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The power of gossip

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Some of the women who were harassed by Harvey Weinstein mentioned a kind of code: whispered information passed between women about who to avoid, who was a creep. This code was even the source of a joke in an SNL skit from last Saturday; “the code was ‘he raped me.’ That way, if any men were listening, they’d tune us right out,” Kate McKinnon’s silver screen character quavers out.

IMG_1297 - Version 2Essentially, in fact as well as fiction, women gossiped to keep each other and themselves safe.

Now, arguably, this doesn’t fall into the traditional definition of “gossip,” but it’s certainly how the word is used in certain institutions, as in “now, now, make sure you’re not spreading gossip or slander about that man.”

Harvey Weinstein likely never would have been outed had it not been for this kind of gossip. If every woman had kept quiet about her own experience, then the women, collectively, would not have realized that there were enough of them to take this powerful man on.

If the victims of Catholic clergy abuse had all kept silent, the abuses would have been allowed to go on, shielded from the light of day. In so many circumstances, if the “gossip” from one woman had been heeded, then a second woman would not have been injured.

The parade of “MeToo” stories and hashtags should tell us one thing: women (and men) don’t always feel comfortable talking about who assaulted them and how. In no small part because this is so often dismissed as “gossip” or “slander,” and the victims are told both overtly and covertly to keep quiet about it.

This is why it is so problematic if any culture or community reacts to reports of sexual harassment and assault with “now, now, let’s remember not to gossip.” Very often, there is a motive for keeping the information quiet: churches look bad if their pastors or elders or seminary students are known predators. Schools rarely survive open discussion about two, three, four, teachers committing illegal sexual assault on students. But if there is a pattern of this kind, there is probably a reason for it. The culture of silence invites inappropriate behavior; where there is no significant consequence for terrible behavior in adult men (or adults in general), adult men will behave badly. Not all adult men or even most, but some will, and those who are tempted to do similar things will see that they, too, can get away with it.

So if any institution you are involved with — a club, a school, even a tight-knit group of friends — insists that “gossip” be avoided in matters of sexual assault, understand that that institution is not a safe place for anyone who is being or has been assaulted. But it is a safe place for serial assaulters.

If you’re noticing red flags around assault-related “be sure not to gossip or slander” admonitions, it’s worth doing a little digging. For example, ask schools what their policy is on reporting teacher harassment or assault. Do they report every illegal student-teacher action to police right away, or do they quietly shoo the teacher into a different kind of position in another town or district? Maybe just demote him (or her) to community tutor rather than full teacher?

Do schools tell parents if a teacher or principal is dismissed with pending criminal assault charges, or do they instead send out a letter noting his resignation for reasons unknown, painting the man as a wonderful and upstanding member of the community who is going to stop by the school whenever he feels like it? If a teacher becomes sexually involved with a student, do they spin it as merely an inappropriate “consensual relationship” or do they recognize that middle school and high school students cannot legally (in nearly all cases) or morally (in all cases, due to the power dynamic) consent to a “relationship” with a teacher? Do they ever repeat the teacher’s (legally bogus) claims that the “relationship” was all the fault of the student? Do they ever shrug harassment away because the teacher seems like such a nice guy otherwise?

Parents should know: if a student comes forward to report unwanted physical contact or inappropriate advances of any kind, what is the protocol for responding? Is the student taken seriously, even if the student is not considered a model of perfect behavior? Note: children and teens who are being sexually targeted and harassed may act out or react in ways that are not always productive. Even more insidiously, if they have a choice, predators often target children and teens whose credibility is already in question — or whose shame, social class, malleability or general “attitude” make them easy to manipulate. Like any predator, they pick the easy targets rather than the more difficult ones.

And, perhaps most importantly, is there a certain degree of transparency so that parents can be assured that these things are appropriately handled rather than swept under the rug? Can you, for example, get straightforward questions answered in a clear and straightforward way when you ask them?

This is particularly important where students are part of a culture that values obedience over independence. If children are trained from birth to obey quickly and without questioning, they will likely go along with things they are innately uncomfortable with if it’s initiated by an authority figure. Where authority figures are astute and caring, this won’t be an issue. But if they’re tempted to abuse their power, where they’re tempted to get their personal, extracurricular needs met by those they’re in charge of, this becomes a real problem.

What do you do if you find yourself witnessing or experiencing harassment in a culture or community that inherently or overtly promotes silence in such circumstances? To quote my dear friend St. Tara:*

I want to outline some strategies for whistle-blowers to keep themselves out of the swamp of proving their stories to a hostile audience just looking for a way to trip them up. Here’s what I have so far:

1. Stick to what you experienced and how you experienced it. If you had unwanted attention shown to you it ultimately doesn’t matter what was “meant” by it. Your experience is legitimate information that even people who disagree should be willing and interested to assimilate. 
2. Point to the culture/community pressure that made it difficult for you to speak up, either to defend yourself in the first place or to report it. 
3. Avoid trying to prove the nature or intent of the other person even when you’re personally very sure of the meaning.

