Blaming the Victim

27 07 2013

Part of the ‘conversation’ on modesty rules, purity culture and virginity always has to come around to blame & responsibility. While I intend to write more on beauty & modesty soon, today’s piece addresses the darker side of the debate, rape culture.

Trigger Warning: This blog post addresses rape. If you or someone you know has been hurt or abused, please seek support. http://www.rainn.org/get-help

First,  a couple basic thoughts:

Women aren’t objects. You can’t own a woman. You can’t control a woman. You can’t rule a woman.

Of course, the same are true for men. In the interest of gender equality, every time I reference women I should consistently include men in the equation. In the interests of clarity, I won’t do that throughout this piece, but please understand that I am always writing from a perspective of equality.

Unfortunately, people who obsess about modesty and purity culture, idolizing these ideals and equating with them with the basic tenets of faith, don’t represent gender equality very well. Women are objectified for their own protection, in spite of themselves, and for the protection of men. There is a general consensus in the Christian church that women can cause men to think & act inappropriately, even illegally, by wearing immodest clothing or behaving inappropriately that entices or attracts trouble.

This. Is. Wrong.

I spoke to a man the other day who’d been raised and indoctrinated with the flawed, albeit well-intentioned perspective of the religious, evangelical traditions of modesty and virginity. We conversed about the problems with a Christian culture that worships purity and virginity.

He was telling a story about a crazy party that happened across the street from his rural home a few nights earlier. There was loud music all night, with people yelling and running around, crazy drunk.

As he drove to work in the morning he saw a young woman, naked save for a thin robe, rise from where she was laying in the middle of a field and make her way back into the house, appearing to have slept where she lay.

He wondered aloud to me, “Had this girl just ruined her life? Had she made a mistake that she’d never recover from?”

My heart sunk when I heard him speak this way. My mind wondered all the same things he had. Was she hurt? Had she been drugged? Raped? My first thought wasn’t a thought as much as an intense feeling of dread and heartbreak. Is she okay? His first thought assumed she’d done something wrong. Our lines of thought divided when he began to inadvertently blame her for any of the terrible things that may have happened to her.

He continued to question, “Didn’t she know this could happen? These girls are running around in skimpy little dresses. Why do they (young people?) think this is fun? She should have known better than to go to a party like that, with all that alcohol something bad is bound to happen.”

All of this conversation was based on speculation. Neither he nor I knew her story, it’s quite possible we were imagining the worst. While he showed some empathy for a girl who may or may not have been abused, he also put the responsibility solely on her.

No. No. NO!

I’m not saying she shouldn’t have been more responsible, but I don’t know her story or why she was there. All I know is this: IF someone took advantage of her, abused her or raped her, it is not her fault!

Furthermore and after the fact, had something terrible been done to this girl, this is where the Evangelical Christian culture of virgin-worship really starts to pour salt in her wounds.

Questions like “was she ‘asking’ for it?”, “did she just ruin her life?” or “did she make a mistake she’d never recover from?” place all the emphasis on future implications of the situation and none on her emotional state, her immediate needs or her heart.

In addition, all the responsibility for what may have happened to her is left with her, with nearly no consideration of the people who took advantage of her & hurt her.

This is the very definition of what we call rape-culture and the problem with placing such a high value on purity. Once purity is tainted, virginity ‘lost’, the Christian-value of a woman plunges.

Again. It’s time to stop blaming women! This is wrong and there are a lot of us who follow Jesus and working to change the paradigm when it comes to women, purity, modesty, beauty & sexuality.

To the woman reading this who has been victimized, abused, raped and finally blamed, please know that your value hasn’t diminished. Please know that no matter what mistakes you may or may not have made, if you’ve been hurt or taken advantage of, it is NOT your fault.

You do not need to hide in shame. Talk to someone who will offer nothing but love and support. Don’t listen to anyone who blames you for being used. You did not make a mistake you will not recover from. Your life is not ruined.

You are valued. You are loved. You are whole. You are worth it. You are amazing. You are strong.

Peace.

PS – I cried in Starbucks while writing this one.

 This piece was originally posted at by other blog, Modesty Misunderstood. http://www.modestymisunderstood.com/blaming-the-victim/ Please leave any comments over there. Thanks!

