now. In the midst of the craziness of sin… and pain… and suffering… and loss.

It doesn’t make much sense for that to be possible. But as I wrote in my last post, there is something powerfully comforting about that.

This weekend as I watched my pastor’s little girl – content as can be – dance and prance around the camp, a friend commented how they love that this little girl marches to the beat of her own drum.

Isn’t that kind of what Christians do? To the world it looks crazy, and to us it feels ridiculous at times, but the simplicity and radical nature of following Jesus can be awfully appealing and astoundingly satisfying.

The Church makes the Kingdom known by the way we live, not just as individuals but more so by the way we live in community.

What I don’t understand is this:

Why do we change the way the Church functions depending on the specific context?

At Biola we have these conversations all the time. “We are not a church.” “We don’t operate as a church.” “It’s okay to do ___ at Biola because we are not a church.” “Stop talking/acting like we’re a church!”

It seems in these moments we are referring to “the church” as the local church, the local congregation.

But if the Church is the people and not the building or congregational name or tax ID number, why do we say it’s okay for us to do ___ because we are not a local church – when in reality we ARE the local Church?

How can we attempt to separate these two?

I would think that the same principles and Kingdom mentality would penetrate the Church wherever we go and whatever we do in whatever setting we’re in. I can see the model of leadership and method of disciplinary action vary.

But…

How can the same person who believes women shouldn’t teach men in the local church be okay with women teaching men in a university setting where both the men and women are a part of the Church?

How can the same person who believes women shouldn’t teach men in the local church be okay with sending single women as missionaries to teach men in other nations in order to bring them into the Church?

The same goes for having different beliefs about men and women in marriage verses men and women in ministry. I don’t understand how one can have different beliefs about the two if ultimately we are all a part of the Church.

I guess what I’m getting down to is this:

It seems that in order to make life easier for ourselves (aka wanting to pick and choose what is comfortable to us) we begin to drawn distinctions between marriage/ministry, local church/missions, local church/parachurch organization, local church/Christian university… to name a few.

But in reality, the Church (the people) isn’t changing –  only the structures/buildings/organizations.

This inconsistency has significant consequences especially for women because of the gifts that they may or may not be able to use to bless and build the Church.

The Church is a part of the crazy-sanity, failure-as-success, love-your-enemies, complex-simplicity, confusing-clarity, upside-down Kingdom. The Kingdom is wholly other than the structures we attempt to govern our lives by. It transcends politics, permeates diversity, and creates a bond stronger than biological family. Our weaknesses become our strengths and those whom the world considers worthless and a bother because of their inability to contribute to society are prized and treasured. We live in full acknowledgement of the brokenness around us while looking back towards what was intended to be and looking forward towards full restoration and redemption – and seeing these processes happen before our very eyes as we hover in between.

Witness the Kingdom. This is the Church.

Shouldn’t a Kingdom reality govern our lives instead of the limits of the structures we create – or even – the limits of our comfortability?

“The feminism I ascribe to and work for involves more than women and our fictional representations simply acting like men or unquestioningly replicating archetypal male values such as being emotional inexpressive, the need for domination and competition, and using violence as a form of conflict resolution. In my feminist vision, part of what makes a character feminist is watching her struggle with prioritizing values such as cooperation, empathy, compassion and non-violent conflict resolution in a world largely hostile to those values.”

This woman is brilliant.

Ophelia and the concept of Ophelia began my gender journey. I just realized this.

This guy is insane.

I spent this weekend propped on a plush, pillow-laden couch in a large studio in North Hollywood filled with Persian rugs, floor chairs, and even more colorful pillows, decorated with paintings resembling the intersection of pregnancy and seed life.

Why was I there?

I was taking a birth doula¹ workshop to become a certified doula. And it was amazing. For 2 days, 12 women ranging in age from 20 to 40 shared enriching and traumatic birth stories, role-played comforting a laboring woman, affirmed each others strengths, and watched videos of women giving birth. It was powerful. We sipped Moroccan peppermint tea from Trader Joe’s and talked about organic food and ate fresh bread with butter. We practiced massage techniques on each other and coached each other in breathing patterns. We were mesmerized as our instructor shared the contents of her doula bag with us – everything from grape seed oil to a light purple rebozo to her aromatherapy kit.

Our instructor said something today that stuck with me: “Women are dying for compassion from one another.” And I think that’s so true! We become so competitive, so catty, so desperate to “one-up” each other. So to be in an environment where we were cultivating health, affection, and support of one another was incredibly powerful and life-giving.

And that’s when I realized, I love women. I mean, I LOVE women. There is just something about witnessing women cry and grieve over their birth experiences or share in the struggles of parenting while working full-time. Somehow women who are single or do not have children are able to relate. We have so much in common simply because we share the same body design. And yet, we are so diverse and unique. The beauty of unity within diversity.

I think women are my calling. I want them to be my work. I don’t think it will always be in the same capacity, but I think that they will be the common denominator in whatever slew of careers I end up having.

We ended the weekend by sitting in a circle and listening to a song that spoke of sisters: women leaning on and believing in each other because of their friendship. Below are the lyrics.

“Sister”
by Cris Williamson

“Born of the earth
Child of God
Just one among the family
And you can count on me
To share the load
And I will always help you
Hold burdens
And I will be the one
To help you ease your pain
Lean on me, I am your sister
Believe on me, I am your friend
I will fold you in my arms
Like a white wing dove
Shine in your soul
Your spirit is crying born of the earth
Child of God
Just one among the family
And you can count on me
To share the load
And I will always help you
Hold burdens
And I will always help you
Hold burdens
And I will be the one
To help you ease your pain
Lean on me, I am your sister
Believe on me, I am your friend
Lean on me, I am your sister
Believe on me, I am your friend”

We need more of this mutual support! I know I could use it, and I certainly need to learn more about what it means to provide it.

I was thinking about the women in my life and all the various roles they play. I want to share some of them with you, so below are links to blogs of women I really admire.

Jonalyn Fincher blogs on women and spirituality.
Hollie Baker-Lutz has a new blog on “finding feminism in the everyday”.
Kimberley B. George blogs on the intersection of gender and all kinds of injustice.
TulipGirl blogs on “mothering, theology, and gracious living”.

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¹Doula: a woman who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to a woman during pregnancy, labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum period.

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