In a nutshell, when it comes to the safety of yourself and those who are or may become targets of assault, fearing “gossip” should be much less important than telling the truth.

—-

*special thanks to anonymous research assistants

 

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For the not-all-men

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My little brother once carried an unconscious woman to her friend’s house so that the man who had roofied her, whoever he was and nobody seemed to know, would be far away; so she would wake up in a familiar and comfortable place.

This is for all the men who have chosen to use their strength that way rather than the other way.

A man I knew once slept outside a drunk woman’s room because she was scared of something; maybe it was illogical of her, and maybe it was inconvenient for him, but he curled up in her doorway — not inside it, because that would have been disrespectful — and kept her safe.

This is for all the men who have cared more about women than they cared how “logical” or with-it they were being.

Another man I knew told me his deepest, darkest secret: that when he was a broad-shouldered teenager, he was walking by himself at night through a park and he stumbled upon a man assaulting a woman. So he, the teenager, attacked the man, stabbed him, and grabbed the girl by the hand and ran with her. He did not know if the man survived. That was the secret. He had maybe killed someone.

This is for all the men who have risked themselves for someone smaller than them.

A friend of mine invited me to visit him in his home state, and met me at the airport with flowers. I blushed and worried, because I wasn’t sure if I liked him like that. Maybe I did, but I didn’t know yet. He took me out, showed me things I had never seen before, sat on sunny benches with me while I sighed and put my head on his shoulder. One night, he spent a hundred bucks on complex cocktails and we went home to his apartment, where I was sleeping on a couch made of pillows. I hugged him and I thought, maybe I want to kiss him now. So I kissed his cheek, shut my eyes, and then changed my mind. He let me go to my pillow bed unpestered, unkissed. He never made me feel guilty about any of it. He never pushed me, he never acted grumpy. I didn’t know how to tell him thank you; how much it had meant to me that he let me not know what I wanted.

This is for all the men who understand that women owe them nothing.

But. This is not for the brand of “nice guy” who thinks of himself as an upstanding all-American Christian, the guy who didn’t quit no matter how many times I told him no and shoved his hands off me, overandoverandover. I know how offended he would be if I suggested that he had done anything to violate me. I told him no and he asked why not. “Because I said so,” I retorted. He groaned. “That’s the best reason ever,” he said, and then, five minutes later, he tried again.

This is not for the pair of well-off, “upstanding” males who started talking to a friend and I at our local pub. She liked one of them; let’s call him John. John bought us drinks, which I refused to do anything but sip. He tried to dance with my friend, and I watched them; watched her tell him that he’d have to take her out on a real date and get to know her, that she wasn’t going to do anything with him that night, she just wasn’t. I watched her smile at him as she said this, trying to smooth the presumptive assertions by making the smile arch, feminine. Watched him buy her drink after drink, watched her drink them. I tried to scoop her away, but when I got close, John’s friend — let’s call him Fred — would start touching me. He tried lifting the hem of my shirt up, tried grazing my thigh with his hand. I yelled at him and whacked his hand. Overandover. After awhile, I told her I was leaving and asked her to come with me. “I’ll be right behind you, ten minutes,” she said. She never followed me. I texted her all night, asking if she was OK, guilt coursing through my veins. The next morning, she came to my house and lied; she said she was fine with what had happened. So what was I going to do except hug her? And hug her, later, when she admitted she was not fine with it, that he hadn’t listened to her, that she wanted to swear off men entirely.

This is not for the school principal who spanked a pre-teen female student. This is not for the “repentant” husband who demanded his wife move back in with him. This is not for the male teacher who made a joke about a female student’s body. This is not for all the men who are subtly-but-not-overtly creepy.

I’m positive these men think of themselves as model citizens. They would be appalled if anyone punched them; nothing wrong, nothing untoward going on. Pushing a woman’s boundaries, ignoring the words that come out of her mouth, that’s just part of being an all-American male. Women want a man who is assertive, who doesn’t back down. Women, also, don’t always know what’s appropriate, since their feelings are on the delicate side. This is often what they tell me when I broach the subject. “I’m so glad you know me better than I know myself,” I snort. “I’m so glad I’ve got a big, strong man to interpret my feelings for me.”

This is not for these men. But.

This is for all the men who have felt ashamed of their sexuality because of these stories, like maybe it was something that would hurt women.

This is for all the women who have felt ashamed of their sexuality because of these stories, like maybe it was something they had to hide under layers of fabric or it would somehow hurt them.

 

 

 

Ode to Jael

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He thinks that you, a woman
will give him all that he desires:
warm welcome, the work of your body,
a pillow to repose upon and sleep.
So when he speaks, he uses his own language;
the glint of his armor and the dried blood on his sword
will do the translating for him.
He is a commander.
You are a woman as women ought to be,
and your deferential bows will bring your forehead to the floor.

