Fifty Shades of Degradation

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Yesterday was election day.  The news was full of poll predictions and voter turnout stats.  My facebook feed was overwhelmed with selfies of friends adorned in “I voted!” stickers.  The word on the street was that lines at the voting booths were wrapping around buildings, out into the rain.  For the politically minded, it’s all very exciting indeed.

Let me be clear right up front:  I do not wish to be political on this blog (or ever, actually), but what I do want to be is socially conscious.  And what I especially want to be is gospel-centered and biblically sound.

This election season, and really this cultural season in general, has brought one particular topic to the forefront of debate time and time again. In recent years I have watched this issue mold and twist and morph into something almost unrecognizable, with no clear lines or simple meanings, and my heart has become increasingly broken for women everywhere.

The subject at hand goes by many names: “Feminism,”  “Female Empowerment,”  “Equality for Women,” and these names have come to simultaneously refer to many things: equal pay, equal opportunity, political power, ending violence, positive portrayal in the media, right to abortion, and sexual liberation.  [insert dramatic pause here.] 

Folks, some of these things are not like the others.

First, you need to know that I am so proud of my femininity.  I believe that it should be celebrated and I believe that it should be respected.  I absolutely should earn the same salary as my male counterpart, and I should be able to hold the top position in a secular organization if I’m the most qualified for the job.  I’m so grateful for the women who went before me and fought for my freedom to vote, for my access to education, for my right to hold a political office.  Feminist, I agree with you that domestic and sexual violence against women has GOT TO STOP.  And I recognize that as women we must make our voices heard in this area.  We have to fight, and keep fighting, scream, and keep screaming for change.  We need to demand that we are represented accurately in the media.  We need to refuse to be airbrushed and diet-pilled to perfection.  We must teach our daughters to value themselves as thinking, feeling persons and not as beauty objects.  We must teach the world that our worth goes so far beyond how we look in yoga pants.  We cannot give in to so many cultural ways of thinking that are destructive and dangerous and degrading.  In these areas, please be a feminist; I urge you, Sister, stand strong.

Now let’s return for a moment to my original list of common values associated with feminism.  “equal pay, equal opportunity, political power, ending violence, positive portrayal in the media, right to abortion, and sexual liberation.”  Do any of the things on this list give you pause?  In many ways I think we have been ingrained to believe that with feminism, it’s all or nothing.  We either are or aren’t.  And sometimes we’re not even afforded the pause to wonder, “Do I necessarily agree with this because I agree with that?”  I’m asking you now to break the list apart.  Are there values there that stand alone?  Are there contradictions present? Are some of these things not like the others?

I’m going to start with abortion.  It’s funny because even using the word “abortion” feels almost like I’m using this dirty Christianized word to promote an agenda.  It feels judgy and wrong to say “abortion” because I fervently disagree with Christians who picket clinics and use phrases like “baby killer” and hate a politician on the sole basis that they are pro-choice.  I will never picket or protest abortion, despite what I believe it is. And so if you are passionately pro-choice, if you’ve had abortions, if you perform abortions:  I LOVE YOU. And I am deeply, deeply sorry for any pain that has ever been caused to you by a person proclaiming Christ, because they have not represented Him well to you.

But as a Christian, I believe that abortion is wrong.  I believe based on scripture that God’s children are intimately known by Him in the womb.  That He has knit them together there, that He knows the number of hairs on their head, that He has numbered their days, that He has given them a unique name by which He calls them…. based on this, simple logic leads me to believe that ending a pregnancy is destroying a life that is not mine to destroy.  The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  And as a Christian I stand firm in this.

However, I want to always be careful to not expect or require that all of society shares and adheres to my Christian values, because the Bible also tells me that if I’m truly walking in obedience, I will be met with opposition and persecution from the world.  As Christ followers, we are called to look drastically different.  So my problem with “women’s rights” is not that I disagree with abortion.  My problem is that abortion is not a women’s rights issue.

As a woman, I believe that the abortion debate should center around defining when life begins.  And if that’s where the discussion was taking place, I would be writing a different article.  But as it were, abortion has become an issue of “female empowerment” and that is unacceptable to me, because I DO believe in female empowerment.  Abortion is not empowering.  We’ve assigned empowering words to it in order to give it a positive spin, sure. Terminating something is empowering.  Choosing something is empowering. Having a medical procedure to remove a fetus from your body…. there are many words that might be used to describe that, but empowerment is not one of them.  Regardless of what “fetus” means to you, abortion is not a power move.  It is a decision that is often born out of fear and uncertainty.  It is a last resort, an undoing, a back-up plan.  It is never a first choice.  It is never accompanied by joy and triumph.  It is uncomfortable at best, and devastating at worst.

I have a miracle body that was designed to create a life, and then to sustain that life with my own miracle milk after I use my miracle body to push a miracle BABY into the world.  My ability to create life is just one way that I am an image bearer of God.  And that is empowering.  Choosing to do my own thing instead is rebellious, but it is not powerful.

