Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sincerely, One of Many Women Who Are Fed Up

When I started reading "Sincerely, One of Many Girls Who Care" I was optimistic. I, like the woman who wrote the piece, feel very sorry for boys growing up in our current cultural climate. I feel just as badly for them as I do for the girls. We are shown hundreds of images every week, every day sometimes, of unrealistic, exposed, and objectified women's bodies.
At the same time, we're encouraged to internalize shame associated with the exposure of our own bodies and the bodies of the people who are physically existing in our spaces. We are taught that our bodies, women's bodies particularly, are at once dirty, evil and tempting. It's no wonder that the 9 year old our caring girl talks about can't forget the first naked woman he saw, it has little to do with the woman, or even the nakedness, and a lot to do with the way our culture presents the ideas of these things.

Unfortunately, my optimism dwindled as I read,

 "When I think about the guys in my life who are striving to live with a pure and Godly mindset, it honestly breaks my heart that they’re surrounded with so much temptation."
 
See, when I think about the unrealistic standards for, and objectification of, women's bodies in the media and the other, varied, plentiful examples of female dehumanization, it breaks my heart to think of  the men who, in response, are made to feel that they cannot be emotional, cannot cry, that they must seem to enjoy violence and certain kinds of trauma, and that they can't like pink (because if they are anything like women, they are less than a (hu)man). It breaks my heart to think about the many, many, many women who suffer sexual violence at the hands of a person who has been told all their life that she is less than human.
 
The internal struggle of a young man who does, and does not want to have sex, simultaneously is, comparatively, kinda low on my metaphorical "heart-break totem pole." 
 
 

Now, don't misunderstand me, I was once very religious. During that time of my life I, and most people I associated with, believed strongly in the idea that waiting to be sexually active until marriage was the best way to live a happy, healthy, righteous life. One of these people told me once that in a relationship where one person hasn't waited, the other will always feel hurt. This made (and still makes) sense to me. The struggle associated with finding the right time to make your sexual debut is real and valid. I think about how important sex is to my relationship and how meaningful it is to be able to express my love to my companion through such intimate connection. If I had never experienced sex before being with H, I would very likely feel insecure about his having had that kind of experience with someone else before me.
That being said, because I had sexual experiences before meeting H, I understand that the sexual partners I had in my past could never diminish what I feel for and with H. I know he views his past experiences in the same way and this understanding dispels the insecurity I could feel.

But more importantly, I understand that my previous sexual experiences could never diminish ME. The young man striving to postpone his sexual debut for a single, life-long companion is choosing a perfectly valid path, but it is not a path which has the ability to diminish his value as a person in either instance.

Okay, moving on... one of the next things this "girl who cares" says, in her piece is,

"Not only are you surrounded with a world that’s obsessed with worthless, cheap sex and relationships that mean nothing outside of sexual appeal, you’re encouraged to take part in seeing women as only objects of sex and instant pleasure.... I wouldn’t be surprised if its all you can think about."
 
... Yeah. That is a big part of the problem. But a bigger part is the fact that many people read that and then, especially in this context of men as the primary victims of this phenomenon, interpret, mostly subconsciously, that women who engage in "cheap" or uncommitted sex or relationships, which mean little or "nothing outside of sexual appeal" are worthless. That when women seek sex for the sole purpose of sexual gratification they become "only objects of sex and instant pleasure." And instead of calling out the ridiculous notion that ANY person is less than a full human being at any time, she says, 'Oh, those poor men, they're programed to enjoy sexual gratification, how dare we make their lives so hard by exposing them to all these women!?' (I sure hope that double standard is perfectly clear).
 
So next, she gives a bunch of stats about pornography that I've tried to verify, but can't... likely because they are not true. Honestly, I don't know enough about the porn industry to offer any kind of insight into the way it affects the culture of sexual violence and gender inequality in our world. The sex industry is such a nuanced topic, I don't feel prepared to make any kind of statement about the pros or cons. I cannot speak to who pornography has the most occasion to harm.
 
Next, "Girl Who Cares" tells all those boys:
 
"ENOUGH to all the lies thrown your way about how you CAN’T be good enough for a Godly girl or more importantly, God’s grace."
 
*How about: Enough to all the lies thrown your way about "purity" and women's bodies as evil or objects?
 
 
"ENOUGH to allowing the pornography industries treating your temptations and natural desires as a way to lavish themselves in money."
 
*How about: Enough to allowing the media to tell you that you should not be expected to stay in control of yourself?
 
 
"ENOUGH to the petty girl who you have been beating yourself up for."
 
*How about: Enough to treating women as accessories?
 
 
There's a lot more article after that, but it's mostly scripture verses and as an atheist I don't feel particularly inclined to argue for or against what I believe to be pieces of a work of fiction at best, and psychological warfare at worst.
 
 
So, in conclusion, let me say again that I agree with her that we should feel sorry for our boys. We should feel sorry for our boys and our girls, our women and men. I feel bad for the woman who wrote this article too, she's as much a victim of this culture as she is a perpetrator.
 
Yeah.... I feel bad for her. And for other women who read this article. I mean, as a victim of sexual violence, the only conclusion to draw from this, at the end, is that women who are sexually victimized have no one to blame but themselves and/or other women. My rapist grew up seeing all these sexualized images; he was surrounded by "temptation" so when he couldn't be strong anymore, against such overwhelming odds, he had little choice but to rape me. Right? I mean, it's not really his fault, it's the fault of other women who drove him the edge. It's my fault for letting him know that I had been attracted to him and then for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, of course, he shouldn't be punished, I should be punished, other women should be punished, it's our fault, right?

Hmmm.

So, to "Girl Who Cares,"

I'm a woman who cares too. I care about you. I care about the fact that you think your value and worth as a future wife and as a human being, are such precarious things that they can vanish with the removal of your clothing. I care that you see yourself and other women that way, I care enough to tell you, and them, that your value is infinite and nothing could ever change that.
But I'm also one of many women who is fed up. I am fed up with having to defend my value. I'm fed up with having to explain why my rape was not my fault. And I'm fed up with seeing your article and others like it.

Sincerely,

A Feminist Slut 
 


2 comments:

  1. thank you so much for your post. after reading the article, "sincerely, one of many girls who care," i was outraged and heartbroken at the same time but was really struggling to put why i felt that into words. your article eloquently articulated what i was unable to. i had high hopes when i first began to read the other article but those hopes quickly disintegrated as i read further. it made me really sad not only for the woman who posted it but also for the friends of mine who shared it via facebook. i got even more upset as i read the comments because, as a feminist, i could not understand the way the people posting could perpetuate those unfair cultural standards. i was raised as a christian and continue to consider myself a spiritual person but i don't think that any god would have created people, in its image, just for them to be ashamed of their own bodies. anyway, i really appreciate your counter article because we feel very similarly about the subject and i'm glad someone was able to channel the unsettled feelings into a coherent point. thank you for being brave & writing this article!

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  2. I'd like to say that I never comment on things - I just read most of them and work myself up in disbelief/rage. Anyway, the point is I just wanted to say thanks for writing this rebuttal. I'm all for everyone having their opinions and faith but seems to me that most Christians' opinions are thinly veiled backhanded ones that are then supplemented by quotes from a book that only they have read. The spiteful, immature girl in me also desperately wants to tell those people that if your boyfriend, brother, etc can't stop thinking about having sex, maybe it's not all the sex he's seeing but rather the lack of masturbation and/or sex he's receiving.

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