And his, as well:
His head will never leave it
when you show him what a woman can do in the strength of her own power,
and drive the tent stake through his temple
as he sleeps in your perfumed bed.

 

 

 

Erasing history

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A couple of days ago, my boyfriend brought in a flier he’d found on the ground in the neighborhood. One of our friends who lives a few blocks away — a warm woman who teaches children for a living — had gotten one tossed into her yard, so he was on the lookout.

The flier was so over-the-top racist it didn’t seem real. I’d never seen anything like it in actual life, printed out, encased in plastic to protect it from the elements. It was a hodge-podge of racist clip art showing terrifying-and-ugly black men menacing horrified-and-beautiful white women, all under the gleeful gaze of a Jewish caricature with a giant nose. The headline called for “negroes” to be run out of our small town before they “ruined” it. Among other head-spinning text, the flier claimed that Jews were responsible for forcing black guys on white women as part of an evil plot.

“Sounds like some white dude is feeling inadequate because girls don’t like him,” I said.

“Pretty sure white chicks aren’t being forced to like black guys,” my boyfriend quipped “they seem pretty into it. Remember those women at the lake?”

We were swimming at a lake in Oregon recently, and these two middle-aged white women kept yelling up at a black guy standing on the shore about how stunning he looked. He was, in fact, chiseled to the point of absurdity, his body gleaming with graceful power, but it was still embarrassing to hear them. “Thank you!” they kept yelling “thank you for your art!”

For the slim minority who may feel passed-over by this story: if women appreciating other men (in appropriate or inappropriate ways) convinces you that there’s a conspiracy out against Caucasians (or against you in particular), that doesn’t mean that women are actually victimizing you. Or that the women themselves are unwittingly being victimized by a giant global conspiracy against the white race. Or against conservatives, or against men, or against you in particular. Nobody’s required to be attracted to you.

Racists are all up in arms about their ethnicity potentially not being number-one, which seems to tie in with their claims that their “history” is being erased. This was what sparked the recent events in Charlottesville. Although last I checked, most basic history courses still focus on what white dudes did, from antiquity up through European revolutions to the Renaissance and over into the Americas. I can’t recall ever studying anything else, actually — all of my formal history — all of it — focused on Mesopotamia and Europeans, including when the Europeans invaded other continents. Nothing else was ever assigned to me, although I did delve in tangentially and on my own time. For example, until recently, I didn’t even know that the Mongols had the biggest contiguous empire the world has ever seen — if you’d asked, I’d have said the Romans, who appear far down on the list of the world’s biggest empires. I grew up hearing about the Roman empire not because the Roman empire was the most giant, but because it contributed so much to European history.

Even the linguistics I studied focused on European languages. Linguistics, in theory, gave us generalized knowledge about all the world’s languages, but still, nearly all of my knowledge relates to European language. I can tell you the etymology of words from French, maybe I can give you their Latin root; or I can point out that the word came from Anglo-Saxon and thus was less formal. I cannot, however, explain the history or grammar of any non-European language with any great degree of accuracy. I decided to map out the phonetics and grammar of an unwritten African Bantu language in grad school, but my project was far from conclusive.

A big part of the rationale behind maintaining statues of Confederate generals such as Robert E. Lee (often celebrated as a kindly, godly man, although the record appears to show something a little different) and conquistador-explorers such Christopher Columbus (often celebrated as an Italian hero, he is also despised for bringing genocide to an entire continent) is that you “should not erase history.” Indeed, you learn from history, or you’re bound to repeat it.

I agree. We should absolutely learn from history. The question is, whose history? Generally, when people say this, they mean history as it has been told by Europeans and their descendants, and specifically, the Europeans who were in charge. Histories in tribal languages — from the tribes of Gaul to the Salish of the Pacific Northwest — were swallowed in conquest, silenced. Stalin suppressed non-Russian languages; Franco banned Catalan; the US government forbade Native American children from speaking their tribal languages. US slaveholders nearly always forbade their African slaves from writing in any language. Some of these lost histories have been recovered, but many have not.

In the Jim-Crow era south, the “history” was that slavery had actually been beneficial for (most) blacks, and that the south seceded for “states rights.” Of course, this is true: states’ rights as they related to owning people. For example, the South was annoyed that the Northern states did not enforce their Fugitive Slave Act and return escaped slaves.

This pro-slavery rhetoric made its way into a lot of homeschooling texts. I was never assigned any of these texts, but I did hear the general ideas secondhand. As a result, I was somewhat surprised when I dug into the actual details of American slavery later in life.

I remembered all this when I found that flier, and more when I mentioned the flier on Facebook, asking for everyone to take note and stand up if they saw something. By the time the post was up to a couple of hundred shares, I started being accused of having made it up. Apparently, there was a contingent in my hometown who believed — without any evidence whatsover — that the racist fliers had actually been created by “leftists” to “stir up trouble.”

