I am very worried with the stance that many Christians, and especially Christian men, have been taking on the #metoo phenomenon.
I had a Reader Question post all ready to go today, but I thought I just needed to say this, and add to what I’ve said before. Now, I’m also suffering from a HUGE cold, and so I hope some of these thoughts are at least semi-coherent, but allow me to go on a bit of a rant–and the reader question will go up on Thursday instead!
Last week I was alerted to this exchange on Twitter:
The first guy runs a Christian website. The second apparently works for John MacArthur’s ministries. I have a very difficult time understanding why they would post such a thing on social media.
And they’re not the only ones.
As I’ve been reading some Christian blogs, and looking in the comments section on many news websites, I’ve seen very “thoughtful” arguments being made that this whole thing is over the top and women just need to stop. And many have been saying things like, “I wish a woman would grab my butt!”
I’d like to explain, then, why objectifying women is wrong, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of sexual assault.
And I’d like to do it by telling you about two times I was brought to tears last week.
First, my husband and I watched the movie Hidden Figures on Netflix. It was amazing! It’s the story of three brilliant African American women who were hired by NASA during the space race in the 1960s, and the racism they had to overcome as they did quite incredible things. I highly recommend it.
In one scene, Catherine, who had been assigned to the mathematical group trying to calculate the trajectory they would need to get the capsule back to earth, got up, exhausted, to get herself a cup of coffee out of the coffee machine in the room. Catherine was the only African American woman there, and only the second woman in total. Everyone else was a man in a white shirt and a tie. As she turned around after pouring her coffee, everybody was staring at her in disapproval. She should not have used the “white” coffee machine.
That scene, as banal as it was, was simply heartbreaking. I began to weep, and I don’t do that much at movies. I thought to myself, “If I had had to act that scene out, and glare at Catherine, I would have been so disturbed that night that I wouldn’t have been able to sleep.” It’s that thought–how can people not care about another human being? How can I share the earth with humanity that truly is that bad? Even though what was done to her wasn’t that terrible (no one said anything; no one laid a hand on her), they were still stripping her of her identity, her humanity, her personhood.
Small gestures can say a lot.
Dustin Hoffman now has three accusers, but it was actually the LEAST bad story that brought me to tears for the second time. One story is from a teenage intern whom he propositioned, put in uncomfortable positions, forced her to massage him, and talked dirty to. One was from a Broadway co-star whom he touched inappropriately, propositioned, and even digitally penetrated.
But it was the story from a playwright that hit me the most. She was in her twenties and had written a powerful script. A producer and Hoffman were thinking of optioning it. But in their second meeting, Hoffman had her come to his hotel room and allegedly propositioned her. She left and never got the contract.
I had that same feeling as when Catherine was just trying to get a cup of coffee at work. She was using her brains; she was smart. And he was saying, “None of that matters to me except whether I can use you.” You are simply an object to be used; nothing more. That which makes you most YOU is completely irrelevant.
People may read that account and think, “It was just a proposition. He didn’t actually DO anything to her.” But he did. He took her dignity from her. Do we not understand what that means anymore? I do believe that the other women were hurt worse, and that there are degrees of “badness” in the #metoo movement, but what I am also concerned about is this trivialization of women’s feelings.
For as these women stared down people who decided that they didn’t matter, I can hear them crying, “does anybody see me?”
Small gestures say a lot.
And small touches do, too.
They’re bad enough that Taylor Swift got so enraged she sued. She was really, really pissed off (if you don’t mind my language) that that cameraman grabbed her backside during a photo–so pissed off that she ended up suing him (and winning). And grabbing women’s backsides is largely what brought Al Franken down. But is that really so bad, many have been asking? That’s not exactly sexual assault. So he grabbed a “piece of ass”. So what?
Well, as Taylor Swift explained, if he was willing to grab her butt in front of a camera, where other people could see, what would he do to other women behind closed doors?
Because when these predators did that, they told these women several things. First, they said, “You are simply an object for me to use.” I have the right to touch you. Why? Why do some men think they have a right to touch women wherever they please? Do men understand how totally terrible that is?
That’s what men have been joking about in the comments I’ve read. They’d love it if a woman grabbed their behind.
Let me explain what that feels like to a woman.
For women, sex is something very vulnerable. We are literally allowing someone else into our bodies. We also have a difficult time becoming aroused unless we feel a connection to this man. Arousal and climax isn’t guaranteed for us the way it is for the vast majority of men; we have to focus on what’s being done, we have to concentrate, we have to think. Sex, for us, is far more “in our heads” than it is for men, who are far more body centered. For that reason, sex is extremely, extremely personal.
When someone grabs us sexually, then, it is an invasion of our personhood, even if all they did was touch our behind.
All he cares about his own personal jollies, not how we feel.
Does anybody see me?
But it goes further than that. When men trivialize this, joking about how they’d love to be objectified, most women are horrified.