Although I could write an entire dissertation on this topic, I’m going to end my abortion rant here.  Because at the end of the day, I don’t think abortion is the real issue anyway.  There’s something deeper going on within the culture of feminism that gives need for abortion to be categorized as a women’s rights issue.  There is a destructive idealogy at play that has largely helped to shift the abortion debate from “pro-life vs. pro-choice” to “women’s reproductive health.”  This is the idea that a key element of female empowerment is hypersexual liberation.

I want to take a minute and differentiate between the hypersexuality I’m talking about here and basic sexual liberation.  I strongly believe that the sexual liberation of women in the past 50 years has been a positive step forward.  It’s important to be able to openly discuss our sexuality and to not be ashamed of it.  It’s necessary that sex education is part of public school curriculum.  It’s best when parents and kids can ask each other questions about sex.  It’s good that women have access to birth control.  I agree that a woman should be able to have consensual sex with a man [or even woman] of her choice and not be subject to hateful backlash.  The human rights that have accompanied sexual liberation are important steps in our advancement as a culture.  And I believe that regardless of my personal religious convictions.

But the hypersexual portrayal of women in our society is what is now defined as “sexual liberation,” and that is what i take offense to, because it is anti-feminism, because it is degrading.

Is it your legal right to be “sexually liberated”?  Absolutely!
Is it empowering?  Not at all.
Is it even “liberating”?  Again, no.

As a culture, we are completely obsessed with being turned on.  And as a woman, I’ve been taught that what turns me on is getting men turned on.  As a “liberated” woman, I should love being unrealistically sexy so that men everywhere will want me.  And then, I should give myself to them unabashedly.  That’s how to take my female power back!  I will exploit myself so that you don’t have to.

Ladies, I beg of you, PUT AN END TO THIS MADNESS!!  Quit supporting the idea that you are a sexual plaything.  Quit dressing like you forgot a layer of your clothes.  For Pete’s sake, QUIT buying Fifty Shades of Grey!!  When we demand equality and then create a best seller based on our desire to be dominated, HOW IS ANYBODY EVER GOING TO TAKE US SERIOUSLY?!?!  The premise of that book is entirely devaluing, and it teaches men everywhere to degrade us…. because it turns us on.  And you know what the saddest part of it all is?  It DOES turn us on, because we have somehow allowed sex to become warped until it is about power, and then we give men all the power, and then we pretend to be empowered by it.

WHAT?

Allowing yourself to be sexually dominated by a random coworker after working late on a Thursday is not empowering.  It’s just not.  Even if you want it, even if you initiate it, even if you LOVE it…. it is, at most, “fun.”  It doesn’t make a feministic statement.  It doesn’t build you up.  It doesn’t command respect.

Here’s what is empowering: discussing classic literature with a random male coworker because you had time to read Mark Twain while you weren’t reading porn, wearing clothes you can comfortably bend over in, saying no.  It’s empowering to say no.

There is a lot of talk these days about “rape culture” and how to end it.  This is a real and complex problem that doesn’t have one simple solution.  But we will not aid in bringing it to an end by hypersexualizing ourselves based on male fantasies.  It’s confusing when we degrade ourselves and then demand respect from men.  But please hear me loud and clear: i am not suggesting that you’re asking for it.  Even when you’re being stupid and confusing, it is still your right to be respected.  And we should never tolerate anything less.  My point here isn’t that you are responsible (you’re not); it’s that you are not empowered.

As a woman, I believe in your right to “sexual liberation.”  But I do not respect it as a positive expression of feminism.  The hypersexualization of women is completely contradictory to every other victory in female equality.  It is taking ownership of our victimization rather than behaving in a way that leads to change.  And it overflows into so many other facets that feminism is working to prevent: domestic abuse, sexual violence, portrayal in the media.  Moreover, it’s helping to turn abortion into a women’s rights issue rather than a fetus’s rights issue, because a “liberated woman” can’t make a wrong choice with her body.  And because we refuse to tell a woman she doesn’t have the right to do whatever she wants with her body, even at the cost of another human life, we are seeing abortion increasingly being used as a form of birth control.  It’s become a justifiable solution not only to rape, at-risk pregnancies, and scared teenage girls, but also a justifiable means to cover up an “oops, I forgot a condom moment”, and “how dare you judge me for this.”  And we call it empowering because it makes us feel better, not because we actually feel empowered by it.

As a Christian, I believe that true sexual empowerment comes only through self control outside of the confines of marriage and that femininity is only fully realized in submission to Christ.  I wish I could tell you that I have always trusted this and never sought the sexual approval of the world, but I can’t.  What I can tell you is that I never found real or lasting fulfillment from those actions.  I wasn’t “liberated” by promiscuity. In fact, I never felt truly loved or empowered until I experienced the joy of being desired by my husband while sporting ninja turtle PJs, an over-sized t-shirt , and greasy hair.  THAT is freedom.