Never mind that the only people who benefit from racist fliers are racists: such things tend to scare the diversity out of a population and make leftists nervous about staying. The conspiracy-theory contingent pointed out to each other that I “had a blog” and had commented about race before. So they dismissed it as “fake news.” Why, I’m not sure, but one thing was clear: my own history — the history of being outraged and calling for people to brainstorm about how we could combat this kind of racist idiocy — was being erased, so to speak, right in front of my eyes. If it was inconvenient, it simply did not exist. An alternate history was put into place.

Such cries of “fake news” make it impossible to listen to small personal histories — often much more important than this story. If something is fake, then clearly, it should probably be ignored or ridiculed by those in the know. If people are making things up to “promote an agenda,” it behooves you, as an intelligent and reasonable human, not to be duped. And this is why labeling something “fake” because you disagree is so effective. You get to erase someone’s story and feel good while you do it.

Christianity and Neo-Nazis

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This weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, a Trump-supporting Nazi enthusiast killed a 32-year-old woman who was counter-protesting a white supremacy rally featuring neo-Nazi flags and hordes of white men carrying weapons. Over 20 other counter-protesters were injured, including one man who was severely beaten by white supremacists in a parking garage. White supremacists were urged to attend the rally with weapons; right-wing militia patrolled the area with assault rifles.

Since then, if you’ve been lurking on social media much, you’ll have noticed various Christians, Republicans and alt-right sympathizers claiming that this was somehow the fault of “leftists.” At the very least, that it’s equally the fault of leftists. More probably, that leftists and “libtards” have encouraged violence against the right and specifically against white men, and the right was forced to respond in kind. Or, alternately, that leftists dressed up like Nazis and started the whole thing. Antifa, specifically. That Antifa was paid to stir up hatred against white dudes by pretending they were actually racist white dudes.

This is the kind of propaganda and blame-shifting that irks me beyond measure. Really quick: I’ve been invited to Antifa counter-protests of white supremacist functions hundreds of miles from where I live. It was the opposite of an elaborate plot to screw over white supremacists: just being present, if you wanted to be, was the goal. It was not well-publicized; anti-facist protesters are wary of agent provocateurs out to give them a bad rap. There was no offer of payment, no mention of “special busses” that would get me there. If I had gone, I would have driven and lodged myself. And of course, the Antifa counter-protests I was invited to did not make headlines. Nobody was hurt, so nobody cared.

As far as I can figure, it’s kind of a moot point, though. Video and still footage from Charlottesville shows garden-variety nonviolent counter-protestors being attacked unprovoked (unless you consider standing in a street provocation) by white men wearing homemade riot gear: helmets, shields, batons.

It seems likely that Antifa was present, however. Antifa is a loose band of anti-facist activists who function as individuals (there is no “official” spokesperson or agenda) and who generally believe that white nationalist rhetoric is inherently dangerous because it goes hand in hand with white supremacist actions. The history of racism in the United States is one of slavery, beatings, torture, rape, lynchings, denying minorities the opportunity to purchase land, voter suppression, disproportionate mass incarceration, and state-sponsored brutality against the unarmed or legally armed. It is difficult to separate racist rhetoric from systematic, historical violence against African-Americans, Native Americans (both historically and currently), Hispanics, Chinese and Japanese.

The lily-white, lily-livered alt-right believes that affirmative action, for example, which seeks to rectify centuries of policy designed to ensure that whites alone got ahead in life, somehow is “racism” that threatens their very existence. Or at least that’s what they say. It seems difficult to imagine that they’re serious, given that their government is almost entirely white (and male) and white men are still in charge of most big companies in this country. White men have yet to experience anything remotely like what they perpetuated, as the historical ruling class, on minority populations in this country.

In the name of striking back against leftists and asserting their rights, alt-right individuals have attacked many, in real life, sometimes with lethal consequences. They post memes hoping for a liberal uprising that will allow them to “massacre” the left.

 

What shocks me most about this is not that it’s happening. This country was founded on the back of violent racism (killing off one people group and using the enslavement of another to build its infrastructure) and it’s never completely stopped. What shocks me is how many evangelicals, wooed by Brietbart and Fox News, parrot white supremacist and alt-right propaganda without even realizing it.

The vilification of the left, of transgender people, of gays, of Black Lives Matter, is shared by many evangelicals who maintain that racism is wrong, but claim that Black Lives Matter are the real racists, so let’s focus on their sins rather than our own.

Although I have seen many Christians protest racism — some were at the counter-protest in Charlottesville — I have yet to see any truly conservative evangelicals call out the American church’s historical ties to white supremacy, and how the alt-right is currently influencing conservative evangelicalism to the detriment of the country. Instead, they focus on bizarre made-up crises, like gay frogs. Or the claim that Christians are “taking fashion tips from sodomites” and that what is required in response is a kind of cultivated inattention to detail, because that’s what masculinity is all about.