Playlist while writing:

Beyonce – Listen (on repeat)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4gimHC7fKs

P!nk – Glitter in the Air http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3stsDXki__U

Bethel Live – Healer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tayKy0GtQTg





Modesty Misunderstood

5 07 2013

modesty

I went to the beach today with my wife and daughters. I’m happy to report that Jessica Rey’s viral marketing video for her line of one-piece swimsuits hasn’t changed the way most women dress for the beach.

In the several hours we were on the beach next to the Santa Monica pier, we saw men and women of all shapes & sizes, in speedos and swim trunks, one-piece swim suits and of course, bikinis.

I’d say the most memorable beach attire we saw was a plus-sized woman wearing a leopard-print one piece, with a green, extra large tee-shirt underneath the swimsuit, the ensemble completed by a black pair of shorts or maybe it was a ‘skort,’ I’m not sure… Wow. Now that definitely distracted me. It even caused me to stumble as I let my gaze linger too long and I wasn’t watching where I was walking.

Needless to say, she was wearing what she wanted to wear, as we all were.

The majority of the people we saw today would likely be considered average or normal, which means they are at least slightly overweight and probably comfortable eating Cheezies on the beach. Only a small minority of the men could be considered fit or ‘built’, and an even smaller sampling of the women would be described as extraordinarily beautiful.

Even the most stunning of the women we saw, whose ruched, red bikini bottoms kept slipping ‘dangerously’ downwards as she played in the water, didn’t cause me to want to handle her or mumble sentences like “I want…” or “I take…” or whatever that video claims my reaction would be.

Laying on a towel in the sand next to my beautiful wife, her own ‘double d’s’ covered by a black and gold bikini, that, like most bikini’s left little to the imagination… if I was to decide to use my imagination to picture what was hidden by those triangles of fabric.

In her case, of course, I know the answer to what lies beneath the fabric. And I like it.

In the case of of the girl whose bottoms kept slipping down, I now know, without imagining, what the upper part of her bum looks like. Oh no. Scandal.

If I were to use the memory of her image in lust, that is to want her, to desire her…if I were to do that it would not be her fault, but mine. It would be my choice to use her for my own gratification and pleasure. It is my responsibility to respect her not my right  to use her.

Appreciating beauty is another thing altogether. There were several women I noticed as beautiful that caught my eye. Observing these pretty, God-created beings brought a smile to my face as I imagined my own daughters grown up, laughing and strutting down a beach such as this, blissfully enjoying the beauty they’ve been blessed with.

As Christians, in the evangelical tradition, we’ve handcuffed our men by telling them beauty is bad and that the temptation of the two-piece is too great to overcome.

By teaching men to avoid and avert, we’ve created a culture where curiosity is ‘carnal’ and thus it must be sinful. This culture objectifies women more than ‘the world’ ever could. It’s almost afraid of women, it’s definitely fearful of the female form.

Open your eyes! Look, but don’t leer. Respect women. God made us, men and women, in his image. Appreciate the artistry of us all.

Choose to love and not lust. Appreciate beauty. It’s everywhere. It’s where you’ve been told not to look. Trust each other and treat each other with dignity and respect. Men, you are not animals. You were created to enjoy the beauty of woman. She is a powerful force. She is your equal, but carved in a more curvaceous way.

Men and women were made to notice each other, don’t be afraid when you notice someone that causes you to take a second glance.

Modesty has been misunderstood..it has been misused as a means to control, probably to ‘prevent’ lust. Instead of strengthening men, instead of promoting respectful, mature relationships between men & women – we’ve developed a culture of taboos.

We’ve gone from “look, but don’t touch” to “look once, never twice” to “don’t look” to “don’t look good.” That last one is directed at the ‘christian’ woman unfortunately, because we blame women for all the troubles men have with lust. It’s easier make women cover up then it is to make men grow up.

Objectification is not initiated by women being beautiful or even sexy. Women are made into objects in the minds of men who choose to take these living, breathing humans, beautiful in the eyes of their Creator, and turn them into objects to be used in the self-gratification of lust.

Modesty is important. The misunderstanding is that we really not talking about modesty. This one is a matter of the heart. We’re talking modesty, but we should be talking about self-control and respect.








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