What we dream of, what we hold on to, what we even cling to, is this thought, this hope, that we will have an intimate relationship with a man who cherishes us. We want sex to be highly intimate. We believe that this is the way it should be.
I realize I am generalizing, but surveys repeatedly show that women want that emotional connection during sex, and that the “hooking up” culture has tremendous downsides to our psyches, because it goes against what our hearts truly desire.
We want to know that intimacy is possible.
For if men see sex as they should, then we will be safe, and we will be cherished.
We will, in essence, be seen.
Because if sex is intimate, and men agree, then not only will our desires for our own relationships be met, but we will be safe in the wider community. People will not objectify us when they also see sex as intimate, because there would be no need to sexualize anyone. It wouldn’t work, if what people truly desire is intimacy.
And yet, do men? Is intimacy what men want? We see how porn has captured so many men, how they are glued to their screens watching women be raped and used. We see how many men use prostitutes, and pay to get their jollies in a totally anonymous way. We give money to charities who combat sex trafficking in Asia and Africa and Eastern Europe, and read about men who will pay to rape little children.
And we start to worry. How can we live on this planet when humanity is like this? When we talk about men’s sexual needs as if they’re entirely physical, and when pastors talk about how if men don’t get release they could easily cheat, it makes women feel so alone.
Does anybody see?
It’s like when a man has a one-night stand, and his wife discovers, and he protests, “But, honey, it didn’t mean anything.”
He doesn’t understand that this only makes it worse. Because if he can have sex without it meaning anything, then is he even capable of intimacy with me? If he can have sex without it meaning anything, then how can we ever really be cherished? How can we trust that we have his heart? If sex is so cheap, then love is destroyed.
Does anybody see?
And then there is Roy Moore.
My intention here is not to get political, because I can truly see both sides.
I understand those who will not vote for Roy Moore, saying that God does not need us to protect His name; He can manage that. We don’t have to lower our standards to accomplish God’s purposes. God is bigger than that.
And I understand those who would vote for Roy Moore, because let’s face it: in today’s hyper partisan world, the person matters far less than the party. Everything is so polarized, you just need the party numbers there. When you believe strongly in a cause, I can see how that can take over everything, just as I understand those who voted for Bill Clinton.
But please, even if you do vote for him, or think that’s the right thing to do, don’t defend him.
Even assuming that he ISN’T guilty of the assaults that he’s been accused of (and that’s a big IF), when he was in his 30s, he still sought out teenage girls.
Do we understand WHY that’s disturbing? That is a grown man saying, “I don’t want an equal in a partner. I want someone I can dominate, manipulate, control.” There really is no other reason to go with a teenager rather than a woman in her late twenties.
When Christians defend Moore, thinking that the politics in this reign supreme, they may very well win this battle but lose the war. Because the real war we are fighting is not Republican vs. Democrat or liberal vs. conservative. The real war we are fighting is against sin, and against those forces that would strip the image of God from humanity. When we forget that, we veer so far off course that we stop seeking God’s will and chase our own agendas, even if they come from a good place.
So please, if you do vote for Roy Moore (which, as I said, I do understand both sides), then I implore you to do so quietly, and not make it about your faith. Let’s not get Jesus wrapped up in seeming to defend the objectification of women.
And the more Christians do that, the more women are left wondering, “do I really have to share an earth with so much humanity that doesn’t even value me as a person?”
Does anybody see?
Yes, Jesus did see.
He saw the Samaritan woman at the well who was just desperate to be loved, and was choosing all the wrong people in the process.
He saw the woman who had been redeemed from a horrible past, and noticed her act of kindness by anointing him with oil, and responded to her motivation, not her reputation. He told her that from now on, and forevermore, people would remember her and and her devotion, and we do, today.
He saw the woman mourning in the garden, loving him and distressed that his body was gone, and He called her by name. “Mary,” He said. And he affirmed her and appointed her as the very first missionary of the gospel.
And so now we have a choice.
Will we continue to excuse behaviour that objectifies and diminishes women, or will we say that all objectification of women is wrong?
Will we say that sex is sacred, and that people are to be respected, and that people matter?
Two thousand years ago, at the Pharisees’ table, a woman came in to worship Jesus. They scorned her. They believed she didn’t matter. They saw her as only a sexual object–which apparently she had been. But Jesus saw her. And He elevated her and respected her.
Today we remember her act of devotion. But we also remember the Pharisees’ act of scorn, which, in the day, would have been understandable and lauded.
I believe that right now Christians have a choice. We can stand with the Pharisees and nitpick and continue to dismiss how women feel, or we can stand with Jesus and truly see.
Personally, I wouldn’t risk going against Jesus. And that, my Christian brothers, is what far too many of you are doing right now.
Please, in the name of God, stop.
See the women around you. Truly listen to them. And then, please, treat them as people.
Would you help me and share this on social media? I think this message needs to get out, because I’m progressively worried about how too many Christians are taking the wrong side in this. Again, to me, this isn’t political. This is moral. And God asks us to see people.