Of course, “taking fashion tips from sodomites” isn’t what’s plaguing the church. Being “overly feminized” isn’t what made Mars Hills and nouveau patriarchs popular among American Christians. That’s certainly not what spurred evangelicals to elect Donald Trump, a serial liar, cheater and spurner of everything Jesus stood for, from care of the poor to humility. Evangelicals rallied behind Trump not because they’d grown fond of his meticulous gay-boy good looks; if anything, his shoddy appearance seemed reassuring. His combover is as poorly-coiffed as your Baptist grandfather’s; his self-tanner looks like it was purchased at Walmart.

A majority of evangelicals rallied behind Trump because he promised them their talking points. Abortion should be illegal. Muslims are dangerous. Non-English-speaking immigrants might be rapists. Trans people are losers. If the white patriarchy falls, then the world will be chaos. Trump appealed to a carefully-cultivated set of fears that have nothing to do with Christianity per se, and everything to do with the way American Christianity is leveraged by politicians.

What’s plaguing the modern conservative church, what’s driving it into the arms of those whose words and actions are diametrically opposed to those of Christ, isn’t “taking fashion tips from sodomites.” Aside from those who emulate alt-right bleach freak Milo Yiannopoulos, I can’t say I know any conservative Christians who would be confused with someone participating in a gay pride parade. What’s damning the modern church isn’t “pink hair” and it isn’t “feminization.” It’s the church’s temptation towards a certain reaction to these things; the idea that in the name of resisting the “feminization” of America, it’s now OK to behave like the worst kind of masculine-man there is. A womanizing, lying millionaire who worships the almighty dollar is nothing like Christ, but he is a lot like the pastors of the churches railing against “feminization.” He is a lot like the stereotypical in-charge capitalist man, glaring flaws and all. Arrogant, rapey, rich through allegedly nefarious means, unfaithful, bad at language, self-aggrandizing, in love with golf, fat, old, white.

If you’re convinced that the biggest problem with America is that men are getting too comfortable acting like women, and that whites dudes are in danger of losing their spot at the top of the food chain, then a guy like that might seem like the answer to your problems.

Fake News Alert! Are “Crazy” Trump Supporters With No Idea How to Punctuate Actually Robots Created By Leftists to Prove How Stupid Trump Supporters Are?

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I’m not for sure saying that the “people” who wrote the comments below are robots created by Evil Hillary Clinton in a gross attempt to paint Trump supporters as out-of-touch lunatics.

I’m just saying that it’s a little suspicious that so many Trump supporters spout conspiracy theories against globalism from Facebook, a for-profit platform that operates pretty much everywhere and is among the top five websites in most of the world. I mean, if you actually thought that globalism = Satanism, you’d get off the internet and stop buying crap from China at your local Walmart, right? But they do have a point. I’d like to start calling any multinational corporation attempting to become more global “Babylon.” Especially any that take multinational credit cards or PayPal (control of financial transactions), keep track of what religion you follow (for future control) and encourage rabid fandom (worship). Starting with… the Trump brand?

I submit that no human is actually that devoid of logical consistency. Therefore, this person — along with every other person who makes Trump supporters look like morons by ignoring basic punctuation, spelling and grammar conventions as well as any basic citation requirements — is probably not a real human. So saying Trump supporters are all real humans instead of chatbots is Fake News. Capital F capital N, just like the founding fathers intended.

These comments captured from a ten-minute perusal of Donald Trump’s Facebook page:

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Hipster Yuppie First World Problems

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1. Never been to Burning Man.

2. Whole Foods Kombucha selection not local enough.

3. My spa-day anti-aging intravenous vitamin drip is making my arm burn a little bit.

4. Have to keep hitting “connect” every 30 minutes for the free wifi at the airport.

5. Bartender is out of smoked hibiscus salt.

6. Google maps sent me to the wrong Anthropologie and now I’m stuck in traffic.

7. Yoga class did not warn me before beginning meditative Oms.

8. My friend has way more Instagram followers than me.

9. Forgot puffy jacket for my weekend camping trip; had to stop at REI to buy a new one.

10. My solidarity-showing Social Justice Warrior pin clashes with the rest of my outfit.

11. Local artisan ice cream shop discontinued the pine nut honey ricotta flavor I would brag-order in front of other people.

12. The Gucci sunglasses I found in the trunk of the rental car are scratched.

13. Unsure how to let the valet parking guy know I’m not a racist and that I think he could be doing so much more if he only believed in himself.

14. The complimentary hotel breakfast is not gluten free.

15. Favorite celebrity tattoo artist will not call me back.

16. Coat closet too small for all of my scarves.

17. My jerk boyfriend didn’t put my gold-status frequent flier mile number on my ticket when he bought it for me and now I have to wait in line like a chump.

