What Men Should Know About Catcalling

Posted by on Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 in Blog | 3 comments

This American Life podcast. It’s about a woman named Eleanor who tries to persuade men not to catcall or accost women in the streets. She ends up having a long, open, and honest conversation with one guy – Zack. As you listen, note this: Zack thinks he’s flattering women by singling them out among their friends. Listen carefully to what he’s saying about his own desires. Human beings long to be wanted, known, chosen. I am not sure why this man expresses that normal human desire in unhealthy ways but… It got me thinking, “What if a woman came up to him and did to him what he does to women?” What would be different? What would be the same? The objectification is the same, but the sense of vulnerability is not. Zach, and I suspect many other men as well, are unaware that we feel vulnerable. Over Christmas break I found myself working out at a gym with only one other person – a guy – a very big guy. As I laid on the floor doing crunches I became extremely aware of my small frame. I felt every short inch of my 5’2″ body, and it crossed my mind that this guy could harm me in seconds. I’m not a fearful person nor do I consider myself a wimp; however, there’s a reality to being female. I count on men being good. Zach doesn’t get that. I’m not sure most men do. Or can. But maybe it’s time we helped them. Podcasts like this help. Zach was surprised to learn that women don’t like men catcalling at them. “They chuckle,” he responded. Eleanor explained it wasn’t a chuckle of approval but rather a means of getting out of an uncomfortable situation safely. How many of us have chuckled at sexual statements or inappropriate touches in hopes of “getting out of an uncomfortable situation?” How many men have misread that chuckle? I love Zach’s willingness to engage Eleanor in this conversation. It seems he truly never wanted to offend women or make us feel unsafe. He was shocked and sincere. What would happen if we had more Eleanor and Zach conversations in the home and workplace? I would love to hear your thoughts. As we share, let’s not degrade men. Rather, let’s discuss what’s informative and how we can help others rethink what they have been doing. (Listen to Act One -13 ½...

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Her Presence = Sexual Misconduct

Posted by on Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

I’m reposting this article in the New York Times. Should women be allowed to join “all men” groups? Is the argument they make about increased sexual misconduct legitimate? CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Members of the oldest all-male club at Harvard have almost never spoken publicly about the organization since its founding in 1791. This week, that silence was broken when an official with the group, the Porcellian Club, said that admitting women could increase the chances of sexual misconduct. “Forcing single-gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease, the potential for sexual misconduct,” Charles M. Storey, the president of the club’s alumni group, wrote on Tuesday in a letter to The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. As news of the comments, which came in the midst of an effort at Harvard to prevent sexual assault, spread around campus on Wednesday, so did criticism and satire, including an article titled “Club of Wealthy White Men Comes Out in Support of Status Quo.” On Twitter, Representative Katherine Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote, “Or, instead of blaming women, you could focus on teaching members of your club to NOT sexually assault people.” (Katherine Clark’s statement seems reasonable and responsible) But by the end of the day, Mr. Storey, who is the president of the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, had posted an apology to the company’s website. “I chose my words poorly,” he said, “and it came out all wrong.” Harvard has a long tradition of all-male social clubs. In 1984, the university required these clubs to admit women. At that point, the clubs broke official ties with Harvard, and they remain unrecognized by the university. The clubs, which still play a major role in campus social life, have increasingly faced pressure from the university administration and others to reverse their no-women policy. Last year, the Fox Club and the Spee Club opened their doors to women. But six clubs, including the Porcellian, still admit only men. Harvard College’s dean, Rakesh Khurana — who said in a statement that the single-sex clubs were “at odds with the aspirations of the 21st-century society” — was set to meet with graduate leaders of the groups, known as final clubs, on Wednesday for one in a series of discussions he has held with club members and alumni. “The college has a responsibility to protect our values and our students’ well-being, even in the face of perceived short-term challenges of changing the status quo,” Mr. Khurana said. According to The Crimson, Mr. Storey said in his letter that sexual assault was not a problem at the Porcellian and that the club had become a “scapegoat.” He suggested that women could not be victims...