There is this great scripture in Galatians 5 that says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery.”  Over the past month, as I’ve been praying for the Lord to give me something to write, this verse has kept popping up in my mind.   I had written it off as a coincidence until this minute.  FOR FREEDOM Christ has made us free.  And so many areas of feminism are empowering women to freedom and equality.  But some of these things are not like the others.

So Christian Woman, I implore you to stand firm on the freedom you’ve been given.  The world is watching you.  Non-Christian Woman, it is my prayer that when you look at me you will taste and see that the Lord is good!  That He has called you to freedom and empowerment even within the expression of femininity He intended for your life.  Because what makes you uniquely “female” also reflects the character of God.

Men, BE MEN.  Stand strong for us.
Demand our equal treatment in the workplace.  Vote us into office.  Do not tolerate or turn a blind eye when we are abused and violated.  FIGHT FOR US.  We need you!
We need you to walk with us through unexpected pregnancies.  We need you to support your children.  We need you to fight for their right to be born!
Stop supporting industries that systematically strip us of our dignity. There’s no excuse for that!
And quit viewing us as sexual objects that exist for your pleasure.  Even if you don’t believe that, quit fantasizing about it. I’ll say this one more time: I don’t care if she was flirting with you in her underwear with an “i love sex” tattoo on her forehead, unless she asked for it, she wasn’t asking for it. When “it” is rape, no woman ever asks for it.  Ever!  NOT EVER. Your argument is invalid.

Tell your wife she’s sexy in her sweat pants. Tell her you value her opinion more than her body. Mean it.
Man of the World, rise above what you’ve been taught.
Man of God, LEAD US IN TRUTH AND LOVE.  We are desperate for it, even if we never say it.

6 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Degradation

  1. Does the Bible grant women a smaller set of Rights and Freedoms than is expected in our nation? If so, how should those discrepancies be resolved? Should married Christian women bring their husbands with them to vote? Basing these questions off of passages such as:

    * 1 Corinthians 11:3
    But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

    * Ephesians 5:22-24
    Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

    * 1 Timothy 2:11-15
    Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing.

    * Colossians 3:18
    Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

    * 1 Peter 3:1
    Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.

    Based on these passages alone, it’s difficult to see the utility of the Bible in an argument for Gender Equality.

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  2. Thank you for your comment!
    I want to start by saying this post wasn’t about what IS gender equality, it was about what ISN’T female empowerment. I intend to write future posts on Biblical gender roles.

    But in answer to your original question, I agree that the Bible does outline a much different view of gender roles than our society does. It is very clear in scripture that men are to be leaders and that women are the submit under their authority. This applies to the home and the church. I do not believe it applies to a corporate office or a senate seat. I do not think that Biblical gender roles contradict with gender equality, ESPECIALLY in the secular realm. As a married Christian woman I would only feel compelled to bring my husband with me to the voting booth if he had a reason for wanting to accompany me. I do not think that kind of lordship is a requirement of being faithful to principals lined out for marriage in the Bible.

    Please also note that while I never actually tried to use the Bible to argue in favor of gender equality, I do not think that it is contradictory to it. Equality is not synonymous with “being designed for the same roles and purposes.” God created man and female with distinct roles that are unique to their own gender, and it has been my experience that He is most glorified when men and women are fulfilling their individual roles. And rather than feeling oppressed or disempowered by this, I feel incredibly freed by it. There is so much freedom in submitting to my husband. It’s not always easy or even my first choice, but it does ALWAYS bring me peace. Every single time. But submission in marriage does not only require obedience on my part, it also requires sacrificial love on the part of my husband. It requires that he prayerfully make decisions for our family, and it requires his submission to the Lord. It is designed to be a metaphor for the Gospel message (please see my previous posts on marriage for clarification here), and it works in light of that.

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  3. Lacy,
    To say I enjoyed this blog would be an understatement, I loved this blog! Your mother and I talked for a better part of an hour about this blog. We talked about how beautiful it was and went back to quote specific lines even. One of the lines was “I LOVE YOU” after you spoke about abortion. Regardless of what an individual does you love them and have no judgment. We talked about society and how things are and how things once were. The enjoyment I had just having a stimulating conversation with your mother was fruitful for me and it started with the blog. The examples you gave were fantastic. You referenced yoga pants, fifty shades of grey, and more. You put light on a different perspective that I have not seen but completely agree with. “Tell her you value her opinion more than her body. Mean it.” I think that should be the take away line for all men. Speaking with your mom I was very impressed with how you write; not many people can write like you. I hope you keep posting, I’ll keep reading, and I will be sharing this. Men and women need to read this. Thank you for sharing Lacy! Have a great day!

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  4. Jake, thank you so much for your sweet words! I am so encouraged that YOU were so encouraged by this post! Please share it on social media or with any friends you think will be blessed by it, and please keep reading! There is a box on the sidebar where you can sign up to follow the blog and you will get an email every time I post 🙂

    We love you, too!!

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