18. Paris is still more smelly and less sexy than I wanted it to be.

19. My waiter keeps asking if I need anything.

20. My waiter doesn’t ask if I need anything.

21. Nobody ever asks if I’m gay.

Letter from a patriarch to his separated wife

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My darling wifey,

I would like to report that I have hereby repented of the sin of hurting you. I would also like to report that it is my duty as a husband to insist that we remain together. You see, because I have repented, Christian doctrine demands that you to come back to me now. You may ask how I am so quick to change so completely, but that’s the beauty of the gospel. You just need to say “I’m sorry” and suddenly you’re no longer beset with the sin of anger or violence. And if you are angry, it is righteousness, for God also gets angry and violent sometimes when his people stray… just like wayward wives do.

You may notice that I don’t act any different than I did before. This is true, but it’s not the point. It’s not that I’ve ceased to be controlling and domineering and unhelpful, you see. It’s that I’ve ceased to be controlling and domineering and unhelpful on my own. Now, I get to control you by telling you that my demands are not my will, they’re God’s will. It’s God’s will that you do all the dishes every night no matter how exhausted you are. It’s God’s will that you maintain a sweet countenance when I yell at you. It’s God’s will that you grant me sexual favors whenever I demand them. This is what God meant when he said “the husband is the head of the wife.” I might not be perfect, but I’m still your boss, my dear. Also, I’m not controlling because I’m an asshole; I’m controlling because I’m a normal man, and all normal men act just like me. If feminists tell you that Christian doctrine or sanity doesn’t have to lead to this particular life, they’re lying. Remember: according to my doctrine — the correct doctrine — you’re already equal in every way that counts. When you die after a miserable life of being my suffering servant, you’ll get to go to heaven just as much as me, your earthly dictator.

Remember: if you don’t obey me, you’re going to hell. Sure, things might suck a little bit for you right now, but how much worse would hell be?

Sincerely,

Your husband and one true love always and forever

On tribes

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I recently visited a woman in an assisted living home in Texas, near Fort Worth. I remembered how, as a child, I visited my great-grandmother and her twin sister at their shared home in Fort Worth, how I tentatively touched the folded skin of her ancient hands and throat and how small, even then, their house seemed to me.

The assisted living place was nicer. Clean and replete with coffee on demand, nice chairs to sit in. But surrounded by miles of freeway and urban loneliness. The woman talked about how much she missed Fairbanks, her home of many decades — a place where the winters sink to -60 degrees, but where she had her circle of friends and her activities.

Now, currently, has got to be about the most lonely time of human history. We take care of people by putting them in nice places like this — whereas in so many other cultures, in our own country once in other places still — the old people stay as mobile as they can and participate with family life as one enclave, part of a tribe, part of something.

Tribes have all but disappeared now, although we still hunger for them. We join cults because we hunger for tribes. We collect friends on Facebook because this is the closest thing we have: the clamor of superficial support for a selfie or some musing about a bad day. Of course, we could not stand tribal living: we have adapted to being lonely, solitary, independent, having everything just-our-way, dishes loaded thusly, everything under our control. Some large families come close, maintaining their ties over the years through sibling loyalty and shared holidays. My own family comes pretty close. My parents bought a house next to my sister and her four daughters, and my youngest brother lives there; the remaining three siblings visit frequently. We all watch the girls so my sister can do things, maybe go on a date with her husband, maybe run to the grocery store. We all teach the girls things, like how to be strong in the woods. We have a running group text we post videos to, because we live over a hundred miles apart: my other two brothers are in Denver and Minneapolis. When we are together, we make fires and sing songs that my dad wrote for us as children. We cook food. We remember things. Growing up homeschooled in a rural area with no TV, no internet, we were a tribe. We invented our own tribal structures, rules, language. Not all that many of them, but we still had them. We had tribal conflicts — lots and lots of fights, shifting loyalties and alliances. We protected the younger ones, but they were always the younger ones until they proved themselves strong. There were rules from above, from outside us, that we had to follow, but these did not affect us nearly as much as our own codes did. And none of us could force any of the others to do anything: pragmatically we were anarchists, and our egalitarian democracy lead to many compromises and yes, more fights. Our play clothing was often unisex, passed down from sister to brother and worn full of holes. We learned to climb trees quickly to evade attacks, walked over gravel to make our feet tough. We tried fishing; my brother hunted birds in the woods and we cooked them. But more than this, we knew we were blood, that we would take care of each other and band together against outside danger — I was a scrawny child, but as the oldest, if anyone did anything to my younger brothers, even yelled at them, I confronted them. The first boy I ever liked — an eight-year-old who gave me a tape to listen to and who was almost-my-boyfriend for a whole day — said something disparaging about my sister and I instantly dumped him in my mind.

I am very grateful that I have this tribe, that I have essentially the closest modern equivalent available to the urban whitey, short of some kind of unhealthy situation where group conformity is the price for group acceptance.