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Women Police Women

Posted by on Thursday, Mar 31, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Ever wondered why girls who were forced into sex trafficking become Madams, inflicting the very same cruelty they endured on others? It’s an interesting question; why do the oppressed turn around and oppress? The answer is layered, but Brazilian scholar Paulo Freires’ work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which was foundational to future works on oppression, sheds some light. “A deeper level of silencing occurs through indoctrination. At this stage, the oppressed actually believe that they are “naturally inferior” to the ruling class. They are taught by oppressors that their inferiority is normal and a fact of life. They do not know that they have a voice. In addition, education and literacy are withheld so as to prevent them from gaining knowledge about themselves and stop them from finding means to communicate their thoughts and feelings.” (Italics mine) Upon reading Freire’s work, I wondered if his findings also could apply to women in conservative faith traditions. Have you ever wondered why women join churches that resist and/or even oppress women? (Many of those women in turn police other women, to ensure the “biblical standard” is upheld.) It seems indoctrination occurs when one class (gender) actually believes that they are inferior. Now I doubt few women and certainly no male pastors would communicate from the pulpit that women are inferior. Today we hear messages like “women and men are of the same essence ‘value’ but differing roles.” This hasn’t always been the traditional view held by the Church. In fact the traditional view states women are inferior to men. For example, in the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas adopted Aristotle’s view that women are defective males—biologically, morally, and intellectually. Hence, he reasoned that only men could fully represent Christ (the perfect human being) in the ministry. (Aristotle taught “the male is by nature superior and the female inferior.”) Unfortunately, when we read most of our church fathers we find they tended to incorporate more of Aristotelian thought than Jesus’s into their view of women. Thankfully the message of inferiority has been softened. Churches rarely teach women are inferior; rather, they teach that’s God’s design (the natural order of things) – equal in essence different in function (roles). But I’m perplexed because when one gender is “by natural order” given the leader roles, the power roles, and the other is not, it sure seems to communicate a message of natural inferiority. You can slice it anyway you want, as my husband said, “Yeah, it’s funny male theologians came to this interpretation and it just happened they are the ones who got the positions of power.” It does have a stink smell to it. Last March I attended a session Religion and Fundamentalism at the...

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Disoriented: Noodlings From The UN

Posted by on Wednesday, Mar 25, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

Probably most informative and encouraging at the UN Commission on the Status of Women was the session on “Religious Fundamentalism Gender Equality & Development.” A panel of speakers addressed the rise of fundamentalism within all major faiths. (Christian, Islam, Buddhist, and Judaism). “Fundamentalism, they argued, rises out of deprivation (and disorientation).” Fundamentalism provides very certain answers, very clear (and rigid) roles and laws (dress codes enforce this). When it is “full blown” it dehumanizes (excludes) those who don’t follow the rules and roles. When you exclude certain people from humanity they become expendable (as evidenced with ISIS and Boko Haram). I’m thankful I live in American at a time in history where American Fundamentalism isn’t “full blown.” But the seminar did make me question those churches I know who have such rigid rules, dress codes and role distinctions. I wondered if those churches were a reaction to a time of disorientation from the women’s movement, science, the industrial revolution etc. I’ve read several of Dr. Michael Kimmel’s books on men and masculinity. (Dr. Kimmel is considered one of the leading researchers on the subject). Kimmel states the women’s movement left men disoriented because women took on characteristics that had traditionally been defined as male qualities. Men haven’t known how to redefine themselves – yet. This maybe an indicator as to why male driven churches like Mars Hill (under the leadership of Mark Driscoll) drew such crowds. The panelists gave suggestions on how to break the chokehold of fundamentalism. One was to support those within the local community who are progressive in their thoughts and actions. Another was to offer theological conversations where people can become informed and make informed decisions about a particular theological issue. The example given was “divorce” within Islamic fundamentalists. The idea was to dialogue about how the Koran addressed the issue and share different Imam’s interpretations of such passages. The dialogue is a way to provide the people with different opinions and allow them to come to their own conclusions. My heart leaped. WE DO THAT! I wanted to scream. We have salons for this very reason. It was so encouraging to be in such a big place with important people tackling a large issues and knowing in the middle of all that big – Jesus works in the small....

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Blessed Alliance: Noodlings From The UN

Posted by on Monday, Mar 23, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

I spent four days in a place I didn’t belong – the UN Commission on the Status of Women. (CSW59). It’s a two-week event where dignitaries, politicians and international organizations, men and women of every color and language, from around the world gather at the UN to discuss gender justice. My contribution? I listened and learned. Several years back Steve was invited to the White House for a discussion on “faith based initiatives.” At the door – as he was leaving I reminded him, “You have so much to bring to the table.” Later he called and calmly stated, “I got nothing. The people walking these halls are brilliant. I’m here to listen and learn.” That’s how I feel while I’m at the this annual gathering at the United Nations headquarters in New york. I just listen and learn, if I could only find the place where they are speaking. The UN is a sprawling complex that’s not well labeled and with few workers to advise lost souls like me. When I finally find my room, well – sometimes it’s already full. Most of the time I squeeze in and sit crisscross applesauce on the floor (in my long black skirt!) A male Albanian official spoke on government policies promoting gender justice such as social welfare checks given to mothers only. It seems when men received the checks they spent the money on booze or gambling, women spent it on clothes and food. “So the checks need to follow the women.” The question was raised that this might put women in jeopardy (in Albania 1 out of 2 women experience domestic violence in their life time.) His response, “We have found the opposite. Men have more respect for women with money and power.” He and others continued to stress the need for us to “worry less about strategy and instead focus on implementation at the village level.” What happens at the UN is only as good as it’s trickle down effect in the local community. And there I was – in the middle of the big REALLY BIG – and sweet Jesus was talking to me, through an Albanian, about the small things. The Marcella Project may be unknown by most but there it was -in bright neon letters in my head- our work of ennobling women. I believe our work is all about change, of hearts, minds, thinking, tradition, at the village level, practical change. An Indian woman shared how her village campaigned young boys in order to raise awareness about the tradition of child brides. Once the boys were aware of the bondage it placed on young girls they began to argue with their parents about selling...

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