Of course, it’s normal on some level to want to band together with people who “get” you. The jocks, the preppies, the cowboys. The metalheads, the potheads, the skinheads. These are artificial tribes people pick in order to belong. A particular church can be an artificial tribe, and the more conformity is demanded, ironically, the closer the circle draws; like any artificial tribe, if you’re a little persecuted or misunderstood by an outside group, to the inside group it means you’re not “just a poseur.” You’ve earned your admittance. You belong. If you have to give up certain ornamentation, wear a limited array of clothing, do a limited number of things with your hair, that sets you apart as a member of the tribe.

The rules themselves remind me of when I ordered my brother not to part his hair down the middle because I deemed it stupid and overly trendy. And our family was not stupid and overly trendy; despite the holes, we were classy. He ignored me because, as I mentioned, we were anarchists for all practical purposes: I couldn’t actually order him how to wear his hair. The same went for when I told him he should not wear shoes that looked like toilets, or wear bent staples around his ear. I made rules, and he didn’t obey them, because they were abstract and dictatorial despite all my best intentions to just tell him the best possible way to live. I mean, I was older and wiser in every possible way, but he grew up and pierced both his ears anyway, and they looked good and I was wrong. And I didn’t kick him out of my tribe.

In Biblical times, as in the Middle East currently, hospitality to those outside your tribe was a big deal. And it meant that people could survive in strange places. If people attacked outsiders, outsiders died; if they welcomed them as guests and recognized them as being part of some other also-established way of life, different and perhaps without all the same cultural mores, then the outsiders would live. They would not starve, or suffer from lack of water, or be forced to seek shelter in a cave inhabited by a she-bear and a dozen snakes.

I remembered this as I listened yesterday to a story of how a boy moved in sixth grade to a new state in the south, to a new school where everyone, and especially the self-professed Christians, dressed in 501 jeans and polo shirts, where the boy’s clothes set him apart as an outsider. Where his accent set him apart as an outsider. Where his innocence and inexperience set him apart as an outsider. Where every instance of being an outsider meant a threat of physical violence from the insiders. Where the only way of surviving was to join the tribe of other outsiders: those with the weird hair and the piercings. To grow tough and challenge the bullies, make them think twice about hitting him; laugh when they struck, scare them away with his skull t-shirts. To find somewhere to belong, even if it came with suffering. To find psychological resilience rather than succumb to being bullied.

There’s a well-known Bible verse that says Let your adornment not be braided hair and gold jewelry and fine apparel. These were not the signs of an outsider in the ancient middle east; they were the status symbols of the wealthy insider. If you will, the polo shirt and the 501 jeans of the 1980s; the pencil skirt and tastefully trendy bird jewelry or chaste pearls of the current conservative Christian. Do not be defined by the status symbols of your day; do not let them define the edges of your tribe. All are welcome into the tribe; beware of yourselves and your own conceits, not tribal outlines you do not understand and that are foreign to you.

Tamar, 1% temptress

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Dear friends,

This is Jonadab, Prince Amnon’s confidant. I am happy to report that Amnon is repentant and has accepted the gospel. Ammon really nailed himself over this stuff to me, so please accept him back into the fold and remember: I’m still a great guy even though I’m friends with men like Ammon. Why? Because I’m only friends with them to make sure they confess their sins, no matter how abrasive or “victim-blaming” I might sound to the feminists and the uninitiated. In case you missed it, here’s a transcript of Ammon’s public confession just to prove how much he’s seen the error of his ways:

 

Hi, I’m Amnon, and I’m a pretty average guy with average guy struggles. Sure, I struggle with lust sometimes. Doesn’t everyone?

People get a little weird because the lust thing was for my own sister Tamar. But remember, everyone: she was my half-sister. Our forefather Abraham married his half-sister and our entire lineage was blessed by God from the union. No big deal, really, having a crush on your half-sister. We need to remember that God’s ways are not always our ways.

From my understanding of biblical modesty requirements, in fact, it stands to reason that I would have a crush on Tamar. I can see a lot of her. She’s not always super-modest with herself in the confines of her own home. Sure, she wears courtly robes like the rest of my sisters most of the time, but she doesn’t veil herself like girls do for strangers. Occasionally I spot her in her nightgown, down the hallway, looking all supple and nubile. I’m pretty sure she does this on purpose, and if she doesn’t, it’s stupid of her to let herself be seen like that. Almost like she’s asking for it. I mean, I would never say she was asking for it, because I’m a gentleman and a prince, but let’s be honest: a girl can get raped and also be at fault. Maybe she was only at fault 5% or even 1%, but in God’s eyes a little sin, like immodesty, is just as damning to your soul as a big sin.

Technically, her dad is also at fault for telling her to hang out with me alone in my bedroom. What did he expect would happen if he left a young man and woman without fatherly supervision? Everyone, even his devoted servants, left us alone and allowed it to transpire, so they’re maybe 10% at fault each. Our house has over ten inhabitants, though, so that makes the math tricky. Basically, what you should conclude from this is that I’m a really upstanding guy for taking the blame at all. I even shed a few tears to our dad about how sorry I am, and I recited a lot of scripture to extra-prove it.

You guys, I’m so very, deeply, gosh-darn sorry about hurting my little sister’s delicate little sisterly feelings.

I must confess another thing, too. My buddy Jonadab is a real alpha, almost as much of an alpha as my dad when it comes to women. One afternoon Jonadab said to me: I can see you’re sick over the fact that you can’t get any from this fine chica Tamar who keeps playing hard to get. So listen, bro, all you gotta do is make up an excuse to get her alone, and if she plays along, you know she wants it too, even if she says “no.” No means yes, and it’s just the natural order of things that men colonize women. Every woman dreams of being raped if she’s not getting taken in hand by her proper covenant head, because total submission is an erotic necessity. And if she sits in your bedchamber and feeds you by hand as you recline in bed alone with her — low and lilting voice, fingers brushing your lips, “accidentally” flashing a little cleavage or elbow as she leans over you — you know what that means.

It means she’s tacitly agreeing on the propriety of getting raped. What else could she possibly expect would happen in that situation?

Obviously, I’m only quoting here. You guys, I am so very sorry that I listened to the counsel of a master ladykiller.

You guys, take my repentance to heart and please don’t fall into the same trap as me. If we’re looking at this from a proper gender and family perspective, it could have happened to anyone. It all started out with a normal desire to be closer to my family. You know that sisters are supposed to take care of their brothers. That’s just how it is, how God designed it. Especially when your father is off starting wars all the time and expanding his kingdom, amusing himself with new wives. God gave men sisters to fulfill the need for feminine companionship so you don’t have to do things like take lots of wives. Someone should tell that to my dad.

And you know that sisters are supposed to forgive their brothers if their brothers do anything to hurt them. Especially when it’s partly the sister’s fault the brothers hurt them. And especially when the brothers have a good reason to get a little confused telling right from wrong because their dads are so heavily into ministry and taking dominion of the region.

Here’s the deal: I already got in trouble with my dad about it. My dad was mad. So I don’t know why it’s anyone’s business anymore now that I’ve repented and you’ve all witnessed it. My dad gave me a real talking-to. We even met more than once about it. I confessed my sins to him and my dad called my sister in and asked her to forgive me. She’s a good sister so she said yes. We were immediately restored to fellowship, although she was still sulky and would only hang out with our bro Absalom, not me.

According to the law, I’m supposed to marry her because I raped her, but she’s so sanctimonious about it that it really turns me off. Sort of kills the vibe when she acts all dutiful and wounded. Wives are supposed to be way more pleasant about submission. Smile and act complimentary. You can’t blame me for not wanting to be married to someone who just grins and bears it. Or who cries and peppers her hair with ashes, God forbid. Our dad should teach her more about maintaining a sweet, forgiving, feminine demeanor.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean much if the person forgiving you doesn’t immediately act exactly how you want. And I want her to act supple and nubile and innocent and nightgown-y all the time. If she can’t do that, it’s her own darn fault I don’t want to marry her.

Blessings on my sister Tamar. Let’s all pray that she learns how to act more feminine, shall we?

 

Jonadab’s note:

Amnon isn’t quite accurate in how he portrays me in this account, but I think we can forgive him that. Let it be known that all of my counsel to Ammon was purely theoretical, a commentary on the nature of gender. And yes, let’s all pray for poor Tamar.

However, I’d like to point out that Amnon is being a little too hard on himself. The law states that if a woman is in a city and claimed rape, and nobody heard her scream, she should not be treated as if she was raped. Nobody heard Tamar scream for help — she seemed to turn “willing” pretty quick. In fact, Ammon himself had to eject her from his quarters for being too clingy. Do real rape victims immediately insist on marrying the man who just raped them? Or is this so-called “rape” merely a seduction technique? It all sounds very suspicious, wouldn’t you say?

There are two sides to every story, and women can’t be expected to be believed just because they say they’re victims.

This is why I have developed my patent-pending five-point technique for determining if women are lying about sexual harassment, or if it’s actually the men who allegedly “hurt” them who are lying. Compare and contrast:

  1. Who is more open to hearing my wisdom? A contrite heart will be teachable.
  2. Who confesses their sin the most, without passing blame to the other party or getting hysterical?
  3. Who is the most joyful? A truly repentant soul, when presented with the good news of the gospel, will be initially sorrowful over their sin, however “small” it is, and then overjoyed upon hearing they are forgiven.
  4. Who (or whose parent) has already donated the most money and/or time to my Ministry of Truth?
  5. Who uses the most amount of telling catchphrases revealing the unresolved sins of envy, bitterness, and pride, such as “my older brother” (instead of merely “my brother”) or “my heart hurts” (instead of “my heart is desperately wicked”)?